About a week ago I got an email inviting me to the Chapel Street Kit store to meet Poppy King, the owner and brains behind Lipstick Queen. Being a young woman who grew up in Australia, I’m a massive fan of Poppy King. If you were an Aussie teenager in the 90s I bet this image will bring back some memories.
There were very few Christmas stockings in 1998 that didn’t have one of those babies in it. Does anyone else remember how big Shine pots were? You could barely clasp your fist around them and the gloss was revolutionary high shine, at the time we hadn’t seen anything like it. Such an iconic product. You can actually still get it in a limited edition Black Tie Optional collection. Consider it officially on my birthday list.
Anyway, back to Poppy. After finishing up with her first company the self titled Poppy range, Ms King relocated to New York, wrote a book and started a new company called Lipstick Queen. I interviewed Poppy about her latest products, her trend forecasts and the beauty scene in New York.
So how do you go about even starting a lipstick line? For me it’s something like building a plane or carving something out of wood, just totally out of my league.
Well I started my first company in 1992 when I was 18. I found a company here in Melbourne, where I was living at the time and I just found in them in the phone book.
Seriously, just in the phone book?
Yep! Then I found a business partner and went from there. It’s basically like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It’s also about having a vision and knowing what you want and then sort of putting the pieces together.
It’s amazing how you can just pluck a name from the phone book and get so far with it, it always seems like you need to have heaps of contacts to make it work?
Not at all, hard work and having a strong vision and knowing what you want to achieve will get you way further than any contacts.
What’s the biggest challenge that you face in the manufacturing of your products? Is it advertising? Or getting outsourcers to actually listen to what you want them to do?
I think the biggest challenge is being able to continue to grow and stay focussed on your goals and keeping a strong point of view. This is why I think companies have so many different products because they are trying to grow and through that growth their vision can get lost. Finding the balance between the growth and the vision is always the challenge.
I have the greatest respect for your hawk like focus on lip products. Have you any intention of expanding your range to include other products or will you forever be The Lipstick Queen?
Not in Lipstick Queen but I am looking at starting another business next year but it’s not in make-up.
It’s not in make-up? What business is it in?
I’m not ready to say just yet!
Ah, I’ll be keeping an eye out for it then.
It’s an invention actually, it’s very glamorous but it’s not make-up.
Fantastic! I look forward to hearing more about that! A statistician friend of mine told me that in times of economic crisis the one product whose sales don’t seem to drop is lipstick and in fact in times of economic uncertainty lipstick sales peak. Why do you think that is?
Well in this particular economic climate it hasn’t so much been lipstick but nail enamel, it’s basically indicative that smaller pick-me-up items do very well. It’s not specifically lipstick anymore as it was during the depression in the 1930s, it’s evened out a bit more to include other products because there’s so much more available now. It shows that you cut out on the big-ticket items but continue to buy smaller items to make yourself feel good.
Branding and integrity when dealing with customers seems very important to your company so with that in mind what other brands of make up do you use? Or rather which ones do you think compliment Lipstick Queen?
I wouldn’t say there’s any in particular, it’s pretty much up to the individual. It depends on your preferences, if you’re really into eyeshadow then Nars have some of the best eyeshadow, if you’re really into mascara then Dior has great mascara.
So you really mix it up and try different brands?
Yeah but I’m pretty lazy on the beauty side of things…
So you really are just a lipstick gal?
Tell us about your new Liptropolis line.
It’s the launch of a line that I’m calling the Lipstick Library. They are actually little books that contain lipstick and the first volume is called Liptropolis. It’s all inspired by New York, so Liptropolis is a play on the word Metropolis because New York is the biggest metropolis in the world. This is my personal take on three different neighbourhoods in New York and the type of lipstick that represents the women that reside there. Soho is a great hot cherry, Central Park is a beautiful new version of coral, a really modern coral, and the Upper East Side is a subdued nude. They represent the different areas and mind sets of New York. It comes in a set of three and you can’t buy them individually, it’s a limited edition set.
I’ve been using your products for years, since I was a teenager and part of the reason why I am such a fan of your lipsticks is because you steer clear of glitter and shimmer and you favour a more matte texture. I’m assuming this is a personal preference of yours?
When I do shimmer it’s very subtle, with a beautiful sort of silky texture. I’m not really into shimmer or shine and when I do use it I do it in a sophisticated way not in a junior way.
What trends do you forecast for spring/autumn?
Going by what I’ve seen in New York we are working with fruit colours, fresh pops of colour. Not neon or artificial colours, just real juicy fruit colours.
How important do you think it is for someone to find the correct shade of lipstick? Is it imperative or can we all just wear what we like?
I don’t think it’s so much about skin tone. I mean the general rule is the paler your skin the more orangey colours suit and the darker your skin the more pink colours suit but I think it really depends on your over all style. You can have two people with really similar skin, imagine twin sisters, one might be more rock and roll and look great in red and one might be more conservative and not look as great in a bright red. I think it’s really all about the over all style.
Do you have any recommendations for perfect lipstick application? Do you have a process that you go through?
I think you only need to go through a process if the lipstick is not so good! I don’t mean that in terms of price point. If it’s too slippery and you need a brush that’s not so great. A good lipstick has a bit of body to it. A good lipstick you should just be able to put straight on.
If you were trapped on a desert island and you could only take one Lipstick Queen product in one shade which would you choose?
Red Sinner. Bright red and matte. I feel like a super hero when I wear that one so I could swim back to shore with that on! I wear it almost every day.
Has your vision changed much from when you had Poppy to now that you have Lipstick Queen?
Overall my general idea of lip colour changing your whole mood hasn’t changed. The most interesting cosmetic to me has always been lip colour.
So your company is completely based in New York now?
It’s all based in New York but it’s manufactured all over the world in Canada, Germany…
How are you finding living in New York? Enjoying the beauty scene over there?
Most of my friends are in the art world. That’s more my world, I’m not really into the beauty scene, I never really have been.
I know exactly what you mean, beauty launches terrify me!
Yeah, it’s definitely not my scene!
Where are you based in New York and do you have a physical store over there?
I live in Nolita which is North of Little Italy and no I don’t have a physical store. My products are on the counters in Barneys and other department stores.
Poppy is this teeny tiny little blonde thing, extremely glamorous, very controlled and very cool. I’ll admit that 14-year-old Carly who first read about this amazing entrepeneur in Dolly magazine when I was in high school was swooning slightly.
Liptropolis in Central Park
Upper East Side
I find that I have a real affinity for beauty products when the person who made them is also the face of them. Like Poppy herself and people like Natalie Bloom.
Have you ever used a Poppy product? Did you have a giant pot of Shine in the 90s?
The Liptropolis Library was given to Smaggle for editorial consideration.