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How Maybelline New York Became One Of The Most Popular Backstage Beauty Brands

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Every February and September, beauty gurus around the world turn to the runways of fashion month to determine the next six months' worth of makeup trends. In fact, recent favorites that you likely incorporate into your daily makeup routine — like dewy skin, graphic eyeliner, and blotted lips — were all birthed backstage at the shows. While European labels that show at Paris Fashion Week, like Dior and Chanel, often use their own eponymous beauty lines to create the makeup looks for their presentations, recently, many American brands that present at New York Fashion Week have turned to an unexpected partner: Maybelline New York. And backstage, the affordable line is just as visible as editorial favorites like MAC Cosmetics and NARS.

The drugstore line made its runway debut in September 2009, working seven shows at New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2010 like Custo Barcelona, William Rast, and Christian Cota. And over a decade later, Maybelline New York's presence is still strong — the brand supported the shows and presentations of New York Fashion Week icons during the Fall/Winter 2020 season, including Christian Siriano, Kate Spade, Alice + Olivia, and for the first time, Michael Kors.

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Not only does the brand set its sights on high-profile shows like the aforementioned, but it also works to establish relationships with newer designers as well. "Maybelline has been a leader in mass beauty at NYFW for the last 10 years," Amy Whang, Maybelline's Senior Vice President of US Marketing, explains. "This authority within the space makes our brand a go-to for designers ranging from up-and-coming to established fashion houses. In addition to our proven track record for backstage beauty, we align ourselves with the top makeup artists in New York, such as Fashion Week veterans like Diane Kendal, Dick Page, and Maybelline Global Makeup Artist Erin Parsons."

Maybelline is known to many beauty enthusiasts as an iconic-yet-accessible brand that offers an attainable barrier to entry when consumers are first learning how to apply makeup. Many makeup lovers have known and adored Maybelline since they were able to pick up a pink-and-green tube of Great Lash. The brand's price point and celeb ambassadors — including Gigi Hadid and Adriana Lima — make the label feel luxurious without breaking the bank. Maybelline's popularity speaks for itself: While the brand isn't able to disclose specific sales numbers, Nielsen and Euromointer Value Sales both claim that it is the "number one color cosmetics brand in the world," according to Whang.

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"Fashion is a key focus for the Maybelline brand," Whang tells The Zoe Report in an email. "By having a presence and activating at New York Fashion Week for over 10 years, Maybelline has been able to embody the [New York City] spirit and energy that inspires our consumers, and build upon our fashion equity." According to Whang, the beauty brand not only looks for established designers to support during New York Fashion Week, but it also works on building relationships with up-and-coming designers to get in on the ground floor of each brand's development, which can explain why it has grown so quickly within the New York Fashion Week community.

The quality of Maybelline's products stands out to designers, but so does its access to high-profile makeup artists. "The combination between top tier talent and high-performance, trend-driven products ensures that designers trust that Maybelline will create cutting edge looks to complement their collection, showcasing both brands as the leaders in the space," says Whang.

Not only does supporting shows at New York Fashion Week add to Maybelline's "street cred" as an editorial makeup brand, but the experience also provides the brand with invaluable feedback. It's no secret that fashion week fosters an unbelievably strenuous environment for all parties involved, which makes it the perfect testing ground for new products that Maybelline may eventually want to release to the public.

"Maybelline products are created to be high-performing and trend-driven," explains Whang. "In addition to our portfolio of existing products, we often preview upcoming launches backstage each season." For example, during the Fall/Winter 2020 season, Maybelline teased two new products backstage — Lifter Gloss and Brow Extensions Fiber Pomade Crayon — at the Christian Siriano, Rebecca Minkoff, and Michael Kors shows. Both Lifter Gloss and Brow Extensions Fiber Pomade Crayon are set to launch this summer. And last season (Spring/Summer 2020), they featured two January 2020 launches at Kate Spade, Christian Siriano, and Alice + Olivia: Brow Fast Sculpt and Cheek Heat Gel Cream Blush.

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This has also proven to be true with new techniques. Working with renowned makeup artists like Erin Parsons, Grace Lee, Gato Zamora — who each serve as the brand's Global Makeup Artist, Canadian Lead Artist, and Spanish Lead Artist, respectively — and many others opens up the possibilities of how each product can be used.

For example, the Euphoria-inspired looks that took over the runways during the Spring/Summer 2020 season were created using some of the brand's best-selling products. The TattooStudio Eyeliner Pencils were used to create watercolor splashes around the eyes at Siriano, Jason Wu's runway featured a draped blush effect using the Lemonade Craze Eyeshadow Palette, and the City Mini Eyeshadow Palette contributed to the pastel eyeliner look in Jonathan Simkhai's show.

The professional artists who create the makeup looks for each show (in collaboration with each designer and their teams) work to not only contribute to the fantasy of each runway show, but also show Maybelline customers the different ways in which they can use their favorite products — and best of all, these high-fashion looks are attainable at a drugstore price tag.

"The iconic Maybelline Great Lash Mascara was my very first mascara," raves Grace Lee, Maybelline's Canadian Lead Makeup Artist, in an emailed interview with The Zoe Report. "There's something nostalgic about your first mascara. To this day, it's still a staple in my kit. It's so clean and great for a beautiful lash. I also love it because everyone always recognizes it and will tell me if it was their first mascara, too." She also added that she regularly uses a few products on herself, including the SuperStay Matte Ink and Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24 Hour Cream Gel Eyeshadow.

The brand has made huge strides in making high-fashion makeup accessible to the general beauty consumer, and it continues to bridge the gap between the elite runways and the streets of suburbia. Cult-favorite products like the Instant Age Rewind Concealer — which is the top selling concealer in the United States in both dollars and units, according to Nielsen (per a press release from the brand) — the SuperStay Matte Ink, which is sold every six seconds in the U.S. (according to the brand), and the iconic Great Lash Mascara are used backstage on models, and also continue to be some of the brand's highest-selling products. If the past 10 years of Maybelline's success are an indicator, we can only expect that the relationship between drugstore brands and high fashion will only grow even more over time.