Valdé Beauty's founder on artistry, family, and color cosmetics.
If there's one thing all Latinx cultures have in common, it's the strong ties we have to our families. For us, family is a central part of our lives and a connection we work to foster and strengthen every day. It's why so many of us are passionate about uplifting our communities and honoring the people around us.
So it goes without saying that this is also true for Margarita Valdez, a Peruvian beauty industry vet and founder of Valdé Beauty. Yes, she had decades of experience before she launched her luxury brand in 2020 — and even says she stepped back at the height of her career — but it was the memory of her late mother that inspired her to pivot and push the boundaries of what was being created in the beauty industry.
She began her career working with a Spanish sculpture company where she did everything from retail design and overseeing product development. Then, she went to work at Macy's working in the cosmetics department before being called to Sephora in 2004 to be its Head of Color Cosmetics. Ten years later, she quit her high-level executive role and spent the next few years consulting before launching her brand at the height of the pandemic.
Valdé Beauty does more than just sell beauty products, though. Valdez took her decades of experience, spidey sense for what the next best thing is, and her passion to uplift her community to make her brand more than just that. She creates NFTs for collectible items and donates money to Latinx founders — all while redefining what a luxury beauty product actually is.
Here, she tells InStyle what propelled her to start her brand, everything its doing to better the lives of others, and shares what makes Valdé Beauty one-of-a-kind.
What inspired you to start Valdé?
There was a convergence of a few factors that were happening at the time. One of them is that my mom, who was a huge inspiration for me, passed away at the end of 2014 and I was her caretaker. Second thing is there was leadership change at Sephora — this was 2014 and right at the rise of the peak of the social media movement and I felt that it was game-changing. And because of this social media change, evolution, and bubble that was building up, I wanted to be closer to it. I used to be so close to the brand community, and I was such an executive by that time I felt like I was missing what potentially was going to be sea-changing — which it was. And I thought, "No, I want to get back down." And I feel that I could take the risk because financially I wasn't having to take care of my mom anymore. So that's when I decided to jump up and get back down to the ground level.
And why did you launch with lipsticks?
I was putting together a photo album of my mom and I looked at the pictures — they all had her wearing lipstick. Then I just had this flashback moment of growing up with her and how she wore lipstick like it was armor, almost defiantly. Like, "I'm going to go battle and this is what I'm going to do." And I had this profound moment in remembering that at the end of her life — she suffered from dementia and did not recognize me, but she never forgot how lipstick made her feel. She was 92.
And obviously with my love for the industry, I just thought beauty is being depreciated with all the promotional activity and all the commoditization of beauty. At that moment, I decided I wanted to pay homage to my mom, to women like all of us who have this resilience and inner strength, and also to be able to express a point of view that says, "Why do we just have to have throwaway beauty? Why can't beauty be worthy of significance?" If I'm creating something that's going to celebrate my mom and it's going to be an homage — there was anything in the marketplace that was at the level I needed it to be.
So for the formula, my baseline is that everything needs to be functional, exquisite, and best in class. If you're paying a lot of money, that formula better be damn good, clean, and sustainable. It was made in one of the best labs in Italy, a lab that I've known for many years. It feels like you're putting on this beautiful matte formula that's super hydrating and has just a little bit of a sheen. It's incredibly pigmented, has skincare properties — hyaluronic acid and botanical extracts — and it's moisturizing. It's really super comfortable.
The packaging is so unique — tell us about it.
At the end of the day, it's like a sculpture. We want to honor the woman, the woman's strength, but at the same time harness the femininity in the woman — hence why the inside opening is shaped like a bullet, that's to signify the strength, and this shape to really honor the femininity and it's inspired by the female torso.
Since I have the retail experience, I known 70% or 80% of the cost of creating any beauty product is in the packaging. Most people do not ever finish wearing their lipstick, right? So even if we didn't have a sustainability moment, it felt like insanity to me to throw away 70% of [the product]. So I thought, let's put the cost where the cost belongs, so it's refillable. I reimagined the whole experience in something that could be a more practical, beautiful, a statement piece of self, but at the same time, super versatile.
What were some of the bigger challenges you faced while creating Valdé?
I realized that my focus was on my mom, but then the journey of creating this brand was so challenging for years. Just doing the shape [of the packaging] was a challenge. I mean, there are 250 feathers carved into this and I wanted it to be seamless.
I knocked on so many doors and it was a really vulnerable, humbling experience. I doubted myself. And I keep hearing these words from my mom. She would've said, "You can do this. You can do this."
I drew this design because I wanted the symbolism of these feathers as wings. The fact that it's a single feather that's light and fragile, kind of like a woman can be often, but that together the feathers make wings, powerful enough to take flight. That symbolism of the community of women coming together as a collective, that we are powerful to drive change, for me was very important.
It took me a very long time to find a manufacturer. The best packaging manufacturers could not do this type of detail work. I had to get two competitors to collaborate, which is nearly impossible, but I think they were both so excited that the concept could be groundbreaking and disruptive from a design standpoint that they wanted to see it come to market and decided to collaborate.
One hundred percent of net proceeds from the Valdé Divine Collection will fund the Valdé Latinx beauty grant for Latinx entrepreneurs and creatives. Tell us about this.
Regardless, Valdé gives 1% of revenue to support BIPOC beauty entrepreneurs, but I wanted to earmark this particular project to support Latinx beauty entrepreneurs. It's been a dream of mine for a very long time to have a fund that could support the people that I believe in. I mentor a lot of emerging brands and I see their struggles, and often, they need funding. But they shouldn't necessarily have to get it from private equity because it creates a lot of pressure and they lose part of their company. I want to be a voice for emerging Latinx beauty brands.
Valdé also offers NFTs — why is that?
This came to mind because I was working on these quartz vessels made in Peru that are handmade, hand-sculpted, and hand-numbered. I knew from my art world experience that I was going to need a certificate of authenticity. I also know how those things can get lost and people in the beauty industry might not appreciate what they are. At around the time, I heard of NFTs and they were somewhat described as digital certificates of authenticity. They're unique, encrypted, and live in the blockchain.
When I went down that rabbit hole in evaluating how to execute that, I understood it would make sense to manifest the artwork in the storytelling narrative of quartz, armors, and vessels and have that other dimension of the storytelling narrative that could add value in a creative way. The metaverse and the NFTs allows you to dimensionalize that narrative and experience it and create value.
Valdé lipsticks are luxury items. So, how do you define luxury?
The word is so misused. I see luxury brands really milking their status. And yes, there should be craftsmanship and there should be history and all this — that's super important. But I think today, brands need to stand for a lot more than status. I think it should be personal. The craftsmanship, the quality, and the software — that is a given, but the intention, thoughtfulness, and purposefulness makes it that much more personal. That's what makes it priceless, and I think that's the ultimate luxury.
Shop Valdé Beauty Products:
To shop: $199; valdebeauty.com
Choose from either an all-gold, all-black, or black and gold vessel as you begin to customize your lipstick. From there, pick from either a lip balm or one of 11 lipstick shades options for your insert. Once that's done, you'll have the option to engrave your armor for an additional $10.
To shop: $40; valdebeauty.com
Why settle for one shade when you can have all 11? Once you've invested in your armor, collect several refillable options to seamlessly — and sustainably — switch from carrying your favorite nude to your date-night red.
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