It all starts by listening.
Every mother wants to give their best to their daughters — and Jenny Frankel, the 47-year-old co-founder and president of Toronto-based cosmetics brand, Nudestix, is no different.
Nudestix’s brand story is one that’s familiar to beauty aficionados — when Jenny Frankel graduated from university in chemical engineering, she joined and developed some of M.A.C Cosmetics‘ most beloved products before she left to start her own foundation brand, Cover FX, in 2000. She later sold the company in 2011 in preparation for retirement. Little be known to her, her then-teenage daughters, Taylor and Ally Frankel, came up to her, telling her that they couldn’t find any suitable cosmetic products to use.
“Mum, there’s nothing out there for me,” Frankel recalls in an interview with ELLE when she was in Singapore last month. “What do you mean? If there is an industry with too many products, it’s beauty. How could there be no products out there for you?” she retorted.
Frankel didn’t dismiss her daughters. She listened on. “I have five minutes in the morning. I’m not a makeup artist. I’d rather sleep in. I’ve got more important things to do, so there is nothing for me,” they said.
It was bizarre to Frankel but she decided to investigate her daughters’ claims. Frankel went on Instagram, YouTube, beauty stores and boutiques and started to understand what her daughters were getting at.
Back then, the rage was all about high-definition, poreless makeup with airbrushed, matte foundation finishes, precise 12-stepped contouring techniques, and extremely high-pigmented and saturated colours. On YouTube and Instagram, beauty influencers were dishing out over-the-top, artistic makeup tutorials.
When Frankel travelled, she started observing women’s makeup around the globe. “I stood on the sidewalks in Singapore, in Sydney, in London, New York, Los Angeles. I went with the world and stood on the sidewalks,” Frankel recounts. “And I looked at the women — they were rushing, they were walking, they were going to work, they were in an Uber… and I was looking at them in coffee shops even. Who is wearing all these makeup that I’m seeing on YouTube? Nobody.”
It then dawned on Frankel that her daughters made a very valid point. Although they weren’t articulate about it, they showed Frankel that there was a very obvious gap between what the beauty industry was offering and what real women wore on their faces.
In fact, most of these women that Frankel came across didn’t wear any makeup. “I bet you it’s because they also think it’s all or nothing,” says Frankel. It was quite likely that these women, like Frankel’s daughters, Taylor and Ally, couldn’t find anything suitable for them. “The girls were choosing nothing because they thought it has to be all or nothing when it comes to makeup.”
“I started looking at beauty through their eyes,” says Frankel. Her daughters wanted natural-looking, easy, and fuss-free cosmetic products which they could bring on an Uber and finish their makeup in five minutes. “And then I said to myself, ‘It’s a simple idea, but it’s not a small idea’.”
Frankel went back to her daughters and said to them, “Have confidence in what you are saying. You have a voice that people need to hear. It makes sense, what you’re saying. You’re not the only one.”
There and then, Nudestix was born. The girls told Frankel what they wanted: Then 14 years old, Ally Frankel had acne-prone and oily skin. Taylor Frankel, on the other hand, had dry skin. Both wanted luxurious makeup that’s good for their skin. The makeup was to be packaged in convenient sticks so they could bring them out. The formulation was to be easy so they could just draw on their faces and smudge with their fingers. Ally Frankel wanted to reduce plastic waste and opted for a matte black tin with a mirror on the inside instead.
“I brought their ideas to life. That’s what I did,” says Frankel. Nudestix launched in 2014 to great fanfare.
Five years on, Nudestix is now available in 800 locations spanning 30 countries. The girls have grown much taller, are now in university and full-time business at the company but Jenny Frankel remains quite the same old chemist and mother-of-two at heart.
Like she was in her earlier years in M.A.C Cosmetics, Frankel is still busy developing new formulas and products. “I am like the lead chemist because I know. I work with laboratories,” says Frankel. “I took over two years to develop this formula,” she says as she proudly brandishes a Nudies Tinted Blur (S$45), a light yet creamy tint for the face.
When Frankel says she works with laboratories, she means business. All of Nudestix’s complexion-related products and sticks are developed and produced in Korean laboratories. Their latest launch from last month, the Magnetic Nude Glimmer (S$42), was from Italy. Their pencils (S$37) are made in Germany “because they have the best technology for pencils,” says Frankel. “We really go all over the world to the best laboratories and technology.”
They then personally test the products ahead of launch to ensure the formulas are suitable for various skin types — Jenny Frankel herself has mature skin, 22-year-old Taylor Frankel has dry, sensitive skin, while 20-year-old Ally Frankel has acne-prone, oily and eczema-prone skin.
Yet, really at the end of the day, what really matters most to a mother is the well-being of her daughters — they should be using only the safest and best products possible. In Jenny Frankel’s case, she literally created an entire brand for her daughters.
Nudestix is more than products. It’s Jenny Frankel’s gift to her daughters. It’s her way of imparting all of her cumulative work experience in the beauty industry and her life values to her Taylor and Ally Frankel. “It’s my legacy to them,” says Frankel.
“What can we pass on? What’s our gift?” she asks herself. If there are any life lessons that Frankel wants to teach her daughters, she’s already been doing it through Nudestix. “If we could teach them — we could help them learn how to bring ideas to life and use their voice in a positive way… Change other women’s lives by making life easier. If I could teach my girls to do that, that’s my legacy.”
Frankel harks back to the beginning of Nudestix, “Even with the girls when we started this, Ally was 14 and Taylor was 17. They were still finding their confidence. They didn’t have it yet.” All Frankel did was to lend them a helping hand.
To this self-made woman, there’s only one way for the state of womanhood in today’s society — overcome.
It’s in her. To her, it’s the only thing she knows to do — to be a stronger woman, and then help other women along the way. “When I was in university studying engineering, there were about 100 people in my class — and only six were women,” Frankel recalls. “I think even at a very early age, I had this thing. I could just do it. I had no choice but to do it. I kind of felt like I didn’t see obstacles because I always had to overcome them.”