What is beauty? The answer to that question is what 19/99, a new Toronto-based brand hopes to change.
While barriers are continuing to break in the beauty industry, anti-aging remains a multi-billion dollar industry that particularly targets women and leaves many feeling shame or self-consciousness, and desperate to look for ‘youthful’ remedies.
But what if we begin to view aging as beautiful?
That’s what Camille Katona and Stephanie Spence––two women who have spent years working in the industry––are tackling head-on with their new brand, 19/99 Beauty.
“We didn’t understand why we were being marketed eye creams in our 20s, and noticed that age was the ultimate flaw that the beauty industry would continually push against,” Katona says.
At the same time, Katona’s mother also expressed frustration with the idea of aging and “feeling irrelevant despite feeling as good as she did in her 30s.”
“I did not see active, stylish, normal working women like her represented anywhere, and saw an opportunity for people of all ages to feel included in the conversation around beauty, adds Katona.
In 2020, just months before the pandemic hit Canada, they started up their beauty brand to “change the conversation around aging in beauty, push back against the flaw-focused narrative, and encourage women to define beauty on their own terms”
Because the two have spent such a long time in beauty, it’s also important to them that women reclaim the space. “It didn’t sit well with us that the industry, predominantly run by men, was making money off of women’s insecurities,” Katona says. “Our goal is to remove age from the conversation, because we believe that age does not dictate how you should express yourself.”
Patience is key
While the brand continues to take off, including landing a spot on major online fashion retailer SSENSE, the biggest lesson they’ve learned is that things take time, especially when you’re building out a niche.
“Building from the ground up takes time and patience, but I believe that by developing authentic relationships with our customers, engaging in dialogue around beauty and aging, and focusing on a tight assortment of thoughtful products, we will be able to build something that is more sustainable long term,” she says
While every day should be International Women’s Day, it marks itself on a calendar on March 8. Taking a moment to reflect on that, Katona says that becoming an entrepreneur is all about empowering yourself, through ownership and writing your own rules––especially in a world where women still experience ceilings in their workplace.
“The day-to-day societal expectations we follow were decided by someone, and just because something has been done one way in the past, doesn’t mean that’s the one way to do it,” she says. “For us, taking ownership of what is considered beautiful is very empowering.”
While Katona shares she has experienced imposter syndrome starting up the business, staying grounded while curious in her vision to redefine beauty standards gives her strength every day. “I think being a bit naive and believing in yourself even when you’re not qualified is beneficial, because questioning your ability will stop you from going for it,” she says.
So, what is beauty? Beauty is what you make it, Katona says, and, with that, kindness. That means caring for one another, uplifting one another, and making sure that, even as a boss, to handle things with compassion.“You can be physically beautiful but if you are not a nice person, you can start to look ugly really fast.”
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