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."
Sometimes the person you have to stand up to is you! There I was, rewatching the Miss Universe 2019 competition. Which I do for inspiration from time to time. (No, seriously!) There is something about seeing women on stage, in full-on glam mode, and speaking with confident assuredness that really lights my fire!
I have seen this Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa win this crown so many times before, but something about this particular viewing, her delivery or her words, touched something inside me a little differently. At that moment, I truly believed, with complete conviction, that she lives what she speaks.
The announcement was made, the audience cheered, and the crown was awarded. The light was dazzling,, she looked stunning, almost blessed. The judges made the right call with 2019's queen.
Reflecting On Myself
Suddenly, the YouTube video ended. And I was left looking at a black screen. In the darkness of that screen, I saw my reflection and I began assessing what I saw, asking myself, "What have I been doing with my life?" It may seem like an overly dramatic question, but at that moment, I had to ask myself seriously… What have you done? The fact that I couldn't come up with a solid, confident answer gave my inner-cynic license to quickly spiral into self-criticism.
This went on for quite some time, until I got up. I stood up and walked to my mirror to have some serious one-on-one "Queen Talk." I needed to get out of that self-critical mindset, and I know that physical movement is something that help disrupt a way of thinking. I needed to remind myself of who I really was. The negative feelings I was experiencing at that moment were not reality.
Here are a few reminders for whenever you need some Queen Talk!
1.) Comparison is truly the thief of joy.
This saying feels like a cliché. That is, until it's applicable to you. At that moment, this "cliché, becomes self-evident. Comparing myself to someone on a stage with years of experience in an area I know nothing about is not only unfair but straight-up mean. A part of my comparison comes from me wondering, "Would I have the ability, if put in that position, to perform at such a level?" The answer is totally and without question, yes. I excel in the field I work in now, and I know that if I put that same energy towards something else, with practice, I could do just as well. No joy can come from comparing yourself to someone in a completely different field!
2.) Never forget the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.
Every single day, I am blessed to have the opportunity to wake up with all ten fingers and toes and choose to create the kind of life I want to live. There is so much power in that alone, but sometimes it's easy to take it for granted. Let us not forget those who are unable to make that same decision every day of their lives.
3.) Appreciate how far you have come!
I've been very intentional for some time to be kinder and gentler to myself. I need to realize that I am human. Being human means that I will not know everything, and I will continue to make mistakes.But I must let go of the need to always be right. I feel empowered when I can see the growth that I've made, regardless of the mistakes that may come in the future. I don't react to every little thing that bothers me, because I have learned boundaries when it comes to dealing with others and myself. I truly value my time and my energy, and, for that, I am proud.
4.) You Can Be Who You Want To Be
If you can see it in your mind, you can achieve it in reality. I saw myself when I looked at the women on stage, when she smiled, the way she talked, her elegant walk. For a moment, in my self-criticism spiral, I forgot that we are all connected. Debasish Mridha has said "I may not know you, but I don't see any difference between you and me. I see myself in you; we are one." I will not sit in the mentality of lack, there is more than enough opportunity and good fortune to go around for everyone. Her win was not a loss for me, but it can be a nudge from the universe for me to go ahead and dream big!
This Queen Talk was not easy. There may have been some tissues and tears involved but giving myself an honest yet compassionate talk is sometimes what I need to bring myself out of some bad head space. In these moments of doubt, you truly need to be your own best friend.When times get rough, criticism won't always come from outside sources. How you speak about yourself internally is crucial to how you see and feel about yourself. As Beyoncé once sang, "I've got Me, Myself, and I." We must put forth every effort to be there for ourselves. I look forward to more Queen Talks when some negative emotions arise. I am grateful for the person I am today, but I am excited to see the women I become.