Online Exclusives

The Artist in Motion

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | April 23, 2010

Ellis Faas' background give her a unique perspective on beauty.

From photographer to makeup artist to brand owner, Ellis Faas is a blur moving from one project to the next with typical aplomb. Her new makeup line recently this Spring and Happi had the chance to catch up with Faas and ask a few questions.

Happi: From photographer to makeup artist to Face Value makeover studio to cosmetics entrepreneur. It all seems to fit beautifully together. What did you learn along each step about cosmetics and the consumer? For example, what flaw did consumers try to hide the most when being photographed?

Ellis Faas: Yes, you’re right: it seems as if starting this brand is an accumulation of all my experiences over the past 25 years. I still use my photography skills when I’m shooting the visuals for the brand; having my own brand allows me to do exactly what I want as a makeup artist; thanks to the makeover studio—which was the first one in Holland—I know that I can’t expect consumers to be as skilled as a professional makeup artist, so therefore my products are extremely easy to use. Regarding flaws that consumers are trying to hide, I don’t think it’s really that, but more that most people are insecure about the way they look (how beautiful they may be) and the miracle of makeup is that it helps people to feel better about themselves.

Happi: What did you learn—good and bad—about the cosmetics industry from your experience with L’Oréal? During and after that experience did you think something was lacking on the market that needed to be filled?

Ellis Faas has enjoyed a varied, successful career.
EF: I absolutely enjoyed my time at L’Oréal’s Biotherm. They gave me carte blanche in designing the colors, which was great. I spent weeks and weeks in the laboratory trying to get the end result that I wanted, which was great. And of course it taught me a lot about how a makeup brand can be created. The only thing that for me sometimes complicated things was that it belongs to a huge group with strict rules. For instance, sometimes I couldn’t pick a certain pigment because that would cost one cent too much. And what sometimes was a conflict was that I do things from the heart and by instinct, so sometimes that wasn’t in line with the marketing strategies that corporate had defined. But overall it was a greatly positive experience. What I thought the market missed, stems from being a woman who uses makeup in daily live, as opposed to me as a makeup artist. I was missing a practical way to carry it around. My handbag was always one big mess, with tons of products in various shapes and sizes. So I came up with an solution that provides me what I wanted: a canister—the Ellis Holder—in which you can put a maximum of eight of our products that you may want to carry around that day. The day after you can easily make a different color selection if you are in a different mood. And no pallets of which you only use one out of four colors. So I just made what I wanted. But I believe that I am not the only one, because I once read a survey that women usually spend more time on looking for a certain product in their handbag than it takes to apply it!

The Ellis Holder keeps your cosmetics collections in order.
Happi: Why launch now? Most of the world is just coming out of a recession and consumers are reluctant to spend.

EF: We never planned it like this, of course. At the time we found our informal investor, it was long before the recession. Once everything was up and running with the company, the world was in a recession. But it brought a lot of good things to us, like factories that don't mind talking to a small company like us, because the big customers were scared off. The press was also very interested, as nothing else interesting was happening and everything was stopped because of the recession. It may sound arrogant, but good things always stick out ... recession or not ... big advertising campaigns or not. I’m happy how humans seem to find a cool product that is built with passion, craftsmanship and hard labor, like ours.

Faas clearly has a passion for color.
Happi: What makes your line different from products already on the market?

EF: As said, the products clearly show a passion for colors, textures and packaging design. The textures nearly all have a maximum pigment load. One percent more and the actual formula breaks down. So, no costs were saved when these products were manufactured. The vision of the brand has been very clear and went straight from the creative to the factories and designers. Again, I spent quite some time in several labs to make the right shades or to adjust formulas. People seem to recognize it and know that it's not just a slick marketing story, but something that carries my heart.

Happi: What products are in the Ellis Faas Cosmetics line and what are the price points?

EF: At the moment is about 70 SKUs and the price level is in the high segment. It includes 27 lip products in three textures, 14 eyeshadows in two textures, two mascaras, two eyeliners, 4 blushers, 8 foundations with 8 matching concealers, 3 powders and 5 highlights to be released this Spring. A lip product is $35 and a foundation is $65.

Happi: Where are they available? Why did you go this route?

EF: Apart from our website (, the brand is only available at exclusive boutiques and a few smaller and specialized department stores around the world. With these boutiques and department stores as being our partners, you can really get the message across of our brand, its products and its concept. The staff in these shops is very well trained and only work with products they really love. In Australia we've bonded with Mecca Cosmetics, in New York with Bergdorf Goodman, in London with Liberty and throughout Europe we have lotss of exciting and beautiful stores that carry our line.

Happi: So many cosmetic launches these days talk about natural ingredients. Are naturals a focus of your line or is it just good makeup?

EF: Our brand has principals that are of great value to us. Of course, no animal testing: we've even protected the pay-off line "Only tested on Supermodels." Besides that, we're only working with factories that don't use child labor, have normal working hours for their staff, good housing, etc. But no, we're not a green brand and honestly, I find the current trend a bit of a hype. In a lot of instances, natural ingredients are more unpredictable than non-natural, making the latter possibly safer for something as delicate as your face.

Cosmetics for those on the move.
Happi: Who is your target audience for the line?

EF: Someone like me: “on the move,” who, in daily life, doesn’t want to fiddle around with makeup too much, has an eye for something special. We do not aim at a certain age or skin tone, because I truly believe that our colors are what we claim: suitable for everyone—whether or not you like a color is merely a matter of taste, because I have designed our so-called Human Colors so that they don’t clash with anyone’s face.

Happi: What are your long-term goals for the company? Do you have a one-year, three-year, five-year plan you can share?

EF: We want to continue to roll out the brand worldwide in the type of shops as described above. It's very important to take your time to build a good brand with the proper partners that understand a brand like ours. We've just reached the point that, at any given moment during the day, there's a shop somewhere in the world open and selling our brand. That might sound silly, but is still quite an achievement for us, realizing that not even a year ago we were still trying to get the whole production in place for our basis collection.

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