Kylie Jenner Finally Confirmed Those ColourPop Rumors

Update: Kylie Jenner has finally confirmed those ColourPop rumors — and her answer lines up with what Refinery29 exclusively revealed last May. "ColourPop and I are not the same...formula," she said in a video on her app today. "I have an exclusive formula that I created myself...but we have the same manufacturer, along with so many other brands... Just like how those big brands aren’t ColourPop is exactly how my brand is." And she's right. But that's not to say there is any beef between the two makeup giants. "I’m not ColourPop, but I really love ColourPop, I do. But we’re not the same," she stressed. Still lost? Check out the video above for more details. This story was originally posted on May 25, 2016.
Google ColourPop — or even the names of its (supposedly elusive) founders, Laura and John Nelson — and you'll be met with articles, Reddit threads, and countless screenshots of deleted Instagrams, all hoping to string together some sort of backstory to the up-and-coming L.A. cosmetics brand. In fact, since it hit the scene just over two years ago, the rumors have snowballed to near comical proportions. There are the people who suspect ColourPop is simply a fly-by-night brand without real owners, and those who say it's owned by the Illuminati. And, of course, that tiny little rumor about Kylie. Luckily, ColourPop isn't in the business of letting things fester for too long, and we're not in the business of burying the lead, so let's start debunking: No, no, and it's kind of complicated.
“It isn’t mysterious by design,” Laura Nelson tells me in ColourPop's polished, Instagram-worthy conference room last month. “But having the opportunity to come out and talk about the story, and what we’re doing here, takes some of that [mystery] away.”
To elaborate: ColourPop is very nontraditional, but its founders and parent company — Seed Beauty — are very real and have lengthy résumés in the industry, with no signs pointing to Illuminati membership. And yes, ColourPop's founders do make Kylie Cosmetics. But there's a lot more to that story...
Kylie + ColourPop: Confirmed
We definitely weren’t the first ones to suspect a connection between ColourPop and Kylie Cosmetics. Kylie and her now-infamous Lip Kits have all but dominated the news — and ColourPop is rumored to be responsible for the formulation. To wit: It doesn't take a cosmetic chemist to see the similarities between the youngest Jenner's first product and ColourPop's lipsticks. Packaging, that sugary-sweet scent, and color similarities have led editors, bloggers, and Instagrammers alike to believe they're cut from the same cloth pile of pigment. The short answer here is no — but also, sort of. You'll see what we mean in a minute. When we sat down with the Nelsons for this interview, we didn't know until minutes before they walked in whether they were even open to discussing Kylie.
Of course, at this point it probably had been confirmed to them that the members of the media (us) they let into their factory had seen plenty of not-so-subtle clues. During our day touring the factory, we saw Kylie's touch everywhere, from a prototype of the #22 Lip Kit in the lab to a labeling machine running off Lip Kit tubes, to mailing inserts with her signature on the floor waiting to be swept up with the other remnants of a busy day. How it all fits together, however, is a bit more blurred. It All Started With Spatz Labs
Siblings Laura and John pretty much grew up in a makeup factory in Oxnard, CA, a short drive up the 101 freeway from L.A. proper. Amid the wide(r) open spaces of farms and outlet malls is plenty of room for factories, and hidden in a sprawling office park minutes from the freeway is Spatz Labs.

It isn’t mysterious by design...

Laura Nelson
"We came to Spatz as a family business, so we kind of grew up in the industry," Laura tells us. Laura and John's father, Joel Nelson, bought Spatz in 1989; it's a run-of-the-mill manufacturing plant still cranking out products today. Of course, touring Spatz isn't the Willy Wonka fantasy you might have in mind: Instead of edible lipstick bullets made from vanilla-scented chocolate (that's what you envision, too, right?), it's mostly industrial machines melting resin into cosmetic packaging and employees assembling eyeliners for big beauty brands. Side note: The rumor about the founders of ColourPop making products for the big brands on the side? That's true, too. So while you may assume that the Nelsons' bread and butter lies in ColourPop and Kylie Cosmetics, Spatz also turns a profit by selling products to various big brands. Some of those we saw being made during our visit are the kind you'd find at both the makeup counter and the drugstore. But Spatz is not the only lab that does this kind of product double-dipping — private-label production is a common practice in the beauty industry, and many companies and beauty professionals use it to cut down on the costs associated with manufacturing and packaging their own lines.
If you're following closely, you don't have to be a cosmetic chemist to know what happened next: Laura and John came up with a plan to cut out the middleman on a nifty little side project. After all, they have everything one needs to create rad products, including an intimate working knowledge of the industry. "Part of what allowed this opportunity is that we had been in our incumbent company Spatz Laboratories providing products to a lot of the global brands," John tells us. "The industry is very much fragmented, but since we have all of this under one roof it's really a startup based on the heritage of a 60-year-old company."
A Seed Was Planted...
Just over two years ago Seed Beauty was born, an umbrella company to represent a new endeavor separate from Spatz's primary production business. The idea was simple: a one-stop shop for creating new beauty brands, which the market was desperately seeking and (somehow) no one was creating. "It's very different from traditional industry, where you’ll see top-down campaigns," John says. Instead of massive companies that plan and concept their launches a year or more ahead of time, John and Laura have 20-something staffers on social media asking the brand's consumers what they want; then, they roll it out as soon as it's ready, all without leaving the Oxnard office park.
To put it in perspective: During our interview, Laura told us a story about taking a new product from concept to consumer in five days. [Editor's note: Yes, you are correct in assuming this is an insanely fast process. Like, really, insanely fast.]

With each of the different brands, it's going to be a little different how we leverage the resources and the infrastructure.

John Nelson
John adds that this is where the customer benefits. "We don’t have to sit there and plan out our product calendar 12 months [ahead] and tie that into a retailer," he says. "There is no way we could have gone from 31 shades to over 400 in two years if we were working in a traditional retail model." "We produce and make everything under this roof," Laura says, "from the package production to the formula, to the R & D, product development, we have the ability to bring new ideas and concepts to market very quickly." Factor in well-maintained relationships with beauty vloggers and bloggers, regular product giveaways, and rock-bottom pricing (if you haven't already gathered by now, ColourPop is basically just asking us what we want, then wholesaling it to us), and you have a million-dollar idea that has caught on like wildfire. And just like that, ColourPop, Seed's first brand, was a runaway success. Of course, where there's buzz, there are rumors. The mystery of "Who is ColourPop?" that came with the brand's popularity, however, wasn't intentional. "It isn’t about Laura and I, it’s about the end consumer," John explains. "We are by no means trying to be the face of ColourPop — we’re really trying to allow the products, the value, the great innovation, and the speed to speak for [themselves]."
...& Then, Along Came Kylie
At this point in the story it would almost seem impossible that Seed Beauty's second brand would be more successful than the first. But then, Jenner was brought on. The Nelsons call the partnership an incubation program — they provided the means by which Kylie could create her own line and have full creative control. So yes, Kylie and ColourPop are produced by the same company — but the brand swears to us that it is not the same product.
"With each of the brands, it’s going to be a little different how we leverage the resources and the infrastructure," he explains. Keeping the brands separate, the Nelsons stress, is paramount for successful growth. "Everyone is coming up with their own formulas and their own exclusive products," John assures. The ColourPop team is actually in a completely separate building than the Kylie Cosmetics team; both adjoin Spatz.
Again, multiple brands being produced under one umbrella is in no way uncommon in the industry — almost every major beauty company owns multiple brands. Example: Estée Lauder owns Estée Lauder Cosmetics (which, side note, features Kendall Jenner as a spokesperson), but also lays claim to MAC, Bumble and Bumble, and GlamGlow, among others.

We have more brands that we’re in the process of incubating.

John Nelson
"Part of the Seed Beauty business is that we are partners with Kylie Jenner on Kylie Cosmetics, and that is a sister company to ColourPop," Laura explains. Because of the unique demands of Seed's second brand being celeb-driven, John says it requires additional resources. "They operate a little differently from each other, and some of the speed to market things that happen within ColourPop are very unique and special to ColourPop," she adds. Translation: Don't expect Kylie to bring a new product to market in under a week. But then again, it's not like waiting for a new product from King Kylie has any negative effect on sales.
Laura continues: "Kylie and her family have been friends [of ours] for years," she says. "It’s a good fit and a good partnership... We’re happy to support that business and partner with her to really bring her vision to life in an organic and authentic way." As for that incubator program? The Nelsons are being coy. "We have more brands that we’re in the process of incubating through Seed Beauty," John says with a smile, noting that there are no launch dates quite yet. The founders' lips are sealed on just what those brands will be.
But Wait, There's More...
Please tell me you didn't think that was it? Not to worry, because we have two more videos and stories launching in the next few days from our day at ColourPop. Hint: Get ready to learn exactly how the magic happens...

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