Urban Decay Cofounder Launches New California-Inspired Clean Beauty Brand

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Leave it to Wende Zomnir, cofounder and chief creative officer of Urban Decay, to dream up the hot new beauty brand everyone is going to want to get their hands on next: Caliray. Created in tandem with her volleyball partner Jenna Dover, the cosmetic line—though skin care may be in the pipeline—has been in the making for two and a half years, and is launching today with one mascara and three eyeliners. If you’ve used Urban Decay’s eye products, this makes perfect sense for Zomnir, who says her new cool-girl brand is a love letter to California. Dover describes it as “sisterhood, sunscreen and salty air; just good vibes all around” and “golden hour doing tequila shots on Earth Day.” You get the idea.

On a recent Zoom with the dynamic duo—picture two beach babes doing Vogue-style rapid-fire questions (69 instead of 73) as they take me on a tour through the “Caliray House” in Newport Beach, CA, complete with all the on-brand decor you’d expect: funky colors, a topless mermaid coffee table, and of course lots of guac and chips—I got the full scoop.

Where did the idea for the brand come from? 

“It kind of came from a couple of different places,” says Zomnir. “Jenna and I were sitting on the beach after a long morning of beach volleyball, and first I recruited her to help me brainstorm names because she’s really good at that. That evolved into us talking about what it would look like as a brand and what’s important to us in beauty. Then I would travel the world for work and everywhere I would go—everyone including journalists and customers—would ask me what it was like to live in California: Do you surf, do you do yoga, do you really drink kale smoothies every day? They were interested in the freedom and the weather and this sort of laidback lifestyle, and so that, combined with my post-volley sessions with Jenna, came together. We thought, what if we could bottle that up for people and let anyone have access to the California dream? That’s Caliray.”

What is the difference between Caliray and Urban Decay?

“What’s interesting is what’s similar between the two: I think they’re both about freedom of expression and being free within your skin,” says Zomnir. “Where they differ is that Urban is more about a full face of makeup, but there are some days, especially post-pandemic, where I just want to roll out of bed and look a little better than real, and that’s Caliray. It’s really easy, really pretty and really clean, and also the sustainability piece and knowing everything you use will have another life.”

Why was it important to you that the products were “clean?”

“Caliray products are not only clean, but clean that really works,” says Zomnir. “I think you guys know I know a little something about creating eye makeup, and it was really important to me that these products were also high-performance. We also made sure the prices were as tight as possible so the products could be accessible for everyone.”

What about sustainability?

“That’s also a pillar of the brand, along with clean, and it’s really important to me,” Zomnir says. “When I was opening the Urban Decay office, I made sure the carpets and particle board were not off-gassing formaldehyde; I made sure the floors were super clean. I was always into this clean and healthy environment, and then we were using post-consumer recycled packaging for our boxes and we were one of the first brands to remove parabens, even before people cared, so we didn’t get a lot of traction. Caliray is the next evolution for me in clean and sustainability. The mascara tube is made with 100-percent upcycled ocean plastic; we decorated it with low-impact decoration so it can be recycled to go again and again. We’re using bioplastics to minimize the impact on the environment, and we’re really taking as many steps as we can, but it’s a journey and we feel like we’re never done. One thing we are doing is partnering with Pact, which is a collective that recycles beauty packaging. You can send your beauty empties back to Pact and they’ll recycle them, and we’ll be offering this to our customers. If you don’t know, it’s really hard to recycle beauty curbside because most everything has to be the size of a yogurt cup or larger.” 

Tell me more about the Come Hell or High Water Mascara. I’m a big fan of tubing formulas.

“It’s a tubing mascara that I like to call life-proof,” says Zomnir, who worked on the mascara for nearly two years to make sure all the ingredients were clean. “I think you’re going to love it because it keeps your lashes intact—no smudging—but easy on the lashes when you take it off. With the tubing, it just rolls right off with some warm water or makeup remover and a little massage. You also get great volume and length out of it.”

And what about the Surfproof Easy Glider Eye Definer?

“I wanted really long-wearing pencils [there are currently three shades] because they’re a staple in my makeup bag and I thought it was something missing in the clean space,” says Zomnir. “They’re also highly pigmented, so you could even create a full-on cat-eye with them if you want to.” 

What’s your prediction for makeup trends in 2022?

“I think makeup is coming back, but I don’t think it will ever be the full-on everyday pressure the way it was pre-pandemic,” Zomnir says. ” Especially me being in the beauty space, I felt pressure every day to walk into my office perfect with a full face of makeup on. Now I feel like there are days when I can walk in there with a more chill, laidback look on, even when I have meetings. I think 2022 will be all about the moment and less pressure.”

Will there be SPF in the collection down the line? It seems like a natural extension for a Cali brand with founders who love to surf and volley.

“We’re working on some SPF goodies as we speak, but those take a long time to formulate and there’s a lot of SPF on the market,” says Zomnir. “So, if we do it, it needs to be different and deliver something that’s not out there right now.”

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