Urban Decay’s Wende Zomnir on the Success of Naked and How You Can Wear Bold Colors

Rachel Adler
Wende Zomnir

Courtesy Image

If there is anyone who loves color (and makeup) more than Wende Zomnir, we have yet to meet them. Co-founder and Creative Director of Urban Decay, Wende lives and breathes her brand in the best way possible. As a true makeup junkie herself – rarely spotted without her product on her face – she is constantly testing her products and new ways to wear them, as well as creating new products to fill any voids in our lives.

On a quest for bold colors, Wende Zomnir teamed up with Sandy Lerner (co-founder of Cisco Systems) back in 1996 and Urban Decay was born. Sandy and Wende were creative businesswomen who recognized the “color void” and wanted to fill it immediately, and shook up the industry with vivid product shades and striking names like Acid Rain and Roach. Flash forward to 2014, and Urban Decay has become the “It” brand for all girls who want to make a statement with color, and then some. With the launch of the Naked palette in 2010, Urban Decay cemented themselves not just as the go-to brand for bold looks, but also the makeup you need to help build your entire look, making it your essential beauty go-to.

We spoke with Wende recently on a press trip with Urban Decay, and had time to talk with her about not only her best beauty tips but also how she names her products – and of course, that famous Naked line.

Heading into summer, you’re launching two new collections – including the new Electric palette and more Naked! What do you think will be the top seller, or what is your personal favorite product? 
It’s hard because I love everything, but I do think from the Summer 2 Collection the Body Beauty Balms [Ed Note: A tightening and illuminating BB coming in June] are going to be huge, and from Summer 1 the Electric Palette is just what people want. We’ve being doing a lot of Naked, and we love the Naked, but we also love color. I love color, I mean you’ve seen me wear a lot of it the past couple of days, and I really feel like it’s a moment for some bright color.

MORE: Urban Decay Really Is Launching a Naked 3

Do you have tips for how to wear brights – in particular, from the Electric palette?
I think if you want to dive in, to pick a couple of coordinating shades and work with those first is a nice way to go. I also think a really easy thing to try is to pick a nice pop of color that goes with what you’re wearing and do kind of a pretty bronze-y, summer-y, sun goddess lid on top and then do your lower lash line in that bright pop of color.

Going back to the products, where do you come up with your ideas for your next products?
It’s a combination of things, so we’re always looking at new technologies from the lab and then we’re looking at what’s happening in popular culture. We’re looking at what’s sold well for us, we’re looking at beauty as a category, we’re looking at fashion, we’re looking at everything and just sort of getting inspiration. I have a product development team and we’ll go down a road, and then I love it because Courtney [Baber, Global Marketing] will actually jump in and give some market perspective on it that may change how you view things. I love getting initial ideas of concepts and then you start bouncing them off people and things morph and change and get better and better. I always say it’s definitely my job to be a creative person and come up with ideas in beauty, but I think more importantly it’s that I’m a really good listener and if someone has a great idea to not be like ‘Oh well this is my idea and so I’m not changing it’ but to be a good listener and be like ‘You know, that is better.’ So we’ve had ideas from the receptionist, I’ve gotten so many great ideas from retailers that I’ve changed my perspective on a particular product and have actually allowed me to tweak it and make it a top seller.

Urban Decay Electric Palette

Urban Decay Electric Palette

Your Urban Decay “girl” is so fun and edgy. What do you think you’ve learned from her over the years?
What I love is you can read Facebook comments, you can see what people Tweet about us and the Instagram postings, talking about the makeup they love and why they love it – without sort of saying specific things, if you listen and stay in touch with them they feed your creativity.

MORE: The Naked Collection: Urban Decay Expanded Into Every Product You Could Really Want

Let’s talk about the fun names. How do you go about naming your products?
So some things will name themselves, and some things will take a little bit more work, and some things call for a certain type of name. We came up with the Moondust Eyeshadows so we knew we’d need to come up with a series of names like Intergalactic and Moonspoon and some names that all like played into that concept of sparkly, but a lot of times if we’re just naming a palette like a Vice palette, we have a name library. And we categorize them into like “sex names,” “drug names” and when you think of a good name you put it into the name library. And we have some people who are really good at naming things and we’ve even opened it up to the whole office before and had people send us their really great names and we’ve gotten everything from like “Just For Kicks” to something that I cannot even say in public. We did not put that one in the name library.

Did you think the original Naked palette was going to be as big of a hit as it’s become?
No. We knew it would be a top-selling palette. The idea for it came from my product development director guy and I, we were sitting around and were like well, if you had to take four eyeshadow shades to a desert island, what would those eyeshadow shades be? And we threw them on the table and they actually made a beautiful palette. And we had to take a few of them out, a couple were dupes, a couple didn’t fit, so we had create a few other ones but they were all sort of shades we loved, either from our line or from old palettes we had or things we’d been working on. We sort of threw them all out there and there it was. And that’s really where the idea came from.

And when did you decide to expand on the line?
Well, I remember we were standing at someone’s desk and I remember Tim [Warner, General Manager] came up and we were talking about how people really liked this, and he asked if it should be limited edition or if we should keep it. And I was like, I kind of think we need to keep it. And, I think because we kept it and it was hard to get, it sort of built some momentum for us, and then we were sort of like ‘I wish there was one that was more taupe-y, let’s do another one’ and that’s kind of how it went. And then Basics came about because I had one of the Build-Your-Own palettes and I always had to take these four shades of neutrals with me to build the base of my eye to then put my color on top of, so even a person who is a strong color person, even that person, needs basic shades, so I was like, let’s make a Basics. So that’s really how these things come up, just from really practical needs and then you try to bring some coolness and creativity to it and create something that’s really, really practical. Because it is packaged goods at the end of the day and really, really artistic and beautiful because it’s beauty and you should want to have it on your vanity and dip your brush into it because it’s a spiritual experience to do your face every day and create who you are and express that to the world.

So do you think Electric will be the next “Naked”? What do you think will be?
No, I don’t think Electric will be the next Naked because there are far fewer women who will wear color like that, but I think of the people who love that they will be more excited about it, but, there will be fewer of them. We do have a couple big ideas coming though. Much more excitement to come – we do know what our next “Naked” might be…