Continuing with our Interviews with Indies series, we’re sifting through the mind of Sophie from Femme Fatale Cosmetics today. She wears a lot of hats: as well as making her own polish, she also sells pigments for eyes, face and lips, and she’s recently become Australia’s first domestic indie polish distributor. How does she do it all?? Read on to find out…
How did you first get into nail polish?
There was no ‘big moment’ where I suddenly became as interested as I am today in lacquer. It definitely was a gradual process, from using it half-heartedly in my early teens, through to developing my own line of cosmetics and experimenting with materials, through to having a full blown interest in nail art and almost everything associated with indie polishing. Polish, along with other cosmetics (notably eye shadows), have been a big interest for me for the last 4-5 years as I really explored the creativity aspect of the beauty industry.
What inspired you to start your own line?
Very early on in the operation of Femme Fatale I read a review online where a blog reader had commented about wanting to see my eyeshadow ‘Moonglow’ as a nail polish. By that stage I had a decent sized stash of polish for personal use, and though surprisingly I had never frankened any of my polishes, I became highly interested in creating my own line after reading that comment.
A lot of work was invested in beginning my lacquer line. By the time I was able to access resources and materials, international indies were making a big name for themselves. I was pretty late to the game I think, but I haven’t let that stop me or even slightly slow me down.
It took me a long time to decide on the right name for my company. As everything I make is in some ways a part of me (my creativity) I really wanted a name that reflected myself as well as my products and how I wanted to be perceived. Eventually I settled on ‘Femme Fatale’. A femme fatale is a descriptive term used for a woman who is considered mysterious, seductive and dangerous. For me, a femme fatale is the ultimate woman. Someone who is not necessarily physically attractive or sexy, but someone who is at ease with one’s self. To me that is beautiful. In a world that is constantly bombarded with messages on how women should look, act, think, feel – what is right and what is wrong – what I think is beautiful is someone who enjoys themselves, who is comfortable with themselves, and doesn’t hold back to conform themselves to be what the industry dictates. Ultimately I wanted my name to represent a line that can be used by women to reflect how they feel and/or who they are, not just enhance natural and inner beauty. I love that I create bold, loud colours and delicate unique blends, as well as commercial colours that are more widely acceptable. I feel I offer a range that almost any woman can pick products from, and feel comfortable in.
What are (in your opinion) your best creations?
I am particular to a few to be honest! Such as A Tisket, A Tasket. It was one of my first polish experiments and the one I made that made me think ‘yes, I can do this’. It might be a simple shade but for me it was being able to convey my colour theory and inspiration into a bottle of polish, and at that time I felt that I could make my new venture an actual successful reality. Making polish is surprisingly hard. It’s difficult to get the levels of colour play just right for what might be going around in my head. Probably 85%-95% of what I make gets trashed, and a few get reformulated time after time after time until I’m happy with them – right down to the last .004” glitter! And even after all of that some shades I may still not release.
Another of my favourites has to be Keeper of the Grove. I love the simplicity of the colour combination, but also how intricate I’ve made it with the subtle variations in green in the base by using a good variety of smaller types of glitter. I love making simple shades, but even more so I really love making complex blends which a person can look at multiple times and each time find something new. I enjoy making something that is intricate, yet complementary.
How do you come up with new polish ideas?
This doesn’t vary from how I make my powder cosmetics. A lot of the time I will make things up as I go. Sometimes being spontaneous is a fantastic way to make something unexpectedly lovely. It’s great to step outside the comfort zone and really play around with colour matches. I definitely end up with some horrible things, but I also end up with some really nice combinations.
I also take on inspiration from general things in my life, whether it is artwork, some imagery or colours I see in a video game, or even a bottle of half empty polish which has taken on a different hue in the afternoon lighting. Librarian’s Shush was inspired from newspaper I had on my workbench. Keeper of the Grove was inspired by a graphic from my favourite MMO, World of Warcraft. Incendius was inspired by a Morbid Angel ‘Gateways to Annihilation’ poster I have on my bedroom wall.
I literally see colour matches and combinations regularly through my day, now that I’ve started actively looking for them. A good portion of what I look at in my daily life I question how that would look converted into an eye shadow or polish. I also get a great amount of inspiration right as I’m falling asleep, though I tend to have forgotten the specifics by the following day unfortunately!
What’s the best thing about being an indie polish maker?
Definitely the creativity aspect. Coming from a family of painters I have always needed to be hands on and working with colour to feel fully centred. I’ve worked at a lot of different things to date (such as decorating and fashion design), but hands down Femme Fatale is the best decision I have ever made. I am eternally grateful to everyone who has contributed to Femme Fatale being what it is today, and for me to be able to work with it every day.
On top of those things it’s also the feedback I receive from my customers; it’s one of the best things ever and puts a huge silly grin on my face every time! Ultimately Femme Fatale is a way for me to share what I’m passionate about, and I’m so thankful that people feel it’s worth supporting. The support I have received since launching in 2011 has been immense; and I developed new friendships along the way which have made the hard things easier to bear and the fun things more enjoyable.
There are very few negative things about this line of business, but unfortunately there are some. In the cosmetics aspect the difficult part was learning (teaching myself) what I could and couldn’t make, finding vendors, researching ingredients and what was safe to use, and getting the required licensing to operate this type of business. The hardest thing for polish making was sourcing materials originally. It took months and months to really get what I needed to get started. After that it was getting my product overseas, really to access the US market which is huge as I’m sure you know. I went through a few different processes before I could get to where I am now, and a lot of times I honestly felt like giving up. I didn’t have help, a guidebook, or anyone to tell me what to do or give me advice – and that really is the toughest thing about my business.
However on a positive note I respect myself, and more importantly I respect my business, because of the work I have put into it. Realistically there are difficult things to deal with on a daily basis though. I’ve had other companies plagiarise material from my website, and that’s a situation I didn’t know how to deal with. I’ve had products stolen under the guise of being used for a beauty box subscription service. I’ve read accusations of my products being too similar to other company’s products, and that’s very tough to read about especially when you can easily see the differences that make each one unique and quite different. I always to try please everyone (impossible, I know) and it never gets easy trying to cope with or handle tough situations. I try to learn from mistakes, and move on without dwelling. Ultimately I hope that learning as I go can only be a rewarding experience in the end, as I push myself to be the best that I can be.
What else do you like to do in your spare time (if you have any)?
I have very little spare time – I work 6-12 hour days 6-7 days a week and absolutely love it (though sometimes I wish I could sleep a little more haha!).
My usual week involves a lot – processing direct customer orders, wholesale orders for our stockists, making product batches, bottling/packing and labelling, stock orders and (a lot) of cleaning, customer service, design for the website and social media sites, formulating new products, ordering from brands we’re currently (and shortly will be) carrying as well as organising their listings on the site (which is really time-consuming)… and more! I’m lucky in that my amazing partner, Dave, has reduced hours at his job to assist me with Femme Fatale. In general I always have a million and one things to do – though I am certainly not complaining!
When I do take time away it’s usually for quality time with family and partner, or to tidy up the house or to watch a good movie / read a bit of a book etc. However I might have a lot less spare time in the months to come! On top of our so-far-successful expansion into carrying top international and national indie lines, we’ll also be looking at getting our product into retail stores in Brisbane this year, as well as contributing a variety of our powder-based cosmetics to the June edition of the Lust Have It! beauty box subscription service, which we’re very excited about. Both of those have the option to raise our company profile up even further and hopefully will allow us to expand more. I have a lot of plans for Femme Fatale! I’m also highly interested in incorporating more nail products (treatments and accessories) into our range as well as perhaps even starting to stock polish-making supplies for those who wish to try mixing up a glittery storm for their fingertips!
What’s the one tip you’d give for perfect nails?
Oh gosh – to be honest I would be the LAST person to ask for nail care advice. I wear polish constantly, I must redo my nails every 2-3 days, but unfortunately I’m also incredibly careless with my hands so my tips are always snapping off. On top of that I wear gloves daily, which completely ruin my cuticles.
To me perfect nails are just clean and tidy – moisturised when possible, filed down to a nice shape, and with a favourite colour applied. I’m pretty partial to China Glaze Flip Flop Fantasy and my own Femme Fatale Fatal Attraction When I’m wearing either of those I pretty much ogle my hands every spare chance I get, haha!
What are your picks for the top trends in indie polishes in 2013?
I haven’t seen a huge variation in indie trends. I have with mainstream brands (all those different finishes), but indie brands seem to be doing fairly well as is. I like that we’ve started seeing glow in the dark and heat changing polishes. I enjoy that indies are looking for something new to bring to the table.
What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?
I don’t think there has been one standout piece of advice. Ultimately the best thing I can do for myself and my company is base it around a viable structure that is fair for myself and the customer. Although almost everything about Femme Fatale is me wanting to share my passion and creativity with others, at the end of the day I want a customer to be satisfied with and enjoy my products.
What keeps you going?
Sometimes it definitely gets a bit tough to stay on track and make sure I’m working, but to be honest 95% of the time I enjoy what I do and actually want to do it. When certain aspects get tough or a little too much for me to deal with, I try to take a step back and have some time out. Ultimately the big picture keeps me going – where I want myself to be 5 or 10 years from now. As long as I can continue to express myself creatively and have support for doing that, I feel that this experience will be amazing and I’m so thankful for that.
Thanks so much for having me, and for the opportunity to share a bit of myself and Femme Fatale with your readers.
Femme Fatale Cosmetics is holding an Easter sale this weekend – check out their site for all your purchasing needs.