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Meet the Inspiring Visionary Behind Violet Grey

Meet the Inspiring Visionary Behind Violet Grey
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Cassandra Grey, the visionary and mastermind behind the popular Los Angeles beauty brand Violet Grey, has emerged as an authoritative force in the world of style. Stocked with a selection of beauty products used by Hollywood’s top makeup artists, nail artists, hairdressers, and other experts—and precisely vetted by Cassandra and her team—Violet Grey brings a curatorial mindset to the world of beauty.

With a jewel-box atelier tucked away on fabulous Melrose Place and an online store that combines stunning editorial, expert advice, and insider tips on beauty with tightly edited product selections, founder Cassandra Grey was able to fill what she calls “the white space” that she saw in the industry. “There wasn’t really anyone servicing women with the best in beauty that’s curated,” she says. “There was just way too much to choose from in terms of products. I really would just like someone that I trust to help me navigate the world of beauty and build my cosmetics wardrobe and maintain it.” By launching Violet Grey in 2013, she has channeled that passion to serve up exactly what women are seeking. We visited Cassandra at the shop to talk about how it all came together and what’s next.

The front entrance to the atelier is fittingly a grand, lipstick red door.

The front entrance to the atelier is fittingly a grand, lipstick red door.

In the atelier entry, a shimmering mural by decorative painter and interior designer John Opella serves as a lavish and lyrical backdrop. The furniture mixes French and chinoiserie elements from Cassandra’s personal trove.

In the atelier entry, a shimmering mural by decorative painter and interior designer John Opella serves as a lavish and lyrical backdrop. The furniture mixes French and chinoiserie elements from Cassandra’s personal trove.

So let’s start from the beginning. What prompted you to launch Violet Grey?
“I knew I wanted to start a company in my 30s, so I actually wrote the business plan for Violet Grey when I was living in New York. I realized there was a lot of white space in the industry to work with. I was realizing very quickly that print publishing was flatlining and brick-and-mortars were changing quite a bit due to the digital landscape and the web. Thinking about that in this new modern world, editors are really the best salespeople. And ultimately if there is a lot of editorial integrity, then as a consumer you trust the story.”

What was your vision for your brick-and-mortar?
“The DNA of Violet Grey is lost Hollywood glamour with a modern fashion sensibility.  The web experience is obviously modern in that you can interact with us from the comfort of your home, and the shop is evocative of the old-guard shops in Paris where there’s more emphasis on the service than on the sale. And no one does classic glamour better than our interior design partner, Bill Sofield.”

Why did you pick Melrose Place for the atelier?
“It’s the most magical street in all of Los Angeles. That, and we get to live in a John Elgin Woolf building.”

The main seating area, which is anchored by pairs of elegant club chairs and fabulous floor lamps, is painted in Benjamin Moore’s China White. The vintage rug, in an alluring soft violet, is by Pierre Cardin.

The main seating area, which is anchored by pairs of elegant club chairs and fabulous floor lamps, is painted in Benjamin Moore’s China White. The vintage rug, in an alluring soft violet, is by Pierre Cardin.

The space’s decadent and showstopping centerpiece? A vintage Murano chandelier adorned with opalescent white flowers that was found in L.A. at Liz’s Antique Hardware.

The space’s decadent and showstopping centerpiece? A vintage Murano chandelier adorned with opalescent white flowers that was found in L.A. at Liz’s Antique Hardware.

Shop the Look

The DNA of Violet Grey is lost Hollywood glamour with a modern fashion sensibility… And the shop is evocative of the old-guard shops in Paris where there’s more emphasis on the service than on the sale.

— Cassandra Grey
Ornately trimmed mirrored trays are used throughout the atelier for glimmering displays, as in this collection of perfumes by Tom Ford, and to hold guests’ beauty picks.

Ornately trimmed mirrored trays are used throughout the atelier for glimmering displays, as in this collection of perfumes by Tom Ford, and to hold guests’ beauty picks.

A tailored settee, reupholstered by Bill Sofield, brings a sophisticated note to the main room, where vitrines hold beauty items featured in Violet Grey’s online magazine, The Violet Files, and exclusive product collaborations.

A tailored settee, reupholstered by Bill Sofield, brings a sophisticated note to the main room, where vitrines hold beauty items featured in Violet Grey’s online magazine, The Violet Files, and exclusive product collaborations.

Black lacquered shelves feature a tightly edited array of cosmetics and beauty tools, including finds by Utowa (found only at Violet Grey). All products have to pass the company’s stringent vetting process known as the Violet Code.

Black lacquered shelves feature a tightly edited array of cosmetics and beauty tools, including finds by Utowa (found only at Violet Grey). All products have to pass the company’s stringent vetting process known as the Violet Code.

What was lacking in beauty shops that you wanted to bring to your own atelier?
“An edit of only the best products across all categories. Time is a luxury, and our clients simply don’t have the time to dig through the thousands of beauty products on the market. They want the best, and that’s all we sell.”

How many beauty experts, editors, nail artists, hairdressers, and makeup artists are you working with at a time?
“I work with hundreds. To me they’re like the new chefs, and they’re incredibly influential on purchase decisions because, like cooking every day, they’re authentically doing makeup every day.”

Who else do you feel is shaking up the beauty world right now?
“It’s a mix of people and places—Korea, Pat McGrath, Emily Weiss, Birchbox, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Lee, and Donald Robertson.”

Any highlights when it comes to people you’ve worked with?
Oprah once interviewed one of our cover stars—that was pretty cool. For The Violet Files, Anjelica Huston described what is was like to get dressed for the Oscars in the ’70s when her date, Jack Nicholson, took home the statue. And Pat McGrath, the most influential makeup artist in the world, painted Kim Kardashian, the most famous face in the world, exclusively for The Violet Files. That was insane.”

“Great companies are always great people. Understanding that vision is what tends to attract people,” says Cassandra who worked in marketing, branding, and creative throughout her 20s.

“Great companies are always great people. Understanding that vision is what tends to attract people,” says Cassandra who worked in marketing, branding, and creative throughout her 20s.

This display is interspersed with nods to fashion icon Coco Chanel, who inspired Cassandra’s idea for the lounge as a gathering place for free-flowing conversations among clients, artists, and tastemakers.

This display is interspersed with nods to fashion icon Coco Chanel, who inspired Cassandra’s idea for the lounge as a gathering place for free-flowing conversations among clients, artists, and tastemakers.

The lounge area is where clients, makeup artists, influencers, and tastemakers gather for inspiration. It represents the joie de vivre of Coco Chanel’s couch sessions and the innovation bred from those meetings.

— Cassandra Grey
Cassandra and Bill Sofield had the idea to graffiti the lounge area windows in French script, which was painted by John Opella. The print hanging in front is by Guy Bourdin, and the photograph and the sketch are by Edith Head.

Cassandra and Bill Sofield had the idea to graffiti the lounge area windows in French script, which was painted by John Opella. The print hanging in front is by Guy Bourdin, and the photograph and the sketch are by Edith Head.

Shop the Look

When it comes to gathering inspiration, Cassandra stays true to the evocative images of art tomes, photography books, and magazines from around the world. “I knew the company I was going to start would have an art element and that would ultimately be the driver,” she says.

When it comes to gathering inspiration, Cassandra stays true to the evocative images of art tomes, photography books, and magazines from around the world. “I knew the company I was going to start would have an art element and that would ultimately be the driver,” she says.

Where do you find inspiration?
“I love Instagram. But I’m still old-fashioned in that I read every single magazine. I’m really crazy about fashion, art, architecture, so I read all those magazines. In some cases I look at them—the ones in languages that I can’t speak. But I’m really interested in learning about culture and beauty in different cultures, and I do that mostly through magazines.”

The biggest beauty myth, in your opinion?
“That some women don’t care about beauty.”

Was there a pivotal moment that helped propel your business?
“The day my co-founders and I convinced our 21-year-old intern, whom we’d discovered is an innate design genius, to come back after she left us for New York City! She was our first employee.”

 

 

What excites you about L.A. right now?
“I think it’s really having its moment. I lived in New York for about eight years, and it was a place where you were going to learn a lot, you’ll make it, you’re going to be inspired, and it’s where the action is. I think L.A. has that right now, which is really exciting. It also has really good weather and everything with it.”

Any favorite spots?
“I’m an architecture junkie, and there’s incredible architecture in L.A., whether it’s the strip malls or this John Elgin Woolf building or pavilions. I’m most inspired not by what’s new but by what’s old, what’s been here all along that has a really distinct look and aesthetic to it. I really love shooting stories here. There’s so much lost glamour.”

Colorful and beautifully tasseled bottles from the Diana Vreeland fragrance collection set atop books in the mini library hall pay homage to the legendary arbiter of style and Vogue editor.

Colorful and beautifully tasseled bottles from the Diana Vreeland fragrance collection set atop books in the mini library hall pay homage to the legendary arbiter of style and Vogue editor.

Featured lip glosses by Nars and Olivia Chantecaille in lush pinks and purples are always at the ready on a counter for a vibrant perk-up.

Featured lip glosses by Nars and Olivia Chantecaille in lush pinks and purples are always at the ready on a counter for a vibrant perk-up.

I think in today’s world where everyone has their version of a red carpet with social media, people are much, much more image-conscious and want to look good in a photograph—and beauty has always been the greatest tool for Hollywood.

— Cassandra Grey
Cassandra jokes that she was meant to launch her own business. “I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur when I was born,” she laughs.

Cassandra jokes that she was meant to launch her own business. “I knew I was going to be an entrepreneur when I was born,” she laughs.

Dean Martin’s makeup chair is tucked away in one corner of the studio, where one-on-one makeup consultations and photo shoots often occur. Cassandra found the collection of Edith Head sketches while digging through Paramount archives.

Dean Martin’s makeup chair is tucked away in one corner of the studio, where one-on-one makeup consultations and photo shoots often occur. Cassandra found the collection of Edith Head sketches while digging through Paramount archives.

What’s the greatest change you’ve seen in beauty over the past decade?
“Since the invention of social media, we are now all on the red carpet.”

How do you make time for yourself?
“And my new baby? [laughs] Family is the most important thing to me. I think life is about love, creativity, and learning, with love being the most important. I get my love from family. I think you just prioritize. I really believe in working smart versus working hard.”

What’s award season looking like for Violet Grey?
“The inside of a hair and makeup trailer.”

Next steps for Violet Grey?
“We’re designing a by-appointment salon for women who want to change their look or reinvent their look. It’s one-on-one appointments where we can help them get a look all around. I’m really excited about the experience of that and what that means.”

As Violet Grey’s makeup artists work with clients in the studio, they present beauty recommendations on gorgeous gold-rimmed mirrored trays.

As Violet Grey’s makeup artists work with clients in the studio, they present beauty recommendations on gorgeous gold-rimmed mirrored trays.

Cassandra takes a moment to touch up her lipstick in the studio. The mirror is from Baker’s Bill Sofield Collection, and the designer also created the custom makeup table. The tripod floor lamp is by Mariano Fortuny for Pallucco.

Cassandra takes a moment to touch up her lipstick in the studio. The mirror is from Baker’s Bill Sofield Collection, and the designer also created the custom makeup table. The tripod floor lamp is by Mariano Fortuny for Pallucco.

Cassandra’s Top Beauty Tips

When it comes to beauty routines…
“Change it every six months. Your skin and hair build tolerance to active ingredients, so you need to switch it up.”

Something simple every women needs…
“Coconut oil is good for everything—your skin, your hair, any inflammation or puffy eyes. It does the trick, and it’s inexpensive. I learned that from Lauren Hutton. She lives by coconut oil.”

Always with her…
La Prairie antiaging lip and cheek.”

When she’s on the go…
“Eyelash extensions, YSL Touche Éclat, By Terry lip balm.”

Her essential perfume…
“Jour d’Hermès”

Beauty this year is big on…
“Highlighters and dewy skin specifically, and products that can really give you that glossy edge.”

For more follow @onekingslane and @violetgrey on Instagram!

For more follow @onekingslane and @violetgrey on Instagram!

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