Q and A With Melissa Carter (melli cosmetics): Making every day women feel like a celebrity

Melissa Carter of "Melli" cosmetics

Melissa Carter (melli) Australian TV Makeup Artist developed the brand in 2005 initially for the industry branching out into everyday women’s lounge rooms on the TVSN Shopping Channel on Foxtel in 2007, with a  professional high performance range. Animal friendly range with wearable red carpet natural shades & cutting edge formulations, melli cosmetics was born. In 2008 melli opened the first melli Cosmetics Concept Store at Terrigal N.S.W specialising in Custom Cosmetics alongside the Ready to Wear Range.

Seven years later melli Cosmetics opened a pop up kiosk at Erina Fair. melli then opened at Kotara Westfield in the second half of 2016, and Sydney Westfield location and dates to be announced in 2017. In addition melli is offering franchise opportunities as well due to the high demand.

Working within the Sydney Television Industry today as a Makeup Artist keeps melli in the thick of the creative process and is the perfect playground to test and trial new shades and formulations.

Hi Melissa Carter, thanks so much for your time answering my questions. I’m really enjoying trying your products, especially Velvet, the primer, which made my makeup stay longer than any other primer I’ve used to date and I’ve tried many.

Mellik cosmetics - Velvet Primer
Melli cosmetics – Cult product “Velvet” Primer

Q: Do you have a beauty philosophy?

A: I absolutely adore all creatures great and small so animal testing was a bigano no for us. We were approached by an Asian distributor which would have meant an extremely lucrative deal but with China’s stance on animal testing [all brands who sell in China are required by law to have tested on animals] I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night, let alone live with myself.

Q: What was the trigger for you to set up your own brand?

A: We actually started off selling palettes and makeup brushes as a side business and it just evolved. I didn’t start off having a dream. I think if I knew the workload and stress involved I may never have taken those extra steps to grow it into a brand.

Q: Having been the founder of a range myself years ago, I know how competitive the industry is, and how hard it is to grow and compete with the industry giants? What do you do differently?

A: I think sometimes connecting directly to everyday women which most of the big beauty brands can’t do, has definitely has helped the brand grow. Our clients are fiercely loyal which I never take for granted. We also sponsor women’s events in each state, running touch-up bars in fancy hotels, plus pop ups in shopping centres. Our strongest market is the 35 – 55 market. Women love my background of working in TV with celebrities and they know melli is not about a hard sell, but a long game and builting trust and loyalty.

Q: Most beauty brands start with a standout product. What is the most popular “cult” potential melli product?

A: Our Custom Blend Foundation Bars are a point of difference. melli has 26 around Australia and New Zealand, with more coming on each month. melli proudly “formulate with love” and have been custom blending for nearly ten years. The client’s “recipe” is kept on file and the foundation comes in a 40ml bottle, which is super-sized for a foundation. melli’s experiential retail model works so well and we sincerely put love and expertise in every bottle we sell. 

Q: Which countries do your products come from? I ask because many products come from stock standard lines from the USA but I can see that your formulations and packaging is unique.

A: We have an Australian manufacturer from whom about half of our lipstick shades and our cream blush come. A few of the newer shades that are coming are also from Australia manufacturers. Each supplier offers different things and do different products better than others. melli selects cruelty free suppliers, as well as selects the right product from the best supplier. We also have a manufacturer in Italy, where our core product Velvet comes from. There are some exciting new products also coming from Italy.

Q: Your packaging is beautiful, elegant and clean. How did you choose containers and packaging options?

A: I like simple clean lines that feel luxurious. For our lip gloss packaging (as this formula is very popular with makeup artists). I wanted to create a soft tube where product could easily be squeezed onto a palette but then also with a wand for self application. For our lipstick packaging I literally sent a piece of rose gold costume jewellery as a reference to the packaging manufacturer.

Q: As a local brand, do you find challenges maintaining an inventory of such a broad colour range? 

A: With our lipsticks even though we have to date 28 shades there are probably a dozen that are our bestsellers. We usually forecast this and  create extra runs on the most loved shades and products at peak times (leading up to wedding season or Christmas for example).

Melissa Carter at work
Melissa Carter “melli” at work

Q: What are your best selling shades? Why do you think these are so popular?

A: Definitely our neutrals. melli is known for neutrals. In my professional make up work, I am known for a very natural look. The shades Romance, Pout, Cupcake, Mystique, Siren and Grace, all neutral lipstick shades, are fan favourites. Our most loved Gloss shade “Icon” was originally custom made for Lisa Wilkinson (former Today Show host, now Channel 10 presenter on The Project). Lisa was constantly approached by women wanting to know what lip colour she wore, so she suggested I put it into production. Lisa Wilkinson is such generous person and shared the shade and product Icon Gloss and the Melli story, with a link to our website, things got a little crazy.

Q: Melissa Carter, I can see that you are based on the Central Coast, do you have stockists where customers can check out the products in other parts the country or is it just early days for the brand’s distribution?

A: melli started the brand twelve years ago, initially online, followed by a store in Terrigal (on NSW Central Coast) which ran for eight years. We have many stockists around Australia and New Zealand. The wholesale side of the business is a big part for us. Luckily melli have some really dedicated sales reps in other states.

Q: What advice would you give an aspiring makeup artist?

A: First and foremost makeup/makeover everyone’s facewho will let you. This will pick up your professional speed and your confidence. Knock on loads of doors and if they don’t open, go through the window! There’s always another way, never give up. If you want it bad enough you’ll get it. Make sure you create your own style. You want people to look at your makeup and know it’s your beautiful work!

Q: What is the best thing about having your own range? 

A: I love creating shades that I want to wear myself. I made one of the new glosses, currently in production specifically for myself. The new shade is neutral and looks like your lip colour but better.

Melissa Carter "melli"
Melissa Carter “melli”

Q: Tell me about your Makeup Artist Programme.

A: Makeup Artists receive 30% off full priced products when they purchase three or more products. This is a great way to even onsell to their brides without coming on as a full stockist with a buy-in. Applicants just need to email their credentials.

 Q: Do you have any celebrity fans or are all your fans celebrities?

A: From freelancing at Channel 9 Sydney for the last 20 years I have been very blessed to work with some amazing people.

I started on the Midday show with Kerri-Anne in the 90’s. There’s often a roll on affect with celebrities.

Lisa Wilkinson, when wearing her Icon gloss in interviews, has had everyone from Victoria’s Secret Model Alessandra Ambrosio to Nigella Lawson inquire after her lip colour. I often have other makeup artists who also work in the TV and film industry message me saying that they just made up a particular talent who was in love with a product. More recently it has been used on the Days of Our Lives set thanks to the beautiful Missy Reeves.

Q: Do you still offer products on TVSN or did it build the momentum to sell online?

A: When we were first starting out we did a 12 month stint on TVSN Shopping Channel. I appeared on the live one hour show performing makeovers and chatting to callers who rang through to the show. It really helped springboard the brand to women around Australia. Many of these women still buy online or visit our stockists.

Q: Melissa Carter, any last comments about beauty and cosmetics in general?

A: I adore seeing some skin coming through foundation. I would rather even out the skin then create a mask. I prefer the skin to look youthful and fresh. I love a cream blush for this reason. Our Sweet Cheeks Cream Blush makes skin look alive. For a quick eye I always curl lashes first. It’s like a quick eyelift!

I also love some liner in the top waterline of the eye to give definition without looking overly made-up! Chocolate brown looks more youthful, as it is softer, than a harsh black line.

For the lower lashline I love a taupe shadow buffed lightly under the bottom lash line. Then, using your blush brush a little bronzer swept across the socket for a quick eyeshadow!

For a night-time soft smokey eye, I love using Stellar eyeshadow across the lid and under the lower lashline. I recommend that you do your eyes first. When you are happy with your eye makeup, clean up under the eyes with a makeup wipe and apply your foundation. This way you don’t have to worry about the dreaded fall-out that inevitably comes with highly pigmented shadows. I also like to add cream blush on the cheeks using a damp Beauty Pod. Smile and apply to the apples of the cheeks!

“Pinterest and Instagram makeup generally never looks good in life. For lovely real-life make up my mantra is that “less is definitely more” Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter, thank you so much for sharing your story, I can see your brand going from strength to strength and look forward to featuring more products down the track as they just beautiful to use, the colours are gorgeous.

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