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The Co-Founder of ColourPop on Working With Hello Kitty, the FBI, and Kylie

Cute cats and counterfeits.

Photo: Colourpop

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This week, indie makeup brand ColourPop launched a limited-edition collection with Hello Kitty. As you would expect from the world’s cutest anthropomorphic cat and the internet’s buzziest makeup brand (3.5 million Instagram followers), it’s already selling out.

The collection, one of ColourPop’s largest collaborations yet, features highlighter, blush, various types of lip products, eyeshadows, and a face kit ($42) in all new colors. Laura Nelson, the president and co-founder, assured me at a launch event that products would be restocked continually.

In addition to ColourPop, Nelson and her brother own its parent company Seed Beauty, a beauty brand incubator that also produces Kylie Cosmetics. Since the inception of Kylie’s brand, the internet has been awash in conspiracy theories that ColourPop and Kylie are actually one and the same, until Nelson set the record straight: same factory, different brands.

In addition to the insanity built into any brand that prominently features a Kardasho-Jenner, Kylie Cosmetics has also been dealing with some scary issues with counterfeit products over the past several months. Nelson shed some light on what’s it’s been like to collaborate with Hello Kitty — and also the FBI.

Products in the ColourPop/Hello Kitty makeup collaboration. Photo: ColourPop

How did the Hello Kitty collaboration happen?

One of the members of my team is in some makeup groups on Facebook, and someone reached out to her from Hello Kitty and said “Hey, I hear you work for ColourPop, we would love to do something with you guys.” Everyone came up and we became fast friends and just really put the pedal to the metal to get a collaboration put together in a very short amount of time.

What has been the response?

There are definitely pieces that have sold out. Some have come back in and some are still sold out, but one of the benefits of ColourPop is that we do actually make all of the product in house, so we’re able to quickly get the machines back up and running to keep those quantities up. It’s important to us that as many people get to participate in the collaboration as possible. We’re really about inclusion and accessibility, and so having as much of that product continuing to be made as possible is really important to us.

So ColourPop has been around for over two years now. Tell me about what the last year has been like as the brand has become more popular.

The growth over the last year has just been absolutely astronomical and truly beyond anything we necessarily had ever planned or projected. I think that it’s been really fun to get consumer feedback to really continue to refine and update all parts of the business.

What are some examples of that?

Shade editions, where people really want this type of shade or this type of collection. Our Ultra Matte Lips for us is a huge category. It continually blows my mind that that category for us is absolutely not running out of stamina. And people are asking us to continue to add to it.

Is it hard to come up with new colors?

You would think that it is, but remarkably there are so many shades and colors, and trends change so much. When we started out, cleaner shades were kind of what people were wearing. Now the dirtier, dusty things are selling. So even as the trends change, you might do a mid-tone pink, but there’s eight million mid-tone pinks out there.

Can you keep up with demand pretty well? For a while in the beginning, a lot of your most popular colors were sold out.

We’ve been able to scale tremendously in order to support that demand. There’s still going to be times when this and that are sold out. I think one of the benefits we have is we have the control of being able to make and produce that product, so we can do that very quickly.

Do you still have no plans to wholesale to other retailers?

We’re really enjoying the freedom that comes with being an e-commerce brand and really setting our own pace, our own launch schedules. It really gives us the freedom to engage with our consumers in a very one-on-one direct level and action their feedback without the constraints of partnerships.

You just launched international shipping [in July]. How is that going?

It’s been phenomenal. Being able to find that reach on a global basis and increase that footprint has been really fun and exciting. Even within that, we continually work to get the best shipping prices for our customers. Our shipping prices were high, and so we went directly to the US Postal Service and negotiated with the government to get better rates to introduce a reduced shipping program for our customers.

Which countries have had the most interest internationally?

The UK, Australia, [and] New Zealand are the big markets. And Singapore.

As far as Seed Beauty, do you have other brands in the pipeline coming or are you just focusing on ColourPop and Kylie Cosmetics now?

We have a lot of very exciting things coming. We do have other brands in the incubation stage. I can’t [give you any hints]. But we do have very exciting things in the incubation stage under the Kylie brand as well. As we’re continuing to innovate ColourPop, we’re doing the same thing for Kylie, then bringing on other brands.

Were you surprised by all the conspiracy theories involving Kylie and ColourPop?

There was a certain element of that it was surprising that people care. We clearly understand they care, and we are definitely an open book and forthright with that.

But to clarify, Kylie’s products are different, right?

One hundred percent. Kylie and ColourPop are run as two entirely separate businesses and brands, just as many brands have different products that are made by similar factories and manufacturers. They aren’t the same brand. They both have exclusive formulas, exclusive shades, and development.

There’s been a lot in the news lately about the counterfeit Kylie products.

It’s been a really big deal and something that is very important to us. We’ve been working behind the scenes for a number of months, specifically on the Kylie side of the business, trying to shut down counterfeits and knockoffs because we do believe it presents a significant risk to the health and safety of our consumers. We don’t want there to be market confusion and customers getting products that they think are made by Kylie Cosmetics but in fact are not.

How did you first discover that they were out there?

There were some early indications from the Department of Homeland Security. And a lot through our customer service, actually. Customers were emailing us asking where their product was, and through that process we were able to say “You didn’t order from us.” Then, upon further investigation, we found there were a number of websites selling fake Kylie products, which is then when the FBI got involved. Now we’re working with a number of governmental agencies to try to protect the public, as well as our own internal, private efforts to track down and find and shut down anyone that is selling fake Kylie Cosmetics products.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Check out our recent Facebook Live to see the new ColourPop x Hello Kitty collection in action.

ColourPop x HelloKitty

We're unboxing the new ColourPop x Hello Kitty makeup collaboration!

Posted by Racked on Wednesday, November 2, 2016