How Marc Jacobs Makes Beauty Products That Turn into Cult-Favorites
Welcome to Beauty Boss, a reoccurring series in which we spotlight the power players driving the beauty world forward. Consider this your chance to steal their get-ahead secrets, and grow from the real-life lessons they’ve learned on the job.
For Marc Jacobs, makeup, like fashion, is a tool for self-expression. On his personal Instagram feed, he displays everything from his Peanuts nail art to his eponymous makeup line, which includes Highliner, a smudge-proof, multi-use eyeliner beloved by celebrity makeup artists like Sarah Tanno who used the colorful shades to create entire looks on Lady Gaga.
"I love playing with makeup and color, but we’re not stage makeup," Jacobs tells InStyle of his brand. "We're a beauty line that you use to create a look, but you as an individual still comes through."
Jacobs has taken the same approach with the line's expansion into skincare."In terms of skincare, there's a spirit in it that evokes a certain type of person and perhaps a lifestyle," he explains. "They’re interested in fashion, skincare, and beauty, but these things don’t rule their lives."
The just-launched Youthquake, is a super-hydrating gel-crème moisturizer that's infused with refreshing coconut and exfoliating pineapple enzymes. Like Highliner, the how-to for this product is entirely up to the individual. It works as well under makeup as a smoothing primer, as it does flying solo to create radiant, dewy skin.
We caught up with Jacobs to talk about his new skincare line, favorite Marc Jacobs Beauty products, the importance of representation in beauty right now, and more.
What is the relationship between your runway collections and Marc Jacobs Beauty? Does one influence the other?
When Kendo [Marc Jacob Beauty's manufacturer] approached me, I was very excited to do a beauty line because I've always believed that beauty is a fashion accessory, or something that either inspires or finishes a look. From the beginning, we agreed that there was this natural connection, and because Kendo is very interested in the direction that the brand sets with fashion and my view as a designer, this connection has developed over the years and continues to grow.
They’ve really allowed me a lot of freedom in terms of making suggestions, comments, and listening to my ideas when creating products, and I'm the same way with them. When Kendo proposes something, I know that they’re bringing a lot of data with them, but they're also thinking about these ideas in a way that feels like a Marc Jacobs product.
You just launched your first skincare product, Youthquake. With makeup, you're heavily inspired by musical icons, drag performers, and pop culture. What's your approach to skincare?
When we first started talking about what Marc Jacobs Beauty is and what the brand could be, we looked at what we do as a fashion brand, the things I love, and what I'm constantly inspired by. This was also a time in my life where I was really into healthcare and I had a very strict diet — I was all about the omega 3s, coconut water, and all that stuff. We said that one day we would do skincare. When that someday came, we kept in mind that we’re not going to pretend we’re something we’re not: a high-tech, lab-informed, super-scientific skincare brand.
What we want to do, is create something that’s straightforward, delivers on its promises, and has fresh ingredients. I’m no scientist, but I know that there’s a lot that goes into making skincare products, and I trust the people from Kendo working in the lab to develop them. What turned me on in the discussions we had was the hydrating properties of coconut and pineapple. When someone mentions those foods I think, of course your skin would feel dewy with that. It evokes something I believe, as opposed to a list of words I can’t pronounce.
Why did you start with moisturizer and what was the inspiration behind the name Youthquake?
As far as I know, "Youthquake" is an expression that originated from Diana Vreeland so I always attribute it to her. She used it in a time where fashion and beauty was all about the youth, and there was a tremor going through the youth culture. Circling back to skincare, I wanted to do something that felt fresh and youthful. The moisturizer isn't going to fix age spots, but it's a regimen that one can indulge in and feels good. So, I thought Youthquake was perfect. It feels disruptive, but it's still a very straightforward word for what it describes.
There are so many products in the line now, and some have become cult-favorites. Do you have any that you’re really proud of creating?
We’re particularly proud of Highliner because it's such a great product. It goes on so well, and we’ve added so many beautiful colors. I think people can be really creative with them. On a philosophical level, it's the perfect product in terms of my sensibility because you can create your own look with that one product — and so many different makeup artists have.
The other product we’re all really proud of is the Velvet Noir Mascara. First of all, it’s a really respected product and it sells very well. But, from my point of view, it's the romantic anecdote and inspiration behind the mascara that makes it so special to me. When we were creating it, I described how as a young boy I would watch my mom put on her makeup to go on a date. She had learned this trick from a drag queen, which was shaving a velvet ribbon with a razor and applying the velvet pieces on her lashes to get black, velvety, clumpy lashes. I have always loved that look, so we made a mascara that mimics it.
Beauty editors are obsessed with it, myself included.
When we [Jacobs and husband Char Defrancesco] went to Ron Ben Israel for our wedding cake, all of the women that work with him were excited to meet me because I was the person behind Velvet Noir. So, I sent them all the primer and the mascara as incentive to get our cake done on time, and they were over the moon. And of course, they got the cake done beautifully.
VIDEO: Beauty Now: Facial Acupuncture
In 2019 people are holding beauty brands accountable for being inclusive. What should brands do to improve their diversity?
This isn't just an issue in the beauty industry. Inclusivity and diversity has always been a problem, but now people have a voice and vocabulary behind it. People can be sensitive to this discussion and companies find themselves accountable for it. Early on when we only had a few foundation shades, I remember getting a lot of comments on my Instagram from people saying they wish we made their shade. I asked what this was all about during the next meeting I had with Kendo, and they explained that very often they launch with X number of shades and will later expand the shade range based on the success of the product. That might be fine for an old model, but I think you're alienating people by not starting off with shades for them.
They were very responsive and corrected it after hearing me and the comments. What we can all hope to gain from any of these discussions is that there is sensitivity to this issue, and that you should listen to what's being said, and then respond accordingly. It's up to each person to decide what that means, but it's important that you do respond.