I know exactly what you’re thinking and can’t blame you for thinking it: Here’s celebrity #764295 reporting for brand launch duty. We’re at a time when having a hair, skin, or makeup brand is table stakes if you’re a public figure. This time around, it’s model and actor Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s debut beauty brand, Rose Inc. It would be tempting to phone this one in had Huntington-Whiteley been a celeb with no prior connection to beauty, putting her name on a bunch of white label products she had no hand in creating herself. She is, however, the antithesis of that.
In fact, Huntington-Whiteley is one of the most beauty-obsessed stars we know of, the one who would have been voted ‘Most Likely to Spawn a Beauty Empire’ if a VIP version of yearbooks existed. The English supermodel has been the face of numerous beauty campaigns, the first-ever ambassador for beauty purveyors as varied as Hourglass Cosmetics and Resorè towels; she’s designed makeup bags for Hunting Season, launched limited-edition lip + cheek kits with Filipino brand Sunnies Face, hosted a Quibi (R.I.P.) series interviewing beauty moguls such as Kylie Jenner and Huda Kattan, and, significantly, had her own line of makeup and lingerie with Marks & Spencer called Rosie for Autograph.
That’s not even factoring in the 20 years she’s spent in the makeup chairs of the world’s best artists, picking up insider tips and tricks as she does in this 2016 Lisa Eldridge tutorial. Eldridge even says to her “I know you love makeup, so I can see exactly why of all the people I know, that you would do a makeup range, and do it really well!” referring to her M&S collection.
Huntington-Whiteley is also hyper aware of the trope of the celebrity brand founder, and wanted to avoid being perceived as one. “There are celebrities out there who have launched lines and it feels so authentic and they've done it so well, from Kylie to Kim to Rihanna,” she reveals via Zoom. “And then there are ones that just feel like they're doing a line because it's the thing to do. I felt that if I was going to launch a brand, I wanted it to be beyond a celebrity brand, beyond me just putting my name on a product and taking one meeting a month. I wanted to really make a commitment and shift my career into being a founder of a brand.”
From Beauty Concept To Brand Reality
She’s been strategically chipping away at this dream for a while. Rose Inc. started out as a content platform in 2018, featuring interviews with beauty pros, tutorials, and trend pieces, all housed in a sleek digital home. “I knew I wanted to launch products before I even launched the site, but I wanted to do it in an authentic way, and also take my time figuring out how to build out a product line. So, I thought I should create a community-building network within the beauty industry, feature experts, learn from them, and also cement my own authority and passion for beauty,” she says.
Huntington-Whiteley was also sure about one other thing — that the face that had launched a thousand campaigns (her own) wouldn’t take top billing. Neither, for that matter, would her name. “You will feel me all the way through this brand and you'll know it's my essence. But I didn't want it to be about me and my name. I wanted it to be a product driven brand built on community.” She says she got chills while reviewing the campaign ahead of the launch. “When I actually see that in person, it's going to be more exciting than it would have been to see my actual face on a billboard. It’s so much more meaningful to me — it's a significant representation of my entire career in a way that's beyond my face.”
Rose Inc.’s Debut Collection
After partnering with biotech firm Amyris on the formulation (which she chose for their sustainability standards and proprietary ingredients like squalane), Rose Inc’s first product drop is finally here. It consists of a tightly curated line of skin and makeup called Modern Essentials, and it’s basically a bird’s eye view of what product categories are in Huntington-Whiteley’s daily rotation. An AHA+BHA and pink clay-powered toner helps keep acne-prone skin like hers in control, while a silky serum with squalane, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid is lightweight for daytime, yet indulgent enough to serve as red carpet makeup prep.
A buildable, medium coverage concealer is on the menu, as are three other products that support her signature look of a natural, fluffy brow, a blushing cheek and those lips that every injector in Los Angeles would give an arm to recreate. Clear and tinted brow gels, and a refillable creamy yet non-sticky blush (Huntington-Whiteley calls it ‘blusher’ in a very English way) go on effortlessly. She can’t decide which one — brows or blush — can transform a face more, and she never leaves home without either.
There’s also a matte lip crayon that was a pandemic pivot — the plan to launch lipsticks was dropped after mask-wearing became part of our reality. Instead, a long-wearing but hydrating crayon was built into the launch to give suffering lips moisture and color. (In my estimation, ‘Abstraction’ is Rosie’s MLBB shade, but don’t @ me if it doesn’t quite result in Rosie HW lips.) Rounding out the line are two cruelty-free brushes for blush and concealer, and a set of reusable organic cotton rounds.
The collection is, in a nutshell, very Rosie. “In my real life, you're not going to see me in some very bold, risk-taking look,” she explains. “I want to look healthy, glowy, beautiful — basically the best version of myself and that's unique to everybody. For somebody, that could be a blazing bold green eyeshadow look, but for myself, it's about sticking to neutral colors that are going to take me from day to night, and textures with a beautiful, sensory feel.”
One non-negotiable for both Huntington-Whiteley and Caroline Hadfield, Rose Inc.’s CEO, was creating sustainable and innovative packaging without compromising on aesthetics, which is much more difficult than it sounds. “If we didn't put sustainable parameters around it, we could have foiled the packaging or put weight in the [lipstick] bullets,” says Hadfield, referring to metallic finishing on products which makes any packaging non-biodegradable and non-recyclable, as well as the perception in beauty circles that heaviness in a product denotes quality.
The brand uses 25 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastics, which can be tricky in a number of ways. For one, it’s hard to dye it the exact color every time, resulting in variability between batches. Brands that work with PCR also end up having to tool their components — basically building the components and machinery required for production. It’s an expensive and time-consuming choice.
But Huntington-Whiteley feels that for any brand launching these days, being clean or sustainable shouldn’t be a selling point — just part of the ethos. “Clean is not defined or regulated. As people start to educate themselves and push back on the term, [they’re asking] what does that mean? Being clean is not something we feel we need to shout from the rooftops, we just kind of are. We've challenged ourselves to be more transparent and explain what we mean when we say we’re sustainable, for example.”
It’s clear she’s been studying the industry closely and the result is a thoughtful, flexible, and wearable line that’s Rosie in a bottle. I’m very much here for that.
(The brand launches on August 24 on RoseInc.com, sign up now for exclusive purchasing. It launches on August 27 at Sephora for the US and Canada.)