A Newly Relaunched Beauty Brand Is Banking on Success by Embracing Maximalism

Il Makiage is taking the anti-Glossier approach

Il Makiage wants women to embrace their high-maintenance side. Il Makiage
Headshot of Diana Pearl

At a time when more and more brands are embracing a minimalist, millennial pink-covered approach, Il Makiage is betting on the opposite route.

The beauty brand, which relaunched in the U.S. last month, has an ideology that is all about maximalism and embracing your high-maintenance tendencies. And with a robust and modern product arsenal (Il Makiage offers 50 shades of foundation—10 more than Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, which received rave reviews for its variety), Il Makiage is providing consumers with the tools to do so.

First launched in 1972, Il Makiage was founded by makeup artist Ilana Harkavi, who was unhappy with the colors and textures that were then available in the market. Seeking to fill that void, she and her husband brought Il Makiage to life. “It’s a real story about a brand that was ahead of it’s time,” Oran Holtzman, the brand’s current owner and CEO, said.

Five years ago, Holtzman himself purchased the brand and teamed up with his sister the following year to “to rebuild this American treasure.” For Holtzman, a former M&A executive, it was his first foray into the beauty world. But despite this lack of prior experience in the space, he wanted to bring Il Makiage to life again.

“My background had nothing to do with makeup,” he told Adweek. “But we saw huge potential and fell in love with the brand story and the category, so we embarked on the long mission of reinventing Il Makiage.”

Before they brought the firm back to its birthplace, Holtzman decided to test it out in a smaller market: Israel. After just a few years, they were able to build it up into a large operation, with 40 stores and five makeup academies in the country. The success in the Middle East coupled with a $29 million investment from L Catterton, a large consumer-focused private equity firm, made the team feel ready to bring it home (so to speak) to the United States.

To coincide with their relaunch, the brand debuted a New York City-based marketing campaign with billboards in Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as subway and social media ads and influencer partnerships. The investment in marketing is significant for the brand’s first year, with an $8 million budget. Il Makiage also launched with a temporary brick-and-mortar location in NYC’s Soho neighborhood, a space designed by star architect Zaha Hadid. The plan, he said, is to rotate similar stores to other U.S. cities in the coming months. Before Il Makiage explores partnerships with third-party retailers, the focus is primarily on building up their brand recognition and online presence, as well as prioritizing what happens in their own stores.

Il Makiage's Soho pop-up store

“We have no doubt that the future of our category is online,” he said. “But it should be surrounded by brick-and-mortar and a strong shopping experience.”

Their launch campaign, crafted by Huge Agency, focuses on embracing Il Makiage’s maximalist identity. Billboards featuring women in dramatic beauty looks—a striking rep lip, or shimmering green eyeshadow—feature bold, sassy captions like “Who wants to be low maintenance anyway?” or “My reservation is for whenever the f*** I get there.” A subway ad reads “I’m one high-maintenance B” in white type against a black background.

“We’re going against the trend of minimalism, the natural look, and not apologizing for being high maintenance,” Holtzman said. “We simply don’t connect with the makeup-no-makeup trend.”

That approach has been more common in recent years, with brands like Glossier, Drunk Elephant and The Ordinary garnering buzz in the beauty space for their more minimalist approach to makeup and skincare—particularly when it comes to their packaging and branding. However, through internal research, Holtzman said they discovered that many women were using several different products to create that natural look. While they don’t want to encourage women to wear makeup if they aren’t comfortable doing so, they do want to push women who love makeup to embrace that side of themselves.

“So many women are using seven, eight products in the morning just to arrive at a natural look,” he said. “It’s not that they don’t like to wear makeup—it’s just following a trend. And this is the trend we’re trying to go against.”

Holtzman said there’s also an empowerment angle to their high-maintenance ethos: It’s all about women being unabashedly who they are, no matter the trend. Il Makiage is also hoping to alter people’s perception of what it means to be high maintenance. Rather than being picky and hard to please, they translate its definition as more unapologetic about knowing who they are and what they’re looking for.

“People that refer high maintenance as a negative thing and connect it with money, when the opposite is true,” he said. “It’s not about wealth or possession—it’s about endorsing women who know exactly what they want and they’re not afraid to show it.”

And nearly four years after Glossier’s debut (and subsequent minimalist craze), Holtzman believes it’s time for a new trend in the beauty space.

“It’s having a moment for the past few years, so in my point of view, this moment is over,” Holtzman said. “We believe that as a makeup company, if you want to wear makeup, you should also want to show it.”

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.