Any beauty lover knows just how much fashion and beauty are intrinsically linked, especially Lauren Jin. The CLE Cosmetics founder started her career in fashion designing and testing practical garments before launching her brand. Her love for aesthetics, innovation, and ease in her clothing translated into multi-use makeup and advanced skincare. That’s what really sets her brand apart. For the full details on the brand and her career path, we sat down with Lauren to discuss everything from finding inspiration in the elegance of Wong Kar-wai’s heroines to what’s next for CLE Cosmetics.
In Conversation with Lauren Jin, Founder of CLE Cosmetics
Chinea Rodriguez: You started your career in fashion, how was it transitioning to beauty?
Lauren Jin: It was really smooth in terms of creating the brand. It was actually through fashion, and through my Master’s thesis that I realized that this concept that I want to pursue of the modern woman, what I thought that entailed what defined a modern woman. Also this idea of going from point A to B, or even just being stagnant within a space but always moving around, that whole idea. I came to the conclusion that I want to create a product that was a lot more ritualistic, a lot more intimate. That’s where I transitioned from clothing into beauty. I felt I could best address the needs that I wanted, with the woman whom I desired to share this product. So in terms of the concept, the transition was really fluid.
I think moving industry and kind of understanding the more manufacturing and technical bits, was a bit of a learning curve. I think I got really lucky where I would constantly ask questions and I would have a set standard that I really set for myself, putting myself in a consumer point of view of, would I buy this if I was really hypercritical? Going from a consumer point of view into my own point of view as creating the product and in and out and jumping roles, mentally. I think the transition itself was pretty fluid in that sense. I shelled out this idea of the modern woman and what that entails. Who is she? From there I switched to the product, translating this concept from garment to beauty products.
CR: How did your work in fashion inform your work in the beauty space?
LJ: My work in fashion was this idea of embracing femininity, and something that’s easy. Even the clothing that I designed was very easy, ergonomic, something that I could wear using public transportation, this kind of woman. That really informed the design that went into creating the products as well; the ergonomic of using a compact versus a separate mirror and separate powder case, and things like that. I always kept the user in mind, that was always a really big focus and intent, and also a driving concept behind making each product. Whether it’s a sleeve, that’s functional versus a brush or a puff, or a sponge that is actually very functional and you want to use it. Every component that comes into creating this product as a whole is all functional, so every bit of it.
I would test every one of those, I think definitely a hands-on approach did translate from my days in fashion. When you’re making garments you have to wear them yourself. That very tactile [element] did really translate when it came to creating products. I would test different parts with the formulation and things like that so the development translated really well in that sense. My manufacturers and I were like, let’s just give me all the pumps you got and I would just sit there and try different ones like, Oh, this feels nice, but is it spreading properly? The function but also the ergonomic of slipping that into your hand and pushing down on the sponge and all those movements definitely are considered. That’s something that I do highly regard which sets us apart. We really try to bring products that have the most intent in terms of consideration.
CR: What is your personal connection to beauty and how did that help you develop CLE Cosmetics?
LJ: It’s really funny because my parents were such a big contributing factor when it came to my personal ideas on beauty and things like that growing up. Both my mom and my dad were always like, “Oh, it’s good to dress nicely but you should also like really take care of your skin. You should always present yourself as nicely head to toe.” That was really instilled in me as a child. Sometimes my dad would comment on the type of red lipstick I would wear when I wore red lipstick, he’d [say] that tone doesn’t match your skin, we would talk about it as a family all the time.
In my early 20’s, when I was more experimental with makeup, it created an outlet to try different things. I would always be that beauty junkie that would just hop on a new brand and test a bunch of things or if there’s like a trend, just test it out and see [if] I like it. Although at the time my career path was fashion, I definitely enjoyed beauty, and also I was very into Korean beauty too. I would go to Korea every other year and buy a bunch of stuff there and really take care of my skin too. My mom was taking me to get massages and stuff after college sometimes in high school too but that was because I actually was part of a beauty pageant so that was more just like the event.
I always found it very fun too, experimenting with clothes and beauty, different makeup looks, but also different skincare routines. That’s also how I created this idea that actually fewer products are better for your skin because I did the ten-step. I’ve gone crazy [with products] and if my skin would break out I made the same mistake of trying to put a bunch of different products on it to see if they’ll work, and it actually made it worse. I would break out more. That all became a journey to where I’m heading towards CLE. Beauty was always such a big outlet for me to either self-express or just to have fun with.
CR: What sets CLE Cosmetics apart?
LJ: The developmental side of staying in tune with the details and ergonomics of the product itself, but I think also the formulation. We try to make products that are a hybrid. Our Lip Care Trio is makeup but it’s also skincare and it’s kind of a play on something that’s very transformative. Our Vitamin C Elixir has a bi layer, you have to shake it so that the oils and the serum mix. So there’s always this interactive relationship the user has with the product, which I find is very unique to us. Even with the Essence Moonlighter Cushion, and the Melting Lip Powder, there’s a sense of, you’re in control but you’re also playing with the different kinds of densities that the product is able to give you.
You can go from a really sheer look to a really built-up bold look, and it’s kind of that fun that you have. That’s something that really I really enjoy about CLE, to just have fun with the product. To actually enjoy using this product without having to think it’s to work or having to [say] this is a typical pump or this is just a regular lip product. Something more interactive definitely is the key factor for us.
CR: What’s next for CLE Cosmetics?
LJ: This year actually we’re really focusing on extending our already existing line. So definitely more CCC Cream shades, more Lip Powder colors, and to also think about taking steps into packaging and our own carbon footprint. Especially as a beauty brand, it’s really hard to create like less wasteful products because it’s either liquid or you need that like plastic sealed packaging. We’re trying to find ways where we can really lessen our carbon footprint as a brand. Also to really focus on inclusivity through the CCC cream shades to really broaden that, we’ll be focusing on those two main things.
CR: What female leaders inspire you?
LJ: Growing up, I really looked up to fictional characters like Wong Kar Wai’s female leads, like, Gong Li or Maggie Cheung. Nowadays it’s really inspiring, the people around me that I’ve connected with through just working at CLE. A while back, we actually did like a collaboration with The Key and other female founders. It’s been really fun. Recently, I connected with the Ilia beauty, founder and it’s just really nice to share our story and the relatability is also really great.
(Pictured: In the Mood For Love still via Criterion)
LJ: I highly recommend [In the Mood For Love]. I grew up [thinking] wow, they’re so elegant and in their own way they’re also very independent strong. I found that to be very inspiring. Nowadays I definitely am more inspired by my cohort, where it’s other female founders going through the same trials that I might go through or we talk about. I also have a friend in Korea who has her own jewelry line and so when we talk there is definitely that relatability. We really encourage each other, we’re getting different perspectives into it as almost like peers. That’s always been really encouraging and nice for me.
CR: Are there are female leaders in the Asian community that inspire you and that you want to elevate?
LJ: Ally Maki from Asian American Girl Club. We did a collaboration a year or two ago. [Seeing] what she’s really done with our platform has been really inspiring, being a part of the Asian community. When I found out about the Asian American Girl Club, I [thought] that’s actually really great I wish I grew up knowing something like that existed when I was in high school or when I was growing up and really trying to define my own identity as well. So I found that really inspiring, and it’s also just really great. Ally is making that and her platform to really focus on creating a really safe space.
They collaborate with different artists for products too. On their account, they’re really vocal about certain things but also creating a community is what I find really inspiring. That’s also really key for inclusivity these days, just having a voice within the community. Whichever community it is that has your interest, I think that’s really encouraging.
To keep up with CLE Cosmetics you can follow both the brand on instagram.