A favourite with Princess Gollum and rising star Wolftyla, we spoke to GBY’s founders about how they built their beauty empire
GBY – aka Go Blush Yourself – is the cult LA-based salon serving all our beauty needs. And then some. Permanent freckles? Sure. 24-carat gold tooth gems? Why not? Tattooed beauty marks? They’ve got you covered. Founded in 2013 by Courtney Casgraux and Kendra Studdert who, after being introduced by a mutual friend realised they shared “the same goals and visions and knew we had to work with each other,” their aim was to create an entirely inclusive space where beauty could be celebrated in all its different forms and where all genders, colours and creeds feel cared for.
Offering a wide range of different beauty treatments, as well as a selected array of products, word quickly spread about GBY and within three months of being in business, they had opened three LA locations. The salon now boasts an impressive list of loyal customers - from Kylie Jenner and Princess Gollum, to rising stars Wolftyla and Quin and every other Insta personality you can think of. We spoke to the founders about how they built their beauty empire.
How would you describe your beauty identity?
Courtney: I've always been a rather expressive person and though I think my personal beauty identity is rather tame, I identify with and draw inspiration from all sexes that are operating outside the social norms of the beauty industry. Being emerged in fashion and the arts has most definitely helped define my taste. I think the more I’ve learned to love my flaws and not try to hide them has made me feel very beautiful. I’m less about cancelling these days and more about celebrating.
Kendra: Having a background in product development, I’m all about ingredients and packaging. I really look for products that are not only good for me but also innovative. I am really trying to embrace my natural beauty more than ever but I’m also down to try (most) beauty trends.
What is your first beauty related memory?
Courtney: In Bible class in seventh grade I saw the most beautiful creature on the planet. A boy. I went home and made my Dad take to the mall to buy lipstick and we came across the MAC counter and my mind was blown from then on.
Kendra: My first beauty related memory was when I first came across Hard Candy, a nail polish line from the 90’s, which really started my obsession with cosmetics. From the packaging to the campaigns, I was hooked. Oddly enough, I actually got into beauty professionally when I met one of the founders of Hard Candy and asked him to be my mentor. I quit my 9-5 job and went to his office every day to get as much experience and insight into the beauty industry.
How did GBY begin?
Kendra: We started GBY with very limited funds and a following of women who loved our vision. Those women became loyal clients and the word spread … very fast. Within three months of officially being in business, we had opened three Los Angeles locations. The inspiration really came from us wanting to create an environment and brand that celebrated women.
What vision of beauty are you trying to promote with GBY?
Courtney: For me, it’s inclusion and giving back through beauty. My goal is to create a space in the world where women and men know we really care about them. We care about their beauty wants and needs and make that happen for them. We make their lives easier with the services that are offered and products that we are creating.
We promote inclusion in a way that is real and not the trend version. If you are speaking about diversity and celebrating women and gender fluid beauty then I better see that translate in all aspects of your work, brand and company. I also want to see an extension of your brand taking time to really submerge in youth culture in an organic and loyal way. And not just hire someone because they’re popping at this moment because these kids know which brands actually care about them. Get to know them, who they are, where they live, all of it.
I’m personally vested in the lives of my brand ambassadors. They have become my extended family. When you care about the communities you serve, the communities know that, Millennials know that, consumers know that.
What are you most proud of so far in the GBY journey?
Kendra: The fact that we turned nothing into something. Neither of us has a background in business. This was 100% bootstrapped by us. We had a vision, believed in each other and trusted our instincts.
Courtney: One that happened recently was a kid walked in who had just been driving down the street and saw our store. He wasn’t from LA, he lived in San Francisco and was just in Tokyo working on a Vogue shoot with a stylist from New York who had a tooth gem from a recent pop up we did in Midtown. They started talking about tooth gems and GBY and how unfortunately San Francisco doesn’t have the options, but maybe one day. His flight got delayed going back to SF so he stayed and randomly drove by GBY and pulled his car over. That whole story blew my mind. These kids connected through beauty and we were the common denominator, that’s a very beautiful thing.
Tell us a bit about those tooth gems. What do you think the rise of teeth accessories says about beauty today?
Courtney: Our tooth gems range from 24k gold charms, Swarovski crystals, to actual real diamonds. Teeth accessories have been around for many many years and I think we are experiencing a time right now in fashion and beauty where people just want something more. The tooth gems have become a way for people to further express themselves – an extension of their personal style.
What about the freckle tattoos? Freckles were seen as imperfections for a long time, what was the impetus behind them?
Courtney: We live in a very exciting time right now where social media plays a big part in what begins to trend socially, and people are exposed to different forms of beauty culture from all over the world. When you continuously see beautiful women embracing themselves that can catch fire. Freckles are just that. They are beautiful and natural and more often than not we are seeing girls with them who love themselves. So now we are seeing more and more girls wanting them.
We’ve also seen a rise in cosmetic tattooing, why do you think that is?
Kendra: I think it comes from consumers wanting their routine to be as easy and carefree as possible. We’ve noticed with our clientele that the less amount of time they need to spend getting ready in the morning the better. Cosmetic tattooing offers long-lasting results, which ultimately cut down the “getting ready” time.
What are the biggest beauty trends you’ve noticed in the past 5 years?
Courtney: I have two categories for this. Mindful and convenient beauty: lash extensions, microblading, cosmetic tattooing and fillers are all services that make life just more convenient. And then there’s the dope-ass beauty: glitter brows, face stamps and decals, cool crazy eye designs, tooth gems and gender fluid beauty and it’s just going to get even better and more creative.
Kendra: Lash extensions and permanent cosmetics, YouTube beauty tutorials, Instagram influencers, clean beauty products, super gimmicky ingredients and a ton of pink packaging! I honestly would be ok with never seeing a light pink packaged product ever again.
What is next for GBY?
Courtney: We are currently working on a product line that actually is a new category in beauty so that's very exciting for us. We are also looking to open in New York and Portland.
How has technology and social media changed our perception of beauty?
Courtney: You can really be anything or anyone you would like to be through your social media presence. You also have unlimited access to visuals, archives and inspiration in the palm of your hand. I think social media has been used as a tool for growing beauty trends and has helped embraced a lot of different categories in the beauty space. I think it’s great.
What do you see as the biggest problems still facing the industry?
Courtney: I think a lot of companies in this space need to have more women spearheading the industry. The lack of representation of diversity in the past is a testament to that. In most cases there is a very archaic way to business and most companies out here need a refresh. This is why you see brands like Fenty doing so well – you have a young fresh perspective on beauty. It’s all over for the companies sleeping. I love it. It’s time things change.
Kendra: I think that a lot of brands have some work to do regarding inclusiveness, and also creating sustainable products. Fenty Beauty changed the beauty game 100%. When they dropped their shade range it really had everyone like, ‘finally.’ Bigger brands and even smaller brands had to take note and really do some deep diving into why they weren’t the same. Some brands have stepped up and have really made some positive changes and then there are others that are still missing the mark.
What are its biggest triumphs so far?
Courtney: Now more so than ever, a little girl can go into a store or just be online and see themselves represented. We are also seeing people with disabilities get highlighted and put in campaigns so I think we are heading in the right direction.
Kendra: Sometimes I will think, “What’s real anymore”? But at the same time it’s a platform for people to be themselves unapologetically and that’s beautiful.
SS19 GBY BEAUTY CAMPAIGN
Director: Bethany Vargas
DP: Mitchell Overton
Beauty Director: Petal LA
Sound Designer: Jonfredric Anderson
Models: Ella Mai, Mollie, Marco, Miguel Reyna, Gabby Schwan, Julie, Rita