War Paint founder: We want to mainstream men's make-up ‘everywhere in retail’

By Kacey Culliney contact

- Last updated on GMT

War Paint for men is available across select UK department stores, including a pop-up counter in John Lewis London (Image: War Paint)
War Paint for men is available across select UK department stores, including a pop-up counter in John Lewis London (Image: War Paint)

Related tags: make-up, men's grooming, men's make-up, Indie beauty, male beauty

UK Indie brand War Paint is on a mission to overhaul stigma attached to make-up for men and mainstream its products, by-passing gender-neutral concepts and pushing a ‘by men, for men’ message.

Founded in September 2017 and launched 18 months later, War Paint carries 21 SKUs of make-up products for men, including foundation, tinted moisturiser, bronzer and concealer, and will soon launch a primer and make-up remover. The brand also has bespoke application brushes. Available online and in select department stores across the UK, including Harvey Nichols, War Paint most recently launched a pop-up counter in John Lewis London.

“It’s been overwhelming the response we’ve had,” ​said Daniel Gray, founder of War Paint. “John Lewis can’t believe the sales – we’ve absolutely smashed it. …It just proves the market is ready and there,”​ Gray told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

War Paint, which carried the marketing slogan ‘say boll*cks to stigma’, launched its John Lewis pop-up counter at the beginning of January – a move that formed part of its wider expansion strategy to bring the brand into retail. Consumers can get a two-minute make-up demo in store on how to use War Paint products and brushes and get tips on suitable tints and shades.

Make-up for men – War Paint provides a choice that wasn’t there before

Gray – who turned down a Dragon’s Den deal six months ago and self-funded next-stage growth – said War Paint wasn’t “everybody’s cup of tea”​ but the company remained rooted in its goal to “give men a choice”.

“…It’s been a very emotional 14 months for the brand because we went viral in May; we got a lot of attention then which wasn’t all positive. We got backlash about toxic masculinity but interestingly most of that was from women and off the back of it, we brought up this conversation about men and make-up,” ​he said.

Choice for men wanting to wear make-up remained “very limited”, ​he said, and whilst there were more and more gender-neutral brands available, along with the option of buying products traditionally targeted towards women, this didn’t appeal to everyone. 

NightOut Set Brick (1)

War Paint wanted to push its male-targeted line into mainstream retail across the UK to reach an under-served consumer group, as well as target men who had never previously tried make-up, Gray said. “I definitely want this brand to be mainstream, I don’t want it to be aspirational. I want it to be available to a man who walks two miles down the street.”

Whilst mainstreaming War Paint would be the brand’s biggest challenge, he said it would be key to making make-up for men the norm.

Best in the men’s section – we’ve proven that works

Asked if War Paint would eventually be stocked alongside Maybelline and L’Oréal in beauty retail, Gray said: “I think it should be in the men’s section. The audience we’re getting has proven that. If you put it in the men’s section; you make it feel how a man wants it to look and feel, you’ll get a far better success. Or, I’m up for a designated area within the beauty section.”

Concealer & Foundation-min

“…In John Lewis, I was there and doing a lot of interviews and a customer came in who had rosacea and he uses make-up and would have never walked up to a counter normally. But he said because it’s in the men’s section; it’s designed and looks like it’s for a man, he did. Once we do that everywhere in retail, no-one will be writing about it anymore because it will just be the norm,” ​he said.

Gray said War Paint had drawn interest from a vast and varied group of male consumers but interestingly the biggest audience, so far, had been men aged 50+.

“The grooming industry, as we know, has exploded over the last ten years, skin care especially in the older generation, because they want to hold onto their skin, youth and looks. A lot of older men have a bigger regime than younger men. If someone has got a skin care routine and they’re trying to make their skin better, with less wrinkles, why not use a product that can help you do that?”

Skin care launch in the pipeline? ‘I don’t want to bastardise my brand’

Asked if War Paint would develop product lines beyond make-up, skin care for example, he said: “I’ve been asked that a lot by customers and others but what I don’t want to do is bastardise my brand by saying skin care can be a quick win for me. It would be easy to get into skin care but that’s not what I’m about (…) I’d never say no, we might do it in the future but at the minute, let’s get make-up out there first.”

Should War Paint ever expand beyond make-up, he said it would have to work within a competitive and crowded category, but the plus would be that men tended to be very brand loyal.

Related topics: Brand Innovation, Colour Cosmetics

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