Glam and graffiti: Behind the scenes at Urban Decay

Two decades ago, Urban Decay co-founder Wende Zomnir set out to put an edgy spin on the pink-and-pretty cosmetic business — it worked.

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Urban Decay founder Wendy Zomnir
Urban Decay founder Wendy Zomnir. Photo, Zomnir/Courtesy of L’Oréal.

Two decades ago, Wende Zomnir set out to bring some edge to the pink-and-pretty cosmetic business with Urban Decay — and it worked.

Wende Zomnir is definitely doing something right. The super-fit, happily married mom of two boys (Crash and Cruz) is the co-founder and chief creative officer of uber-cool brand Urban Decay — and she lives by the ocean. When you visit her office in Long Beach, you immediately know you’re in California. There’s a casual vibe to the open concept office space; there are stylish staffers testing makeup, dog beds under desks, graffiti on the walls and a considerable dose of Zomnir’s favourite colour, purple.

The Urban Decay brand was created in the late ’90s with a mission to shake up the beauty industry’s attraction to everything pink and beige, and Zomnir has certainly done that. “We felt we had to knock the door down, so we came up with a name that was a little bit shocking,” she says. The inspiration came from finding beauty in the not-so-beautiful and the overlooked. Urban Decay is feminine, dangerous and fun,” says Zomnir.

Fast-forward 19 years to the brand’s extensive line of cosmetics, which have such a large, dedicated fan base that French beauty giant L’Oréal stepped in to acquire the company in late 2012 for a reported $300–$400 million, according to the Wall Street Journal. Zomnir says her followers range from hard-core fashion lovers to edgy rock ’n’ rollers to “hot moms” who just love makeup.

Zomnir’s all-time favourite product category is eyeshadow (her current obsession is called Zodiac, a multi-dimensional dark green), and she’s famous for personally test-driving new long-lasting formulas at hot yoga or on a surfboard. “I feel like you can’t put it out there for other people if you don’t indulge in it yourself,” she says.

Despite Urban Decay’s allegiance to intense, dramatic colour — and because she knows walking on the beauty wild side is not for everyone — Zomnir recently expanded the company’s line to include gorgeous neutral shadows and base products, cheekily called Naked, which have become instant bestsellers. Another mission accomplished: to capture the imaginations of a whole new crop of beauty junkies.

Our favourite Urban Decay essentials:

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