Guest editor Christy Wright sat down with 19/99 Founders Camille Katona and Stephanie Spence to discuss narrowing the generational beauty gap, the ups and downs of launching a beauty line during a pandemic and their favourite Cougar shoes…
9 min read
Friends who have worked together in the beauty space for over 10 years have come together and launched a line of products designed to break down the barriers of “age appropriate” makeup. Read on to see how the lines of beauty and fashion cross over and how self-confidence bridges both worlds.
What do you think of when you think of Cougar Shoes?
CK: I think of modern comfort. Well-designed shoes for everyday wear.
SS: Contemporary designs for every day – playful yet practical.
Tell us about the inspiration for 19/99 Beauty.
CK: I couldn’t find a beauty brand that I could relate to. I’m very close with my mom – we share similar tastes and style, and I just didn’t understand why most brands were only speaking to me, and leaving her out of the conversation. I was inspired to create 19/99 to change the conversation around aging and beauty. I wanted to see representation of real, aspirational, modern women of all ages. While 19/99 started as an exploration of aging, it turned into breaking down the barriers of what beauty should look like.
SS: I experienced a disconnect between how I was being spoken to by, and what I was seeing from, the industry; basically, beauty was lacking excitement for me. We saw an opportunity to speak to women in a different way. I have more in common with many of the older women in my life – tastes, aesthetics, culture, fashion – than a lot of my peers, so why shouldn’t there be a brand that spans and speaks to women of all ages? Not in some token way, but in a way that simply removes age as a category for beauty products.
Why did you launch with just two products?
CK: We wanted to challenge ourselves to create a limited number of products that are universal and that work for anyone regardless of age, skin tone, aesthetic and lifestyle.
SS: We want to show customers that they can do a lot with a few high-quality products. We vetted the product assortment down to these two; what we believe to be a basic foundation for anyone’s makeup bag: products that can be used every day to create a variety of looks from subtle to bold.
Why these two – a multipurpose red pencil and gloss – versus a lipstick or powder?
CK: A pencil is the ultimate artist tool. It allows for precision application anywhere on the face. We wanted something that was versatile in application, so that the user could draw a precise line or have a diffused wash of colour, depending on preference.
SS: The gloss we see almost as a tool that can complement the colour products we create, as well as stand alone. We both keep it on hand for application throughout the day on lips, for a mid-afternoon freshen-up on the cheeks and lids… it adds a bit of energy and dewiness to the skin. It’s safe for use all over the face, and we’ve added sodium hyaluronate and ceramide to the formula for added moisturization.
Cougar offers lots of colours but only one red boot – the Kensington in Crimson. What do you say to women who are afraid to wear red?
CK: We believe in giving any colour a chance – you just don’t know until you try.
SS: I have red hair so was often told I needed to be ‘careful’ with what reds I chose; when I was younger, I was a little embarrassed to wear a red lip thinking it may be the ‘wrong’ one for me. I prefer a blue undertone over a warmer, orangey one. I don’t know if that is ‘right’ or being ‘careful’ I just know that is what I like and feel good in. Have fun, enjoy it and you can always take it off.
“I love how Cougar’s styles can be dressed down, dressed up and made ‘appropriate’ based on how I want to style them.”
Since the launch, you’ve added “Neutra,” a neutral pencil that is sure to appeal.
SS: Yes, we wanted to introduce a neutral tone that was subtle and a play on a traditional “nude.” Neutra was formulated to work on all skin tones, and complement neutral lip tones. Building on the idea of essential, curated, timeless products, we feel that everyone can use a neutral tone and Neutra brings a really nice energy to the face, whether on lips, eyes or cheeks.
Speaking of launches, was introducing your brand during a pandemic stressful?
CK: Yes and no. We are very lucky to have been able to stay home and work during this time, and slow down and have the time to focus on all details of the launch. Initially we thought we would hold off on our launch until after the pandemic passed, but as more time passed, we realized that this was not something that was going to go away overnight. Our mission has always been to spark conversation and create change in the industry, and with so many people online right now, we saw it as an opportunity to start the conversation.
How have women responded to the brand and your approach to beauty?
SS: We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from Canadian women in particular; people reaching out and ordering from across the country. It is really incredible for us to see that the conversation of 19/99 is resonating with a variety of people.
Is there one beauty item you think every woman should have?
CK: Self-confidence. No product will ever make you feel as beautiful as being comfortable in your own skin.
SS: It really depends on an individual’s preferences and what they want to accentuate about themselves. I’ve got an affinity for lips, so for me it is a great lip colour. You can do a lot with a lipstick: lips, cheeks, eyes.
19/99 Beauty examines what “age appropriate” means to different women at different times in their lives. How would you apply that to Cougar? Any Cougar styles you think of as specifically younger or older?
CK: No – I’m a firm believer that you should be able to wear whatever you want at any age. Who decided that wrinkly knees are ugly? If you want to wear shorts in your 50s/60s and up, go for it. It just comes down to comfort level and personal preference. At the same time, well-designed comfortable shoes are stylish at any age, so Cougar shoes work for everyone.
SS: I completely agree – wear what you want when you want. I love how Cougar’s styles can be dressed down, dressed up and made ‘appropriate’ based on how I want to style them.
Having said that, what are your Cougar picks for summer and how will you style them?
CK: I love the contrast of the Hula’s white soles on black shoes. I’ll be wearing my Hulas with high-waisted, wide-leg black pants, a vintage belt and cropped tank or tee – with a 19/99 red lip of course! I also wear these out for lunch on weekends and at the beach.
SS: I love the versatility of the suede Perth sandal and wear mine with faded high-waisted black jeans and a white tee tucked in for a casual look. I’ve got this red silk slip-dress that I’ve been looking forward to pairing with my Perths for drinks on a patio (or walking down the street for an ice cream) – simple but special.
Written and edited by Christy Wright christywrites.ca.
Photos courtesy of 19/99 Beauty.
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