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Behind the Scenes with Stowaway Cosmetics

We talk to founders about their unique six-piece, travel-friendly makeup line for women on the move

by Gabriella Garcia
on 20 February 2015
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When NYC-based Stowaway Cosmetics launched last week, it was clear that founders Chelsa Crowley and Julie Fredrickson hit the nail on the head when designing their pocket-sized, essentialist makeup line. Barely a week into production, Stowaway has already garnered praise from all types of women on the go. "We set out to make our lives easier and for women just like us," Crowley tells CH. "We’re always on the go and wanted the makeup we love in the sizes we can carry." Stowaway Cosmetics is quite simply an answer to the clunkiness of a makeup industry that still designs packaging for the cinematic "boudoir experience" that women no longer have.

Stripping down to a minimalist makeup line takes a lot of research, development and revision. From composing a limited color palette that could complement a majority of skin tones, to designing clean but secure packaging and finalizing a partner for manufacturing, Crowley and Fredrickson had their work cut out for them from day one. "It takes a unique combination of talents to take on the challenges of entering the beauty business," Crowley admits. But between her experience working with cosmetics brands like Clinique and Bobbi Brown and Fredrickson's e-commerce and brand retail background, the team came to the table well-prepared.

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Perhaps because of Fredrickson's entrepreneurial experience, Stowaway comes out of the "work where you can" ethic familiar to any start-up, which helped the team stay focused on the ultimate modesty of its product. "We worked from a big table in Chelsa’s apartment for several months," says Fredrickson. "We were in and out of labs, manufacturers and design shops as well, so the product development cycle actually made us even more acutely aware of how much our product was needed because we were constantly in motion for months." During the process, Crowley and Fredrickson kept referring to what they call the "Little Black Dress" metaphor. "We were always asking ourselves, 'If there was a Little Black Dress of Beauty, what does that look like?' That’s how we got to our six-product lineup," Crowley says.

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Crowley and Fredrickson's approach to choosing ingredients was equally methodical. "A lot of brands add in ingredients that only function as marketing stories when in reality their ultimate chemical composition in the final formulation is minute," Fredrickson explains. "For us, our focus was on simple ingredients that show immediate performance so that a woman could see it. So for instance hyaluronic acid is one of the first ingredients we knew we wanted to include in the BB cream, because it instantly plumps skin and smoothes fine lines." Keeping their ingredients ethical and safe was most important, ensuring that all Stowaway cosmetics are at least EU compliant. "We held ourselves to the highest standards in the industry. You can count on us to always be paraben-, phthalate- and cruelty-free," emphasizes Crowley.

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But it's Stowaway's "right-sized," minimal packaging that really makes the brand special, and downsizing to that Goldilocks ideal was no small undertaking. "You would be shocked by the variety of components we sourced, tested and discarded before eventually landing on current components," Fredrickson recalls. Finding inspiration in Fredrickson's huge collection of travel-sized cosmetics, Stowaway's packaging is specifically designed to lighten the load while providing an ergonomic aesthetic. "We really focused on little details like making all the components were soft touch so they felt better in your hands," says Fredrickson. And since Stowaway products are finished luxury cosmetics, it means no cutting corners in ways that "free gift with purchase" products can get away with.

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Crowley and Fredrickson found a manufacturer who could support them throughout the entire process of creating Stowaway. "We were on the road a lot for the first few months; touring a lot of facilities and different manufacturers," Fredrickson recalls. In the end, Stowaway linked up with a leading cosmetics manufacturer that could not only help develop their ingredients and packaging, but also had the audacity to work with an innovative new company. But, as with all things Stowaway, their mission to keep it simple is what ultimately made their manufacturer relationship work. "We went in tabla rasa and with one ask," Fredrickson says. "Help us develop a line that fits into women’s lives."

Stowaway Cosmetics sells through its online store.

Images courtesy of Stowaway Cosmetics

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