Halsey Talks New Magnificence Merchandise, Performing, About-Face and Af-94

For Halsey, musical stardom and beauty entrepreneurship aren’t all that different.

The About-Face founder said that the brand’s name, for instance, struck them much the way songwriting does. “It happened the way it sometimes does with a song or an album,” Halsey said onstage at the Los Angeles Beauty Forum with Jeanne Chavez, cofounder and chief innovation officer of About-Face and Beauty Inc editor in chief Jenny B. Fine.

“I wanted it to feel like a reflection of my real name. Everyone knows me as Halsey, but my real name is Ashley Frangipane. After a decade of hiding that name behind something else, I wanted to bring it back to the forefront, and About-Face happened to have the same initials,” the singer continued.

Halsey started doing their own makeup nearly a decade ago. “I tried out some professional makeup artists earlier in my career. I was 19 years old but I looked 50-years-plus just because of all the foundation. A demand and desire to look and feel like myself is more of why I did my own makeup,” they said, hinting at a new complexion launch to come.

Their relationship with beauty has also evolved. “I’ve found myself becoming way more concerned with being cool than being beautiful,” Halsey said. “There’s a lot of emphasis on hiding a flaw or improving yourself in some way, and I’ve had a couple of times where I’ve been done up, and I’ve been like, ‘That’s everything exactly how it’s supposed to be. Why do I feel so boring?’”

As it turns out, Halsey’s journey with beauty has mirrored their relationship with music. “I’ve done makeup ever since I was allowed to wear makeup,” they said. “I would dye my hair, cut my hair, I shaved my head for the first time in high school. The town that I lived in was not prepared for that, the biggest event to happen there was that I shaved my head. That’s when I knew I was a star.”

That creative ethos has parlayed itself into a deal with LiveNation, in addition to the Gen Alpha-friendly sister brand Af-94.

“We had a lot of requests from so many retailers. One was the largest in the world, which is really hard to say no to,” said Chavez. “Af-94 was a brand we created for a first-time makeup user, and everything we talked about in About-Face as far as saturated pigments, ease of application, long wear — we did the same thing, but created a brand under $10.”

Getting consumers when they were young was important to Halsey, who likened the brands’ consumers to their musical fans. “I’ve met people at 1 in the morning in the cold at 15, being dropped off by their parents, and then 10 years later, they’re 25-year-old lawyers at the Allstate Arena there to see my show. I’ve seen them grow up in front of my eyes,” Halsey said. “I see how meaningful that relationship is, when you grow with your audience, and we wanted to apply that here.”

Halsey added that “there’s a lot of overlap,” between their musical fans and fans of About-Face, while noting that “we’ve done a tremendous job of making sure that About-Face and Af-94 maintain their identities as brands separate of me.”

Chavez is no novice to entrepreneurship, having also cofounded Hard Candy. “I remembered Hard Candy as such an innovative brand,” Halsey said. “This was a world that I only wanted to be a part of if I could do it in a way that was authentic, and a way that was concerned with breaking the rules in the most fun way possible.”

Halsey has also taken inspiration from brands outside of beauty. “I wanted something timelessly iconic. There are certain brands that have the luxury of existing as lifestyle entities, when you can look at someone and you can tell they’re a fan of the brand, or they live in the essence of a brand’s ideology,” they said. “A good example is Supreme. One of the conversations we had early on was how to gain that cultural control with a product like makeup.”

For Chavez, each product takes the same approach. “We listen to the consumer, we research and we try to come up with unique innovation,” she said. Those differentiators can be in pigmentation, formula or packaging. “One of the things that has set us apart is the fact that we color-match all of the outer packaging to the inner formula, and this came from an idea that [Halsey] told us about.”

That’s not the only way Halsey’s experiences play a role in the product. For example, having makeup that performs well is “paramount” for the singer. “I have to be able to live in the brand. With the work that I’m doing onstage, sweating for two hours, I don’t want to be concerned with what I look like when I’m up there, I want to be concerned with singing and telling my story,” they said.

“It’s a walking, performing, breathing advertisement of of the products. They have to perform as well as they say I do, because everyone can see,” Halsey added.

The products have also taken on a new life at a variety of concerts and music festivals where, as part of the brand’s deal with LiveNation, About-Face has been able to pop up.

“We’ve been building About-Face installations where you can go and try and touch all of the products,” Halsey said. “It drives home that mission statement, which is that this is makeup for the creative, the person who loves art, community, music and expression.”

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