Kristen Noel Crawley
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KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY.
IN LIGHTS. UNDONE AND DONE.
VIOLET GREY editors transform KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY from born-this-way cool girl to full pro-glam 90’s supermodel vibes in LA’s Milk Studios.
- Interview By
- VIRGIL ABLOH
- Photography By
- NAJ JAMAÏ
- Creative By
- CASSANDRA GREY
- Makeup By
- KATE LEE
- Hair By
- GREGORY RUSSELL
- Wardrobe By
- JILL JACOBS
- Nails By
- THAO HURTADO
- Art Direction By
- VICEN AKINA
- Produced By
- GIANNA SANTOS
FROM THE DESK OF CASSANDRA GREY:
This month’s SCREEN TEST is particularly close to my heart. Kristen Noel Crawley’s got that thing, that secret, that quiet vulnerability that makes everyone fall in love with her. She’s also a bonafide business woman who makes a point to pick up hitchhikers as she paves the road we are all just driving on. Real Hot Girl Sh&t.
In this SCREEN TEST series, we get to do what we all came for––make art and iconography with the biggest baller artists in the business. The directive I gave the team was to capture her in her street clothes and makeup from that morning, and then do their thing to create full 90’s supermodel vibes. Undone and done. I have to say, her undone look was just as cool as her done look, largely because Kristen is just born-this-way cool and pulled up to set wearing nothing but designer skin care, denim cutoffs, Off-White™ Air Jordans, a cropped tee with the word Cherry embroidered across the chest, cornrows, and long almond-shaped glass nails with Kelly-green tips. Perfection.
I first met Kristen when her now Insta-famous KNC Beauty Lip Mask was first VIOLET CODE APPROVED and therefore deemed worthy of a step in your skin care routine. I remember being excited to meet her as I often am when I recognize a new brand that has the potential to earn a legacy. This is a town where every celebrity or beauty pro believes they can be like Kylie, Gwyneth, Emily Weiss, Rihanna, Charlotte Tilbury, or Pat McGrath. It’s not often, however, that said celebrities are actually ready and willing to take a departure from their day job of being a celebrity or an artist to live and breath the relentless plight that is entrepreneurship.
“I just want to earn enough money to buy my family a house.” Kristen said sitting across from me in the VIOLET HQ conference room. “And maybe, just maybe, build something that will be here for my kids to run one day.”
Less than fours years later, she is already a legend in my mind. And who better to interview her than another legend, Virgil Abloh, also known in my house as one of the greatest minds of today.
I just want to EARN
enough money to buy
my FAMILY a house.
And MAYBE, just
that will BE here for
my KIDS to run one
KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY
VIRGIL ABLOH INTERVIEWS KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY
VIRGIL ABLOH: WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER AND A FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR AND WHERE DID YOU FIND THE DRIVE TO DELVE INTO THIS FIELD?
KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY: I never expected for this brand to grow into what it is today and sometimes it still feels surreal. We are definitely still a small team with a lot of entrepreneurial spirit, so as demand has grown, we have all had to take on more roles. My team is amazing in that way. In terms of my drive, I always knew I wanted to build something that would have a legacy for my family and community. KNC Beauty has given me the platform to do that and has allowed me to create a space for myself and other women of color to exist in this world. I’m very proud of what we have achieved.
V. A.: I KNOW YOU LAUNCHED KNC SCHOOL OF BEAUTY THIS SUMMER – WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION WITH THE SCHOOL, HOW HAS YOUR FIRST CLASS OF STUDENTS BEEN, AND WHAT’S YOUR ULTIMATE GOAL WITH THE SCHOOL?
K. N. C.: I started the School of beauty because I want to help other beauty entrepreneurs launch their businesses. At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, I really felt I needed to use my influence to have a positive and lasting impact so I launched this series to mentor the students and give them the tools they need to make their businesses successful. We have tapped some amazing businesswomen to speak at our panels and it has been incredibly inspiring to witness how many women have rallied in support of this school. Revlon has been an amazing partner and provides a ten-thousand dollar grant to a student each session to give them the financial support they need. I really want to be an example for aspiring black female entrepreneurs and show them what is possible for us in this industry.
V. A.: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF IN UNDERTAKING THIS EDUCATIONAL PLATFORM?
K. N. C.: I have personally learned so much from the conversations with the panelists, but also the students themselves. This is such a niche market and getting together to use each other as a support system and learn from each other’s insights and experiences has been incredible. I came into the beauty industry without much background and have been empowered by the advice I have received from these women to continue to grow and learn. There isn’t one way to approach launching a business or tackling your branding strategy, so the insight of others helps everyone see new spaces and markets where we can find success.
V. A.: DO YOU FEEL IT’S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A WOMAN OF COLOR TO CALL ATTENTION TO DISCREPANCIES IN THE BEAUTY INDUSTRY, AND SO MANY OTHER INDUSTRIES, AGAINST PEOPLE OF COLOR IN ORDER TO OFFER OPPORTUNITIES THAT MAYBE YOU AND I DIDN’T HAVE WHEN WE WERE KIDS TRYING TO ENTER OUR RESPECTIVE FIELDS?
K. N. C.: I definitely feel responsible to speak up when I see something I don’t agree with. And not just for me, but to stand up for my community. If something isn’t sitting right, there is no way I can just sit back and let it happen. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to create a platform where I can speak and be heard, and I want to share that opportunity to people just entering the beauty industry. People of color, and black women in particular, deserve this privilege because our voices and buying power matter. We have the ability to influence industry so we need our leaders and our ideas out there, and I want to help make these voices heard.
V. A.: YOU WEAR MANY HATS – A BEAUTY ENTREPRENEUR, A JEWELRY DESIGNER, GALLERY OWNER – WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR CHEAT NOTES TO GETTING IT ALL DONE?
K. N. C.: The biggest thing for me is the support of my team. It is so, so important to have people you can trust, who are in your corner fighting for the business and challenging me when I need it. I also try to not be too hard on myself. I am still a mom juggling all these different responsibilities and in the end, I simply just can’t do everything at once. Something the best reset of all is to step away from certain challenges for a moment so when I come back, I can dive in wholeheartedly.
V. A.: GEN Z IS ALL OVER KNC BEAUTY, WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THIS NEXT GENERATION OF CREATORS?
K. N. C.: Nowadays, everything is changing all the time and Gen Zers are truly the ones who have helped me keep up with the trends and shifting mindsets of this generation. I know I wanted my brand to appeal to younger consumers in a way that is fun and authentic because Gen Zers can always see through a charade. I also love how important inclusivity is to this generation.
V. A.: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST THINGS YOUR CONSUMERS HAVE TAUGHT YOU?
K. N. C.: My KNC [Instagram] followers have taught me that inclusivity can be even more valuable than shelf space at an established retailer. And on the subject of Instagram, I have learned from them that with the right messaging and product, a brand can go anywhere. It is such an important platform that is opening up a whole new world of commerce.
V. A.: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ELEMENT OF THE BEAUTY COMMUNITY THAT YOU’VE BUILT VIA SOCIAL?
K. N. C.: Social has been so essential in growing KNC School of Beauty. Because of the pandemic, no one could do anything together in a physical space, so that has been entirely organized in a virtual way. Without social platforms, we wouldn’t have been able to have the impact and reach that we have. Our social audience has even created a Slack group to keep up with one another which makes our community and impact even stronger and with more reach. That just gives me such a sense of fulfillment...to have a corner of the industry where enthusiasts can connect, get inspired, find answers. It’s so invigorating to think about the possibility out there.
V. A.: IN GENERAL, WHAT DOES THE CREATIVE PROCESS LOOK LIKE TO YOU?
K. N. C.: The creative process for me always begins with inspiration, which can be found in literally anything, anywhere, at any time. Then comes ideation which is the longest part of my process. This is when I have to figure out how I’m going to bring this idea of mine to life. It takes creative strategizing and the never ending process of drafting, going back to the drawing board, making slight alterations to detail. Then I would say the final step is execution which requires a lot of communication a
V. A.: THROUGHOUT YOUR ENDEAVORS IN THE INDUSTRY, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE MOST BENEFICIAL PIECE OF KNOWLEDGE YOU’VE PICKED UP ALONG THE WAY?
K. N. C.: The advice that I am constantly giving to myself and those that I mentor is, “Just Do It.” So, so much success comes from individuals who just persevere and make smart decisions about their idea or businesses. If it doesn’t work, they are looking at it from another angle. I have had so many interests throughout my career and at times it has been hard to choose, which is probably why I continue to wear many hats. I love trying my hand at different things and sometimes that means letting go of other projects. It was super hard for me to let my jewelry business go but that decision allowed me the space to create KNC Beauty.
I remember right at the beginning when I got a call
from VIOLET GREY saying Cassandra Grey was
interested in carrying KNC Beauty. It felt like I was
realizing a dream that I had been going after since the
start of my beauty journey. Like, ‘My favorite site ever
is selling my brand?!’ It was surreal.
— KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY
V. A.: WHAT HAS MADE THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOUR OVERALL CREATIVE OUTLOOK?
K. N. C.: I would say I am most inspired by travel and the people I have met all over the world. Getting to know people from different backgrounds and lifestyles has been such a privilege. Its so rewarding to be immersed in other cultures and introduced to new ways of thinking...it helps you understand people and show empathy so you can come to a deeper understanding of our collective inspirations. I am so much more creative when I expand my mind in new ways through travel and talking to people and these experiences are what I draw on when moving through the creative process.
V. A.: HOW HAS RSVP GALLERY INSPIRED THE WORLD OF KNC BEAUTY, VICE-VERSA?
K. N. C.: RSVP Gallery was our first business venture. It really helped teach me the ropes as we truly built it from the ground up. It helped me garner my personal taste and artistic vision that I now bring to everything that I work on. The process of dedicated curation and unparalleled attention to detail has absolutely informed how I think about the world of KNC Beauty. It helped to inform the world of KNC Beauty through our process of dedicated curation and an unparalleled attention to detail. I think, and I hope you agree, that both RSVP and KNC have encouraged each other along the way as they’ve grown and found their respective audiences.
V. A.: YOU PUT AN IMMENSE AMOUNT OF TIME, ENERGY AND EFFORT INTO KNC BEAUTY, ETC WHICH IS CLEARLY A HUGE SUCCESS. WHAT WAS THE MOST PIVOTAL MOMENT FOR YOU IN REALIZING YOU’VE BUILT SOMETHING SO MAJOR AND HAS IT HIT YOU YET?
K. N. C.: I remember right at the beginning when I got a call from Violet Grey saying Cassandra Grey was interested in carrying KNC Beauty. It felt like I was realizing a dream that I had been going after since the start of my beauty journey. Like, “My favorite site ever is selling my brand?!”. It was surreal. This exposure opened up opportunities with Sephora, Harrods...all the big players. Everything really started aligning after that call. Then, we landed on Allure’s Best of Beauty list for our Star Eye Mask in 2020 and it felt like the most serendipitous way to end a wild year. Also I would say developing the KNC School of Beauty has set us up for what I think will be an incredible 2021. At the end of this year, I am just really hoping that I can look back and say we accomplished everything that we set out to do. For me, the realization of true success really hits every time we overcome a new hurdle and see the fruits of our labor on the other side.
V. A.: WHAT ROLE DOES YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ART PLAY IN YOUR WORLD OF BEAUTY AND DO YOU FEEL THE TWO EVER INTERTWINE?
K. N. C.: Absolutely! Part of why my creative process takes so long in relation to KNC Beauty is because I’m deeply inspired by the many [art] references I’ve collected over the years that help to inform the products and packaging we develop. It’s been a goal of mine since the beginning to create something that will look like a work of art when you use it. I think part of the reason KNC Beauty has been super successful on social is because our products and packaging are so colorful and geometric. Our masks are fun and glamorous, and I want people wh
V. A.: DOES KNC BEAUTY ALSO ACT AS A FORCE TO RELAY A SPECIAL MISSION OR IDEAL YOU WANT TO SHARE WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD, AND IF SO, WHAT WOULD THAT BE?
K. N. C.: Our motto has always been “KNC is for everyone” which is something that I will hold on to forever. For so long the industry has been divisive in their portrayal of beauty, but I feel like we are finally at a place where people who feel different have found themselves in the spotlight. Beauty is more inclusive now than ever, and it’s so important to celebrate this diversity rather than shy away from it. I want KNC Beauty to embrace this wave of acceptance and be a leader in this space through our portrayal of beauty. I want to be an example for others as we dedicate ourselves to this cause.
V. A.: WHAT’S THE BIG FOCUS FOR YOU IN THE NEXT SIX MONTHS?
K. N. C.: Well we have a lot going on with KNC Beauty. I would say my main focus is to release this new product that we’ve had in the works for a while. We are also going to be dropping my dream collaboration this year which has been a goal of mine since starting this company. The KNC School of Beauty has also been a huge success and our audience continues to express a desire for more, so we will absolutely be continuing that. I hope we can morph it into something with an even greater impact as time goes on. And then on a personal level, my husband and I just purchased a new home so I feel very excited to start a new chapter in life with my family. I have loved immersing myself in interior design, something I have always been fascinated by. I love showcasing our family’s personality through the redesign I’m planning and am just looking forward to a great year of various creative projects, both for KNC Beauty and our new home.
- INTERVIEWER:Virgil Abloh
- PHOTOGRAPHER:Naj Jamaï
- SUBJECT:Kristen Noel Crawley
- CREATIVE:Cassandra Grey
- MAKEUP:Kate Lee
- HAIR:Gregory Russell
- WARDROBE:Jill Jacobs
- ART DIRECTION:Vicen Akina
- PRODUCTION:Gianna Santos
SHOP HER BAG:
KRISTEN NOEL CRAWLEY
VIOLET GREY editors restock Kristen’s VIOLET CODE APPROVED skin care routine and add the latest hero products to hit OUR SHELVES.