Julie Macklowe, a former Vogue magazine ‘It Girl,’ was a hedge fund manager for 12 years before she broke into the beauty industry. With experience managing more than $500 million in investments, she launched her company with an exclusive partnership at Bergdorf Goodman, but soon learned that she could offer better prices—without changing her products—if she moved to other retailers. The products are now offered at Soft Surroundings, where LN caught up with Macklowe on a recent stopover in St. Louis.
How did you make the transition from the financial industry into creating a beauty line?
I had always been involved in fashion, especially Fashion Week in New York. Once when I was traveling to Europe, my toiletries were taken at security. I thought it was no big deal and I would buy more when I arrived. I spent a lot of money on new products, but they made me break into hives. I started looking into it, and I researched it like I would research a company.
The line I created uses patented anti-aging technology based on stem cells from the Swiss Alpine Rose, which boosts collagen and is rich in antioxidants. The flower spoke to me because the plant lasts for 100 years—it rejuvenates itself and survives through harsh winters. The stem cells are the most potent part of the plant, and they protect from free radicals, and have great regenerative properties.
Was starting your own company a challenge?
I think if you’re working on something you’re passionate about, you figure it out. People always ask me, Is finance as bad as we hear? Actually, it’s worse. I believe in women’s empowerment—this is so meaningful for me, because I think it’s so important to have female entrepreneurs. But the skill set I learned in finance was definitely beneficial for starting a company.
Why did you think it was important for the line to be free of parabens, gluten, fragrances and nuts?
I have lots of allergies, and I have a lot of friends who are allergic to fragrances or things like nuts. I always have had sensitive skin, and it became worse after I had a baby. I always break out in hives!
Why were you able to drop your prices so significantly (from $165 to $99 for the travel-friendly It Kit, and from $145 to $53 for the Buying Time daily moisturizer)?
When I launched the line, I wanted it to be the best, and Bergdorf Goodman was an amazing experience. The prices were inexpensive for that customer, and in 2012 we were one of the top-selling lines. But I had a vision to make it more affordable. You can spend so much of the money on marketing and staffing people to sell the products, and I woke up one day and said let’s go back to the original concept. It’s the same products and packaging, and we use the same labs as some of the top luxury lines—nothing has changed.
The reality is, we’ve been trained as women that if it’s not expensive, it’s not quality. But so often what you’re paying for is a global marketing campaign and for someone to wrap up the products in a pretty box. We need to rethink what we’re paying for.