Envisioning an organic makeup line that can differentiate itself from the pack is a task in itself. Being the one to actually create the formulations and mix the colors to consistent perfection is a whole other story—one that Vapour Organic Beauty co-founders Krysia Boinis and Kristine Keheley have been writing themselves, since 2009. What does it take to manufacture an entire line in-house and why did they decide on that route? Here’s their story, in our latest The Business of Wellness.
Vapour’s Origin Story
Taos, New Mexico is where Vapour’s story bloomed. Kristine, a nationally exhibited abstract painter and a professional fine artist for more than 25 years, met Krysia, a product formulator and ingredient expert, when she began working for Krysia’s natural lip balm company. Kristine started in production, but began experimenting with formulation with plans to expand the company into cosmetics and skincare.
Instead, the duo decided to launch their own line, and in 2009, Vapour Organic Beauty was born. Krysia already owned a private label design and product manufacturing facility that was producing lines that were sold in Whole Foods and Saks Fifth Aveune, and had its organic certification. That made it an easy decision to keep all Vapour’s formulations in-house. “The designing of products in is our DNA,” she says. “We were formulators and designers first, and we tapped into that DNA to create Vapour. And we also didn’t want to share our formulas with other companies!”
Capitalizing on their extensive combined knowledge and having the means to putter around with formulations and colors gave Krysia and Kristine an edge. It also gave them the flexibility to grow slowly over time, with no outside investments or time spent raising funds. “It was very grassroots,” says Krysia. “We evolved one thing after another, and we had the incredible knowledge and context to see the [green, organic beauty] space grow.”
See, in 2009, the green beauty retailers we know and love today didn’t exist. The niche for organic beauty was health-food stores, and Krysia says that’s not the route they wanted to go. “We’re a high-end makeup line, with high-quality products and an incredible user experience. So, we floated around for a bunch of years, until the retailers who would appreciate us were born. We’ve always been a little ahead of our time,” she says. “Like, whatever we’re doing, the world will be ready for it in about two years.”
Building the Vapour Brand
Vapour was unique from its inception for a number of reasons, but what Krysia pulls out as important to building the line’s brand was that she and Kristine didn’t set out to stand out. “We started with, ‘What’s our vision and our truth?’ We wanted to be clear on that first.”
But speaking that truth clearly, and to customers, is what set Vapour apart. The way they design products is unique; the way they talk to customers is unique. Because they don’t work with chemicals, they don’t even have a chemist on staff. They’re working from the beginning with raw, natural ingredients that are beneficial and nourishing to skin.
“We once had a marketing firm tell us that we were boring,” says Krysia. “Our content came across as a book report—but that’s who we are! We’re ingredient and formulation experts creating products for a high-quality user experience.”
Krysia also says that formulating in Taos brings a different flavor to Vapour as well. “It’s remote, rugged, beautiful and full of light. There’s a lot of space between people, which allows us to stay true to ourselves. We look to nature for inspiration, and it gives us an exquisite color range.” She says that not living in a big city helps remove Vapour from the collective consciousness that can arise. “We don’t have the same structures, and we have a different point of view. There’s more freedom for us,” she says.
Vapour’s freedom extends to the actual output of products. With full control over their manufacturing facility, Krysia and Kristine can also cut down on lead times to retailers. They’re not waiting on a private label to determine turnaround times—they do that themselves, and can therefore get distribution to retailers more quickly.
Experts in the Field—Literally
What also helps Vapour stand out is Krysia and Kristine’s relationship to each ingredient. “Turning these incredible, natural ingredients into products is our first love,” Krysia says. She brings a wealth of herbal and botanical knowledge to Vapour’s blends, which gives products their nourishing abilities.
“Our Herbal Enlightenment Complex [Vapour’s healing skin blend] is composed of wildcrafted Frankincense, organic Tulsi and organic Lotus,” says Krysia. “We chose these for their healing abilities but the combination also has spiritual and cultural significance: These three plants are sacred in three different world religions. We think of it as our ‘world peace’ blend.”
That depth and intention is represented in more than the Enlightenment Complex. Krysia says that inclusivity has been part of their brand’s vision from the beginning. “Creating shades for all skin tones is incredibly important to us,” she says, “and our ability to produce our our SKUs in our own facility is part of that.”
It breaks down like this: Foundation and concealer shades sell on a bell curve, with the lightest and darkest shades selling the least. If you’re using a private label company for production, you have to place orders for colors at high minimum numbers, numbers that aren’t going to sell through in those less popular shades. So, some skin tones get left out.
Not at Vapour. The brand’s formulators can produce their own shades, from foundation and concealer to lipstick and blush, in much smaller numbers, making their creamy formulas accessible to everyone from “Ethiopian skin tones to British Isles skin tones,” says Krysia.
On top of that, Kristine’s trained artistic sensitivity brings a unique depth and complexity to Vapour’s color palette. Her masterful blending of natural mineral pigments creates Vapour’s palette of modern and classic colors, infused with her fine art background.
What’s more is that customers can be assured that Vapour’s pigments are completely safe. “Because we’re in constant contact with our ingredient suppliers, we know certain things before other brands do,” says Krysia. For example, some mineral pigments are cleaned through irradiation, or being exposed to radiation. Krysia didn’t want that, as those ingredients could pose a risk. But as a brand founder, she might not have known those pigments were potentially contaminated if she and Kristine weren’t the ones dealing with all the ingredient suppliers.
So they went out of their way to find mineral pigments that were cleaned with high heat instead of irradiation. “We want our products to perform and be safe,” says Krysia. “We can create that here.”
Being so involved in each product’s formulation, from ingredient sourcing to final output, also allows the most seamless, consistent user experience. “We’re dealing in ingredients that are commodities,” says Krysia, “and some years we have less lavender or chamomile. We can be constantly adjusting our formulas to accommodate those changes, and to ensure that the end-user experience is the same. You don’t have to worry about our products changing from year to year, even if our ingredients are harder to find. We can manage that so customers don’t even notice a change. It’s a huge skill set that’s happening all behind the scenes.”
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