Ellis Faas is a makeup artist who has worked with leading photographers and stylists on shows, ad campaigns, and editorial work in magazines. In February 2009, she launched her cosmetics line in Europe with Ellis Lips, liquid lip colors in three different formulas: Creamy Lips, Milky Lips, and Glazed lips.
I wanted to interview Faas as I believe that Ellis Faas is on the cusp of something new and different in cosmetics. She bases her line on colors that exist in every human body, a concept that she realized when she did special effects makeup (simulating wounds, bruises, and blood). She's launched her cosmetics line with lip colors that suit all skin tones. Her signature shade is Ellis Red, a true blood-red: after all, we all bleed the same color. The line has distinctive packaging, created in collaboration with industrial designer Arnout Visser.
Your biography states that you wanted to pursue a career as a photographer, but that you were too shy to approach others to model for you. You were your own model. How did you develop the courage to get others to model for you?
Besides myself, I also used friends and family to pose for me more and more, but I have only started working with professional models, since we started our own brand – I shoot all our visuals. I guess that I dare doing that, because over the past years I have been on so many numerous sets of the world’s best photographers. Combined with the knowledge I already had, that has taught me lot. Yet, I still keep things terribly small: just the model, someone to hold the lights, and me for makeup and photography.
From concept to finished product: the bullet-shaped pens for Ellis Lips
Which type of makeup do you like doing best — fantasy, special effects, or “real life”?
My origins are in special effects, so that is still a passion and I also use it a lot in the beauty and fashion shoots I work on. But to be honest, I enjoy doing any kind of makeup if I have fun with the team (especially model and hairstylist) and the story is nice — even if it means just making a gorgeously beautiful model even more beautiful.
Of all the items in your online portfolio, the one that most readers will recognize is the ad campaign for Lancôme’s Trésor. This is one of the most approachable (that is, real life) looks in your portfolio. How did you create this look?
Well, if your canvas is the face of someone like in this case Kate Winslet, it is primarily a matter of choosing the tones of foundation and the colours that suit the face and theme of the concept. This ad was supposed to be quite dreamy, so I kept it all rather subdued.
Kate Winslet for Lancôme’s Trésor. Photography: Peter Lindberg.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you started your cosmetics line? Other entrepreneurs have told me that their biggest challenges were financing and finding suppliers.
Finding suppliers was not so difficult because over the years I have met quite a few helpful people. Financing was difficult indeed, but since we started to do everything with a team of just three (now four), the amount we needed was still small enough to get a wonderful, private investor on board. But the biggest challenge by far is the production process and what happens to deadlines if only one of the production steps has a delay. Phew!
You launched your line earlier this year. What has been the response to Ellis Faas cosmetics in Europe?
So far, so good! More and more countries and retailers are “in the pocket”, as we call it. We’ve just entered Switzerland and after the summer we’ll launch in Australia, the UK, Poland, and more countries. Especially the press has proven to be wonderfully supportive, apparently because they like the concept and colours, and journalists tell me that it really gives them something to write about so that is good. And shops tell us that it brings them new customers, instead of cannibalizing other brands.
Tell me about your Ambassadors program. How do you select and qualify your Ambassadors?
We started the Ambassadors programme because of two things: I can’t be everywhere at the same time, so the ambassadors can do presentations and so on if I have to be somewhere else. Plus the more professionals spread the word about the brand, the better. But just like the company itself (I started it with one of my best friends and my youngest brother), we so far have chosen the ambassadors “within the family”, meaning I have known and worked with them for years and years, as colleagues and as assistants. I think that if someone knows me personally it helps them to communicate the brand best.
When do you plan to launch Ellis Eyes, Skin, Lights, Pencils, and Prime? Can you provide us a preview of these forthcoming products?
Ellis Eyes and Skin will be released late September (14 eyeshadows, two mascaras, two eyeliners, four blushers, eight foundations, eight concealers, three powders), Lights (meaning five highlights) before Christmas, and the rest sometime next year.
While readers in the U.S. can purchase your products through your website, do you have plans to find retailers in the U.S.?
Absolutely. We are now finalizing talks with a wonderful retailer in New York, who is planning to launch us in November – although I cannot yet disclose who it is (so people can keep themselves posted via our newsletter, Facebook or Twitter). If all that works out, I hope that more shops in the US will follow. So far, the American customers who have bought online are coming back to buy more, so that’s very positive!
Is there anything else that you would like to share with our readers that I haven’t covered in my questions?
Well, I hope your readers will take the time to visit our site to read more about the Human Colours concept, because it is not as scary as it may seem at first glance. I merely believe that daily makeup should be used to highlight someone’s most beautiful features and to mask their less attractive ones. So what better way to achieve this than with colours that by nature are already present in a person’s face? So if you look at the colours, you will see that they are all broken, non-primary colours, and because of that they look good on anyone, from a pale, 16-year-old white girl to an 80-year-old black grandma, and anyone in between!