Violette Explains What People Get Wrong About "French Girl Beauty"
The CEO and founder sat down with InStyle to celebrate the two-year anniversary of her brand Violette_FR.
To call Violette's resume impressive is an understatement. With over 20 years of experience in the beauty industry, she has created editorial looks for the likes of Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, and W — not to mention her work with Dior as a makeup designer and Sephora in product development. Add her time as global beauty director for Estée Lauder, and you've got a world-class makeup pro on your hands.
Today, the celebrity MUA holds the title of global makeup creative director of Guerlain, as well as CEO and founder of her very own line. "When I started working as a makeup artist, I realized that I wanted to build my own brand," she tells InStyle. "I had to build my career to a point where I was able to do so." Her brand Violette_FR is now celebrating its two-year anniversary. And she's not stopping anytime soon.
"I have so many ideas. Even to this day, so many people are like, 'Do you still have ideas?' and I’m like, 'There are so many ideas I have,'" she says. "It’s only been two years, but I have so many more colors that need to come out. It’s almost like it’s not fast enough to keep up with all my ideas."
Those innovative ideas are what skyrocketed Violette_FR to cult status from the jump. The collection, which includes skincare, makeup, and hair care, brings to life all the products she couldn't find early in her career but wanted in her kit. The resulting line is fully cruelty-free and made with vegan and clean ingredients that abide by the European Union (EU) standards for cosmetics. To be as sustainable as possible, the brand also uses post-consumer recycled (PCR) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) in its packaging.
Violette_FR proves that when you pair quality, performance, and a 'good for your skin and the planet' ethos with social media savvy, you've got a recipe for success. In a conversation with InStyle, Violette discusses creating her own beauty line, defining French girl beauty, and the best makeup advice she's ever received. Below, read our interview.
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How has social media in the world of beauty changed since your early YouTube days?
To be honest, I did YouTube without being a YouTuber; that’s how I describe myself. When I launched my YouTube channel, I had never watched videos on YouTube...only sometimes. I'm glad I didn't at the time because if I had to launch a new channel for the first time, I would be very influenced by what I liked to watch.
Back then, I just had my editorial fashion and art background, which completely influenced my way of doing my videos. That’s why my videos were completely out of the norm and different. So that was an amazing thing, where I had zero idea of what I was doing and wasn’t really made for YouTube. Now I love YouTube and watch so many videos. I want to go back because I miss it. It’s really a bond with my community that I was creating and I need that.
The term "French Girl Beauty" gets thrown around a lot. What are common misconceptions? What do people get wrong?
I think people kind of crystallize French beauty as something ideal and not attainable — like you need to be French for that and that we have rules. No, it's a whole lifestyle that impacts how we look, and that's really what people haven't grasped.
So how would you define "French Girl Beauty?"
I keep saying [that] in France, we want to be happy. We don’t want to be performative, [and] we don’t want to be the prettiest person on earth. We like to be different, and we nurture that. We want to look like ourselves and want to love ourselves. We’re never going to do makeup that changes our features because it’s not going to help us love ourselves. If we do that, then it is going to mask our insecurities. So for us, we want to love ourselves in the rawest terms. We’re quite irreverent about it.
I love that "French Girl Beauty" is really just a philosophy of being uniquely you. Is that something you wanted Violette_FR to teach people?
There are all of these layers of influence, and what I’m trying to do is digest this for others, so that they get the idea. I’m sharing this lifestyle through the brand instead of just touching on "French Beauty Rules." If I tell you beauty rules, you’re never going to instinctively understand the French aesthetic.
If I tell you to do your makeup without changing yourself, to accept and celebrate this version of you now, [that] is going to influence you to wear makeup differently. This is the French philosophy that will bring you to this French aesthetic. But who cares if it's French? It’s got to be you.
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What else do you think sets your brand apart from others in such a crowded market?
It’s kind of the same thing I do for everything. I don’t follow, and I don’t try to provoke or break boundaries — I just do my own thing. The one thing that makes it really easy for me to do is that I’ve been dreaming of this brand for 15 years, so it’s very clear what I want. With everything I do, I want to keep this naivety in a way.
Since launching my brand, I’ve been learning so much about the business. But I really try to always stick to my instinct and creative side because the way I feel about this brand is unique. It’s me. So I should just follow that, instead of strategizing too much about the brand because that’s when I think we’re going to lose it.
What was something that surprised you when you first started creating products?
How almost anything is possible. I had this dream for Boum-Boum Milk, [but thought] it would absolutely not be possible. I remember telling my chemist [and Violette_FR head of skincare and innovation] Luc Jugla all these points I wanted us to hit for the Boum-Boum Milk. He would just nod while I was asking, “Are you going to tell me this is crazy? Is this not going to be possible at some point, or should I keep going?” He said, “Just keep going. Dream big, and we’ll see." That is really how I work with everything: Dream big, and then I can compromise. I’m not going to limit myself already without knowing if I can actually achieve that goal.
Of all the products you’ve launched so far, which one has been your favorite to introduce into the market and why?
I would say Sérum Superlatif that we just launched [earlier this month] because the idea of a "first-aid kit" for your skin was a dream of mine. I travel a lot and live a crazy life, so a lot of things happened to my skin, and I didn’t want to have to worry [about it]. I just wanted to have a little rescue S.O.S. kit to heal whatever happens to my skin.
I wanted the serum to have naturally-derived ingredients, and I wanted it to be tested where in 48 hours, you could really see the results. It’s a huge innovation. Luc Jugla talks about how groundbreaking it is, so I’m really proud of this launch. [Others include], of course, Boum-Boum Milk (that one was my dream product for years) [and] Bisou Balm. For color, it was my dream product to make.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to create their own brand and break through a crowded market?
First, it should be your obsession — you should be obsessed with this idea. There is no other career passion. This is it. Then, really think about what's missing in the market and create a product that’s unique. It’ll be way easier to be loud about it. Focus on that one product that is unique, and that’s your own because it becomes very easy to create noise around your brand. From there, you product with consciousness and respect for the environment as much as you can. Lastly, [it] is really about creating your community. Today, it’s really hard to launch a brand if you don’t have the support of your community.
Oh, and I'm actually going to add one more: Make your product excellent. If your product is excellent, people will know. That's what happened with Boum-Boum Milk. We never advertised and didn’t do press in the beginning. We just launched it. There was no paid marketing for the first nine months of the company and no influencers — nothing. It became number one really quickly. Why? Because people saw how good it was. When people ask me, “What is the definition of success?” I respond with “Reviews.” If the reviews are good, I’m done. I did my job, and that’s going to impact everything around the business.
Given all your experience in beauty, we have to end this interview with this question: what’s the best makeup advice or tip you’ve ever learned?
It really comes from my culture. Makeup is supposed to celebrate yourself. It’s not supposed to disguise [and] it’s not supposed to fix. It’s like your foundation, and this is how to accept and love who you are. So makeup, to me, is not about looking like everyone else. It’s [about] the idea that you’re really unique and special.
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