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The Violet Files

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How the cosmetics visionnaire reinvented the luxury beauty space.

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In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit.

According to Hourglass founder Carisa Janes, her brand is an ode to strength, femininity, and timelessness. In other words, it’s the true definition of modern luxury. “These are qualities that I wanted the brand to become and the products to represent,” she adds. Janes’ passion for luxury stems from a long lineage of beauty lovers, and she recalls spending a lot of time playing with the makeup in her grandmother’s vanity. She also notes, “One of my favorite memories as a teenager is when my mother took me to the department store counter for my first-ever makeover.”

After attending Parsons in New York City, the Venice, California–based founder worked as a product developer in the very early days of Urban Decay. Then she went on to become a product consultant and developer for a number of smaller independent brands. “During those years, I realized what was missing from the beauty landscape: a modern luxury brand with advanced, high-quality ingredients—and with that, Hourglass was born,” says Janes.

In 2004, she revealed a full color line at Barneys and tackled the saturated foundation category. “At the time, I couldn’t find a luxury foundation that contained SPF and was fragrance- and paraben-free,” she recalls. “This led to the creation of Veil Fluid Makeup, a foundation that has skin care ingredients. Makeup artists and celebrities took note, and this quickly became our best-selling product. We’ve continued to innovate in complexion since then—it’s what we are known for.”

Of conception, Janes explains, “I always consider: Is it something that’s missing from the marketplace? If the product exists, can we improve on it? Have we discovered a compelling new ingredient or technology?” This was the process behind her cult No. 28 Lip Treatment Oil and the hugely popular Ambient Lighting Powders.

The brand’s flagship store opened in 2014 on Abbott Kinney in Venice. And this fall, she will open her second boutique in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood. “Innovation, creativity, simplicity, and performance drive Hourglass,” says Janes. “My goal has always been to create products that women can’t live without because they are undetectably transformative and effortless to apply.”