Ariana Mouyiaris is empowering women. As MAKE Cosmetics' Creative Director, she not only produces the beautiful range of cosmetics, but along with her father, donates 10 per cent of the company's retail sales to We See Beauty, a non-profit organisation working to empower and invest in American cooperatives. PETRIe's Beauty Editor, Allie Smith, sat down with Mouyiaris to discuss growing up, her inspiration and how she's changing the face of the cosmetic industry.
Allie Smith: You were raised around the magical world of creating makeup. Can you elaborate on your experience with makeup growing up? Were you interested in makeup?
Ariana Mouyiaris: I loved going to my father’s factory growing up, which developed and manufactured makeup. It was fun being close with many of the women working with him then. It was the eighties and such a signature era for makeup. My most direct experience with it, aside from my father returning home with his hands still covered in colour swatches from different product tests, was my mother’s dressing-room table. It used to have a large makeup drawer with different eyeshadows stacked like a library catalogue, front to back, lipsticks, triangle sponges and all the accoutrements: make-up tools, eyeliner pencils and sharpeners.
I think more than anything I loved the packaging, trying the colours on my hand like crayons and watching my mother as she applied her makeup in those circular metal magnifying mirrors. I wasn’t allowed to wear any makeup when I was younger - just the fun stuff for play, like zinc sticks [available in an array of colours and often worn for sun protection], which I’m still obsessed with and would love to bring back), and natural, universal shades. One favourite exception was No. 84, an opalescent purplish shade with a cold pink cast. It was magical and fun to put on. But I guess the experience set me up to feel like strong red lips are for grown ups and I’m still getting there! I tend to stick to more orange, rust and coral tones mixed with nude, flesh tones for my lips. I find the beauty of makeup is really being able to find what feels right for you in a given moment or developing a signature look that feels authentic. And that can be different and nuanced for anyone.
All that said - I was never ‘interested’ in makeup. Maybe because I was around it so much and engaging with it [was] more as a practice in experimentation and product development than wearing. I always loved sample skincare - beauty from the labs with their labels and stock, unbranded packaging - but never wanted to get involved in the beauty business, per se. I love art and design and did an MA [at Kingston University] in curatorial studies.
But I think all of that has given MAKE a different approach to beauty and our collections. Now I’m hoping that others like myself will be able to really identify with a brand that supports and appreciates an artful approach to product.
AS: What inspired the line? What products did you start with?
AM: My father wanted to develop a new beauty brand that would combine the best, professionally-formulated products with a social enterprise model. He really wanted to use the business he knew to create a vertical enterprise that could be a benchmark to other industries, to show how positive societal change could come through business.
I studied International Relations and Cultural studies for my BA [at Brown University] and really believed in the premise, so I came on board to bring what I felt my strengths were in branding and design to create a contemporary line that would speak to new conceptions of beauty: looking beyond didactic trends and colours to something more timeless and personal.
10 per cent of all retail sales of MAKE go to the We See Beauty Foundation, whose work is to raise awareness, incubate, accelerate and support cooperatives in America. We’ve given grants to a cut-and-sew fashion accessory cooperative in North Carolina, and we’re doing partnerships with Mercado Global, which is a company that works with cooperatives and non-profits in Central America, particularly Guatemala.
We’re still finding different partnerships that help express our goals. I think right now our challenge is to spread the message in a way that makes people realise they have a choice. If you buy things that do more with each purchase, change can happen. And it doesn’t have to be in the usual charity, one-for-one model. This kind of giving empowers businesses as opposed to being a handout.
AS: MAKE has collaborated with some incredible artists. How did MAKE and these artists create the collections? What was the process like? How did you choose the artists?
AM: The collaboration process has always been very organic and experimental. I have worked with artists and creatives whom I either knew or whose work and sensibility I really respected. People who I felt would really approach concept collections like art projects, exploring their personal practice and coming from a place outside of the traditional beauty sphere.
It was never about getting a big name and trying to sell like starchitecture [nb: Starchitect is a term used to describe architects whose celebrity and critical acclaim have transformed them into idols of the architecture world]. But to find people whose process and approach I admired on a personal level.
AS: I hear you are coming to London soon. What is the future looking like for MAKE? Any new products, collaborations, launches?
AM: We are currently working on a collection that is very personal to me. I am currently on location and shooting in Greece in a marble quarry, amongst other places, and it feels very fresh and inspiring. I can’t say too much, but it is really about exploring universal, inside-out beauty and moving more into skincare and preventative health. Pre-aging and care.
Some of the products have actives against environmental skin damage and we are using very progressive ingredients to address contemporary beauty issues with very new knowledge. It’s exciting and gender neutral. Besides that, we are currently registering our formulas so we can begin selling internationally.
Having lived in London for almost eight years, I’ll be excited to see MAKE set foot in Blighty. Hopefully in 2016.
Words: Allie Smith and Ariana Mouyiaris
Photography: Heiko Prigge