If Glossier is the fresh-faced, “Millennial Pink” beauty brand, Milk Makeup is the edgy, space-age one for Gen Z. Born out of a production studio, this brand has broken through the crowded—and currently red-hot—makeup and beauty sector. By championing easy, self-expressive makeup for everyone, while marketing products that are completely vegan, cruelty-free, and paraben-free, this brand has become a favorite among young, bold, socially conscious consumers. In this interview, brandchannel speaks with Milk Makeup CEO Tim Coolican about the story and growth plans of the 2020 Breakthrough Brand.
What was the key customer or business insight that lead to the formation of Milk Makeup?
Milk Makeup was born in Downtown New York City in 2016, but the brand story begins over 20 years ago. We are part of the Milk Group, which started in 1996 as Milk Studios, a fashion photography studio in the Meatpacking District. Quickly, Milk became a cultural hub and creative platform for the next generation while also being home to fashion and music superstars. In the halls at Milk, or at its famous “backyard BBQ,” there is a seamless blending of “celebrity and everyday people” who are brought together by their shared passion for creativity and culture. We call this dynamic “the emerging and the established.”
With 20 years of experience nurturing and empowering new generations of creators, Milk serves as a connector between the emerging and the established. Across fashion, music, photography, film, and art, Milk has a stake in everything that’s culturally driven. We feel responsible for nurturing the future. Today the Milk Group has a diversified portfolio of companies including a branding agency, digital agency, equipment rental company, and production company (events and shoots).
Early on, Milk earned a reputation for challenging conventions and being ahead of the curve. At shoots, events, and in its halls at 450 West 15th street, the leadership at Milk noticed that its community and its values were not represented in the beauty industry and decided to do something about it. Milk Makeup began with the collaboration of its four co-founders: Mazdack Rassi (founder of Milk Studios, now Chief Brand Officer of Milk Makeup), Georgie Greville (formerly from MTV, founder of Legs production, now Creative Director for Milk Makeup), Zanna Roberts Rassi (longtime beauty editor, celebrity fashion/red carpet correspondent), and Dianna Ruth (COO of Milk Makeup).
One year later, Milk Makeup was launched exclusively at Sephora. In February 2020, we celebrated our 4th birthday and today Milk Makeup is approaching a top 10 brand at Sephora and is an international success, with presence in Canada, UK, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Norway and most recently the Middle East. Milk has a highly engaged community especially among the next generation that is growing everyday.
How would you define the ambition for Milk Makeup, what is it that drives you and your employees?
At Milk Makeup, our community and culture have always been our inspiration. We see personal style and experimentation as the ultimate form of self-expression. It’s not just about how you create your look; it’s what you do in it that matters. These days, what we do means more than ever. “Live Your Look” captures the essence of our ethos as a community and as a brand. It is a rallying cry for freedom of expression and self-love to our community and for radical inclusion to the outside world.
We create our products to be tools to help our community to express themselves and to live their look everyday. They are both the artist and the canvas. We are just the paint. Our products are easy to use on the go, offer multiple benefits, have clean ingredients, and epic payoff. And they are 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
What are some big bets you are making to ensure continued growth?
Our priority has always been and remains to be a platform for creativity and self-expression for our community. With our community increasingly online and global, we are more focused than ever on new social platforms and content that will engage and connect. We are also more focused than ever on giving back to our community and working to improve our sustainability.
What do you see as the key aspects of your customer experience that set you apart from your competitors?
We don’t focus on competition or what anyone else is doing. We only think about how our community and how we can be there for them in inspiring, creative and useful ways.
How do you nurture and build a sense of community among your customers?
Three important things:
1. We genuinely share values with our community.
2. We exist for them and because of them.
3. We look at everything through that lens and always aim to give them our best.