Two decades ago, Urban Decay Cosmetics was born. Today, it's one of the most influential beauty brands on the market (and on Instagram, and in our makeup bags...), so it only seemed appropriate to celebrate its 20th birthday with a tribute to its rich history. We scoured social media, chatted with cofounder Wende Zomnir, and dug through photo archives to get the inside scoop on how the brand came to be.
Urban Decay came to life in 1996, when Zomnir, who was working in marketing, met Sandy Lerner, a fellow makeup-lover and tech entrepreneur. Both women were tired of the cookie-cutter pink and red lipsticks flooding the market, and they decided to do something about it. In Zomnir's Newport Beach, CA, bungalow, the duo mixed and matched polish formulas (with no experience in cosmetic chemistry and formulations) and tapped neighbors to help them glue fake nails on their displays. Humble beginnings for a brand that now has an Instagram following of 7 million and domination of aisles at Sephora, Macy's, Ulta Beauty, and Nordstrom.
UD's wildly colored polishes, lipsticks, and shadows were hits, but it was the Naked palette that changed the game. One of the most purchased palettes in cosmetics history — one was sold every six seconds in 2015 — it scored Duchess Kate's seal of approval and was dubbed "the iPhone of makeup" by Forbes.
Ahead, we highlight the major milestones in the life of the brand and share some behind-the-scenes secrets.