Back in 2014, ColourPop burst onto the scene and took the beauty world by storm. But respect for the brand's super-cheap lipstick game was soon replaced by confusion, as makeup-lovers started to get suspicious about the almost-too-fast-growing company. Exactly what was going on with ColourPop, anyway?
Wonder no more. Here are 7 secrets about ColourPop, the world's most ~mysterious~ makeup brand — from its kinda weird origin story to THOSE Kylie Jenner rumors.
1. People thought the founders didn't really exist.
ColourPop's founders, siblings John and Laura Nelson, have never wanted to be the public faces of the brand — certainly not in the way Jeffree Star or Kat Von D are. Back when the brand launched, they became low-key famous for politely but insistently shutting down editors curious about their brand, preferring to let their products (and roster of influencers) speak for themselves.
This led to a lot of speculation about whether or not "John and Laura" were even real people — internet sleuths on Reddit still don't think they really exist. But they do; Laura even has an Instagram account now. It's clear that the siblings Nelson have realized that being a little more front-facing is a good thing for your brand, especially when...
2. The origin story is... strange.
Everyone loves a good beauty origin story — think Dineh Mohajer mixing up a pastel blue nail polish in her kitchen and founding Hard Candy, or Urban Decay's game-changing "Does pink make you puke?" line of lipsticks.
ColourPop doesn't have that. It was designed to exploit an industry niche; it's not an emotional labor of love. And that seems odd to a lot of people who like their makeup brands personal.
As founder Laura Nelson told Fashionista in 2016, "It's all about applying the fast fashion model to beauty." Because ColourPop's parent company, Seed Beauty, has everything under one roof — from venture capital to manufacturing — the brand is able to cut out the middleman, and make trendy new products INSANELY fast.
3. The business model is really unique — and uniquely CONFUSING.
BUT WAIT, I can hear you saying. WTF IS SEED BEAUTY NOW?
Despite the fact that the founders swear up and down that it's not meant to be, the actual structure of the ColourPop world is *really effing confusing.* Buckle up.
It started with Spatz Labs. According to Refinery29, John and Laura's dad bought Spatz in 1989 — it's a cosmetics manufacturing factory that still makes products for multiple different brands today. This is a normal thing in beauty, btw; brands often enlist facilities like Spatz to produce and package their unique products. This keeps costs low, and means there are six trillion makeup factories everywhere. Nothing shady about it.
Laura and John founded Seed Beauty, an umbrella company designed to create NEW beauty brands — like ColourPop, and one other big-time brand we'll discuss in a minute.
There's confusion about whether Spatz Labs actually MAKES the products masterminded by Seed Beauty; a strongly-worded statement provided to Fashionista says that they don't, but court filings in unrelated (but very interesting) cases indicate that they do.
I sorted through the contradictory statements so that you don't have to.
But it doesn't stop there: You may have seen Seed Beauty described as a "brand incubator," and WTF does THAT mean.
Basically, it means that Seed provides the means by which another brand founder can create a beauty line, but that founder still has complete creative control, and brings their own team, products and formulas to the line.
And you know I'm talking about a specific "brand founder," right? Yes; it's finally time to address the Jenner-shaped elephant in the room.
4. There's truth to THOSE Kylie Jenner rumors.
ColourPop and Kylie Jenner. There's a ~lot~ that's happened here. Let's break it all down:
1. Kylie Cosmetics is Seed Beauty's second brand — not a ripoff of ColourPop. Imagine Kylie's makeup line as ColourPop's little sister; they have the same parents (Seed Beauty), but they're still their own person.
2. In a video statement posted to her app, Kylie said "I have an exclusive formula that I created myself... but [ColourPop and Kylie Cosmetics] have the same manufacturer, along with so many other brands." That manufacturer would PROBABLY be Spatz Labs; this is backed up by Refinery's ColourPop factory visit, which mentions seeing Kylie Cosmetics packaging all over the place.
3. The brands are separate in every way. The Kylie Cosmetics team is even in a separate building from the ColourPop team, though both apparently adjoin Spatz Labs.
With all that said, Kylie and the Nelsons are also friends.
After people noticed that the ingredient list on Kylie's Lip Kits were really similar to the ingredients in ColourPop's matte lipsticks, Kylizzle posted this photo of her casually hanging out with the "owners" of ColourPop in a makeup factory. "We don't have the same formula or exact colors but they are my friends and they do have some bomb ass products that I love," she wrote.
Laura Nelson told Refinery "Kylie and her family have been friends [of ours] for years... it’s a good fit and a good partnership."
5. People think they're not legit, because they came out of nowhere.
One of the biggest questions people have about ColourPop boils down to "How the hell did they do this?" Beauty is a difficult category to break into, so for a new brand to have conquered the industry so quickly... well, it's no wonder people kinda thought CP was run by the Illuminati.
But "overnight sensations" really don't happen overnight — the seeds of ColourPop's success were sewn in 1989, when Papa Nelson bought a makeup factory. And when you think about it, it's pretty easy to see how and why ColourPop has gotten as big as they have — and it all has to do with you.
6. ColourPop GETS the power of influencers.
ColourPop understands social media — and they REALLY get influencer marketing. Their store is online, their customers live online, and those customers (that's you guys) look up to Instagram and YouTube beauty gurus when it comes to brands and trends to try.
ColourPop knows that influencers are the kings of the new beauty world order; they were one of the first small, online-only brands to realize the power of getting their products into the right hands. Yes, they have some celebrity endorsements (remember when Jessica Chastain wore ColourPop to the Oscars?) but the REAL sales come from Huda wearing your eye shadow.
They've also done some insanely smart collabs — Ellarie, Karreuche Tran, Hello Kitty — leveraging the star power of the people their audience respects, and turning it into cold, hard cash.
7. But the real secret to ColourPop's success? Keeping it cheap.
Beauty-lovers are huge nerds. We notice when our favorite brands change formulas, and we don't just want to buy part of a collection — we want the ENTIRE THING.
ColourPop capitalizes on that. For the price of a single high-end luxury lipstick, you can buy an entire limited-edition ColourPop collection. This is really appealing to those of us who want to catch 'em all — and still be able to afford food.