Poppy King loves lipstick, and the empowerment, joy, and confidence that accompany just the right shade, texture, and formula. In search of the perfect matte retro shades to match her classic looks, the Melbourne, Australia native launched her first lipstick line a little more than 20 years ago, when she was just 19 years old. Today, her Lipstick Queen lipsticks are sold throughout the US at select Barneys New York, SpaceNK, specialty shops, and online. We dare you to resist slipping on some red lip rouge after reading this interview.
How old were you when you first started wearing lipstick?
I first tried lipstick on when I was seven years old by myself and I snuck off with my mother’s ox blood red lipstick. It was such an intense moment of transformation for me. I knew that I would look different with lipstick on, what I never anticipated was how different I would feel with lipstick on. It transformed my sense of self and what was possible for me. I felt like a super hero where my normal limits were removed and I could now be a super version of myself able to take on anything the world had in store and able to make the best of everything. To this day that is how I feel every single time I put on lipstick, connected to an inner power. I started wearing red lipstick the moment I finished high school and was no longer constricted by a school uniform. That was at age 17 and I have pretty much worn lipstick every day since and I am 41!
What triggered your decision to create your own lipstick line?
I finished high school in 1989 in Melbourne, Australia, where I am from originally. Now that I was out of school, I was ready to really develop my looks in my own way instead of trying to fit in with the “prom queen” ideals. I realized that I had an old-fashioned, vintage-style look that worked best when I emulated the 1940s instead of the late 80s. I could find everything I was looking for to go with this new vintage approach to beauty I had discovered for myself but I could not find any 1940s style matte, deep red, brown, and burgundy lipstick. Everything in lipstick in 1989/90 was frosted looking and turned pink instead of red. So I decided to look into starting my own line that just sold 1940’s style matte lipsticks, and would you believe it, that is exactly what I did. I found a factory and a business partner and since then it has been over 20 years and I am still creating lipsticks.
The Lipstick Queen options are so comprehensive, where do you get your ideas for new formulations and/or shades?
Most of my ideas for formulas come from two sources. First and foremost—the customer! I adore women and think we are fascinating creatures and the experience of being female is such a different journey for each one of us. In talking with women about lipsticks over many years now, I hear their stories, hopes, and fears around lipstick and I try to create lipsticks that can answer these dreams. For example, so many women have told me they would love to wear red lipstick but were too afraid to try so I created Medieval, a sheer red lip shade that every single woman feels comfortable wearing, and can participate in the wonders of red lipstick. My second source for ideas after the customer herself is the world of art, literature, and film. I love bringing to life something like Velvet Rope inspired originally by one of my favorite films Blue Velvet and turned into the most lux lipstick ever.
What’s your advice for picking out a nude shade? What about a flattering red?
For nude shades, make sure it doesn’t look too washed out. Step back from the mirror when trying on a nude so you can see the whole you, not just your face, to make sure that the nude is adding a freshness to your look and not just appearing neutral. Lots of mascara looks great with a nude to keep it sexy. With red, the general rule is that the fairer you are (skin, eyes, and hair), the more orange reds look best, and the deeper you are (skin, eyes, and hair), the more pink reds look best.
Any application tips? Are brushes necessary?
For maximum impact with the pigment of a lipstick, apply straight from the tube, blot, and reapply a second coat. If you want to sheer the color out a little, use a brush but the better the lipstick the less you should have to do to feel good wearing it.
After enduring the ups and downs of launching and running a company, what three key recommendations would you give young entrepreneurs?
The three recommendations I would give any entrepreneur is TRY, TRY, TRY. If you believe in something just try! There is nothing to fear when you invest in the journey more than the destination and all good journeys start by trying.