You might not have known what the woman behind Laura Mercier skincare and cosmetics looks like, but you're likely to recognize the iconic brand thanks to its continuous accolades from celebrities and magazine editors. For starters, Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer is a staple in InStyle’s annual “Best Beauty Buys” edition, while its other products have garnered praise in Allure’s “Best of Beauty” issue.
Amazingly, in an industry that is seeing independent brands popping up regularly (this Forbes piece, Why The $445 Billion Beauty Industry Is A Gold Mine For Self-Made Women estimates that there are at least 40 prominent beauty startups founded by women), Laura Mercier is still going strong and remaining relevant, more than 20 years since its launch. The brand’s staying power can largely be attributed to its founder’s artistic skills, authenticity and commitment to high-quality ingredients.
Born in Provence, France, Laura Mercier studied painting and art before pivoting to makeup. Mercier explains her career shift: “I moved to Paris and did my studies, and quickly realized that I would likely be a starving artist, because it's not something that can bring you financial security! So when I realized that, I said to myself, "I have to do something that's going to pay the bills, and that I also like to do."
After attending Carita Beauty School, where she specialized in skincare and makeup application, Mercier moved to New York City to work for magazines such as American Elle, Allure, Glamour, and InStyle. During this time, Mercier was also a sought-after celebrity makeup artist, working with high-profile clients like Madonna, Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Inspired by a French aesthetic and the importance of artistry when it comes to products and tools, Mercier launched her eponymous brand in 1996. The Laura Mercier brand is deeply rooted in the philosophy that “What makes you unique makes you beautiful.” Mercier herself is a big believer in owning and embracing the unique features that make every person an individual.
Laura Mercier’s latest highly anticipated release, the Translucent Loose Setting Powder in “Glow,” is proof that the cosmetics brand continues to have its fingers on the pulse of what its customer is looking for.
I spoke with the beauty icon about her inspiration, how the face of the beauty industry has evolved during the past two decades, and the classic book that changed it all for her.
Karin Eldor: Take us back to the launch of the Laura Mercier brand: What was the moment where you realized, “this is really happening”?
Laura Mercier: You're going to think it's strange, but I never realized it was my line, even though it’s my name on the products! I had a business partner, and he would see or realize our success because we got successful very fast. It was like a wave; we had to produce a lot and create a lot, and the pace was accelerating so it never really left me any time to pause for a minute and say "wow!”, even if inside I was happy with what was happening and happy it had a positive impact. I never really paused to take a step back and enjoy the moment, because I also have the type of personality where I'm never satisfied; it's terrible, but I'm working on it!
Eldor: Amazing that the Laura Mercier brand is still going strong, after more than 20 years! Can you share your thoughts on how the beauty industry has changed in these two decades?
Mercier: It's true that it has changed quite rapidly! My line is about 22 years old now, and I would say the breakthrough moment in the industry was the emergence of the makeup artist’s brand (à la François Nars and Bobbi Brown). These lines helped change the mentality of the cosmetics industry, in my opinion, because the big brands were looking at us like we were mosquitos nagging them, but at the same time, they realized that we were quite right in what we were proposing to clients. So I think we — the makeup artist brands — became the focal point of attention for a lot of big brands. And from then on, more and more people are starting their own beauty brands today.
Eldor: What is your mantra?
Mercier: My mantra for everything is, "Do your very best with your best intention at all times."
Eldor: What are your 3 biggest tips for female entrepreneurs looking to start their own company?
Mercier: 1- Have passion for what you do, something you authentically believe in, rather than thinking, "I'm going to create something because it's going to make a lot of profit."
2- The importance of quality when it comes to everything related to the product(s): from service to the ingredients and formula, etc. Of course you have to be a good business person, because you don't want to invest too much money and then not make enough. It's just that you have to balance both, to be able to authentically give your client something that you believe is a very good product. Otherwise it will not go very far.
3- Good management, business-wise. You don't want to lie to your client and you don't want to sell garbage; you want to be a person who is recognized for being honest in offering a great product.
Good management also relates to your team and people, because ultimately your team is either making the product or selling the product.
Eldor: What inspires you, or where do you get your daily inspiration from?
Mercier: Everything. Life in general. I would say it's an endless well of inspiration! Nature is usually a big deal for me, but it can be music, movies, books, and meeting people and — everything!
Eldor: What’s the best business advice you've ever received, from a mentor or anyone?
Mercier: I think my first encounter with metaphysics and philosophy in a way that made me think differently, was when someone advised me to buy the book, The Road Less Traveled. It's such a great way to make you understand life. So I think that opened up a lot of roads for me, because it says things that you would never think about yourself, on your own, and it tells you the truth. And it just explains everything and you think, "Oh, okay, I'd better go back and change my attitude and my thinking, and then I think I can change the course of what's going to happen for me.”
Eldor: What's next for Laura Mercier, the brand?
Mercier: I am open to anything that's going to happen because it's a very exciting moment for me. I have new partners, the Shiseido group, which is a quality oriented company with a great reputation, so I'm very happy about that. And I have great new and young talent within the company, who are looking at the line and thinking, "Why don't we do it this way?" I was fearful at first because it's normal and human, you're wondering what's going to happen, but in the end, I'm open and feel quite positive about all that, because it's great to take something to the next level with a new eye, otherwise things just stagnate. So I’m excited about the future.