In the July/August issue of IMAGE, Zanna Roberts-Rassi, E! News Style Correspondent and co-founder of cult beauty brand Milk Makeup talks to Holly O'Neill about no-mirror-make-up, the perils of FaceTune and putting weed in mascara.
What was your first beauty memory?
I grew up in Manchester with two older sisters and I used to steal my sister Paula’s Twilight Teaser, a holographic purple Rimmel lipstick. I remember trying it on when I was eight and gasping. My face was just transformed.
What product has been in your life the longest?
The fragrance Stella by Stella McCartney, €38 for 50ml. I first came across it as a beauty editor 16 years ago and I still use it today. It’s my signature scent.
Related: Zanna Roberts Rassi on the challenge of creating Milk Makeup's best-selling product, Kush mascara
Why did you decide to set up Milk Makeup?
I met my husband, founder of Milk Studios, at Milk Studios when I was doing a shoot there for Marie Claire when I was a beauty editor. He and I, from the day we met, had talked about make-up and how Milk should have a line one day. Though Milk is a professional photo studio, it's a place where the coolest people hang out. They’re trendsetters; the best photographers, the best models, the best of the next generation too. We were living in this walking Pinterest page of how people want beauty today, in a relevant way. You’d have somebody wearing blue lipstick or the most beautiful editor with just a little flush on her cheek. We knew that was what Milk Makeup was about. It wasn't a professional line, it was about street style beauty. It was about how they did it, how they live their look, which is why our slogan became ‘live your look.’
What was your vision for the products?
On-the-go, low maintenance. The idea was ‘cool girls get ready quick.’ It was always paired down, in the formulations, in appearance and in the components; roller ballers and sticks, so you don’t need to have brushes or extra paraphernalia. Life is busy enough as it is. We were four parents who all had kids under three so we realized how efficient we had to be and how time poor we all are. We wanted simplicity but without sacrificing.
What product was the biggest challenge to create?
Kush mascara, €23, took us forever. We knew from the get-go we wanted to infuse hemp-derived cannabis in some of our products. Dianna Ruth, another co-founder, is the zeitgeist in ingredients stories, from matcha to the marshmallow in our Flex Concealer, €27, she's always thinking outside the box. The hemp derived cannabis really conditions your lashes and it’s tug-free, so you can take it off without pulling other lashes out. It also builds lashes so you get that really high impact effect. We are a vegan brand so we didn't want to put beeswax in the mascara, so this was the perfect opportunity to use it, but to get that into a mascara is not an easy task. There were so many iterations. We wanted a weighty package so you can find it in the bottom of your bag so it was made in Italy where they manufacture a very fast luxury Italian car. My husband studied architecture and watching him labour over the packaging of Kush was like he was having gestation for a child. It took nine months. Every letter on this was so precise. Virgil is a friend of his, and he was inspired by Off White. There was a new issue every day, every day a new problem to solve. We solved them all. It was Sephora’s number two bestseller when it launched and it's still our number one bestseller today.
How did you want the Milk Makeup campaigns to look?
We try not to retouch. The person at home now has the tools to retouch and FaceTune the bejeezus out of themselves but now the industry has flipped on that. We cast every size and colour. Like the Luka Sabbat shots, that’s the kind of kid who hangs out at Milk Studios. My husband met him when he was like a sidekick to Kanye West. We knew he was perfect for Milk Makeup as a straight dude who wears make-up. It’s all about inclusivity for us.
Luka Sabbat for Milk Makeup
Is there anything you've ever wanted to try?
I was a beauty editor for years so I’ve tried so much stuff. I was one of the first people to go to a Botox Party back in the day. Everyone would drink wine. I was 24, just a kid, running away from people with white wine and syringes.
How do you think social media has changed beauty?
For the better. Coming from a beauty editor background, we were the only people really dispensing beauty information in print. Learning how to do beauty can change the way you look, which I believe changes the way you act and you feel. It can really transform your day. That now there is this proliferation of people out there, showing others how to wear make-up and everyone can find someone they can relate to is just brilliant.
Is there any beauty trend you'd like to see less of?
The overly baking-contour face. We're definitely returning to natural skin and it’s more about individuality.
Any skincare secrets?
For every day I am a huge fan of Sunday Riley Good Genes, €97.
What's the worst beauty mistake you have ever made?
Having eyelash extensions 12 years ago when they were first in London. They transformed my face. My boyfriend at the time said to me, “Oh my god, I'm falling back in love with you again.” I've done them literally on and off since and I can't stop.
Milk Makeup is available at cultbeauty.co.uk.
Photography by Milk Makeup.
This article originally appeared in the July/August issue of IMAGE Magazine, out now.
Read more: Zanna Roberts Rassi on the challenge of creating Milk Makeup's best-selling product, Kush mascara
Read more: Zanna Roberts Rassi's guide to summer beauty with Milk Makeup
Read more: Check out Chiara Ferragni's first make-up collaboration