A little pill-shaped lipstick in the perfect shade of nude is helping lead a paradigm shift when it comes to beauty. According to Natalie Mackey, Co-Founder of Winky Lux, makeup should be uncomplicated, affordable and influenced by today's social trends.
Mackey, who began career in finance, is a fast-thinking entrepreneur with a passion for disruption. Her brand is designed to lure Millennials out of the drugstore with a thoughtful curated assortment of products designed specifically for this in-demand demographic.
“We're trying to take market share from drugstores and convenience stores," says Mackey, who launched Winky Lux with her partner Nathan Newman in 2016. “It's about a dollar more and you get the full luxury experience; a product in a box with gold stamping. It's a thoughtful and niche value proposition at $14, but you aren't settling. If you go into drugstore most of the makeup is actually expensive, so why not get something more authentic?"
In 2015 Mackey launched Glow Concept, a holding company set on shifting the narrative when it comes to affordable beauty. The company's portfolio brands, which include Winky Lux, Jypsy and Laqa and Co., launches new products every 15-30 days and works closely with digital influencers to drive sales, both on and offline. Glow Concept brands sell to over 200 retailers across 90 countries including ASOS, Sephora, Belk and Fred Segal. Winky Lux is in over 1000 doors internationally, including Nordstrom, Pac Sun, Forever 21, American Eagle, Sephora in Asia, and Colette in Paris.
“Winky Lux is designed as beautiful precious little jewels of beauty," says Mackey. “It's not mass or class; it's more about the product."
The brand, which is known to be immediately reactive to trends (think: rainbow eyebrows), is all about relevancy and speed. Mackey said that while not all trend-inspired products are meant to become best sellers, they do help add to Winky Lux's social buzz.
“We were seeing girls putting color on eyebrows and thought this is cool, so we launched the rainbow eyebrow palette, which is still one of signature products," says Mackey, revealing that among the brand's best selling shades is a nude called Meow. “Compared to other products we sell very few, but we get a lot of press and digital traction. Some products are more for relevancy and to add excitement to the brand. it's a reason to talk to customer."
At the core of the Winky Lux brand is offering Millennials products that evoke a luxury brand experience at just pennies more than mass market offerings, available at drug stores (where the majority do their makeup purchasing).
“A lot of thing marketers don't address is the crippling student debt young girls have; it's higher than it's ever been," says Mackey. “We are finally starting to see recent college grads get jobs again, but they have a ton of debt and higher lifestyle expenses. Everything has gotten incrementally more expensive. Studies show they still buy a lot of their makeup at drugstore but are embarrassed by it because the branding is so off."
With that realization, Mackey set off to create a “super luxurious line at a drugstore price," with a focus on quick product execution.
“We sought quick turn time manufacturers and invested in technology to make supply chain really succinct," says Mackey. “We have a hard fast 45 day [product manufacturing] rule. If the lab can't keep up, we'd move on."
According to Mackey the move to produce fast not only allows the brand to be immediately reactive to social media trends,), but also as a way to keep inventory under control.
“The way that startups die is inventory risk," says Mackey. “We wanted to be able to get into a product fast, and launch it into the market while it's hot."
In terms of the product assortment, Winky Lux designs were inspired by Artist Damien Hirst's 'Pill' Collection.
The range includes nine product categories: lipsticks, glosses, eye palettes, face powders, contour powders, brow sculpters, blush, illuminator, and cream eye shadows. Each product is packaged in custom white lacquer, silver, or gold and is housed in a floral patterned box. Lip Velours, which are among the brand's top sellers, feature metallic packaging, shaped like a pill capsule. Additionally, each lip velour color has its own hashtag so millennials can track their color and see a digital mood board that inspires new ways to wear the color.
WIth over 50,000 direct customers-the brand does 30 percent of its business online- in just 14 months, Mackey said she is focused on growing the social media following and identifying more trends that can become future products.
“We have a lot of young Millennials on the team who track Millennial publications like Mashable, Popsugar, Buzzfeed, and Refinery 29, as well as influencers," says Mackey, adding that Winky Lux trend scouts identified more than 350 trends just last year. “Trends start small and then they have a ripple effect."
Mackey says the Winky Lux future may include new partnerships with retailers like Target, with a masstige positioning. This summer will also bring a standalone Winky Lux retail store to the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.
“Having a store will allow customers to come down and see all the new products as they happen," she says. “We can have parties, and hold activations. Having a retail space also gives you data and power and the ability to know how much you can sell in a certain amount of space"
And, of course Mackey says she is hoping to continue improving the brand's turn around time, making ideas become products even faster.
“The faster we launch the more customers we get," says Mackey. “The more people care about us, the more they need something new. We want to keep innovating, and keep the product lineup fresh."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.