Dolce Vita: An Insider Look At The Beauty Industry x How To Pave Your Own Way
It seems the beauty industry is set to make moves toward clean + sustainable products. At least, that’s what we’re picking up after chatting with April Martin, Director of Strategic Marketing at Intercos, we feel both relieved and hopeful for what’s to come in beauty. Intercos is the leading global supplier and strategic innovation partner to many of the beauty and skincare brands you know today, a.k.a. a very big deal. So, how did we get connected to such a leader in the field you might ask? We actually got connected to April through her long-time camaraderie with our Editor-In-Chief, Anna Cottrell. “She was an anchor for me when living in New York,” shares Anna, “and the reason I was able to cover New York Fashion Week backstage for Revlon all those years . . . one of my most treasured friendships.” In this interview, the two reconnect to reflect on April’s experience in the beauty industry, her jump across the globe, wisdom learned, favourite products, and of course her dolce vita lifestyle in the heart of Milan, Italy with her pup, Honey. Enjoy . . .
Anna E. Cottrell: First things first. . .what initially drew you to the beauty industry? How have you seen it change?
April Martin: My entry into the beauty industry was by chance, as I was working in category management and was recruited for a position at Revlon. That initial experience opened my eyes to an industry that really championed women supporting each other, which made me want to stay in the beauty sector. Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen the industry shift into a market that isn’t dominated by only a few major brands, but has opened up to so many diverse and smaller brands that I think represent beauty consumers in a new and accurate way. I also think that as society has grown and changed, so have our beauty ideals and acceptance. We are lucky to have an industry now that has so many brands and product options that cater to your own personal ideas of what beauty means to y-o-u.
AC: You’ve worked with some titans throughout your career — what key takeaways have you learned along the way + what advice do you have for women just starting their career journey?
AM: One of my learnings is that all of your experiences are significant and relevant to your career journey, even if at the time they aren’t directly related to your goal. For me, my goal was to work in product development in cosmetics, which seemed pretty far off from category management and merchandising where I started. As I finally landed my dream job in product development, I realized that my previous positions and experience allowed me to have a totally holistic view of the industry. This gave me an unexpected advantage and a fresh understanding of full product life cycle. With patience and your goal always in mind, believe with confidence in the path you’re on.
AC: What would be your desert island beauty product?
AM: I can’t pick just one, but if I were stranded, there are 3 things I can’t live without. The first is my ride or die eye miracle from Rhonda Allison that I also use around the lip area and on my cheekbones when I want a little glow. It has a rich consistency and an iridescent finish. Best at night, but I also use it during the day for winter. My second is this hydrating toner mist from Eminence Organics. I use this everyday after cleansing, and it leaves my skin super smooth. It’s also great as a refreshing mood boost throughout the day, as I love the way it smells. My last product would be for my brows — I don’t feel “dressed” without doing my brows even on the days when I wear no makeup. For me, they define my face. My favorite pencil is from Benefit. It gives you all the precision you need for tiny strokes, but there’s enough payoff that you can really fill in any gaps with buildable color.
AC: Tell us about your jump abroad + your experience living in Milan? You’re so brave!
AM: After having lived in New York City for almost 7 years, I found that I was craving a better quality of life and more balance than the city could offer me. At the time, I was traveling almost every month to Italy for work, so it just made sense to think about a move here. My company is headquartered here, so I was lucky to have a built in opportunity for a move. There are definitely challenging moments when I feel less than brave, but overall, it’s been a great adventure and a memorable chapter in my book of life. I love Milan — it is a city that is creative, international and welcoming. I’m having a blast still discovering all the hidden sides of it.
AC: Working at Intercos, I’d imagine you see so many upcoming products being developed — what trends have you seen recently that have excited you?
AM: On a more macro level, I would say that one of the biggest trends is a return to creativity as a result of our collective experiences during this pandemic and the lockdowns. This creates new pathways and new ways of interacting, as we are rewiring our minds and routines to adjust to the effects of the pandemic and virtual life. This has changed consumer habits in beauty and has even shifted how makeup artists, models and photographers interact with each other, as well as our shopping experiences online. Looking at the micro side of product trends, I see products that will be more tailored to a digital or virtual experience and also cater to the “zoom face”. I also see a better future with cosmetics that are cleaner and more sustainable, with advances in product performance [think: longwear or color payoff].
AC: Do you find yourself experimenting with new products or are you a loyalist?
AM: Part of my job is to try new formulas that we are developing as innovation, as well as come up with ways to reposition existing formulas in a different way. Typically, when we test formulas under development, it’s not as experimental as it sounds. I will have to do things like wear two different eye liners on each eye and compare them to see which one wears the longest. Sometimes this even means sleeping in them . . . which I don’t recommend. I also try new product launches to evaluate the market, so I am always testing and experimenting with products and shades. This inspires me to add in some fun and newness to my tried and trues, since I tend to be very loyal to my everyday products.
AC: What does an off day look like for you?
AM: Due to the lockdowns, I’ve been spending time in the countryside, which puts me in country mouse mode. These off days are much more reflective. My dog, Honey, and I start with a light hike in the woods, which reminds me of my Arkansas roots and helps me feel connected to home. I follow up with a Melissa Wood Health workout and then a sound bath meditation from Mind Like Water, which helps to balance me and cope with life in lockdown. Then I usually visit the grocery for weekend supplies and start cooking a long meal that I can let simmer for hours like ragu or a roast. I catch up on podcasts from NPR or listen to one of my monthly playlists while I cook. The evening is usually spent on video calls with friends from the states or relaxing with a glass of wine and a movie. I’m hopeful all this reflective time at home and in solitude helps to bring everyone closer together and to freely pursue what’s important in life.
When we’re not in lockdown, I’m in city mouse mode, which is much more social [with distance of course]. A typical Saturday starts with taking Honey on a long walk in Parco Sempione. Then I usually meet friends for an extended lunch sitting outside at one of the many restaurants in my neighborhood of Brera. After that, I typically check out an exhibit or visit some shops. One of my favorite museums is Museo Novecento, which overlooks the Duomo of Milan. I adore the contrast between viewing contemporary art in a more modern building, while overlooking the ornate architectural beauty of the historical Duomo. Then to finish the day, around 6pm it’s time to join friends for the traditional “aperitivo”. There’s a lovely place near me called ASVN that has a garden with the remnants of a building bombed during the last world war, which reminds you of how much history is hidden here in Milan. Aperitivo usually turns into an early dinner, and then I head home for some “me” time and an early-ish bedtime to recharge.
AC: Any brands we should have our eyes on for 2021?
AM: Some brands to watch in 2021 are Trestique, which prioritizes simple beauty routines — something I think we can all use in the new year! I’m also a really big fan of Ilia. They are launching innovative products in the clean space and have a mascara that is pure magic. I am also obsessed with Charlotte Palermino and her new brand Dieux. She is making the skincare space transparent and easy to understand, and I love her honest videos explaining product claims and ingredients.
AC: What advice do you have for women desiring to have more influence in their career?
AM: My advice is to remember that y-o-u are your own best influence. Be an advocate for yourself, which means being transparent and direct with communication around what career opportunities you want. You can also never underestimate the importance of your network, both professional and personal. Utilize this support on both of those levels to make new connections and have conversations around growth. If you feel stuck or powerless, take ownership of your path. Try taking courses to further your development or add new skills and experiences that relate to your current or future career goals. In the past, I’ve done guest lectures at FIT, and they have great options through their certificate programs, which help you to develop more skills and knowledge in specific areas. Personally, I just enrolled in the Trend Atelier program, as I want to formalize and develop more of my trend skills. It’s important to never stop learning both personally and professionally, especially as we get older.
AC: Any favourite budget beauty buys?
AM: Yes! There are so many fantastic products that don’t require a lot in terms of spending, but give you a lot in terms of product. One of my favorite budget brands is KIKO. This is an Italian brand that has cult-like status, as they are known for high quality formulations. They just launched this cute collection that has some great products for holiday zooming. I also love this highlighter from Revlon. This leaves a no powder finish on skin and the glowiest halo. If you’re looking for a long lasting brow pot, this one from Milani wears forever.
About April: April Martin works at Intercos as Director of Strategic Marketing, focusing on Global Trend and Mass Market. As a creative and visionary thinker, she executes based on wisdom, transforming consumer shifts and trends into tangible, marketable and profitable products for the beauty industry. Always an Arkansan at heart, she lived in NYC for 7 years and is currently residing in Italy — living la dolce vita. In between meetings and shade swatchings, she enjoys being southern, discovering new music, and taking walks around Milan with her adopted dog.