It's the simple things in our lives that can change your whole mood. Lipstick does just that, it's amazing how a touch of colour can do wonders! Lipsticks not only transform your look but can even match your mood. Either just wearing your usual safe colour to something fun and out there! It can change up your look, your outfit and even how you feel for the night/day.
Meet Joanna French 29 year old owner of boutique Melbourne lipstick brand Shanghai Suzy who has taken the cosmetic world by storm. Creating a fresh unique approach to the lipstick game without breaking the bank! Her favourite things in the world are shih-tzus, gold anything (she's obsessed with all things gold!), and lipsticks! Jo loves nothing more than having friends over, cooking up a feast and sharing a bottle of vino with her girlfriends. She lives in the beautiful Mornington Peninsula with her handsome husband and their two shih-tzu babies Baxxy Boo and Dougie Baby. F
I interviewed Joanna about her lipstick line Shanghai Suzy.
Who is the “shanghai suzy” Girl?
Suzy’s (as I call our customers) love colour. We are quite sure of our own style and know what we want.
We love makeup trends but we’re also not afraid to do our own thing and rock our own look.
We love good value products, fab quality and beautiful packaging.
We care what our makeup is made of and we often buy vegan/vegetarian products - we love animals.
We also love a laugh!
What made want to create your brand, Shanghai Suzy?
And the idea to create your own lipstick line come about?
I just wanted a good quality lipstick for a reasonable price that had a pigmented yet comfortable formula, didn’t smell horrible (like most lipsticks seem to), had on-trend colours and had cute packaging. I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere! Everything that ticked the boxes was $30+ which seems a bit crazy considering I always lose lipsticks when I’m out and sometimes I will only wear a certain colour once or twice.
SHANGHAI SUZY - Mrs French Winter Maroon
When first starting out what was it like, and how do you feel you’ve grown as a cosmetic company now that your stocked Australia wide?!
When I first launched the brand in 2013 I was running the business on my own in a little artist’s studio in Collingwood, it was very busy and fun and I really miss that first little office! I was working about 3 different jobs at that point, so life was hectic but I think when you get in a good momentum with life and passion and focus on your goals you can achieve great things! My focus was mainly the online business at the start, however word spread very quickly and soon it was stocked by some of Melbourne’s best boutiques (for example FAT stores, one of our first stockists) and some really talented makeup artists started using the brand quite early on! Soon Suzy found her way into salons which is our main business now, the brand is stocked in over 600 doors nationally which is really exciting and it’s so great to see so many people loving Suzy as much as I do! She’s my baby after all and the love that people have for Suzy warms my little heart!
How did you go about designing your lipstick collections what is the process! How you come up with the colours and how long is the process? From start to finish - tell us all the ins and outs of how the lipsticks come about!
( hehe did a little rhyme with that one! )
SHANGHAI SUZY- Miss Sanja Fuchsia
I’m always on the look-out for new colours. One of my insights into originally starting the brand was that each season I seemed to want a whole new lipstick wardrobe, and it was a pain going to each and every brand I liked hunting down the perfect colours each season, not to mention that most of the brands I liked were $30+ for each lippie! Back then too when I first starting working on Suzy there weren’t as many amazing boutique makeup brands as there are now and it was pre-instagram so it was definitely harder to find colours and hunt down quirky international brands! I thought it would be amazing if there could be one brand that had a wardrobe I could buy each season with all the colours I was looking for, that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. And that’s really how I came up with the idea of our Shanghai Suzy wardrobes each season! And that’s still how we are inspired to create our colours. I’ll see an editorial or a trend or a pic on instagram, fall in love with a look and know that it’s a colour everyone will be chasing – so I make it part of the next range. Of course it’s not just me now and I listen to customers and consumers and I love hearing feedback and what people want! I’m down at our little pop-up shop at Rose Street Artist’s Market in Fitzroy (in Melbourne) all the time and I love meeting customers and hearing suggestions!
In terms of the design process, our product development (from brief, to formulating, to samples to approval) each season is roughly 3 months for the whole range. This overlaps with our packaging manufacturing which also takes about 3 months – by the time we fill our packaging, label it up and get it here in Melbourne we’re looking at about a 6 month turn-around time. So we’re always, always working on new colours! Which is my favourite part of this crazy lipstick business
You’ve just recently launched your latest winter wardrobe collection, what inspired your colour collection with this one?
I’m obsessed with Kylie Jenner. I wanted a Kylie-esque dusty, edgy semi-matte pink as an everyday staple (Miss Tanielle Desert Rose) and a super moisturising soft pink for a lighter, less harsh look (Miss Cassandra Peony). I also wanted a caramel-based nude, I’m loving 90’s browns at the moment - so Miss Kat 90’s Cappuccino was lovingly created. Lips get super dry in Winter so it’s all about taking extra care - we lightened our matte formula for the season to make it really comfy, yet still very pigmented and rich. We’re seeing a lot of very cool, classic reds this Winter and so we collaborated with one of our stockists in South Melbourne, Victorine, to create Miss Victorine Classic Red, inspired by strong, artistic women who know what they want. Miss Nina Sparkling Coral was inspired by a young lady in Sydney, a pop of sparkly sunshine to brighten a dull Winter day. Miss Veronica Sparkling Plum was inspired by our friend Veronica at VeganBeauty.com.au – vampy with sparkly undertones – a perfect naughty and nice combo for Winter. Miss Sanja Fuchsia is a re-run from our first season, a colour I created with and for one of my girlfriends Sanja, it was so popular and it’s such a fantastic pink for this Winter, sophisticated yet fun. I created Mrs French Winter Maroon for my own wedding reception in March, I wanted a rich, maroon colour like beautiful deep shiraz, it reminds me of a perfect Winter night by the fire with a glass of red
SHANGHAI SUZY - Miss Veronica Sparkling Plum
The perks and the not so perks of creating your own lipsticks?
I’ve only found positives when it comes to creating a brand baby and product but I think the case with any small business is that it’s difficult to switch off! But I’m working on it !
How many people work for your brand?
There are two of us full time in our Melbourne office, which is now down in Mornington. We have an external PR agency in Sydney, we have a roaming consultant who assists with our quality control both here and overseas, and we have our product development team over in China and HK.
Typical day in the office?
Mornings are spent catching up on emails, processing orders, invoicing, setting up new store accounts and updating our website - our stockist network grows each day so this is always busy! Our main priority is always our orders, once these have gone for the day it’s time to focus on marketing activity and growing the brand – event sponsorships, collaborations, product development, PR and social media. After that comes the boring stuff – accounting, paying bills, paperwork, admin (snooze zzzz).
Biggest achievement with the brand?
Selling our 50,000th lipstick.
SHANGHAI SUZY - Miss Nina Sparkling Coral
What’s next for Shanghai Suzy?
We are taking a different path this September and launching a permanent range to complement our seasonal ranges. Our permanent range is going to be made up of our best-sellers so far – it’s what our customers have been begging us for We’re bringing back Miss Leah Baby Cocoa, Miss Amy Baby Pink, Miss Simone Baby Coral, Miss Sally Watermelon, Miss Hannah Blood Red, Miss Kitty Black Plum to name a few. Everyone’s favourites that we also believe are trans-seasonal; colours that can work in almost any setting - bridal, editorial, night or day.
Advice to all students and people who aspire to create their own cosmetics company or work in the field?
I gained a degree in journalism/marketing/PR and worked in various cosmetics marketing roles to gain the experience to start my own business. I think it’s really important to get real-world experience so you can gain the right skills and hit the ground running when you want to start your own thing! Especially when it comes to cosmetics, there are quite a lot of formalities that need to be followed and things to know when it comes to product development.
I also think it’s great to surround yourself with like-minded passionate, entrepreneurial people who lift you up and inspire you! One of my best-friends Daniel (who is also a chartered accountant) knew every figure and detail to do with Shanghai Suzy literally years before the brand even launched, not only is it important to know the nitty gritty across every element and think deeply about these things but run these details by people you respect and trust so you can get honest feedback about your brand and if it’s viable - it’s amazing the different perspectives that people can give. And take what the haters say with a grain of salt, because of course there will always be people who don’t share your vision.
SHANGHAI SUZY - Miss Cassandra Peony
Couple of quick Questions!
Your most memorable moment?
With Shanghai Suzy? Getting my first stock delivery, for sure!
I never leave the home without…
Shanghai Suzy - Miss Tanielle Desert Rose
Your “go to” outfit?
Day to day it’s workout gear. If I wear workout gear then I always go to the gym, it all seems too hard if I have to pack a bag and get changed at the gym! If I know for some reason I won’t be working out, I’ll wear jeans with loafers, a light sweater, hair pulled back with a clean face and a bold lip. If I’m going out I love layers and tails and super high heels (my husband is 6 foot 8). I wear a lot of Sass & Bide and ASOS.
Day - Nutribullet – with frozen peas, frozen broccoli, frozen brussel sprouts, frozen beans, water and coconut vegan protein powder. RIDICULOUSLY GOOD. About 3 full cups of green veggies and 30g of protein and it is absolute heaven.
Night/weekends – Champagne
Nicole Richie – I think she is perfection
It’s a tricky one.. but your favorite lipstick colour!
This seems to change all the time with me, depending on my hair colour too as I always change it! I think I’d have to go with Miss Claire Fire Engine Red from our very first season, it was named after my sister and it’s a super pigmented orange-red.
If you could go anywhere right now, where would it be?
Greek islands, in a second!
Thank you Jo! xx