While it’s had fifteen years of success in Europe and The United States, beauty brand Hourglass founded by Carisa Janes has just arrived in The Middle East.
The international expansion of Hourglass, much to the joy of its clients who have previously had to travel the world in order to get their hands on the luxury make-up products, has finally made its way over to the Middle East.
Hourglass positions itself as a modern, luxurious beauty brand, and with over seventy-five per cent of its products already being vegan, they plan to be one hundred per cent vegan by 2020. Hourglass has a huge international following and has transformed from a boutique beauty hub in the States to an international company, and it’s growing faster than ever.
Founder and CEO Carisa Janes prides herself on being ahead of the game when it comes to using breakthrough formulas and modern designs. She has a strong social responsibility to protect animals and the global environment when it comes to the choice of her ingredients and her mission is to prove that luxury beauty can truly be cruelty-free.
But being cruelty-free is nothing if the products don’t live up to the expectations and this is something Janes is very aware of. She creates products that are the most luxurious in their ingredients and appearance and prides herself on offering a colour option for all, so that no woman leaves her beauty counter empty-handed.
When she founded Hourglass in 2004 Janes was trying to fill a void in the market for a new kind of luxury beauty brand – one with a focus on advanced ingredients, modern design and exceptional functionality. Today as she achieves international expansion for Hourglass we talk to Janes on her plans for the Middle East and why this is such an important market for her.
A&E Interviews Hourglass Founder and CEO, Carisa Janes
Why did you choose now to launch Hourglass in the UAE?
We are based in the United States and I think until now we didn’t feel ready to expand our business logistically and I wanted to make sure that when we came to the region we were ready to support the business logistically and do it properly and that’s why we haven’t done it before now.
Also, there’s a demand for the product here. We’ve been around for fourteen years now and I think on social media people see and find products from all over the world and they want the products, so it was good timing because there is plenty of demand and people are excited that we’re here and we’re very excited to be here.
What are you hoping for with the launch?
I’m hoping to sell my products! I’m also hoping to learn about the consumer and what really works in this market. These are my people – it’s a huge beauty market, I love it!
What do you think sets Hourglass apart from other brands?
I think it’s probably the innovation that we bring to the category. From our formulations to our ingredients, to our packaging. It’s all the details. Our products are luxury, modern and high performance.
Hourglass has very strong values – how do you manage to maintain these in today’s industry and still continue to keep up with others?
I just don’t worry about what other people are doing! I’m not interested, I’m just interested in what we’re doing and how we can do it better. I think a lot about the customer and what she wants and how we can deliver the best possible product that we can. We’re in our own little world, we’re very focused and we do it our way. That’s the only way I know how to do it. Because I’m still so involved in the business there’s no reason why this would have changed.
When would you be willing to compromise?
If I feel like I have to compromise I just don’t do it. I think for me, feeling like you have to compromise is just a sign that it’s not right. So we wait until the time is right and sometimes the same things will come back around.
Why do you think it is important to offer such a wide variety of shades?
I think again it just goes back to the customer. If you have a cosmetic brand you don’t want any woman to come to your store and not be able to find her shade of foundation, so that’s pretty much it. We want to have something for everyone.
How would you say the brand has evolved?
It’s been fifteen years so it’s definitely evolved, I have evolved and materials and technology have evolved. I think the brand has naturally evolved with me and the world as that has changed.
What was the original vision when you started and has that changed?
I think it is the same. When I started there was a lot less choice, so our vision is still the same but there’s more competition now. At the time it was really about wanting to create a luxury brand that was modern and luxury brands at that time tended to be your mother’s make-up or your grandmother’s make-up and I wanted something very modern and luxurious. That luxury to me was not just beautiful packaging but good ingredients and products that are good for your skin, easy to use and simple.
You pride yourself on producing vegan or animal-friendly products – what challenges does this throw up?
I think the big challenge for us is over as far as going vegan is concerned. If you start vegan as we did, it’s easy – that’s who we are and who we have been from the start. For us, it was more about re-formulating anything that wasn’t vegan – that presented different challenges. We’ve sorted that out now and by next year every range will be 100 per cent there. We were already probably seventy-five per cent vegan, it was just little bits and pieces that we needed to perfect. I can imagine for a big major brand it would take a really long time and be very expensive.
Even in today’s society, we know there are some countries where animal testing is compulsory – how does this restrict you as a brand?
No, I don’t think it does restrict us. People didn’t care about it before so there was no demand for vegan products and therefore the manufacturers didn’t make them. Now there are great alternatives so there’s no reason to use animal bi-products in our make-up.
What are the biggest challenges you face in what you do?
A lot of challenges would be if you come to a new market too soon and you’re not prepared. I think we’re at a point now where we have the infrastructure and the team so we feel confident. We knew we had demand for the product – with social media we already knew the customer and what they wanted in this region, so there is some degree of confidence that it’s going to work. It’s the things you don’t know are going to happen that throw up challenges. I’m sure there’s something to be afraid of I just don’t know what it is!
How do you think social media has had an impact on the beauty industry?
Information is instant. Everything is global and we have so much more information and knowledge. It is such an incredible way to communicate, it’s amazing. As a brand you know instantly what your customers think, feel and experience instantly all over the world and the whole world knows where we are and what we’re doing, it’s incredible.
What is a challenge you faced in business that you had to overcome?
I started this business when I was in my early twenties and it was hard – hard to get started, to raise money. It was not easy. I think probably the biggest thing was raising money and having a growing business and getting the finance to keep me moving forward and grow. That’s probably the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome.
What are the biggest lessons you have learnt in life?
I’ve learnt a tonne of lessons! But I would say my biggest is to hire the best and hire people that are better than you. That makes life a lot easier.
What is the professional motto that you live by?
Always think about the customer and do the best job you can for her.
And how about a personal motto?
Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.
Who is your inspiration?
I don’t really have a person that’s an inspiration, it’s more about how I get inspired by things that make me feel inspired. When I get excited about something, the idea of bringing something to the market that is going to make women feel excited the way I do. That’s inspiring and drives me. What’s cool for us is that we launch a product every season and we feel so excited about what we launch and we know it’s going to be something that they’ve never seen and that builds excitement. Hearing their stories is inspiring.
Who is your make-up muse?
Probably myself! Ultimately it’s very selfish – I’m just looking for products that I want to wear and I’m excited about. I never really have that face of a woman I’m creating for I’m always asking “what’s going to make me look better?” and that’s where I start.
What’s the one make-up product you can’t live without?
That’s so tough! I always say something different but today I think I would say mascara. I also love our Ambient Lighting Palette.
What can we expect to see from Hourglass now that it is in the region?
We’re going to be talking a lot about brows this year. That’s all I can say for now!