THE IN-TRAY

Zoë Foster Blake on her beautiful career

WITH GO-TO LAUNCHING AT MECCA THIS MONTH, WE INVITED ZOË FOSTER BLAKE TO SHARE HER JOURNEY FROM BEAUTY EDITOR TO BEAUTY POWERHOUSE.

When Zoë Foster Blake appeared at a MECCA staff conference in February, to announce the debut of Go-To in our stores, the audience was positively captivated. In person, she is as effervescent, quick-witted and gracious as you would expect. MECCA’s creative director Marita Burke spoke to her about her career trajectory, her flourishing brand and how she balances (or not) everything on her plate. Here are edited highlights from their exchange.

MB: Where did you career in beauty start and how has it evolved?
ZFB: “I was plucked from Smash Hits magazine by Mia Freedman to be the beauty editor of Cosmo, which was absurd, obscene and silly because I knew nothing about beauty. But I think Mia liked that and thought it would be fun to put an editor in there who was learning along with everybody else. I’ve always taken that view on beauty, like ‘Oh my god, what’s highlighter? Here’s what I’ve learnt about it.’ As a beauty editor you learn so many amazing tips and tricks from the best in the industry. I didn’t even know it was a real job. It’s ludicrous to be able to sit at your desk and paint your nails or put a mask on. I never took that for granted. It was so amazing to me that I wrote a book about it (Amazinger Face). Fashion gets all the stuff. Fashion gets the movies, the TV shows and I thought ‘What about beauty?’ Fast forward 12 years and beauty is everything. It has completely overtaken fashion.”

MB: When did you realise that the media landscape was also rapidly changing?
ZFB: “Back then, this was at 2004, I could feel the disconnect between telling people why red lipstick is popular or what hairdresser to see and having no feedback or no engagement with anybody about any of it. Does it work? Does it fly? Do you guys even care about any of it? So, I remember going to my editor at the time and saying ‘I need to do a blog. I need to be more immediate.’ They wouldn’t let me, so, I did it myself and that was 2006. It was me in the morning before work banging on about something I’d learnt. I was so passionate about it. When the comments started to come in, I was like ‘This is fun. I can talk to people.’ They’ve tried that product or they’re interested in that product. As a brand, you’re so accountable now because if you step a foot wrong, they’ll let you know. I like that because it keeps us good.”

MB: Something that you love is building the relationship, be that with the reader or the customer. When did you know you wanted to start a brand?
ZFB: “I didn’t. I had to be told. A fashion retailer came to me and said ‘Do you want to do a capsule makeup collection with us?’ This was after Amazinger Face had come out. I started going down the path and they said we’ll just make it and when it comes into store, we’ll do an event. And I was like ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Am I going to try these products? Where are they making them? What are they putting in them?’ I realised very quickly if I was to ever do it, it would have to be something where I was part of the process the entire way because what if someone got a rash from it or what if it was just terrible quality and my name is on it. Then a dear friend of mine who has her own brand got a bit sick of me telling her what to do, so she said ‘Why don’t you do it?’ So I did.”

MB: Go-To is accessible, aspirational, natural and it has great brand personality, but there are lots of brands like that. Is there something more to it?
ZFB: “I literally put a drop of sweat into every bottle. You’re right, there are heaps of very good products out there and if I thought too much about that I would have never gone into business. You just have to put your blinkers on because there are great face oils out there and I’ve used them all. But I still felt like I was mixing them. I like that one but I feel it could be a bit more this or that. So, you get to play chemist for a little bit. I stand by our products but if I had to crystalise it I think it’s that we don’t take beauty too seriously. We have fun with our customer, we make them feel competent with our skin care which makes them feel confident. A lot of women reading my beauty pages would be like ‘Ugh, I get so confused with eye creams and serums.’ I thought I just needed to make it simpler. What’s an AHA? Who cares? Just use it! We like to keep it fun and light because it’s self-care, enjoy it. Sometimes I think there are too many technical words and sciency stuff in beauty and people get a bit scared.”

MB: Influencers have had a transformational impact on beauty. What’s your view on that?
ZFB: “First of all, what a world we live in. I love the feminist side of a girl sitting in her bedroom making YouTube videos and making a really good living from it. It’s wonderful. I think it adds a real democracy to beauty because every skin colour, type and age gets someone they can follow and learn from because it’s very hard to learn from someone who doesn’t have their skin. Every time I tried to do a video back then it would be ‘But, what if you had lines around your eyes, how would it look then?’ I just think it has to come down to transparency. If everyone is being honest about what they’re doing and what they’re being paid for and why, I think we’re all OK with that. I don’t like any idea of deception or talking something up when you’re not really that into it.”

MB: How do you balance all of your roles: author, entrepreneur, mother and wife?
ZFB: “I don’t balance it. I think balance is a farce. If you do actually think about what the word balance is, it’s this teetering thing. Right now is a busy time for me. I think you can be good at lots of things but not all of them at the same time. I’m trying to be a mum and a businesswoman and promote a new book (LOVE! An Enthusiastic and Modern Perspective on Matters of the Heart). It’s hard. You try and compartmentalise. I’m into all of these hacks at the moment, like turning off notifications on my phone. I try to use one device for one form of communication, so I work on my laptop not on my phone. I’m just trying to be smarter and better about everything.”

MB: What do you do for you?
ZFB: “I think the idea of self-care is good but I think a bubble bath with a glass of wine is not everyone’s version of self-care. My version is Netflix, wine and Haigh’s. For me it’s sleep and winding down and untangling my brain at the end of the night. Or getting a nap on a weekend when my baby sleeps. I’d like to have more massages and facials and things like that but I just don’t really get them unless I’m going to an event or something and then it’s like ‘Quick clean off all the bad stuff and put the good stuff in’ and I’m out the door. I do read before bed every night though. That’s one thing I don’t compromise on. Otherwise you never get any reading done as a mother.”

Interview by Marita Burke
April 2019

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