Pro Talk: Lorac Founder Carol Shaw
“I was basically born into the beauty business. My father was a hairdresser, my mother was a manicurist, and even though I swore I would not go into the same business they were in, here I am. What happened was, for my high school graduation my aunt Harriet gave me a gift certificate to have a makeover and my makeup done at a salon in Beverly Hills. That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. I had no interest in makeup or the beauty industry, especially because my family was in it. At the time I was a hippie, a tomboy, was battling with cystic acne so I was actually afraid of makeup, that it would break me out. I didn’t want to hurt my aunt’s feelings so I decided to go, and thank God I did because it was a life transforming experience. I will never, ever forget how incredible that makeup artist made me feel and look. She made me feel pretty for the first time ever at seventeen-years-old. That’s when I had the first thought, sitting in her chair as she was doing my makeup, ‘this is something that I could do.’ The makeup artist did me in all these pinks and purples, stuff that I would never, ever wear but I just felt so beautiful and so glamorous, like a movie star.
When I walked outside some guys honked and sealed the deal, makeup was for me. I went to beauty school, this little cosmetology school in Hollywood. Ironically, when I was at that school getting my cosmetician license to do makeup I met a woman who was opening up a makeup concession at the very salon where I had my first makeover and she hired me. That was where I got my first job. It was a familiar place for me because I had been there before and also I felt at home in a beauty salon because I grew up in them with my father, he owned four salons around Los Angeles. Even though I didn’t want to go there, I ended up going. And I’m so glad I decided to go and have that makeover that day because it changed my life.
I worked at the salon where I had my makeover for a year or two. From that salon, I got another job and I ended up working with Jose Eber at the Jose Eber Salon. At the time, he was the big hairdresser, everybody from Cher to Farrah Fawcett and Elizabeth Taylor went to Jose. It was thee salon to work at and I did makeup there. I worked with Jose on some shoots once in awhile. While I was at the salon doing makeup, they had a private label line of makeup and it was just terrible. The makeup on the market at the time was terrible as well, especially for people with skin like mine. It would burn my skin and look like Pepto Bismol. And the stuff we were selling at the salon I just knew was not good quality. That’s when I first got the thought I needed to do something. I could do this better and I could do it for people with skin like mine, sensitive and prone to breakouts. And that’s the first thought I had of being moved and inspired to do something on my own, but I didn’t do it right then. I worked in that salon for about five years and then I branched out doing freelance work. I got an agent and I started doing celebrities makeup for red carpet events, photo shoots and tons of models and actors for editorial. Some of my long-term clients are Nicole Kidman, Debra Messing, Cindy Crawford.
When I started freelancing with an agent, I was going back and forth from Los Angeles to New York to build my book and career. I built a book in New York and once my book got looking pretty good there was an opening with Herb Ritts and I got booked. Which was crazy. That’s when my freelance career took off and I worked pretty much exclusively with Herb for over two years. I was working with everybody from Patrick Demarchelier to Steven Meisel to Annie Leibovitz.
I always lived in LA. I wanted to live in LA and Herb was in LA. I was working with every publication, Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair and that’s how I got introduced to all the A-list celebrities like Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, everybody and anybody. And I still work with them, especially Nicole and Debra. I’ve been doing this a long time, my career has gone from the salon to the red carpet to photos shoots. And I’m still a working makeup artist, as a matter of fact I’m doing Rita Wilson’s makeup tomorrow. That’s what sets Lorac apart, there aren’t a lot of owners that can say that. As I was working with the celebrities and models – Christy Turlington, Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer – on the market that I did. They were preaching to the choir. That was really, truly the inspiration for me starting my own line. I started it so that I could create a make that I felt safe wearing myself personally and using on my celebrity clients. I gave myself an ultimatum one day, I had savings and I opted for staring my own company and makeup line. That was around 1989; Lorac was incorporated in 1995.
My one bedroom apartment in West Hollywood became research and development, packaging an shipping, everything. My brother used to come over and I had magazines piled up for research. We took photos shoots of the makeup bottles in my house too, everything happened there. I started with just skin and that’s what sets Lorac apart from the other brands as well. There was no color, only complexion. It consisted of ten shades of oil-free makeup and that’s what put me on the map. It was 66% water, oil-free, fragrance-free, silicone-free and it was different than other makeup that was on the market designed for people like me. Once makeup artists got a hold of it, I was blown away because it looked like real skin and beautiful.
Unfortunately once we started to grow and other brands started coming into the market they were utilizing more resources than I could. Five years ago we ended up in the In Style Hall of Fame as the best makeup. Then the competition started getting really crazy and I had to start re-formulating and create foundations to compete. Now with more money, knowledge and resources, I created new makeup’s that were relevant and still, the thing that never has changed for me is I always create makeup for people with sensitive skin in mind. My products are oil-free, fragrance-free, paraben-free some are silicone-free as well. I have a new foundation coming out for Spring that is my absolute favorite, if you have sensitive skin or break out and want a liquid foundation that’s simple, lightweight and want your skin to look amazing that’s whats coming out. But I also have makeup that’s heavier coverage, Natural Performance, is great for makeup artists because its 100% full-coverage. POREfection, is a franchise, it has a primer, foundation and powder that I use at work quite a bit and has SPF. We’ve evolved but it’s still the same philosophy and same integrity.
As a brand we’re just doing phenomenal right now. I just want to keep creating great products that change people’s lives and make women happy, look beautiful and feel beautiful. I want to continue to grow with my partnerships and my retailers. Possibly, eventually expand but right now things are good. We’ll see what the future holds.”