Beauty Idol: Lorraine James from @Bar Beauty Boutique


Lorraine James is a beauty consultant who has worked for a top agency that serves the Estee Lauder group. She is the co-founder of @Bar Beauty Boutique, a store where Women of Colour (WoC) can pick up products for their hair, skin and body. @Bar Beauty Boutique has also provided a platform for independent beauty brands by giving them an avenue of distribution and awareness. She took time out to to tell me all about @Bar Beauty Boutique. What made you decide to set up your own beauty business I decided to set up my own beauty business as I was tired of seeing the WoC being short changed by the mainstream cosmetic industry. Women of colour are big spenders when it comes to hair and beauty, however the major cosmetics companies continue to ignore the growing marketing opportunities presented by women of African, Asian and Caribbean origin or of mixed race, who are often left wanting when it comes to variety and choice. In fact where these women are left wanting, to combat the problem, they have taken to formulating their own products specifically designed for their colour hair and skin type.

What is the concept behind @Bar Beauty Boutique? The concept is simply to retail natural hair and beauty products formulated for the WoC and made on the whole by them. The aim of @Bar Beauty Boutique is to provide these women a one stop shop for all their brownbeauty, hair and cosmetics needs and to support and promote entrepreneurs entering this industry. We will do this by giving them the opportunity by way of a platform to showcase their products and services in a retail environment at an affordable price.

What sort of research did you do to find out what sort of products your customers wanted to buy? I just talked to different woman in different age groups whilst at the hairdressers or nail bar and also family and friends and the main gripe was that they couldn't find foundations on the high street as easily as their white counterparts and all the hair products were found in shops owned by Asians who were there just to sell. I wanted to actually connect with these women and I've found that although people are after good quality products, they also "buy" into people where they feel they have made a connection.

How did you decide on the look and feel of the brand? I wanted something that was chic but practical but not too clinical looking. So the store has a shabby chic look to it which I find women love. It has a warm and welcoming feel and you can talk, touch feel and try before you buy - and it smells amazing.

What are your future plans for @Bar Beauty Boutique? The long term goal is to have a Sephora style hair and beauty store that is classy and boutique like in nature so although all the products are natural and/or handmade you don't feel like you are walking into Baldwins. A beauty department store in the making is how one customer has described @Bar Beauty Boutique. We also want to add beauty services aimed at the WoC such as laser treatments which are good for use on our skin type as well as facials, threading, waxing etc.

We will eventually have a chill out lounge serving healthy snacks, smoothies and non alcoholic cocktails where women can sit and chat in a pleasant environment and a blow dry bar where you can have your hair washed and blow dried and styled in 30-40 minutes. Hence the name @Bar. So there will be @Bar Beauty Boutique @Bar Blo, and @Bar for the chill out lounge. So as we grow, we will add another arm so beauty retail, then beauty services, then hair and chill out. I think it is just what WoC need and there isn't anywhere like this in the UK at present. I envision a high end service but at affordable high street prices.

What are your favourite beauty products? BlackUP F11 (now N16) Liquid Foundation which is my high end foundation (I used to go to Paris just to get this and it was a great excuse to jump on the Eurostar) I am also using Cake Cosmetics UK N10 Creme Foundation as an everyday foundation and the coverage is very good for the price. For my skincare, I use Cristal Cosmetics skincare range which has cleared and lifted my skin no end. On my body I love Isa Marie Skincare Champagne Body Souffle which has shea butter and coconut oil and gives my skin the most wonderful glow and the smell is to die for. On my hair I use products by Almocado particularly their Cool and Clear Scalp Oil, as my scalp is very dry and is easily aggravated but I find the oil calms it down. Isa Marie Bath Salts at bath time and the Rose Petals give a sense of decadence. Last but not least Pooka Pure and Simple Coconut and Lemongrass Sugar Scrub to rid myself of rough dry skin.

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to set up their own beauty business? Speak to people, find out what they feel is missing from the market and aim to fill that gap. What can you offer that is different? What is your USP? Apart from the lack of available foundation on the high street, I found through experience and research that good customer service was lacking in establishments geared at the WoC and that they wanted someone who looked like them to advise them and talk to them. They don't like to be sold to. Get like-minded people behind you from the word go and make sure everybody is on the same page. Money is always going to be an issue but if you don't start with your idea and with passion then it's just an idea and somebody else will do it. Dare to dream.

You can follow Lorraine on Twitter.