Besame Cosmetics Brings Some Retro Beauty to West 3rd Street
Love a good entrepreneur story? Love playing with makeup? Love supporting local companies? Then you’ll fall in love with Bésame Cosmetics.
The brainchild of Gabriela Hernandez, Bésame is a California beauty brand inspired by decades past – a time when confidence and intelligence was just as sexy as a red lip. Now open at 8302 West Third Street (at Sweetzer), Bésame is your new go-to for rich, gorgeous, unique shades that tell a story, whether it’s about the era they were from, or the new story you’ll create.
We caught up with Hernandez to talk about how the company started and how makeup can make a world of difference in our day to day lives…
Tell us about Bésame Cosmetics. What inspired you to start the company?
My inspiration came from my design business and also my large collection of antiques. I wanted to make a product that really captured the essence of what was beautiful in the antiques I had from my grandmother’s collection, but also was usable for women today.
It took me about two years to be able to produce our first small lipstick and at first I only intended to do this as a side project since I already had a graphic design studio to take up most of my time. This is something I did because I loved it, so I took my off time and worked on developing the look of Bésame, from the product, to the colors, to the packaging and message of the brand. We started in 2004 and are still manufacturing all our products in California.
What is Bésame all about? What do you specialize in, what do you make, and who do you make it for?
We take inspiration from products made throughout history. I wanted to look at the past because I thought that they had really valuable insight into how products were made and how little it took to make a woman feel beautiful. I wanted to go back to that simplicity, and that’s why it was important to make the products look like they belonged in the period and give women the fantasy of actually being there. I’m not looking for the latest in new technology, but to bring back a sense of beauty in simplicity that seems to be lost today. We make our products for any woman who is interested in well-designed, beautiful cosmetics that make people feel truly special. Our products stir the imagination, since they can transport you to other times.
How does Bésame stand out amongst all the other cosmetic brands out there?
People want to buy from people they trust, and independent sellers usually bring with them their craftsmanship and a sense of really being the maker that gives authenticity to the products they release. I think that you lose that in the mass-market and people are longing for products that ring true. So they’re not buying products like Bésame out of convenience, but because they really value what the company stands for and also that it actually reflects their way of thinking. We are a designer brand of makeup. Everything we make, we design, from the outer packaging, to the case to the contents inside. All our products are unique and carry their own stories.
Your products reference the 1910s to the 1960s. Which era do you like best?
I am partial to the 1930s as my favorite looks to re-create. I just love the fashion of that period. It was before WWII, so fashion was still very important, even though people did not have a lot of money after the great depression. The people who did have the money definitely wanted to show it off, so fashion was really at a highpoint in terms of design and materials used. I like the simplicity of the looks, I like the hats and accessories, and in the make-up category, manufacturing was really getting into its own at that time with the creation of the pancake make-up and wearable looks that people could put on it as a daily use product. At Bésame we stick to periods from the 1910s to about the 1960s. We have some colors that were in use in the 1970s but that’s where we stop as far as our products and our shades. That being said, colors from these early years are really very versatile and can be used for a lot of different vintage and modern looks, since they remain classic after all these years. We make the colors and products that looked great on many women in the past, and they still do today.
What is your background in the industry? What did you do before this?
I worked in different industries before I created Bésame. I worked as a graphic designer and senior product designer for several product companies. I am also a trained photographer and I used to photograph food for Bon Appétit magazine and other newspapers. My background really influenced me and also helps me in creating Bésame because I can use all of my skills to apply to this one venture. It is very convenient to be able to shoot my own campaigns, or design my own boxes or even engineer my cases, even though now I do not always have the time to do it all myself!
How did you learn about makeup?
I learned how to make make-up from the old guard in Hollywood. I chose to work with people who actually worked when Max Factor had a factory in Hollywood, so these are really the people who made the products that pioneered the cosmetic industry in the United States. These women really held the key to how these formulas were made and why they were so effective. I searched them out and in some cases brought them out of retirement because I wanted to find out how they made these products and also use their talents in color development to capture the era effectively. These people are all elderly now, so I wanted to really get this information before it was lost forever. They taught me how to make lipsticks that really last, they gave me the information and the key to really getting these formulas to work with very simple ingredients. It’s a skill that takes a lot of time so we definitely had to spend many hours in the lab figuring things out, because they even forgot how to make some of these things after all these years! But it really gave them pleasure to really look at these formulas again and to try making them again.
Why is it important for your brand to support local?
We are still a family company. My husband works with me every single day. My daughter also collaborates on helping me with colors and also with videos that she puts on our blog. I think we are all involved in creating the products, from the concepts to designing the packaging and the product itself, and also how we sell the product. We now have a good team of people that help us, but we are all still involved as a family. For our products and the amount of involvement in manufacturing that we have, we could not work outside of California. We check every batch of product and do all the development with local partners. It is important to make products here and work with people you can trust and who care about the product they are making. Relationships are very important to us, and we value our local vendors. We really take care to make products that are our family can use, and I think that comes across to other families when they purchase them for their daughters.
Why did you choose to open on West 3rd Street?
Many of our customers were telling us that our Burbank location was too far from the West side of town, so we thought a closer shop would be easier for them. Also, many tourists visit our shop. We have them at our Burbank location, but the West 3rd Street location is also good for our visiting tourists, since it is so close to The Grove, Beverly Center and museums.
What are your favorite shops and restaurants on the street?
Joan’s on Third is my favorite for a quick dinner and Magnolia Bakery is amazing for sweets!
If women are nervous about trying a new makeup look, what is one way they can ease into a trend or look?
Start with a good lipstick. It is the least expensive and easiest way to update or change your look. We are known for our lipsticks, specially our reds. We make more red variations than any other cosmetic brand.
Okay, last thing: what’s your best piece of makeup advice?
Vintage make-up is really more simplistic than most people think. If you look at the cosmetic bag, let’s say of a woman in the 1930s, you would only find 4 to 5 items inside at the most. The majority of women probably had 3 items in their bag, consisting of a lipstick, rouge and a powder compact.
The vintage look is really more about grooming then it is about make-up, so if you want to do looks from the past, concentrate on your hairstyle, your eyebrows and your overall grooming. Paying attention to these details will really get you closer to the vintage look. It wasn’t really all about the make-up, but rather everything around it that mattered. The make-up was really simple: a pencil for your brows, some kind of mascara on your lashes, touches of blush and a nice color lipstick.
I would advise you to really look at your best features and your natural hair texture before you pick a look. Work with what you already have in order to make the upkeep of the style easier. If you have straight hair, maybe go for a Louise Brooks type of look, if your hair is wavy or curly, go with a 1930s style with softer curls. Looking at where you are naturally can help you get a more modern look that is easy to maintain and that you can also style in the vintage way. Adding a good skincare routine is also part of integrating a vintage theme into your overall beauty routine. Women in the past were very concerned with cleansing and maintaining their skin’s suppleness, so choosing a good cleanser, toner, and moisturizer is key to keeping your skin in good shape.
*Want to check out the products and store for yourself? Visit Besame Cosmetics at 8302 West Third Street today!