High-end skincare line vbeauté may have just launched a few months ago, but it's already stocked in some of the world's most prestigious retail spaces including Bergdorf Goodman and Clyde's in New York, Cosbar in Aspen, The Webster in Miami, 4510 in Dallas, Gee Beauty in Bar Harbor and Toronto, and Fred Segal in Santa Monica. Interestingly enough, the fragrance-, gluten-, paraben-, oat-, and nut-free brand was founded not by a beauty veteran, but by finance whiz Julie Macklowe whose background includes managing a multimillion dollar hedge fund. We spoke with the entrepreneur about what prompted her to get into the beauty industry, why she sought financing for her launch, how her life has changed since switching careers, and more.
The Fashion Spot: Have you always had an interest in beauty and skincare products?
Julie Macklowe: I was always obsessed with skincare as I very much dislike wearing heavy foundation and enjoy a clean look. I think I have tried it all, if that’s at all possible! I have super sensitive skin and have tried the most expensive products to the most remote dermatologist brands. I’ve always been very fascinated by ingredients and really did not think that a fabulous high-end anti-age skin care line, that was suitable for sensitive skin and yet free of ingredients like parabens, fragrance, and gluten-free existed at a reasonable price point. I was sick of paying a ton of money for products that seemed all very similar and none truly fabulous, nor simple — a lot of these lines had so many SKUs and felt so confusing.
tFS: How did you end up working in finance?
JM: I graduated from the University of Virginia in three years with a degree in Finance, MIS and Economics — seemed a fairly obvious move especially since I went to the McIntire School of Commerce (I’m still on the Advisory Board) and spent a summer internship at Goldman Sachs in Mergers and Acquisitions. I've always felt creative, but numbers came easily to me – crazy as it seems looking back now, I even worked at the IT Help desk doing UNIX.
tFS: Your background in finance must have been a huge plus in launching your line. Unlike so many people who put their own money into their brand launch, you decided to seek out investors. Why go that route?
JM: Finance is a great skill set for anyone; I always am encouraging women in business and even started a Learn to Invest chapter at Cathedral High School when I graduated! My husband and I are an investor as are some close friends who are respected investors. I find having investors makes you challenge yourself more, helps you to validate the right business plan, and always helps to force oneself to step away from the micro picture of day to day and look at the bigger picture. I am lucky to have an extremely knowledgeable group of investors and advisors who are constantly challenging our thought process and helping us to make the right decisions. More minds are better than one.
tFS: There are so many beauty brands out there. What was missing that made you want to get into the game?
JM: Agree, but there are a lot of hedge funds too and that didn't seem to stop me! The initial decision to start a skincare brand really came from having my toiletries taken by TSA as I only use a travel-on suitcase on my way to Europe as I was apparently over the limit. Then purchasing very expensive products at a high-end store only to be in the middle of nowhere in Normandy and breaking out in hives. I thought to myself, I can’t let this happen to me or any other woman again! It was on my flight back that I sketched the It Kit and then sought out and worked with the world's finest lab in Switzerland CRB, to create amazing products. I want women to have the finest anti-aging ingredients that work for almost all skin types, and also feel empowered and confident that these are products that can travel well.
tFS: Was there ever a moment in the process of developing your line that you wanted to give up?
JM: Definitely moments of challenge, but I don't give up very easily. If I did, I wouldn't be doing this as it's a bit of an insane task as my friend Georgette Mosbacher warned me when I was just starting out, but clearly had I fully realized I might have heeded her advice!
The thing that has always kept me going is feeling that we are empowering women to be beautiful, feel more confident by having great skin, and giving them the ability to take it anywhere they go via the It Kit whether to the gym, SoulCycle, the Hamptons or on a far away trip, and of course, at home! And to have great products that one doesn't have to go broke to afford as they are super reasonable for such high quality ingredients sourced in Switzerland.
tFS: There must have been countless hurdles in developing your formulations. Anything you can share about some of the challenges you faced in getting everything to be just the way you wanted?
JM: Countless. I did ever iteration on my face — I was not a pretty sight and did not stop until the formulas were perfect. Most people now are shocked that I don't have foundation on, but I could not have gone outside without makeup until they were done. So many products made me break out — I felt like this line is a system that works together to give a perfect even complexion so wearing makeup isn't necessary!
tFS: Your products are formulated with an impressive list of actives and you've partnered with a variety of notable labs and individuals. How did that all come about?
JM: I was very lucky that through knowing quite a few notable people in the beauty industry, we were introduced to CRB in Switzerland. We worked with a group of their top scientists who have degrees in fancy things like molecular biology and chemistry so we could have the latest technology. They had just come across the latest active of the Swiss Alpine Rose and harvested the most potent part of the plant, its stem cells. The Swiss Alpine Rose undergoes harsh climate changes, and dies each year only to rejuvenate itself, just like your skin does. We combined this with a patented plant tripeptide, the Biocellular peptide, which has extremely strong anti-age clinicals to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Then because I am so sensitive, I wanted our products totally fragrance-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, and nut-free.
tFS: You launched in some amazing retail spaces. What were the biggest challenges in getting those retailers to agree to stock your line?
JM: We went early on with a 3 pound It Kit prototype and lab samples to Bergdorf Goodman. It was actually Linda Fargo who suggested that we needed to create full sizes to go with the It Kit! Obviously she was a genius!
tFS: What's one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you launched your brand?
JM: How it is a 24/7 endeavor. It wouldn't have stopped me but I would have liked to have know that before! I was warned in all fairness.
tFS: How has day-to-day life changed from when you were managing a hedge fund?
JM: There are no similarities. I used to look at financials, now I understand exactly where each number comes from — instead of watching a company grow, I am living it!
tFS: What's your daily skincare regimen?
JM: Vbeaute all the way! I cleanse in the AM with Evidence Eraser gentle cleanser, twice a week I will use Rub Off to exfoliate. Then I use a squirt of Undercover Agent and Lite Up, rub them together in my palms and apply all over my face, a nickel sized dab of Buying Time and rub into my face, Eye Never eye cream above and below my eyes — it takes me about one minute start to finish. Simple. Repeat at night and follow with an SPF we are developing in the daytime (I recommend a zinc based one as it's a physical blocker and doesn't cause a break-out).