Hourglass Cosmetics: Redefining Luxury Makeup

BY Anum Bashir

It's probably a commonly known fact at this point that my knowledge and awareness of makeup is abysmally limited, with my vanity housing anywhere from 5-7 products ONLY at any given time. That's not to say that I haven't become increasingly interested and intrigued by what makeup can do. More recently I enjoy putting makeup on (even if it IS just a few products), and I'm finding myself becoming rather loyal to certain brands, not only because of the way they come designed and packaged, but also the gorgeously rich and luxurious products that come inside it. I was thrilled to sit down with Carisa Janes - founder of Hourglass Cosmetics, and discuss a brand that has fast become a staple in the DM makeup case.

AB: Tell us a little about where you were born, and where you grew up?

CJ: I was born and raised in a town of California called Corona del Mar, in between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. I rode horses as a little girl, which I enjoyed so much. I would say my earliest dreams revolved around horses and makeup. 

I later went to college in New York City - attending Parson's to study Design and Marketing, and was always very entrepreneurial; studying startups and various businesses. Growing up I remember having set up a little restaurant in our garage and would force everyone in the neighborhood to come and visit. I always found it very comfortable dealing with people.

After graduating, I landed my first job at Urban Decay, and that marked the beginning of my journey in the cosmetics industry. At the time Urban Decay itself was such a small company, so I grew and learned with it. A year into it, I had expanded my knowledge so much on how to formulate product, packaging, and how to build a brand as a whole. I really love/d makeup and all the different looks and roles one can assume by looking a certain way. With makeup you can change so much and experiment with your face, mood, and light which I was very enamored by. Plus, it's an affordable luxury - regardless of the economy, women will never stop buying makeup. I always turned to makeup because unlike luxury fashion, it was accessible. 

AB: Who were some of your earliest beauty influences?

CJ: I came from a family where women loved to dabble into makeup. My mother and grandmother always enjoyed wearing it, and wore it all the time, might I add. I grew up observing that, and how much "putting on their faces" was a part of the daily routine. 

My mother is very very pale with red hair. She has no brows or features, so her face is kind of a blank canvas. She'd wake up every morning, get situated in front of a coffee table with her magnifying mirror (with the Today Show running in the background), and would always say, "I'm going to put on my war paint!" And that's what she did. She would put on this full face with a smokey eye, foundation, lips, cheeks, the works, and that's how she went out tackling her day. She'd come to life with makeup on, and it was incredibly transformational. That's what had a big impact on me. I enjoyed that ritual of theirs. I found it artistic and creative. 

AB: Who were some of your childhood dreams/ heroes?

CJ: I was such a creative soul as a kid, I think I was more driven by animals and art rather than people itself. I was a total nature girl, and it I could be surrounded by animals all day, that would've been perfect. 

AB: How did the idea of Hourglass come to be? When did you realize you wanted to launch your own beauty brand?

CJ: I actually stepped into the industry from the perspective of the consumer, and having more of a business background than say, being a makeup artist of chemist, which in fact gave me a unique perspective to delve into cosmetics from a rather untapped angle. I knew what I wanted to create, and how it would look and feel because I knew what consumers were looking for. 

I distinctly remember my very first day in the industry, I instantly knew I was going to be good at this. There was a natural knack to things that I seemed to possess. I had a great sense of color. Intuitively for me, somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew I was eventually going to launch something of my own that I didn't see anywhere around. I wanted to go on to create product that felt personalized, but also filled a gap in the market that I observed. And because I came from a design background, packaging, look/feel, and luxury were of utmost importance to me. 

At the end of the day I was powered to create a product that wasn't only luxurious, cruelty-free, but also aesthetically very very beautiful.

Having only been working for a year, I was hired by another brand to help them with their cosmetic brand. I originally had another idea for a business, and was working on a business plan for a nail product line, which I pursued until I launched Hourglass in 2004. We were in development for a long time. I was always working at other companies and launching other brands alongside developing the Hourglass idea and model. Tons of lab experience allowed me to better understand product formulation and the engineering that goes into developing cosmetics. We did a ton of research to make sure we weren't coming out with just another powder, or lipstick or foundation. I wanted our formula to be truly unique.

Hourglass Cosmetics brings a sophisticated effortlessness to the beauty industry. We want our products to do the heavy-lifting. 

AB: How has Hourglass Cosmetics evolved in the last decade, from launch till today?

CJ: It's funny because it has and it hasn't. We have the basic building blocks of the company and brand which make is truly unique to what it is (like innovation, creativity, simplicity), but then we are also constantly developing new product lines and ideas which help with the evolution part. I'm so thrilled that Hourglass has built a very recognizable identity for itself, and that we will never change.

But equally, I'm growing up with my brand so it becomes a synchronized act.

AB: What were Hourglass Cosmetics' pioneering products which made it big?

CJ: Our Veil Mineral Primer was our first BIG hero! It was such a thoroughly developed product so it was so surprise in how well it performed in the market. It's purpose is to "elevate your foundation to unprecedented performance with its state-of-the-art formulation that extends the wear of foundation for a perfect complexion that lasts."

The other product that I would say is a signature Hourglass favorite are all our Ambient Powders - really anything from the ambient franchise continues to do so well for us. The product was born from this idea of not wanting to create powders because they can often look quite dry and flat; not really sitting well on the skin, and so the idea that light is what truly makes skin look amazing is what we went with to help us formulate the ambient collection, which uses technology that supports this idea of light.

AB: Can you elaborate on Hourglass Cosmetics being a cruelty- free brand?

CJ: Firstly we don't test anything on animals - from our products to their ingredients, which is why we don't sell our brand in China. The Chinese government mandates that you test everything on animals before you're allowed to sell any cosmetics brands in the country. 

AB: Tell us about where the products are made.

CJ: Our products are made all over the world - from Italy to Korea, Japan and even Los Angeles. We work with different manufacturers for different reasons. It all goes back to those little details that embody the brand. For example all our packaging is custom except for maybe one item. Same holds true for the formulas. We research raw materials extensively to make sure that we are developing a very luxurious formula/ product. Manufacturers rarely ever give us formulation advise - it's actually us going to them explaining what we want and are looking for. 

AB: Recommend an Hourglass starter kit for me :) Or perhaps some seminal products people should consider owning. 

CJ: For you I would recommend our primer, ambient palette, mascara and lip oil because you're more natural and not too fussed about makeup. 

For a more sophisticated and seasoned makeup artist or consumer, I would recommend (on top of what I've mentioned for you) our Vanish Foundation stick and our loose setting powder, both of which are absolutely incredible when applied to the skin!

AB: What's the first thing you do in the morning?

CJ: Big cup of coffee

AB: Last thing you do at night?

CJ: Hmmmmm. I probably watch a bit of 30 Rock.

AB: Do you ever sleep with your makeup on?


AB: Pet peeves?

CJ: Anyone sleeping with their makeup on!

AB: Best advice anyone ever gave you?

CJ: I've been blessed with a lot of good advice come my way, but also I've learned a lot. But the best thing I've perennially been told is to be patient and not give up. We're living in a culture and time that consumed by social media, and a much younger generation now has a much louder voice. And while that's great, patience and maturity can at times be lacking in the way we build things and connect with people. Everything is so immediate and fast that the value a reward of patience seems to diminish which actually isn't the case. 

AB: I know, and look where you are now! You're a decade out and Hourglass continues to grow!

CJ: But that's exactly it! It look a decade when I thought it would take a year or two. It's the patience and perseverance that got us through. It's about being better not faster. 

AB: What's next for Hourglass Cosmetics?

CJ: We're venturing into skincare and fragrance, and will have a whole new line which is set to launch next year. 

AB: Brand muses/ inspiration?

CJ: The woman on the go. The women and men I see shopping at their local Sephora or beauty store. It's never about celebrity for me. It's about making our customer look and feel their best.

AB: A fun fact about you know one knows?

CJ: I had a pet pig! His name was Pete, and he was my roommate for 8 years.

AB: Beauty has become so vast. What sets you apart?

CJ: We're a very focused brand. The customer comes first. If you only care about what makes the consumer happy, I guarantee you will get it right. We want to deliver the best, and it works for us. 

AB: Thanks Carisa!! Can't wait to try out all these products.

CJ: Thank you!

Hourglass Cosmetics are sold exclusively at Sephora throughout the Middle East.

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