Cool And Clean From The Start, TMF Rebrands To Be Affordable And Colorful, Too
Sometimes you have to pause to reset.
Eight months ago, Jill Chambers notified the roughly 35 retailers carrying her Australian clean makeup brand TMF that she would stop selling products to them until it reemerged with an updated design and formulations. Retrenching from retail was the hardest decision she’d made since launching TMF in 2015, but she recognized it was a necessary step to tee the business up for a successful future in the United States, where it’s not enough to be just another minimalist clean brand to thrive on store shelves.
“I was trying to do the best by the retailer. I knew we were going to go underground for a while, and I didn’t want them to have customers going, ‘When can I get my concealer?,’ and they’d have to say, ‘Maybe two, three or four months,’” explains Chambers. “I was trying to make it easier for both sides.”
Now, after pouring $100,000 into an overhaul, TMF has returned to the market with colorful boxes that leave its original black and white packaging behind, controversial preservatives like methylisothiazolinone and phenoexyethanol excised from its products, broadened shade ranges and a price reduction of as much as $20 on products to keep prices $28 and under. The brand describes its improved version as “MAC meets Glossier with an edge.” And it’s ready to take on the world, beginning with an arrival at six retailers that previously stocked it, including Little Sister Shop, Ivy Wild, Generics Urban Apothecary and The Green Jungle Beauty Shop.
“We were the very first vegan, Australian-made artist brand. Now, we are one of the few that’s completely clean. I definitely think we’ll have legs in the U.S.,” says Chambers, adding, “I believe we will attract a bigger audience of people that may have in the past used Maybelline or CoverGirl. What I really hope is that people think, ‘Wow, that’s a really cool brand. I want to use that, and how amazing, it’s also clean.’”
“I believe we will attract a bigger audience of people that may have in the past used Maybelline or CoverGirl. What I really hope is that people think, ‘Wow, that’s a really cool brand. I want to use that, and how amazing, it’s also clean.’”
Chambers’ beauty industry career kicked off outside the clean segment at Lancôme, where she matriculated on the retail floor as a makeup artist. From there, she wound her way through big beauty companies such as Jurlique, Mecca, Bobbi Brown and Napoleon Perdis. Inside the companies, she pleaded for the creation of clean cosmetics. An early investigator of beauty ingredients due to severe acne that had stricken her since the age of 12, she sought clean makeup that wouldn’t inflame her breakouts, but her employers saw clean beauty as a futile endeavor. She’d have to create clean cosmetics herself if they were going to be created at all.
In 2013, Chambers took action and set out to produce a powder foundation. “I selfishly wanted a powder that contained really great ingredients that wasn’t going to clog my skin and that I could travel with. I developed Flawless Mineral Pressed Foundation with five shades. That’s where the brand really started,” she says. “Now, we have 56 shades and 11 SKUs with two more in R&D. It’s grown a lot.”
Complexion has been a standout category for TMF. On top of its mineral foundation, Dream Conceal Botanical Foundation + Concealer is a bestseller. It’s available in full coverage, and light-to-medium coverage varieties. With the revamp, the Dream Conceal shade ranges have been doubled to 12 options. Other products in TMF’s assortment include the primer Pure Skin Glow, lipstick Vegan Lips, eyeliner Fresh Eyes Black and brow pencil PureBrow. Avocado, argan, black currant, pumpkin, pomegranate and broccoli seed oils are among the ingredients in the products.
At the outset, TMF plunged into a makeup sector that Chambers says was “obsessed with the Kim Kardashian look with heavy strobing and contouring. I was the anti that.” The brand’s products were directed at women who didn’t like to appear overdone. It was simple and effortless. TMF’s edited selection of products helped it be simple and effortless—and Chambers hasn’t expanded the selection with the brand’s refurbishment to ensure it doesn’t become unwieldy.
“You don’t need to put 30 products in your makeup bag. You can throw five things in, and that’s all you need.”
“I’ve never wanted a brand with 1,000 products,” she says. “It’s an easy collection of products, and it’s all the essentials. You don’t need to put 30 products in your makeup bag. You can throw five things in, and that’s all you need.”
Experienced in retail, Chambers envisions TMF rolling out to major stores, but didn’t seek out large retailers right away. First, she targeted small independent retailers, particularly those focused on skincare with a keen understanding of ingredients. “At one point, we had over 50 indies on board without much effort. 50% to 60% of the time, they were coming to us,” says Chambers. “We were testing with the indies. It was only when a large retailer approached a year ago that I thought, ‘Maybe we are actually ready to go into one of the majors.’”
Today, she’s particularly interested in TMF breaking into a leading clean beauty retailer in the U.S. The brand has secured a warehouse in Missouri to service American stores. In the upcoming year following its rebrand, TMF projects it will generate $1.5 million in sales. Of course, it will face fierce competition in the U.S. from the likes of Kosas, Ilia, Vapour and Lawless Beauty, clean makeup brands that have made inroads into specialty retail. TMF aims to win over stores with ingredient lists that can withstand scrutiny from even the most hawkish ingredient examiners and prices that can widen the reach of clean beauty.
Before TMF retreated from retail and renovated, Chambers changed the meaning of the acronym in its name from “the makeup factory” to “true makeup freedom.” The change suits its positioning in a market affording clean cosmetics brands greater freedom to maneuver than at its debut four years ago—back then, Chambers remembers many retailers viewed TMF as a “foreign concept”—and aspire to be substantial beauty movers and shakers. “I thought very big from the start,” says Chambers. As it enters stores again, TMF is primed to realize her ambitions.