I’ve been following Micaela Hoo’s fashion blog (which was initially called Drifter and the Gypsy) for years. So I was excited when she started teasing about an organic beauty line, Drifter Organics. Micaela and her mom, Dawn Marie, launched the line last summer, and everything looks darling. According to their customers, they feel darling on the skin, too! So as I’ve started replacing more and more of my skincare with natural products, I’ve become more interested in the process of making cosmetics. I’ve sat Micaela down (at least I think I did, I wasn’t really there to see it…) and we talked a little about Drifter Organics:
Kittenhood: What attracted you to the natural beauty industry?
Micaela: I had always made healthy choices when it came to food, but natural beauty wasn’t as much on my radar. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome that I had to not only further restrict my diet, but also revamp my skincare regimen—because your skin absorbs everything you put on it! There are so many so-called “natural” and “pure” skincare products out there that are really just wolves in sheeps’ clothing. With the amount of time my mom and I had invested into trying to find suitable skincare for me, we figured we might as well make them ourselves. After about a year of trial and error, we found a recipe for body butter we really liked. It’s at that time we decided we’d try to launch a skincare business, with body butters being our first products.
K: What happened in between your first homemade concoction and the launch of your first official lookbook?
M: It took us about a year to get a good recipe down for our body butters. During that year, we did a lot of research on our own and consulted with cosmetic chemists and other experts in the industry—who helped direct us in our natural beauty ventures. My mom loves to bake, so mixing ingredients to create a skincare product was a natural shift from being a baker to being an alchemist. It’s at that time we decided to launch our skincare business, Drifter Organics. My mom instinctively fell into the role of product developer, while I, being a graphic designer and photographer, fell into the role of creative director.
Since I have my fashion and lifestyle blog, Oh My Drifter, I knew I wanted to create a fashion spin on the skincare line. It’s not just a skincare product, it’s an entire lifestyle. Anyone who reads my blog, follows me on Instagram, or met me in real life knows my style is off-beat, colorful, and quirky, and I wanted to inject that personality into Drifter Organics. One way to do that was to create a lookbook. Most fashion lines have seasonal lookbooks and I wanted Drifter Organics to take the direction of a fashion brand and follow the same pattern. The lookbooks are a way to further reveal who the Drifter Organics girl is through visual imagery.
K: Your mom is your business partner. What’s it like to work so closely with a family member?
M: I’m an only child and grew up with my mom as a stay-at-home mom. We were always together and as a result, we are so similar in our likes and dislikes. My mom is my best friend. I live at home with my family, so it’s very easy to schedule Drifter Organics work/brainstorm sessions. Drifter Organics has definitely brought us closer together.
K: You have a background in design. How does that translate into Drifter Organics?
M: I try to infuse my natural personality with Drifter Organics. I have a whimsical, laid-back style. I like fashion, but don’t take it seriously. One of my professors at Savannah College of Art and Design—the school I attend online—once said, “You’re work has so much personality!” I want that to be people’s reaction when they see Drifter Organics. Designing for Drifter Organics is just as much—maybe even more so—for me as it is for our audience. I view it as a never-ending art project in which I can experiment and get as creative as I’d like. It’s not work for me, it’s so much fun!
K: How does a product get from pure concept to the online store? What’s the process like?
M: Usually, my mom and I do a brainstorm session when we’ll throw some ideas around. If an idea sticks, we’ll do some research, like what’s involved in producing the product, how complex is it, can we get it certified organic (all our products are certified organic), is there a need for it on the market etc. If the idea still appeals to us after our research, we’ll start a conceptualizing phase in which we’ll think of the product name, the packaging, the marketing etc.
K: What’s the best thing about having your own line of skincare products?
M: Seeing people love the way our products make their skin feel. My mom and I use our own skincare products so much, after a while we get used to them and the way they work…
“Seeing people’s positive initial reactions to the scents, the texture, and how smooth it makes their skin feel is the most rewarding feeling!”
K: And is there something you’d rather not have to deal with?
M: Dealing with all the paperwork involved in owning your own business is not fun! We have to keep track of all our expenses, earnings, inventory, certifications etc. My mom and I are not numbers people at all, so this is a struggle. Just writing about it here makes me shudder!
K: Tell us a little about moving to California from another state as a teen. Did that have an impact on your creativity?
M: Oh yes! Although I was born in New York, I grew up in a Connecticut town that was a suburb of New York City. The vibe of the town was very preppy. When I moved to California, I was taken aback by how laid back and individual the style was. In school, kids dressed so much more expressively and even the way they acted was so much more casual. I definitely love and have fully adopted the laid-back West Coast vibe, but fused it with my own colorful version of preppy.
K: What are your tips for people looking to make the switch to organic beauty products? What’s a good way to start?
M: A good way to start is by making your own simple natural beauty recipes! Try making your own body butter or face masks or even just diffuse essential oils. It’s the best way, in my opinion, to learn about each raw ingredient and how it interacts with your skin. Oftentimes people don’t realize how simple natural beauty is. You can literally use just one ingredient for a moisturizer or face cleanser and experience the most radiant skin you’ve ever had! My mom and I just published an ebook in January that talks more about natural beauty and has a number of natural beauty recipes you can try at home, which you can check out here.
K: Are you a fan of handmade products besides cosmetics? Any favorite independent designers?
M: I totally am. I feel like my desire to support local independent designers and the whole slow fashion movement has grown greater ever since my mom and I launched our own small business. I love Emily Green’s necklaces, Concrete Geometric, Jenny Lemons, People I’ve Loved , and Wild Poppy Goods , amongst many, many others.
Photos c/o Micaela Hoo.