Born and raised in Lima, Perú, Margarita Arriagada was inspired by Latinx culture when she launched Valdé. She also wanted to create a product that was less wasteful than what was currently in the market and worthy of displaying, like you would a piece of art. Enter Valdé’s gorgeous re-fillable lipstick which has gained a following among sustainable beauty lovers during a time when innovation in the beauty industry is rare.
We spoke to Arriagada about the unique functionality her lipsticks have, what inspired her most in launching a brand of her own after years of working in the beauty space and her recent launch party in the metaverse.
Tell us about yourself and where you grew up.
Margarita Arriagada: I migrated to Los Angeles when I was 12 with my mom, brother and sister. In addition to being Latinx, I consider myself to be an Angeleno. I studied at FIDM, majoring in interior design and merchandising. I developed a retail career as a merchant across many areas from fashion to home to beauty. I’ve spent the last 18 years in beauty, 11 of them at Sephora as chief merchant. I traveled extensively throughout the world scouting emerging talent or helping artisans improve their craft to import to the U.S. I have a passion for mentoring, discovery, evolution, and innovation. By nature, I’m a very curious person. But I’m most proud of my heritage. I credit my family and God for being my foundation. My roots and family have kept me grounded. We’re extremely close – a true familia. Every day is a discovery for me and I enthusiastically look forward to what God has in store for me.
When did you first begin to develop an interest in beauty? What about luxury and sustainable beauty specifically?
I landed in Sephora by default, not by design. I was recruited to the role of Head of Color Cosmetics early when Sephora landed in the U.S. I loved the indie brand movement which we shepherded while at Sephora. The passion for products and the overall experience was addictive. My interest in luxury started when I was young and while I was a young buyer for a gem of a specialty retailer called Bullocks Wilshire. It’s there where I came to experience and learn about quality and luxury in fashion. Sustainability came into focus for me while at Sephora before the global environmental crisis, when I became educated in the cost of goods. I realized so much of the cost of any beauty product is in the packaging that is thrown away. Both primary and secondary packaging account for most of the cost of a beauty product. Because I did not originally come from beauty, I thought this was insanity.
You worked in beauty and cosmetics for many years before launching your own brand. What factors went into conceptualizing the initial launch of Valdé?
I knew I did not want to compete in creating another version of someone else’s brand. From a sustainability standpoint, the world does not need any more brands unless they can add meaningful value. However, as the brand was inspired by my mother (as an homage to her because lipstick was her armor) my first thought was “how can I create a cosmetic product worthy of paying homage, worthy of significance?” My perspective in seeing where beauty is right now, it’s so promotional and saturated, I wanted to create something that was sustainable and that would go up in value as opposed to being discounted and devalued. I approached it from an artistic expression to celebrate and honor all women.
How does the Valdé System work? How are your products refillable and reusable?
The Valdé system, a first of its kind, is an artistic vessel, whose shape is inspired by the female torso, allowing for personalization of refillable lipsticks. The goal is for women to mix and match their vessels (which goes over a lipstick case) for the purpose of exercising their own personal expression based on style, taste, occasion, or gifting. In addition to the element of expression, the system is meant to be both practical and versatile as customers can choose their armor, formula, and shade of choice. If the customer wants to go to the gym and not carry the vessel, they can take the refillable lipstick like any normal lipstick. All the lipstick shades and lip balms are refillable. The entire Valdé Armor vessel presentation storybook box is meant to either store your armor or be repurposed. The important aspect is that the experience of owning and or gifting to someone is not only purposeful but also very memorable. Meant to be cherished for a lifetime.
We found in researching customer preferences when shopping for lip products, 1) challenges in finding shades or formulas from their favorite brands and 2) if they found a shade or formula they liked, they may not have liked the case from the brand. Lastly, we learned that the majority of the cost of a lip product is in the case. Yet that is what is thrown away. Wasteful. Valdé’s concept elevates and personalizes the experience to be worthy of the investment and keepsake.
In what ways do Valdé beauty products resemble works of art?
The outer armor vessels were created like sculptures. Approached in the same way that a sculptor takes a piece of clay and begins to give it shape and form based on the inspiration. We have also explored working with artisans for the creation of The Divine Collection NFT, which hand-sculpted each crystal quartz armor vessel, hand-numbered for a limited edition collection. Inspired by nature and the power of crystal stones that have lived for millennia, the creation resulted in a true work of art.
What was it like facing rejection when it came to pitching the idea of sustainable and luxury beauty products?
It certainly was deflating and I almost gave up many times because I could not find the right partners. Perseverance and faith got me through it, but it took years of knocking on many doors to see who might go the distance with me.
How has working in the beauty industry changed for women throughout the last few years?
The most fundamental change that has taken place in the beauty industry is that the consumers have influenced (or demanded) more inclusivity from brands and retailers. I wish I could say it was organic but in fact, it has been driven by the racial tensions we experienced with Black Lives Matter and other BIPOC tensions. So there is greater awareness and light being placed on this opportunity. Especially for women. That said I do not feel enough change or evolution has taken place in the industry for women in leadership roles. Women certainly make up the majority of the workforce and have a seat at the table, we do not have enough women at the head of the table. This is unacceptable for an industry that is made up of customers that are mostly women.
What advice would you have for young women who want to work in the beauty or cosmetics industry?
I would encourage them to learn from the ground up. This includes gaining experience on the selling floor to understand consumer needs. You can also do this as a makeup artist, consultant, or manager. There is nothing like interacting directly with the customer to discern how to solve problems and create opportunities. It’s an exciting industry to be in with many opportunities to influence improvement.
You’ve been very active in the metaverse and NFT space with Valdé. What are your proudest accomplishments in those areas?
To have entered both the NFT and Metaverse spaces with an execution of an NFT project that expresses our brand values, and to have had the first beauty launch party event in the Metaverse is one of our proudest accomplishments next to launching Valdé over a year ago. Entering the space was very challenging as it is very early. Executing an experience that could help usher non-NFT or Metaverse people, and stimulate them to learn and explore has been very rewarding.
Photos courtesy of Valdè Cosmetics