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We Spoke to the Anonymous Insiders Behind Estée Laundry, The Beauty Industry’s Version of Diet Prada

The fashion and beauty industries are rife with controversies right now. Between designer knockoffs, seemingly never-ending Deciem drama, and the misinformation surrounding product ingredients, it’s nearly impossible to sort through what’s fact and what’s rumour, let alone to know where to shop and which brands to support.

First came fashion industry takedowns courtesy of @diet_prada, an Instagram account started in 2014 to expose and shame, well, designers ripping off other designers. (Diet Prada’s bio is simple: “ppl knocking each other off lol.”) But in 2018, the account saw insane growth, rising to its current 811,000 followers and quickly becoming the industry’s most-feared Instagram account. It also happened to pave the way for @EsteeLaundry, the beauty industry’s equivalent, which claims it’s “airing out the beauty industry’s dirty laundry.” And there’s been a lot of it. Thanks to recent firings at Deciem and reports of fake reviews at Sunday Riley, Estée Laundry has exploded. Fast. 24 hours before the publishing of this story, the account had just under 8000 followers. This morning, it sits at a cool 10.7k.

We caught up with the anonymous collective to talk about what exactly is going on in the beauty industry right now, and what dirty laundry still needs to be aired out.

Can you provide a bit of background about @esteelaundry’s beginnings?

It was formed by a small group of friends who are passionate about beauty. We started the page because we saw a lack of honesty and transparency in the industry. We don’t want to disclose how many of us are there in our small group. We all have very similar interests, skills and opinions, so it’s easy for one of us to continue where one of the others left off.

You’ve gone after Caroline Hirons on your page a few times. Can you explain your relationship and issues with her more in depth?

We don’t believe in singling anyone out, and we don’t have anything against her personally. Anyone who has followed her for a while knows that her views on products change depending on her relationship status with brands. This seems contrary to her claim that her whole online career is built on trust.

You’ve been referred to as the Diet Prada of the beauty industry. Did that account inspire you to start Estée Laundry? Have you been in touch with its founders?

Diet Prada has made it easier for us to explain what we do. Their growth is inspiring, but we didn’t start out with the intention of being the beauty version of Diet Prada. We don’t know them personally, but it would be fun to meet them one day.

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@Deciem’s Brandon Truaxe’s latest antics have got us wanting to put the axe on him and his brand! In a bizarre string of posts, he can be seen crouching in the bushes (at London Biggin Hill Airport) asking his followers and “Zouk” (Mark Zuckerberg!) for help because of his lost luggage, only to delete the posts shortly after. He then posts a video of himself smiling in a car saying that he is safe — leaving his Instagram followers wondering what happened to him — and if this was merely a bad publicity stunt. . Oh, but it doesn’t stop there. A day later, he continues this bizarre behavior by posting a video chastising the “idiot” commentors on his Instagram posts and the journalists that keep saying that he has “mental health issues.” The video ends with him demanding that people start respecting him and his company and threatening to sue if they don’t. . Concerned followers asked if he was okay and irate ones said that they would stop supporting the brand. Brandon responded to their comments by mocking them and even reposting some of them on his Instagram stories. In one instance a follower commented saying that they “bet [Estée] Lauder is going to pull their stake now” where he snidely replied, “like pulled Jewish pork.” In another response to a similar comment, he said that, “we are a $300m company with a tall thin fat Jewish investor. Go away and pray.” . Is Brandon a brilliant marketer and PR person? Or is he a manic, attention-whoring anti-semite? Whatever he is, his Trump-like tactics have put a bad taste in many people’s mouths.? #Deciem #TheOrdinary #NIOD #BrandonTruaxe

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Why is remaining anonymous a necessary part of Estée Laundry?

We have always been inspired by anonymous icons like Martin Margiela and Banksy. We think that being an anonymous collective gives us the power to stand up against beauty entities with infinite resources.

Earlier this week, you posted an Instagram Story asking people for their ‘Sketchy 6’ brands. What surprised you the most about those responses?

We were surprised by the amount of responses we received! It was inspired by Drunk Elephant’s ‘Suspicious 6’ ingredients, and we had no idea our followers would get so involved. We seriously have the best followers! We have decided to start creating an Estée Laundry-approved brand list because we received an overwhelming number of DMs asking for recommendations.

At this very moment, what would you say are the beauty industry’s biggest offences in terms of lack of transparency?

A number of brands are getting away with using unethical ways to promote their products. Fake reviews seem to be ubiquitous. Not all brands take it to the same level as Sunday Riley (their detailed instructions and VPN use were next level), but many brands offer customers incentives in return for positive reviews (as we’ve seen recently with Herbivore). This is problematic and needs to stop.

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According to #TheFashionLaw, #Kylie Jenner and her company #KylieCosmetics are being sued … again. This time, the reality television star-turned-budding makeup mogul has been hit with an interesting trademark action, in which fellow beauty brand #ShereeCosmetics claims that Jenner has run afoul of the law by using its trademark-protected “Born To Sparkle” slogan for a single shade in a larger collection of liquid eyeshadow products and for allegedly copying the “inherently distinctive packaging [of Sheree Cosmetics’ products], by imprinting quotations on the [inside of] products’ packaging.” According to the complaint, which was filed on Monday in a New York federal court, Alabama-based Sheree Cosmetics began using the “Born to Sparkle” slogan in connection with its various beauty products late last year, and filed a still-pending application to federally register the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in August 2018. Since then, Kylie Cosmetics has started “using the exact same trademark, BORN TO SPARKLE” on one product in her new line of liquid eyeshadow products, Sheree alleges, thereby “likely confusing consumers to believe they are buying the genuine, original BORN TO SPARKLE cosmetics from [Sheree Cosmetics]” instead of a product from Jenner’s wildly successful eponymous beauty venture. Oh, Kylie—when will you learn how to stay out of trouble???‍♂️

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Can you comment on the overwhelming ‘Fenty Effect,’ with brands moving toward more inclusive foundation shade ranges?

It could be a trend, but as people of colour ourselves, we hope it continues. It feels like an authentic evolution that’s a filtered reflection of our times.

Brands like Glossier, Drunk Elephant and Deciem were built on the premise of transparency and even crowd-sourcing, and yet they were commonly called out as being part of the ‘sketchy 6.’ Why do you think that is?

We think most brands start with good intentions, but it’s a slippery slope when you have to resort to desperate PR moves to compete against established brands. Often, an indie brand stops being independent when it’s sold at (or has to compete against) big retailers like Sephora.

What are some beauty brands you think are doing a great job at being transparent and creating products that work?

Initiatives like the Indie Beauty Expo have given a platform for independent brands that are ethical and well made. You will have to wait for our Estée Laundry-approved brand list for brands that are ethical and efficacious!

What are your opinions of the clean beauty industry and the word “toxic”? Are you on board or do you think it’s fear mongering?

We think marketing that resorts to fear mongering is unnecessary and sensationalist. The word toxin technically means poison, and while many brands do use questionable synthetics to cut costs, to call them poisonous is highly inaccurate! We think the debate around essential oils is just as problematic. Classifying all essential oils under the same umbrella is just like putting all food groups under one category. They all have different properties and constituents, and being concentrated actives, many of them will sensitize the skin if used at full strength (imagine using an acid on your skin at full strength!). It’s all about using actives at safe concentrations to create products that aid skin health.

Where do you think the beauty industry is headed next?

We think there will be a bigger focus on authenticity. Mega-influencer beauty partnerships, flat-lays and millennial pink are all on their way out.

Which brands do you think don’t get enough credit? Which do you think need to fade away?

Independent brands, especially ones that are female, POC and LGBT owned, often get overlooked because they don’t all have big (or any) marketing budgets. Brands that refuse to change and adapt to the evolving market need to fade away.