Small Business Profile: Lauren Jin, Owner of CLE Cosmetics - Los Angeles
Hi Lauren! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Currently, I am the founder & creative director of CLĒ Cosmetics. I love to create ideas and concepts. Two years ago, I created CLĒ’s concept and love watching it grow each and every day. Born and raised in Torrance, California. My adolescent dream was to become a fashion designer; but one thing led to another and now I’m doing what I do now.
What was your first job?
When I was 7, my mom owned a flower shop. After school and during the weekends, I manned the cash register while she made bouquets in the back. Eventually, I got really pro at the manual cash register and prided myself in it. Professionally, the summer after graduating from Parsons, I freelanced at Philip Lim Menswear.
What lead you to begin CLĒ Cosmetics?
It was during my final year of my MA course at the Royal College of Art, when I was presented with an opportunity to create a concept for a makeup brand. It was the best possible brief, create whatever concept I wanted for a makeup brand. At the time, I was preparing my graduate collection, which explored what my impression of the “modern” woman was. So naturally the concept of CLĒ was the answer to what kind of makeup my ideal modern woman would use.
Can you go a bit into your conception process of your products?
Every product is created with the concept of what I define as “modern”. To me, less is more. I wanted to create products that were multifunctional staples that integrates into one’s lifestyle seamlessly. CLĒ is just starting to grow, I find that rushing is not the right path. I want to take my time to really develop and create products that are fun and purposeful.
How do you source your ingredients?
Usually, we look into ingredients that can double in function. By integrating skin benefitting ingredients into our make-up, our products help close the gap between being able to wear make-up and taking care of your skin. I try to take advantage of Eastern based ingredients that help improve the skin, because at the end of the day, great skin is the best! For example, our newest product, the Lifting Mist has tremella fuciformis, also known as snow mushroom. The mushroom’s properties are smaller than hyaluronic acid, which allows the benefits of the mushroom to better absorb into the skin.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
At the moment, it is mostly through social media and individual email inquiries. I think we live in a society where social media cannot be ignored. We get constant feedback via tags and direct messaging. We also get a lot of emails inquiring about shade recommendations. Which we are happy to always help out with, we ask for the most accurate photo available and create a dialogue with customers. I think customer service/support is key and we always try our best to respond as soon as possible.
What are some other natural skincare/makeup brands that you are excited about that we should know of?
I have been a fan of Indie Lee products since my student days, and use Trilogy Rosehip Oil when my face breaks out from high stress! For my body, I use Skinny & Co’s Whipped Body Butter in Rose + Jojoba Oil. I like this particular brand because the coconut oil soaks right in, but still keeps my skin moisturized. Before I had to wait around in the bathroom for a good while before wearing my clothes because the coconut oil would take so long to seep in. I couldn’t even walk around unless I wanted coconut oil residue all over my furniture.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Whether it is a ceramic plate or a silk slip, the time and energy put into designing and making process is beautiful and it should be respected. I think there is much more meaning and quality in smaller shops and local makers because it feels less remote, allowing a deeper sense of closeness to the product itself and the origin. The subtle imperfections that come with it is the beautiful bit for me.
You list some amazing ingredients on your site! Do you have a few favorites and what do they do for your skin?
My favorite ingredient would have to be the snow flower extract. It’s a great ingredient that’s naturally packed with vitamin E, which purifies the skin of impurities and brightens the complexion. I tend to work late hours, so the vitamin E helps my skin look fresh and gives it a glow, which is very much needed or else, I’d end up looking like a zombie! But most of all, I like how all our ingredients are in the makeup products, whenever I apply the CCC Cream, I don't feel like my skin is suffocating.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
I think ultimately, it’s the joy in creating. I really enjoy creating products that become a part of someone’s daily ritual. Also, whenever anyone compliments CLĒ, I get really happy and excited. Beauty/skin care is very important and I want to share the advanced technology Korean beauty has to offer to a wider demographic.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting your line?
I think the biggest challenge was time management and prioritizing tasks. Since I am in charge of product development and oversee all operations (i.e. sales, content, etc…), whether I am in Korea or LA, I am always working two different time zones. In Korea, I would meet with factories in the day, then connect with my team in LA at midnight. And vice versa. In the beginning, I didn’t really sleep, or I did end up sleeping and would rush or delay the process because I wasn’t able to reply soon enough or prepare. Another hardship was learning how to time the factories. I had to learn how factories in Korea worked and how to time the different factories right, in order to get the product finalized. I don’t think I’ve fully mastered these challenges, but I’m learning and enjoying every bit of it. Even if I do get panic attacks every now and then.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
For me, I love connecting with other women who head their own brand. I think it's because we’re all facing the same hardships, but also the gratification. It’s a way to feel reassured and reassure others that they’re doing great! It is also easy for us to converse, relate, and give each other tips. I’ve been in many situations where I’m listening to a story and go, “Yes! Me too!” I think it’s all a learning experience for everyone and in that kind of situation, it is not about being guarded, but sharing.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
It would definitely have to be Louise Bourgeois and Phoebe Philo. Both women have been inspirations. I got really sad when Phoebe Philo left Chloe, but also admired her for that. And I love how Louise Bourgeois was able to shift her aggression to seamless tangible diary entries. I think any woman who is able to smartly communicate “women” is quite extraordinary.
What have you learned from owning your business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Definitely that you can plan all you want, but sometimes things shift, and you just have to react quickly and make it work. Also, communication with everyone you work with is imperative!
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
I am definitely excited for our new products. Our Essence Moonlighter Cushion, new Melting Lip Powder shades, and our Dry Mask Pack that comes with our Lifting Mist! Each product has exciting elements that deepens the CLĒ world! Also, I am currently working on a holiday limited edition product set that I really believe in! I’m really excited to showcase that later in the year!
How do you manage a work/life balance?
To be honest, I kind of can’t. My hours are definitely not balanced, but I try to spend as much time possible with my younger siblings on the weekends. Time with them is precious and… Boy! Do kids grow up so fast! I also try to take breaks in between long periods of sitting, like going out for a short walk and stretching, or try to delude myself into feeling better about my lack of exercise by doing some squats, haha!
What is your personal skincare routine?
Currently, I use Buly’s Mongongo facial oil, Solar D sunblock in the day, and of course, our CCC Cream. For toner, my mom makes it out of fermented onion and other ingredients, which I use twice a day.
For night, I double cleanse with our Melting Cleanser and Oxygen Foam Cleanser, then use 23 Years Old’s C-Tragel and their Badecasil night exfoliator once a week. I love this brand, I used to use their Zincnol lotion as well. For body, as I mentioned earlier, I use Skinny & Co’s Coconut Oil Jojoba Rose Whipped Body Butter at night.
What are some of your favorite places in LA?
Hmmm…this is a hard question, because I just came back from studying in New York and London. So, in a way, I am rediscovering downtown LA. I have yet to really say I have a favorite place. Recently though, I found a great clothing store called CP Shades in Santa Monica and I really like having a quick bite at Rose Cafe in Venice. Oh! I do love going to Lucques on Melrose Avenue for special occasions still.