Interview: Joanna Wheaton
It was a passion for makeup and a history in product marketing for some of Australia’s largest cosmetics brands that lead Joanna Wheaton to launch Shanghai Suzy lipstick in August last year.
Like a majority of women, the former model turned entrepreneur was tired of paying copious amounts of money for lip products that she would wear a few times before moving on to explore the next beauty trend or formula. Joanna felt that there was a gap in the market for affordable, on-trend lip colours that delivered in terms of pigment, formula and packaging, and so, after several years of careful planning, her Melbourne based company was born.
Joanna: “I love lipstick of course and was always searching high and low for the perfect seasonal shades. I was spending $30 or more on lipsticks that I would never ever finish. With that insight I thought that it would be great if there was a brand that would release a ‘wardrobe’ of the ‘in’ colours each season at a reasonable price point. That way I could buy them all, and my lips would be sorted for the season.”
A self confessed social media addict, Wheaton’s range of limited run lipsticks are influenced by current fashion collections, bloggers and makeup artists. With the brand still in its infant stages (Shanghai Suzy’s third season launched in September 2014), the niche makeup company, which takes its moniker from a childhood friend, has already built up a cult like following. Shanghai Suzy is currently stocked in over 300 boutiques and salons across Australia, but despite the small businesses’ rapid expansion Wheaton proudly states that her initial philosophy remains steadfastly the same.
Joanna: “The initial ethos was to create salon quality lipsticks with fashion forward colours at a pharmacy price point. They had a few bells and whistles too of course, they’re grape bubblegum fragranced, beautifully packaged, they’re cruelty-free. I’m really proud that we’re delivering a product that was lacking in the market before.”
Creating seasonal collections has given the marketing maestro the opportunity to collaborate with local creatives. A ‘Gossling’ shade, inspired by performer Helen Croome, made up part of the autumn/winter 2014 collection and the current spring/summer season features illustrations by Gipsland born artist Mel Macklin, whose fantastical drawings are the perfect accompaniment to Wheaton’s aesthetic. “It was a perfect storm really,” says Macklin, after the artist met the burgeoning lipstick queen at The Rose Street Artist Markets. “It’s quite wonderful and rare to meet someone with such a strong vision. She really knows what she wants and she’s really good at verbalizing quite specifically what she thinks Shanghai Suzy should be.”
With plans to expand into New Zealand and the competitive American market next year, as well as developing a range of lip balms and exfoliators, the future looks candy hued for Suzy’s blonde powerhouse.
As for her upcoming new season of shades, Wheaton suggests that the current 90’s influence will continue, with dark bold shimmery lips worn during the day. She lovingly refers to the trend as ‘Gothic Chic’ and tells Makers that the movement toward “dark forest green lips, as well as grey, black and gold lips” is sure to continue into the winter.
Joanna: “We have many customers that buy the whole range each season and look forward to buying the range as soon as it’s released. Many people are scared of colour or to try certain colours even though they are drawn to them - I say give it a go and experiment! Makeup to me is all about having fun. I think that’s the most important thing.”