When beauty great Wende Zomnir co-founded Urban Decay, she set out to disrupt the beauty industry by offering “beauty with an edge.” Bright, bold colors, glitter, and self-expression became the beauty industry norm, instead of a “sea of pink, beige, and red.”
One of the company’s most iconic products, the “Naked Palette,” broke the internet, with more than 5 million eyeshadow palettes sold in 2014 alone and an enduring virality on TikTok and Instagram even today.
Now Zomnir is back with a new beauty brand that’s disrupting the industry again — in all the right ways. And get ready to feel nostalgic, because her famous palette is also back, but better than ever.
She calls the ethos of her new brand, Caliray, “sexy sustainability.”
“How can you still have this awesome, glamorous, cool product that works and it’s taking a step towards a better beauty industry that is more conscious of where it gets its materials?” she explained to The Cool Down.
We got an early look at Caliray’s newest offering, the “Endless Sunset” face palette ($48), a new take on the Urban Decay classic but with cleaner ingredients, sustainable packaging, and refillable products.
The stylish, multipurpose eye and cheek compact is made of 100% compostable bamboo — which Zomnir says she’s successfully composted herself in her own Lomi composter — and the refillable pans include seven shades of talc-free formulas that can be used for daily wear or a smokier look.
For Zomnir, Caliray is both a challenge to the beauty industry and a way of making up for the past. She describes a lightbulb moment on a surf trip with her family where the beach was littered with plastic.
“We [at Urban Decay] created a lot of products that were plastic and vac-metallized, and we made them really beautiful, but they were really bad for the planet,” she said.
So, just as she did when she started Urban Decay, Zomnir set out to fill a space she saw in today’s beauty industry.
“How do we start talking about sustainability the same way we started talking about self-expression, and bring along and disrupt the industry?” she explained.
That conversation started with tackling the beauty industry’s reliance on single-use plastics. The beauty industry generates an estimated 120 billion packages every year, according to the industry leader in beauty recycling, Pact Collective.
“We’re bringing attention to the fact that the beauty packaging you’re using is ending up in the landfill,” she said. By using alternative, sustainable materials, she says, “I’m trying to drag the whole industry along … If we do it, and then someone else does it, then we’ve created an economy for vendors to get way more creative.”
Caliray has partnered with Pact to offer its customers recycling for any hard-to-recycle beauty product from any brand through a downloadable shipping label. Pact also provides recycling at an expanding number of Sephora stores.
“We’re not doing everything perfectly, but it’s better,” Zomnir told The Cool Down. “And we’ll keep finding a way to do it better. We’re trying to begin the discussion.”
Where does Zomnir see the industry going? “I do think refillable is the future,” she said. “The trend is going to be creating sustainability without compromise.”
She’s also excited about mainstream beauty retailers like Sephora — Caliray’s exclusive distribution partner — committing to sustainability at the highest levels. “There are so many gains to be made, but we’re not going to snap our fingers and change it overnight,” Zomnir said.
What gets her jazzed these days is the innovation she’s seeing around the future of beauty — like a beauty tube her team is developing that can actually sequester carbon within the tube.
“There’s a lot of gloom and doom in this world, and you can’t not tell the truth about what’s happening, but we have to find a way to engage people in the solutions, we have to solve it, and solve it in a way that makes it easy for people to participate,” Zomnir said.
As for the original “Naked Palette,” she jokes that in some ways, it’s not as unsustainable as she thought.
“There’s a huge trend on TikTok where people are showing their 10-year-old Naked Palettes, because that means they’re not in a landfill and have had a nice long life, so that makes me happy!” she shared.
Zomnir’s hope is that her latest palette goes viral with a new generation of consumers who want beauty with great performance, safer ingredients, and a smaller footprint on our planet.
“People aren’t going to just pick something because it’s sustainable, they have to know it’s a good product. They want to hold onto their values, but they don’t want to compromise,” she says. “That’s what I would be most proud of doing — delivering the sustainability they expect in a product that blows them away.”
Caliray is giving TCD readers and exclusive discount code for 20% off any products on the Caliray website. Use CALIRAYCOOL at checkout. Valid from 3/14-3/31. Limited to one-use per person. Products are also available on Sephora.
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