Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
Earlier this month, queer-owned cosmetics company, We Are Fluide, announced that they are closing their doors after four fabulous years. Fluide was powered by its ground-breaking message that makeup is fun and for EVERYONE. This vegan, cruelty-free, and paraben-free cosmetics brand prided itself (pun intended) on “amplifying the voices of queer and gender expansive identities” and “showcasing queer beauty.” We Are Fluide was best known for its bold, metallic looks perfect for every skin tone, gender expression, and occasion.
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GO! Magazine is celebrating the cosmetics company that celebrated all of us. We got a chance to catch up with Lara Kraber, the co-founder of We Are Fluide, to discuss how far We Are Fluide has come and all that the company has accomplished.
GO Magazine: Let’s start from the beginning; what or who was your initial inspiration?
Laura Kraber: Fluide’s mission has been to showcase queer and gender non-conforming beauty, and to offer makeup as welcoming and accessible to everyone, regardless of gender identity. Our goal has been to liberate makeup from patriarchal society’s standards of beauty and to create a space for makeup to be empowering and a means of self-expression for everyone.
For me, Fluide represents an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the shift in our culture regarding gender expression. Through creating an online community and content platform as well as products marketed specifically with gender expansive identities in mind, we tried to validate and support non-binary identities. The genesis of the company is my personal admiration for the people who are putting their lives on the line to create a more inclusive world. As a parent, I’ve been so inspired by the teenagers who are leading this societal shift and creating a more expansive understanding of gender identity. Through their engagement and activism, they’re creating a worldwide movement and paving the way for everyone who comes after them.
GO: What are some unexpected wins that you did not originally anticipate?
LK: I had much more of a business mindset when I started this journey, back in 2017 (we launched in January 2018). Over the years, and through so many ups and downs of start-up life, I mellowed quite a lot and became much more focused on the process, not the product. I was so inspired by the creatives who worked on Fluide and simply grateful to be in the studio with them. My 2018 self would never have believed that I could survive the company’s closure. I believed that success meant growing the business to become a household name, or selling it to an industry-leading company. But I’ve come around to feeling proud of what we achieved, in a difficult industry, and also that we had so much fun along the way and found an audience and created a sense of community. It is an incredible privilege to be able to dream up a business concept, build a company, and send your ideas out into the world — I am so grateful to have had that opportunity and to have met the wonderfully talented collaborators who brought my initial vision to life.
GO: What were some of the biggest challenges for starting an LGBTQ+-focused company?
LK: I wouldn’t say that our LGBTQ+ focus was as big an issue as the challenges inherent to building an audience in a crowded field, and the high costs of marketing of the beauty space. That said, the LGBTQ+ community is a diverse group, especially when trying to create products that appeal across gender identity and expression.
We were one of the first cosmetics brands to specifically focus on the LGBTQ+ community as a whole and to truly embrace makeup for masc-identified people, lesbians, and men, and there was no playbook for that. What products would appeal? With our limited budgets, and the high MOQs (minimum order quantities) of the industry, each product we invested in was a risk, and we couldn’t afford to take enough of them, which, no doubt, contributed to our situation today.
We tried to offer a combination of easy-to-use, wearable products like our clear Browzey brow gel and our clear Elsewhere and Wet lip glosses as well as more traditional “makeup”— colorful glittery products like our Universal Liners. We never had that “hero product” that catapulted brands to success through viral sharing and consumer demand, though those three categories were our top sellers, generally.
It was very gratifying to hear from our customers that Fluide helped them to discover or reconnect with the fun of makeup, regardless of how makeup pertained to their identity that perhaps eschewed “beauty.” Whether you’re a woman like myself who grew up with the feminist belief that makeup was a tool of the patriarchy, or a trans man who left makeup behind with a former identity, it is liberating to enjoy the color, sparkle and self-transformation that makeup offers. As one of our customers recently wrote in to say, “FLUIDE really did change my relationship to makeup. I’m a transmasc guy who never really saw makeup as something I could enjoy because it was so connected with making myself into the most standard feminine version of myself. FLUIDE marketing toward people of all genders really changed my feelings toward makeup and my gender.”
GO: What advice do you have for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs?
LK: There is an incredible community of support for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs through organizations like StartOut which will connect early stage entrepreneurs with mentors, resources and access to investors. I think that many start-up accelerator programs are also interested in attracting diverse cohorts, and incubators or accelerators can be very helpful, depending on what stage you’re at. I also recommend reaching out directly to LGBTQ+ business owners and investors you admire, as a way of building a support network. I have been so lucky to have met an incredible group of entrepreneurs in the beauty space, through the Target Accelerator program and through networking, as well as LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs through partnerships and collabs, and these folks have been an incredible resource and source of inspiration over the years.
GO: What are you most proud of?
LK: I am so proud of what Fluide achieved in these four years, and that we moved the beauty industry forward, to a more diverse, accepting and inclusive vision of beauty. We had the right idea at the right time, and the interest and excitement we created vastly out-performed our marketing and PR budgets. From extensive media coverage to inclusion in industry reports and internal memos at major beauty brands, Fluide garnered outsized attention for offering a new paradigm and a stark departure from traditional beauty—depictions of unachievable beauty standards which demoralized women for decades.
GO: What are you looking forward to starting next?
LK: That is an open question! I’m still figuring it out but I think my entrepreneurial days are behind me.