Changing the face of beauty: meet the brains behind MDMflow, a new lipstick brand designed for black skin

Article written by RACHAEL SIGEE, originally posted Monday 15 February 2016 13:52 in Evening Standard

A new lipstick brand designed especially for black skin is part of a diverse hair and make-up revolution

Florence Adepoju (“Flow” to her friends) is sick of the beauty industry treating women of colour as a special interest.
Giorgio Armani used to make a foundation that she loved - she wore it every day for six months but when she  went back to buy it again, the brand no longer produced it.
“It was limited edition. But when you’re a dark-skinned woman, your skin tone is not limited edition. You have that for life.”
Her frustration at not being able to find colours that suited her was compounded by a feeling that beauty brands were not being effectively marketed to young women.
She remembers a Chanel campaign featuring Marilyn Monroe: “I thought it was cute but it’s not me and it’s not new.”
Now, three years after she launched her own hip hop-inspired beauty brand MDMflow, making lipsticks in her parents’ garden shed in Rainham, Essex, she is stocked in Topshop and Lena Dunham used Instagram to spread the word about MDMflow last year.
Adepoju, 24, is striking in person. She towers over me (although that’s not difficult) and her waist-length braids have more than a touch of Beyoncé leaning out of her car in the Formation video. “I had them first - she copied me. It’s the best thing!”
It’s not surprising that making a good first impression has been key to her success.
While in college she was walking past a Benefit make-up counter and got stopped by the sales assistant. She ended up being offered her first Saturday job after pointing out that she couldn’t afford any of the products.
When she interviewed for the Cosmetic Science degree at the London College of Fashion, she was offered a place on the spot.
Her path to becoming a beauty mogul is unusual when compared to other founder stories which, she says, are usually about “playing with their mum’s make-up as kids”.
Instead, Adepoju came to beauty via science (having realised that her plan to be a doctor might not work out because she hates the sight of blood).
At school she studied A-levels in chemistry, biology and art. She was a science nerd who also dreamt of being a fashion designer.
Her undergraduate dissertation began after working in Space NK and receiving “loads” of requests for blue lipstick but once she produced her first test samples, they all went missing and she realised that if people were stealing them, she could probably sell them.
On graduating she launched MDMflow, a lipstick line of bold, bright, highly pigmented colours designed to suit black women.
She’s careful with her words here: “I would never say that a white woman couldn’t wear my lipstick - of course they can. But when I’m working, I think ‘I am formulating a product so that a black woman can wear it’, so that the colour shows up. With my lipsticks, the darker your skin, the better it looks.”
She thinks the industry is missing a trick by not recognising black women as consumers.
“Black women spend so much money on beauty. But even when there is development with the big brands, it’s never done consistently. There’s never really any budget or promotion or PR about it. I think a lot of people who are doing the development are not the demographic so they don’t know how to tackle it. In some areas it’s a product problem and in some it’s a marketing problem.”

For full article, see here.

Team Credits

Florence Adepoju

  • Message
  • Founder, MDMflow

Project Tags

  • mdmflow
  • eveningstandard
  • coverage
  • cosmetics

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Florence Adepoju
Founder, MDMflow