WE SPOKE TO CAITLIN (THE MAKEUP WIZARD BEHIND SHIRO) ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE JUGGLING MULTIPLE SUCCESSFUL BRANDS.
Tell us a little bit about the brands that you run
Shiro Cosmetics is the only brand I own which I actually founded – I launched Shiro in 2010, when I was 19. I’ve been very into video games my whole life, so my first collection (now discontinued) was inspired by Pokémon, which was the first game I ever owned. Inspiration for Shiro has generally come from “nerdy” interests (and/or the worst puns we can think of), whether video games or pop culture, and I think it’s awesome that those things have become more mainstream and accessible to everyone! Recently we’ve also been expanding into more science-themed items with our Women of Science-inspired Multisticks and a lot of astronomical-inspired Colours of the Month.
Detrivore was the first brand that I purchased (I think in 2013?); it was founded by Distorria, who lives fairly close to me, and she needed some help with the distribution aspect of her company. Originally I purchased exclusive distribution rights from her while she remained involved creating colours, but eventually we agreed on a full buyout and Lauren and I now create the new Detrivore collections. Detrivore was appealing to us because it gave us an opportunity to explore a slightly darker vibe which doesn’t really mesh with the cheerful, peppy Shiro brand. We’ve taken Detrivore in a bit of a dark-botanical direction, with recent collections inspired by succulents and poisonous plants.
Last year, the founder of Hello Waffle, Christine, approached me looking to sell her company so that she could pursue a different career path. She had formerly acquired Howl Cosmetics, so Howl’s lipstick formulas and branding were included with that purchase. Hello Waffle has a lot of soft, pink/neutral palettes which both Shiro and Detrivore were lacking, with some really gorgeous subtlety in the shades. I was also really excited about the different product types which Christine had developed; she had a fantastic lip balm recipe, a semi-loose formula (“Faerie Dust Overshadows”), and liquid highlighters, as well as a well-established monthly subscription program, Visage, which I still maintain. Hello Waffle collections are inspired by fairy tales and other stories and often involve some type of cat puns, so the theming was distinct from both Shiro and Detrivore while still being directly in line with my interests!
How do you decide which brand a new product will come under?
We always start a new collection knowing exactly which brand it will come under, so that part of the decision-making process has never been difficult! Usually we start off with “Hey, [brand] needs a new collection” and from there the difficult part is deciding what the collection ought to be. We have a perpetual cloud of ideas for Shiro (it’s super easy to find inspiration with so many fantastic shows/games/books being released on a constant basis), and Detrivore collections are usually Lauren’s brainchild and will be sparked when she reads a book or sees a cool-looking plant. For Hello Waffle, I haven’t done any formal new collections since acquiring the company – I pick a story that I like and which is seasonally appropriate for the Visage boxes every month – but I do have a project in the works that involves lots of truly terrible cat puns, so I’m excited for that!
What are the three best sellers from Detrivore?
It’s hard to nail down bestsellers, because we sell an awful lot of complete collections!
Beatification to the Witch from the “Beware the Autumn People” collection (inspired by Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes”) is a standout for sure, it’s a deep metallic purple which is unlike anything else from any of our other brands.
Our entire new “Sinful Succulents” collection has been very well received, and I’m also sending out a lot of Thimbleweed recently (a strong matte green from the “Fatal Flora” set).
What are the three favourite products you’ve created across all of your brands?
Wow, that’s hard to nail down! I really love our Butterbeer lip gloss (Shiro), our Multisticks (also Shiro and my everyday go-to for cheek colour, usually Wu or Chatelet), and the new Detrivore colour Euphorbia from the Sinful Succulents set is really shifty and fantastic. If you asked me again next week, the answers would probably be different – although I’d stick to the Multisticks as it’s rare for any one item to be an everyday thing for me!
Not all the brands you run were originally created by you – what was the hardest part about taking ownership of a pre-existing brand?
I’d say the hardest part of actually taking ownership of new brands was just the overall process of getting everything transferred over and set up in our space. With Detrivore, we helped to send out a backlog of orders and then decided to cut the catalogue and offer a fairly curated selection of products on the Shiro website, but that still entailed photographing and listing dozens of colours all at once, as well as getting the jars of product set up and organized in our workroom and developing new labelling for each one.
Hello Waffle was even more of a project; we took possession of the inventory that Christine had on hand, but her style differed from ours in that she would make and immediately package certain quantities of colours, whereas we will blend up a batch of a colour, store it on shelves, and package batches of it as needed. So in addition to inventorying everything that she sent to us, we actually had to blend new batches of every single colour on the site (as well as lipsticks, liquid highlights, etc) to have them on hand and ready to go. It took weeks and weeks to get that all set up, and the organization still isn’t quite what we would like even a year later, but we’ve made it work!
What was the best part?
The best part was how excited I was over handling and learning so many new things! With Detrivore, we learned how to make good mattes, which is something we had been sorely lacking. We’ve refined our recipes over time, but that initial realization of “Oh, that’s how you do it” came from acquiring Detrivore. Hello Waffle and Howl had so many product types which were completely foreign to us that it really took the drudgery out of creating 100+ new batches of things – I can’t tell you how many times one of us yelled “HEY LOOK HOW PRETTY/COOL/AWESOME THIS IS” over the course of that project!
Most importantly, what do you enjoy most about running multiple brands?
I love having so many outlets for creativity! Between all four brands, we never have to worry about whether we can do something that we love and have it be on-brand – pretty much anything that we love will fit neatly into at least one of them. In particular, Hello Waffle’s Visage program means that I’m able to create something completely new every single month without having to worry about overcrowding our catalogues. It’s been really fulfilling and satisfying to be able to create one-offs like that, and I think it’s also really improved my overall colour sense – I could always tell whether colours looked good in a quilt (as I grew up learning how to quilt with my mom), but it’s a whole different beast creating complete looks for the face, so I’m really happy to have the consistent practice!
AND NOW FOR THE FUN BITS…
What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
At home, we’ve got a lot of seasonal produce, milk, eggs, a thing of homemade dipping sauce for dumplings that I really need to throw out but it smells like vinegar so I don’t want to deal with it, the largest tub of garlic you’ve ever seen, assorted condiments for Asian-style cooking, lots of different types of cheese, and permanently rotating leftover spaghetti noodles. At work, coffee beans, salad dressing, hummus and naan, and whatever leftovers we’ve brought back from lunches (usually pub food, Thai, or Korean – so many good options on our street)!
How would you survive a zombie apocalypse?
Is the apocalypse happening worldwide? If so… Meh, they can have me. If not…
And finally, super important: Would you rather fight one horse-size duck, or 100 duck-size horses?
I would rather “fight” one horse-sized duck, I love birds and birds love me, and ducks have always been pretty friendly in my experience. I would slowly tame the duck with offerings of giant cheerios until it accepted me as a rider. Then I would ride the duck to the coast and from there across the ocean to escape the zombies and rebuild my life in a new country with a charming cottage and a big garden in the back. I would charge people admission to see and pet the duck and thus make my humble but happy living. 🙂
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