As a brand, one of our core values is transparency, and it’s important to us that we share what goes on behind the scenes — including, in this case, the story of how Lithe Lashes came to be.
So we sat down to talk to our founder and creative director, Linda Secondi to get the inside scoop. From her relationship with the beauty industry, to the inspiration behind the core collection of lashes and design process itself, to the perceptions that we’re aiming to change.
Looking back, how has your relationship to beauty evolved over the years?
From my teenage years and throughout my 20s, my knowledge of makeup and beauty was limited. Because I grew up in an era when the concept of social media was alien, my inspiration came from beauty and fashion magazines, which always featured chiselled, symmetrical and airbrushed people. I think in a way, it sort of brainwashed me into pursuing an unrealistic beauty regimen, of thinking I needed to be flawless in order to be beautiful.
Since the rise of Instagram, people have stepped into the light to embrace their unique qualities and talents, and around this time my focus on beauty naturally began shifting, and I started paying more attention and embracing my own unique qualities and attributes.
The way I see myself today makes the greatest difference in the way that I relate to beauty, and these days, being in my early 30’s, life is much busier than it used to be and I simply don’t have the time to do a 10 step experimental regimen every morning. Instead, I seek out simple products and regimens that integrate seamlessly into my everyday routine, meaning they should be natural enough so I’m presentable for work, to see a client, or to pursue other daytime activities, but without taking too much time out of my schedule and still proving themselves worthy of my time and investment.
Can you remember the first time you discovered you had a passion for beauty?
I guess you could say pretty early? Back when I was in the 7th grade, my best friend Kimberly and I would take change from our piggy banks and peruse the dollar store cosmetics counter. We’d buy all kinds of cosmetics, whatever we could afford as kids. We would head back to her place and experiment on each other’s faces, sometimes mimicking makeup styles we saw in magazines or on posters. Kimberly had ash blond hair, with fair skin and beautiful freckles. I, on the other hand, being of Asian decent, had completely different attributes which made it fun to study each other’s faces, seeing what worked for one of us and didn’t for the other.
There’s a bit of a double standard when it comes to “natural beauty.” On one hand, we want to embrace what we have. On the other, we’re bombarded with products and enhancements that promise a better version of “natural”. What’s your stance on this and how do you see Lithe Lashes fitting into the landscape?
I think it all starts with how we each define what embracing natural beauty means. At one extreme, for one person it may mean doing nothing at all to themselves (which I think is sort of impossible in this day and age with all the preventative measures… ie. supplements, cream, facials etc. to combat sun, climate change, pollution and anti-aging.) And at the other end, for someone else, or myself, it may simply mean finding a look that doesn’t mask who we are but rather subtly enhancing our attributes while still maintaining a natural look.
Lithe Lashes was actually inspired by the question “Why are lash extensions or lash enhancement serums perceived as more natural while strip lashes have this fake or phoney reputation tied to them, when both involve wearing something man made?”
I was really intrigued by this question and inspired to change the way we perceive strip lashes. I wanted to develop a core collection of strip lashes that focused on being ultra-natural looking, which involved studying the minute details: synthetic fibre, cut, curl, thickness of strand, volume and layers. The eight styles that work on every eye shape are designed to blend in seamlessly without completely masking and changing your eye shape — which is key. Our focus is to provide you with a selection of ultra-natural looking lashes, and how you choose to fit these in to your beauty regimen is entirely up to you.
One of the appeals of makeup and beauty products is the opportunity to explore different looks and in a way, different versions of ourselves. Does this resonate with you and the appeal of lashes?
Absolutely. I’m a firm believer that whether your lashes are minimal, full, voluminous, glamorous, etc., it should still be possible for them to appear ultra-natural. My mission was to create a core collection ranging from minimal to voluminous, and including both round and winged shapes that would give one person the option to explore different variations and looks and to not be limited to just wearing one style of lash because they were told that one lash would suit them.
Why lashes? What’s the draw?
I love seeing how much of a difference lashes can make on someone and how shocked they often are when they see the difference for the first time. Lashes really accentuate, brighten and enlarge the eyes, giving an invigorated and ultra feminine look.
I love the fact that the visual difference in appearance can be obvious while the strip lash itself, if natural looking enough, can be undetectable — meaning it can be hard to tell if someone is actually wearing strip lashes. It’s such a neat beauty trick, subtle yet impactful.
Our eyes communicate, express how we feel and act as a tool that we use to connect with others. How we dress them reflects our overall presentation, and therefore we should be paying very close attention to how we do so.
I’m a fashion grad who realized that she had an equal amount of love for beauty and it just so happens that lashes are one of the very few wardrobe pieces you actually style, design and wear on your face. For me, it’s the best of both worlds!
Was there a key moment that unleashed the dream or vision?
On the day of my wedding, I had purchased a few pairs of high end strip lashes. I had my makeup artist apply the strip lashes on the bridal party, which included my mother, sister-in-law and mother-in-law.
My sister didn’t feel entirely comfortable wearing the lashes - she said they were “over-the-top”.
My mother was tearing out of both eyes before we even left the hotel — and they weren’t happy tears! She said the lashes were heavy and uncomfortable.
And my mother-in-law, who has a great sense of humour, found the whole thing hilarious — she said she barely recognized herself with the lashes on.
Needless to say, lashes became the major topic of discussion amongst the girls that day, and I think it was that experience that inspired me to start thinking about designing natural and comfortable everyday lashes.
What was the first step you took in the design process for Lithe Lashes?
I started with a list, jotting down everything I was looking for in strip lashes, what I felt was lacking in the market and what I didn’t like about the styles I had tried and how they could be improved, paying attention to quality, comfort and design.
My husband and I then sat down and created a second list, with all the prerequisites our brand had to represent: it had to be environmentally responsible, 100% cruelty-free, the marketing had to be transparent and simplistic, with no fluff, our product had to be superior quality and completely unique, meaning it would be custom from product to packaging. And last but not least, it had to cater to everyone, not just one limited demographic.
I watched a ton of YouTube videos to see how people would make their own strip lashes, paying attention to how every little detail like cut, curl, fibre, construction, band, and colour mattered, especially when trying to achieve the natural look I was after. I also watched a ton of makeup influencer YouTube videos to see what their comments were on the existing strip lashes on the market.
I’m the kind of person that needs to devote my all to one area and perfect it before moving on to the next thing, so when it came to designing lashes, it took us several months and rounds and rounds of sampling materials, styles, bands and testing products from around the world. I tested everything on myself, using my eyes as a gauge to measure how long I wanted the lashes and how long the band needed to be for our core collection. I’ve re-worn a pair of my lashes over 45+ times during the testing process and have tried on maybe 35 pairs all in one day. It’s nuts but I absolutely love doing it.
What were the non-negotiables you knew had to be incorporated into the designs?
The last thing I want is to confuse our buyers, so it was super important to create a product that could virtually leave no room for confusion. Rather than having lash styles be unique to a certain eye shape, I wanted all eight to work for every shape and to leave the option up to the customer. Honestly speaking, the only reason why a lash would only suit a particular eye shape is if it’s dramatic and the contrast between styles is super obvious — then you may want to put a little more thought into your selection. That doesn’t apply to ours though, as the differences between the styles are intentionally subtle, since we believe that’s what natural is all about.
How did you come up with the core collection? Why those eight styles?
I based my collection off of the two most basic shapes for lashes — round or winged. I then focused on customizing them further based on the volume and length, ranging from minimal, to classic, to full volume. From there, I also added two designs that were a little more abstract but still natural looking, No. 05 and No. 08, for those looking for a little something extra.
Once I got a rough idea of the 8 styles, I tested all of the lashes on myself repeatedly to ensure they worked and tweaked if adjustments were needed.
During the second test run, I found models with monolid eyes, which tend to be a little smaller and more narrow. I found that in the lash market, monolid eyes were least favourable and had the fewest number of lash styles marketed towards them. In order to assure that all eight of my styles were versatile enough, I tested them all on the monolid eyes and they worked beautifully. That’s when I knew — I had my core collection of lashes.
Can you tell us a bit about the manufacturing process? How you sourced the right partners, how difficult it was as a first-timer, etc.
It’s really challenging doing business overseas, which was definitely the most frustrating part of starting this business. Selecting the right people to work with was rough — you don’t really know who you’re dealing with, and all you have is a rough idea of who they are based on how they represent themselves online and the generic pictures of product that all look the same.
I went through a couple dozen manufacturers before finding the right people to work with, testing their materials and design samples, sometimes a few times over with the same manufacturers. Because we were aiming to be a premium brand with superior quality lashes, we really had to be extra thorough with the sampling process. The design, material and craftsmanship had to be consistent on every run.
I was also looking for a high level of customer service, integrity, consistency, work ethics, reputation, trust-worthiness, and area of focus/expertise — were they one in a dozen, or could they produce the type of work I was looking for that was far more superior than most.
One thing I learned while starting this business, is that when you’re dealing with production work, you have to understand that deadlines can change at any given moment if there is one little hiccup. And when you’re told that something isn’t going right, halfway around the world with a company that has a chunk of your savings, it is a scary feeling.
Why do you do what you do and why does it matter?
I’ve always felt that fashion and beauty can be quite skewed towards a certain type and age group, especially when you look at false lashes and the way they are marketed. And because it’s a new culture that has suddenly imploded in the last 5-10 years, other than the young who “get it”, almost every other person is far too intimidated, confused, or feels like it’s not a fit for them, despite their fascination.
Where do you even start? With all the flashy names, bold colours and over-the-top, dramatic lashes made from human hair, horse hair, mink, silk… it can be so overwhelming. What motivates me is making people of all age groups feel included. Through inclusion, we can empower people to realize that beauty is ageless.
What’s the mission behind Lithe Lashes?
To change the way the world thinks of strip lashes.
They don’t have to look fake, they can look incredibly natural. They aren’t all uncomfortable to wear, and some are much easier to adhere. They can be worn many times over and applying the right lashes will make your eyes pop in a way that no mascara or lash extension can.
I enjoy making people feel beautiful inside and out and it gives me joy seeing people in awe with how look and feel after trying a pair of my lashes.
Photos by Vai Yu Law