If you love food and beauty as much as I do, then you are going to love today’s Stripe Talk. Mollie Chen is a true beauty obsessive and foodie and one of the smartest people in the business. She was employee #3 at Birchbox and a major part of building the brand and taking them to where they are today. Read on for an interview that is both inspiring and jam-packed with amazing product recommendations!
Mollie was one of my first Internet friends. We met on twitter. It was a little over four years ago; and I had just started blogging. I was working on a story about natural beauty brands and asked a question to my (teensy) following. Much to my delight, a user called @birchbox tweeted back with some great product recommendations. A friendship was born. Intrigued, I clicked over to @birchbox’s bio. Today, Birchbox is a household name but back then, they were a relatively unknown startup. I ended up joining because of that tweet and was actually one of their first twenty subscribers. Over the years I’ve gotten to know Mollie better and now call her a real life friend. I’m beyond honored to be able to feature her here today and think you guys are going to really love this interview. (And as an aside, check out Mollie’ instagram… it’s heaven for the food & beauty-obsessed.)
Grace: Tell me a little bit about how you got your start in the industry. What was your first job?
Mollie: I moved to New York right after college and got a job as an assistant editor at Conde Nast Traveler. I was lucky to have a diverse and educational five years at Traveler, doing the usual expense reports and phone-answering but also getting the opportunity to travel, report on spas and hotels, and interview interesting people.
Grace: Walk me through your typical day.
Mollie: Every day is different but I spend a lot of time in meetings, and very little time at my desk. Because of that, I try to spend an hour or two triaging emails before my day starts, either at home or at the office. My meetings can be anything from one-on-one touch bases with direct reports to larger working groups talking about demand-driving efforts or upcoming campaigns. It’s challenging because you’re constantly juggling a million ideas, tasks, projects, but I find that it actually makes me more productive and more creative.
Grace: Tell me about your own beauty routine. I feel like you’ve tried every product under the sun… I’m dying to hear your favorites.
Mollie: I get to try a lot of products and I’m really picky about what ends up in my regular rotation. And I’m definitely more of a skincare person than a makeup person.
On a daily basis, I always use a serum and an undereye cream; right now I’m pairing Caudalie’s amazing Polyphenol C-15 with the Wonder Eye Cream from Balance Me, a British brand I’m really into these days. After that I use W3LL People’s Narcissist Foundation—it’s this incredibly creamy, natural-looking formula made from all healthy ingredients—and a bit of Benefit’s Ooh La Lift, which I basically rely on to keep me looking awake. I’ll follow with blush, eyeliner, and mascara. My hair is naturally straight so I rely on texturizing spray to give it a little oomph. Lately I’ve been using Oribe’s Maximista, which has the added bonus of smelling fantastic. I use a mask at least once a week: Caudalie Vinoperfect Enzymatic Mask if my skin looks dull, Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner if it’s congested, or sometimes a sheet mask just for fun.
Grace: Let’s pretend that you are traveling for the next month and can only take along three beauty products… what would they be?
Mollie: Multitaskers, obviously. I love Coola’s tinted SPF 30 because it has a great matte finish and light coverage. I’d bring W3LL People’s Color Stick in Creamy Peony because it works on eyes and lips, and Klorane’s genius dry shampoo.
Grace: What are your favorite beauty trends for Fall?
Mollie: Purple lips are one of the 90’s looks that I’m ok with making a comeback. The modern versions of dark lips are extremely flattering—I’ve been wearing Cynthia Rowley Beauty’s Dahlia nonstop since September. I’ve also been seeing a lot of colored and metallic liners, which I think is such a fun way to brighten your eyes (not to mention easy). I especially love rose gold and shimmery chocolate shades. As for hair color, the Birchbox eds are all about “golden bronde,” a gorgeous blonde-brunette mashup.
Grace: One of my favorite thing about Birchbox is that it has introduced me to so many incredible new-to-me brands. What are the up & coming brands we need to know about this season?
Mollie: Yay! Right now I’m obsessed with R+Co, a crazy stylish haircare line. They have some of the coolest packaging I’ve ever seen, and the formulas are A+ — love the thickening spray and mousse especially. I’m also a borderline evangelist for W3LL People because their products work beautifully and are great for your skin. And Cynthia Rowley Beauty! The new fall collection is bonkers.
Grace: You work (and travel!) a lot. How do you stay in such amazing shape working as much as you do?
Mollie: I work out almost every morning because if I don’t, I am an actual ogre. Like mean, grumpy, low energy…it’s not pretty. So that motivates me to get my butt out of bed in the morning. And I’m addicted to classes; being in a group setting pushes me to work way harder than I ever would alone. I’m a huge fan of Brooklyn Heights Equinox and also love Uplift and Brooklyn Body Burn. When I travel I’ll either run, which is a great way to see a new city, do 7-Minute workouts in the hotel gym, or check out a local fitness studio.
Grace: You are also a huge foodie… what are your favorite restaurants in the city?
Mollie: So many! I live in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and love my neighborhood places. For an easy weeknight dinner, I love La Vara, Frankie’s Spuntino, or Prime Meats. In the city, I am my happiest sitting at the bar at dell’anima or L’Artusi and ordering a negroni and a pile of salads and pastas. Gramercy Tavern always makes me feel warm and wonderful (especially during the winter), and I adore basically all Andrew Carmelli’s restaurants, especially Bar Primi and Lafayette.
Grace: Let’s talk personal style… what are your essentials?
Mollie: More often than not, I’m wearing skinny jeans and some sort of floaty, silky top. I love prints, and I rarely wear black.
Grace: Who are your favorite designers?
Mollie: J.Crew has great staples, from tees to flats, and I also like their jewelry. I love Rag & Bone boots and jeans, and shop them, plus Sandro and Maje, on sale. I also (unsurprisingly) love Vince, especially their jackets!
Grace: If you weren’t at Birchbox, what else would you be doing?
Mollie: Something combining wellness and food, or running my own yoga studio/wine bar.
Grace: What’s next for Birchbox?
Mollie: We opened our first brick-and-mortar store this summer, in Soho, and it’s been incredible so far. I can’t wait to see what holiday is like in a real-life retail location, and I’m also excited for all the new holiday merchandise we’re adding to the shop. We also have some awesome things planned for our subscribers in 2015—more surprise, more delight, more fun.
A huge thanks to Mollie for participating! (Read last week’s Stripe Talk here!)