By now, you probably know Estée Laundry, the Instagram account giving power to the people through its blatant and non-favoritist posts calling out instances of inequality, cultural appropriation, and unsustainable practices in the beauty industry.
The one-year-old account—run by an anonymous collective of ’beauty insiders’—is laser-focused on encouraging industry-wide transparency, sustainability, and inclusivity, values that have been underused, overvalued and diluted to the point of buzzwords and marketing terms, rather than authentic, thoughtfully strategic tenets of building a brand.
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A year ago, a small, passionate collective decided to create Estée Laundry to focus on promoting equality, transparency, honesty and sustainability in the beauty industry. It was a small idea, but we were 100% sure we wanted to be: 1️⃣ independent (absolutely no ads or sponsored content), and 2️⃣ fight the good fight. . One year on, we’ve grown beyond our wildest dreams, created a lot of frenemies, and become the go-to page for beauty industry commentary. All this wouldn’t have possible without you, our strong, vocal and passionate community of #Laundrites! Thank you! . To help us grow bigger while still remaining ad/sponcon-free and neutral, we have created a #Patreon page, where you can become a patron (we love how grand and old school this sounds) and support us. Every bit helps, and no contribution is too small. Head to the link in bio to become an Estée Laundry patron and show your support. xoxo EL
The issue with advocating on behalf of ‘everyone’ is that it can be really difficult to remain objective. Still, Estée Laundry has narrowly escaped becoming yet another acerbic industry watchdog, setting its intentions toward open dialogue and galvanizing change. Much of this is owed in fact to its sole habitation on social media; they’re easy to find, easy to follow, and—let’s face it—people love a good scandal. Instagram platforms are a haven for free speech, providing the tools for of-the-minute news breaks and instantaneous, often viral dialogue to follow. By nature, Estee Laundry is indeed a collective—and a collection of voices—for change.
Those wary of call-out culture, don’t be. Despite our best efforts to package the state of the industry as modern, progressive, or even democratic, these accounts remind us all that we still have a ways to go. The task of beauty brands is to sell a surface-level product. What we hope, is that their mission and integrity is more than skin deep.
Below, we chat with the collective on the current state of the beauty industry.
Estée Laundry just turned one! How has the collective grown over this past year?
“We’ve grown in strides! Our Laundrite army is over 68,000 strong and we like to think we’re creating a positive culture of change in the beauty industry.”
You’ve said that being completely objective was one of your goals early on. Do you still hold that to be true? What are some of the challenges of not taking sides?
“Yes, we try to be objective and neutral as much as possible, but when it’s a topic we’re passionate about, like inclusivity and sustainability, we’re not shy about it. Our goal is to educate people and let them form their own opinions. The biggest challenge of not taking sides is accountability. We like to be the voice of the people but sometimes brands need a bigger push to hold them accountable in order to do better.”
What areas of the beauty industry need the most attention? Why?
“Definitely sustainability, transparency, diversity, and inclusivity. It’s 2019—with the threat of plastic, trash, and non-biodegradable materials polluting our environment, why are brands not thinking about more eco-friendly and sustainable options? With that, transparency is just as important. Customers want to know that brands are practicing ethical and honest business practices. They want to know what ingredients are in the products, where they are sourced from, who is making/manufacturing the product, etc. At this day and age, diversity and inclusivity should be at the forefront and not an afterthought. Foundations with just 10 or even 20 shades won’t cut it anymore. People of all shades, ages, ethnicities, body types, etc. have the right to be represented.”
A lot of commenters claim certain callouts to be a reach or stretching it. What’s your barometer for citing scandal? How is something deemed ‘post-worthy?’
“We get that commenters won’t always agree with us, but that’s okay! It’s refreshing to hear different opinions and perspectives. Constructive dialogue is always encouraged because it benefits everyone. We won’t post anything that does not have any merit. Many of the things we post are submitted by our followers. If we get multiple DMs about a certain topic, and if we think it will benefit or interest our followers, we will post it—but not before everyone in our group agrees first.”
What positive changes are you looking to encourage in the beauty industry?
“The positive changes we are looking to encourage are the areas that we mentioned above: sustainability, transparency/honesty, and inclusivity. We want the beauty industry, as a whole, to do better and be accountable for their actions.”
Have you seen any of these changes in action?
“We have. We recently posted about Fenty Beauty’s new makeup product that was called ‘Geisha Chic.’ Following our criticism of the name, they immediately pulled the product online and from all their retailers. Another recent example is Glossier’s use of the pink bubble pouches. Currently, there is no option to opt-out of receiving one. They just announced a couple of days ago that they are going to implement an opt-out option for their pink pouches and stickers starting sometime this summer.”
Who, if anyone, is doing well?
“Many indie/clean beauty brands are doing well. Beauty Heroes is a great example.”
The collective credits itself as “bringing equality to the beauty industry.” What does equality look like to EL?
“Equality to us means everyone feels included and represented, and brands are playing their part in making this happen.”
There’s no real guideline to launching a beauty brand in 2019, and I can imagine being on the other side of it can feel quite daunting at times. What tenets should any (and in an ideal world, every brand) have to be “successful”?
“We think if brands want to be successful, they need to focus on transparency, sustainability, and inclusivity. It’s about putting the customer first—being authentic and honest with them, as well as caring for the environment.”
Call-out culture can sometimes teeter on pandering, especially on social media. How do you check yourself on making sure that posts have both integrity and service?
“The posts need to have merit and serve a purpose. We try not to post anything without having proof or receipts. We do seek legal counsel when necessary, but since we are not-for-profit, we do not have the financial means to hire a full-time fact-checker or attorney.”
How would you describe the status of the current beauty industry?
“The current status of the beauty industry is that it is evolving. With social media playing a huge role in the beauty industry, consumers are becoming more informed and smarter. They are not afraid to voice their concerns and demand for immediate action. Brands are now realizing that they cannot hide—they need to face criticism head-on and quickly make things better. On the flip side, brands are also becoming more aware. We’ve noticed many brands and founders follow our page! We see that as a good sign because it shows that they have a general interest in what we or our followers have to say. Our hope is that our account inspires them to do better and be better.”
“The future is where transparency, sustainability, and inclusivity are the norm, and not the exception. This means no more shady business practices, a requirement for eco-friendly materials, and that everyone feels welcomed and represented.”
It’s proven that there is strength in numbers—and this account definitely serves its purpose of giving a voice to many individuals—but how do you put in effort towards change in your individual lives?
“Everything we’ve learned while managing this account has relevance in our everyday lives. Estée Laundry has taught us to be open-minded, patient, and respectful other people’s opinions. It’s about wanting to be the best versions of ourselves that we can possibly be.”