Neen is celebrity makeup artist Jeanine Lobell’s “aha idea,” a beauty subscription card concept that proves she's a true mother of invention. She's also humble enough to name it after her nickname, “but nobody needs to know that.”
“Neen has evolved so much over time from when I started and what I learned along the way," Lobell said. “It’s interesting, I always wanted to make a card with these looks and these videos, and you’d subscribe, but my whole initial idea was that people would vote for their favorite products on the card and I would make that product.”
Needless to say, with supply chain issues plaguing many retail and beauty categories, that scenario would have been impossible. Lobell is a fast learner, however. She spent six months going out to various distribution centers and “their questions actually taught me a lot too, stuff I didn’t know I needed to know. You just don’t know what you don’t know," she said. “That was a difficult and extremely informative process for me.”
If Lobell had accomplished just one of her goals, it would have been impressive. She launched a subscription card and built an app, built a website, and made sure that product packaging was sustainable by developing a refillable, home-washable silicone compact that doesn’t break down and leach into the environment and become microplastics.
“Usually, most refillable plastic items, by the time you’re ready to refill them, the hinges have broken and the little metal pin is sticking out and the name on the compact has rubbed off,” Lobell said. “In other words, it's a hot mess. You can hand-wash it or wash it in the dishwasher. Also, we hope you’re going to like it, but if you’re over it, you can send it back to us and we have an arrangement with a facility that can recycle them.”
The card itself is innovative with its peel-it-off sampling technology, Lobell said, adding, “But nobody’s done it like this. We actually filed for a patent because of the way nobody’s combined creams and powders with a QR code, so you can scan the code on your phone.” Users scan the card and can see five different faces with five different skin tones and five makeup looks created with specific products.
“They all tell a little bit about themselves and their Instagrams,” Lobell said, referring to the models/influencers that wear the makeup and are featured on the cards. “We sort of feel that’s inclusivity for us—I’m not judging anyone else—but it has to be more than just booking the right skin tones, it’s trying to create a space and a platform for everybody.”
“Shea, for example, did a super-graphic eye, someone else did a smoky eye, etc.,” Lobell said, pointing out the looks. “You can pick the one you want to try and then you can go to their tutorial, scan on Shea, and her tutorial comes up and she says, ‘Hi I’m Shea, I use the pronouns she/her and I’m going to show you how to get this look.’ In the app, her video is in full screen or it can go into split screen where the bottom half of the split screen is you, so you can follow along with her instruction.”
There's also a voice-command function in the app, where users can say, “Stop, Go back, or Go forward,” then at the end, there are targets on the face. Also, each one of the models spoke about themselves, making it personal. “Shea talked about being a vegan, Jordan is a model and a makeup artist and her passion is mentoring other young Black women, Lily talks about how she transitioned starting when she was eight years old and how makeup was super helpful for her,” Lobell said.
Lobell has a personal connection to all the models. “All these people are people I know or people we’ve cast before. All these faces are people we know or friends of my kids,” she said. “Madrona designed this card, she's an artist, I wanted to give her a little platform. They each have a story to tell, so in their videos they all tell stories. Madrona talks about herself and she talks about her friends, and organizations. She’s Native American, so we’re going to try to raise awareness and some funds.”
“Selena talks about mental health, how she suffered for three years, and then she started writing and writing pulled her out of it,” Lobell continued. “Yanni talks about just recently joining the board of her grandmother's organization, which provides housing for families in Haiti. Alex, I’ve known her since she was in kindergarten, she grew up to become very glamorous and awesome and she talks about people who have lost a close family member to cancer, and Grace, bottom right, talks about being a comedian. She’s done really well as a young comedian and being queer. We wanted to move beyond the superficial and say, ‘Who are you, tell us about yourself.’ Someone could be bummed out and say, ‘This girl started writing. Let me start morning pages,’ so our hope is you’re inspired by them as well.”
“Also, what I rarely talk about, because I’m very bad at bragging, but the product is insane,” Lobell said. “The quality is insane. I go to the lab and I see this level of pigment, it's crazy, it’s so good. I develop all the shades myself, which I’ve always done, and that’s not the norm. I was at the lab two weeks ago and the owner was saying, ‘Jeanine, you’re the only one who does this.’ Nobody does this. I’m causing havoc, I’ve known them for a long time, so maybe I get a hall pass.”
The founder of Stila—which she sold to Estée Lauder in 1999—Lobell says she avoids using the language of “clean” on the product because the term is not regulated. “It's difficult, it’s just such an odd claim," she added. Sephora clean is one thing, Goop clean is one thing. We do meet what’s called the Sephora Clean Standards, but we’re opting for the term ‘conscious,’" Lobell said. “It's consciously formulated. I've known our chemists for over 20 years. It’s clean, which Stila isn’t. I learned a lot there about making product, obviously, we had such great product. So, I feel like I’m sort of evolving that and taking it to the next level because I’ve learned a lot in all these years.”
The goal of the cards is to encourage experimentation. The second card features five new tutorials, five new makeup cases, and five new shades. There are also some two-in-one products. “This month we did sort of a golden/russet/browns vibe for the colors so it’s a gold, a russet, and a chocolate, more of a warm kind of blush and the lips are the blush,” Lobell said. “The cheek product is cheek and lip and then we also made some glosses. Every month you have the products on the website that are the full-size versions of these swatches, plus we made some of what we’re calling ancillary shades, so there's extra stuff. This is a sneak peek.”
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