As we approach the end of February (congratulations!), you may have started to think about how you can take your makeup look from Winter to Spring. With the changing of the seasons, you might find that your skin is more sensitive than at other times of the year and so I recommend natural, vegan makeup.
This week, I had the privilege of chatting with Rupert Kingston, one of the co-founders of Delilah Cosmetics. Delilah Cosmetics is a cruelty-free, paraben-free and vegan makeup brand that boasts the most gorgeous collection of products. If you haven’t heard of them yet, you will soon. So grab a beverage and get cosy, it’s time to get to know Delilah.
Welcome Rupert! To start, could you begin by telling me a bit about your childhood and how you feel that has influenced you today?
I was diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was about 11. It was the mid-80’s so they didn’t know much about how to handle it back then. Luckily my reading is great, it’s just my spelling and handwriting that is terrible. However, I have always seen it as my superpower, and I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I had to learn how to express myself in other ways, so I have always been a confident speaker and, I am sure it is linked to my creativity too. I am always interested to speak to parents who have Dyslexic children; I know that school is going to be a challenge for them, but I always tell them how they can excel once they get into the world of work.
Paying it forward- I love that! How did you get started in the beauty industry?
As a teenager, instead of getting a paper-round, I worked Saturdays at a hairdressing salon. It was an amazing environment for a 13-year-old. All the stylists were very cool and there was MTV playing all day! Then, as part of an A-level Art project, I wanted to do some body painting, so I took a trip into town to visit a theatrical makeup shop called Screenface. Walking into that little shop in Notting Hill was just so magnificently inspiring, it suddenly dawned on me that being a makeup artist was a thing! I bought some water-based body paint for my art project and started looking into courses. It was the late 80s, so the only place to study was the London College of Fashion. I set my sights on finishing my A-levels, getting the grades I needed and getting onto the course. At the time, it was one of the only courses in the world where you could train! I finished up there, started a career as a makeup artist and the rest is history!
"Something pushed me to realise that I had all the experience and contacts that I needed at my fingertips to get this thing moving."
Wow. So, when did you decide to start up Delilah Cosmetics and why?
This is going to sound a bit ‘woo-woo’, but I honestly had a very powerful déjà-vu moment when I was working at a trade show in Las Vegas. I had got to thinking about what it would feel like to meet someone and find out by chance that they had my product in their handbag. I was suddenly struck by a very strong feeling that I had been in that moment before. Now, I am not into that sort of thing, but something pushed me to realise that I had all the experience and contacts that I needed at my fingertips to get this thing moving. I came home from the trip and told my wife (who is my business partner) and to my total surprise, she was completely on-board!
What a unique story! In what ways do you consider sensitive skin throughout the process of selecting the ingredients to use?
We go through an extensive process of dermatologically testing all our products. As a makeup brand, you don’t actually have to do that, but we give all of our formulations to an independent company for testing. If the formulations pass, we get a certificate of ‘non-irritant’. If you have sensitive skin, look for brands who do this.
That’s a great tip. Thank you! What strategies have been key to the success of brand?
Supply chain is the real challenge. Juliet (my wife) is the Operations Director and she has been brilliant at finding ways to keep the supply chain efficient. I always wanted to make sure that we got the products to professional makeup artists in the UK and by focussing on that from the get-go. Our products are regularly being worn by the likes of Holly Willoughby, Emma Willis and Fearne Cotton; all of whom are great delilah girls.
What is your favourite thing about having started the brand?
Juliet and I are together every day and that works; I realise for some people it wouldn’t, but for most of my career I have travelled a lot, so we would be apart. Working together is just great. In fact, the more we are together, the better we get on.
How great! So apart from that, what is the best part of your job?
There is one day of the week when most of the team works from home. On that day, I look after and answer the customer services calls. It is actually great! I love hearing about how people started using the brand, which products they love, and what they would like us to produce next. I am always so blown-away by the fact that people are out there buying our products and falling in love with them. We are truly blessed.
That is so lovely to hear! Do you think people are more conscious of the ingredients in their beauty products nowadays?
I am not sure that they are… I am amazed at how much people know about the food they are eating; the ingredients, the effects, but many women apply makeup every day and have almost no idea what the products are made of. I think there needs to be a revolution in makeup; the lid needs blowing off and people need to understand what we use and where we get it from. Trust me, it is the big brands that are trying to keep it all under wraps.
I believe it! What is your absolute favourite product that you have ever created?
It is tricky as there are so many, but I would have to say our makeup primer; everyone just loves it and it works so well! I am forever converting customers to using our primer every day. The texture is beautiful; almost like a jelly serum that melts into the skin, leaving it feeling velvety and silky, without a trace of stickiness. After applying, the makeup just glides on and stays on!
I need to try this. What were your biggest challenges in starting up a beauty brand?
The biggest challenge was funding all the stock. When you start a makeup brand it needs to be complete; that means a full range of lip colours, foundations, blushers, eyeshadows…the list goes on. That is a lot of inventory to invest in and, banks don’t like it if you don’t have orders lined up! In the end, we managed. I think we spoke to ten different banks before we found the right one, but you need to be prepared to hear a lot of “no’s”. The thing is, once you have managed to create the brand, fund the stock and get it manufactured, you still haven’t even really started. The real challenge is creating some momentum with sales.
And what makes your brand stand out?
We make beautiful things; we obsess over detail. If you have tried delilah, the first thing you will have fallen in love with is the packaging. I also think that people are starting to trust niche brands more. Nowadays, it’s easier to prove that your brand is cruelty-free or that your products are vegan; it’s just easier to be more transparent.
What’s been your biggest “pinch me” moment?
There have been a couple, but I remember when the brand launched, and our first piece of coverage was in Stylist magazine. I went and picked one up in Kings Cross Station and just stood there looking at the page. Eventually, I got onto the tube and as usual, everyone was reading Stylist. I could see people reading the page where are products were featured, it was surreal.
"Makeup has taken a strange turn and while there are incredible things to see on Instagram, what inspires me is when a makeup artist makes their client look beautiful, balanced, healthy and radiant."
I can only imagine. So, what inspires you?
I still love makeup artistry. There is some real talent out there and they are not usually the guys with millions of followers. They are quietly making up some of the most beautiful faces on the planet and making it look effortless. Makeup has taken a strange turn and while there are incredible things to see on Instagram, what inspires me is when a makeup artist makes their client look beautiful, balanced, healthy and radiant.
That’s what I love to see as well. What does an average morning look like for you?
I wake up at 6.30am, look at emails, have a double espresso and do 20 minutes of meditation before getting ready and taking the dog for a walk. When I get back, Juliet and I will chat about what is on for the day and then I get to the office for about 9.30am, so that I miss the 9am traffic. I never listen to music in the car, always audio books. If I listen to music, I just get lost in thought.
That’s interesting! And how does the rest of your working day look like?
My work is very varied, we are just starting a refresh of the website, so I am in the beginning stages of working with a developer and graphic designer for that. As the Creative Director, I am also responsible for all the content we produce. I come up with concepts for pack-shots and I write all the product copy and training too. I am part of a board of directors, so I still have to operate at that level; the list goes on. It is a lot of plates to spin. I am usually at my desk until 7.30pm - 8pm and sometimes later. I do like those quiet hours after 5.30pm when everyone has gone home, that is when I can actually get through my list.
Would you say that you have a work/life balance?
Not right now… We regularly do 12-hour days, so there is no room for work/life balance. Right now, work is life. I love my work and I am proud of our brand, so that brings balance.
What words do you live by?
“There is only right now. If you are angry about something, you are living in the past. If you are worried about something, you are living in the future; be here now.”
I love that one too. What’s next for Delilah Cosmetics?
We want to keep creating beautiful products, but we need to focus on the online revolution a bit. Makeup is still a little behind fashion and food when it comes to online shopping. Customers are happy to re-order a product online that they have already tried, or a colour that they know, but it’s helping them take a risk and discover new products that is the challenge for the online business. The answer is to focus on engaging content and building trust. I have started a video series on our Instagram called ‘Tips Tuesday’, where I share my ideas about various makeup challenges and frequently asked questions. They are becoming more popular and it has made us realise that this type of interactive content needs to be a real focus for us.
Like what you read? Head to Delilah Cosmetics to find out more. Or if you fancy checking out some previous interviews you can find them here. All images are via www.emmashervingtonphotography.com”