Carisa janes’ mother was a far, far cry from today’s soccer moms. “My mom – she was a big make-up wearer,” says the founder of Hourglass Cosmetics. “She was very pale with red hair and pale skin and no eyebrows, so she would go from almost no features to very glamorous in 45 minutes. She had her coffee and her mirror and the TV on, and every day she did a smoky eye, and that’s the way I grew up and that’s what I watched, to see that dramatic transformation Just to see how it gave her confidence. And my mother would call make-up her war paint, so it was like her armour.”
Her mother’s other secret weapon was good lighting – achieved with the use of pink light bulbs that dotted Janes’ household as a child. “Kids would come over and say, ‘Why are the lights pink?’ And my mother would say, ‘I look so much better.’ It was really all about her, “ she says, laughing.
Since full-time lighting manipulation is all but impossible – and surely, many a fashion blogger has tried unsuccessfully to flout the constrictions of nature – Janes set about achieving this rosy-hued look with the assistance of make-up. Hourglass’s Ambient Lighting palettes have since achieved legendary status for their ability to impart a photo-ready glow that’s evident in person and, even more outstandingly so, in pictures.
“It truly is an Instagram filter,” she says, “though I didn’t develop them specifically to be. Those powders are magical though, they really do transform your skin.”
Hourglass may only really have gained traction on this side of the world recently, when Lane Crawford picked up the brand last year, but it’s actually been producing cosmetics since 2004, and has amassed a fair number of hit products.
Its waterproof Mineral Veil primer is known to make make-up immovable (“Madonna’s make-up artist was in Sephora, and they recommended it, and she used it on tour with Madonna, and it just blew up”). The Vanish foundation sticks that debuted this year have brought this retro format of cover-up back in vogue, even as newer innovations like cushion compacts and tinted creams flood the market. And the brand’s version of mascara isn’t just a good formula, it upsets the whole concept of modern mascara, with a stand-alone, reusable wand that’s made of steel, features no bristles and retails for more than double the price of the mascara itself.
“We call it the lash instrument – think of it like a brush. You clean it. You don’t throw it away. You go to the very base of the lashes, and you can tightline and get right in there. That’s what I love about it, that you can tightline with mascara, and that’s something you can’t do with a traditional mascara. I like the control, and you can sanitise it, so it’s also great for make-up artists who have a lot of clients.”
At well over $1,000 for the wand, primer and mascara, this isn’t mascara for those light of wallet. And yet, says Janes, “We sold out immediately. When we made the product, I thought maybe we would sell five. I really didn’t know and it didn’t matter because I believed in it.”
Her gambles thus far have had a way of paying off. A couple of years ago, she was in Italy, enjoying dinner with a chemist the brand works with. “We were having dinner and drinking wine, and I said, ‘Is there anything you’re excited about?’
“He said there’s this ingredient [phos-phatidylglycerol, a naturally occurring youth lipid that prompts cell regeneration], and then he talked about ultrasonication, which is the process which puts it into micro-droplets, and I said, ‘We have to do this.’ I don’t care if we make five bottles. We have to do it.”
If you’ve been paying attention, you can guess what happened next. Hourglass’s first skincare product was born, Equilibrium Biomimetic Skin Active Serum, a night treatment (there’s a companion day fluid, too). It sold out immediately.
You can imagine, with that track record, what’s next in the Hourglass story. Where there’s a serum, there’s bound to be creams, essences, eye products, cleansers …
“We’re working on a few products,” she confides. “But I just didn’t want to wait. It wasn’t worth not doing this [immediately], for a cleanser. But you’ll start to see more.” That is, if you get to the counter early enough.