How a brand was born

By Eve Oxberry

Jane Iredale celebrates 20 years in business this year and the lady herself flew in for a special event for press and key stockists in London’s Dorchester hotel yesterday. Nora Elias, editor of Professional Spa & Wellness, and I went to meet her.

After the event we had the chance to sit down with her and quiz her about what’s in store for the brand and the make-up market as a whole – and we’ll give you the lowdown in the September issue of Professional Beauty.

Jane Iredale 20th Nora EliasBut before that, Jane shared her story about the early days of the brand, how the idea first came to her and how she then launched mineral make-up into a market that had never heard of such a concept.

Taking to the stage, Jane told the assembled throng that she started her career as a trainee casting director, finding models for TV commercials. “They were busy, going from job to job and every one was struggling to keep her skin healthy. They had four or five jobs in a day where things were just being thrown on their skin,” she says. “In those days no one cared about what was in the products.”

At the time Jane was too bust with her own career, starting her own production company, working for theatre and film, with big-name directors such as Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola. But over that time she met so many make-up artists and stylists, who all faced the same problems working on models and actresses who were struggling with skin health.

Jane Iredale 20th anniversary“It all came together for me when I was doing a casting session with [Ford model agency boss] Eileen Ford and she said ‘I would never hire anyone with bad skin’,” says Iredale. “I thought ‘wow, that’s big, because that means that pimples can ruin a career’.”

That statement stuck with her and later when she’d had enough of the film and theatre world and was on the hunt for a new challenge, she kept remembering those words and the continuing issues with skin in the industry. Friends were advising her to do something that she was passionate about. The only thing she could think of was growing and eating organic food, which she’d been in to since she was a teenager. “I thought maybe there’s something I can do around that,” she says. “Then one day I woke up at three in the morning and thought, ‘maybe I can make a make-up that’s good for the skin’.”

That led to developing her first product, which was Amazing Base. She’d recently been introduced to a chemist in California and together they looked at traditional make-up and tried to work out what may be blocking pores or causing sensitivity. “We took those things out one by one and eventually we were left with the minerals, which form the basic pigment of all make-up,” says Iredale. “They turned out to have some wondrous properties, such as UV protection, and also allowed the skin to breathe normally”.

Jane Iredale 20th anniversaryRather than the TV and film world, the first customers for the make-up were actually plastic surgeons who used it to help patients cover their red raw skin after the aggressive peels that were so popular in the US in the ’90s. With the doctors on-board, people trusted the products and started to get excited about what they could do. And the rest is 20 years of mineral make-up history.

I always find it fascinating to hear how brands make it from one woman’s kitchen table to thousands of salons worldwide and Jane Iredale’s past is certainly interesting, but what I’m far more excited about is the future. With new multi-tasking products, consumer marketing initiatives and international markets on the cards, the next couple of years is also set to be exciting for Jane Iredale and we’ll share all her ideas in Professional Beauty September issue.