That perfect new makeup shade your most fashionable friend has been sporting? Good chance you can only find it online. From rosy pink Chanel lipstick (in the limited edition Royallieu shade) to rainbow bright Sugarpill pigments, a whole world of beauty shopping is available—to those with an email account and a credit card. Trendsetters love the limited access because they know they won’t be copied when a rival finds their latest discovery at the local drug or department store. For beauty brands on the cutting edge, Internet-only sales offer exclusivity and immediacy. Welcome to the Clickable Beauty Club.
Online shopping averse? Too bad, because makeup artist staple Shu Uemura, fashionista favorite Rescue Beauty Lounge, and English skin care secret Liz Earle are all brands that are sold only in virtual stores. And with the faster turnaround online, it’s likely that a surprise trend (or whatever Lady Gaga wears in her next music video) will translate to a new web product before it ever sees a store shelf. That’s because by the time a hot new item makes it into a physical store, the fad’s probably over—or early adopters will already be over it.
“I think brick and mortar is dead,” declares Rescue Beauty Lounge founder Ji Baek, who closed her New York City nail spa (the actual lounge in Rescue Beauty Lounge) at the end of June this year. “I love the fact that I don’t have to rely on my location in the West Village anymore to sell my nail polish. Now I’m global.” Instead of limiting her personal interaction to customers who stop by the lounge for a mani/pedi, Ji now connects with everyone—and shares a piece of her Ji wisdom—through her blog. “There’s no wholesaler or middleman online—it’s just me and the customer. Because of social media, I feel closer to my audience than ever,” says Ji, who hired her new assistant from amongst Rescue Beauty Lounge’s passionate group of Facebook fans.
Leading the online movement is Sugarpill's Amy Doan. With her fluffy turquoise pigtails and whimsical pastel wardrobe, Amy looks more like a cute anime character than a makeup mogul. But Sugarpill has earned a devoted following for its Technicolor shade collection, all strictly online. The Sugarpill story began with Amy’s fashion line, Shrinkle, which she designed for five years before she delved into cosmetics. “I loved styling the Shrinkle photo shoots with the most obnoxious, colorful makeup I could find,” explains Amy, who initially used theatrical makeup (recommended to her by performers at the underground clubs she frequented) to achieve the intensity she desired. She soon realized that there was a demand for “high-quality, insanely pigmented cosmetics, even by people who don’t frequent the darker corners of the city.” That’s when Sugarpill was born: “I’d been selling my clothing online for years—starting Sugarpill as a web shop seemed to be the most natural thing to do. There were also lower start-up costs because we designed and built the site from scratch ourselves.”
Now Amy has built not only an obsession-inducing beauty brand, but also birthed a whole new aesthetic movement. Like a fun, full-spectrum dreamworld, the dramatic, colorful imagery on the Sugarpill site has introduced a subversive, punk-meets-pixie beauty style to a broader audience. Thanks to Sugarpill Cosmetics and other small but passionate beauty brands, makeup is no longer just a way of enhancing natural beauty, but a playful means of expression. “I'm a big fan of unnaturally bold, bright colors,” Amy admits. “I love using color as a transformation tool to create new characters. I started Sugarpill with party girls in mind—I wanted bright makeup that would stand out in dark clubs and last through hours of dancing until the sun came up. But it's really for all color enthusiasts who aren't afraid to stand out in a crowd.”
Just as you don’t have to be a club-goer to appreciate Sugarpill’s Crayola colors, you no longer need to be a die-hard fashionista to buy Rescue Beauty Lounge nail polish. That’s because there’s no judgment when you’re visiting a virtual counter, according to Ji. “The clerk isn’t looking at your bag and shoes, thinking ‘Oh, she has a Birkin, let me show her the more expensive stuff,’” Ji says. “Don’t get me wrong, our demographic can afford an $18 bottle of nail polish, but the Internet’s just a more democratic and non-labeling environment, which I love.” Opening up the beauty world to more people? We love that too. Beauties, have you joined the Clickable Beauty Club?