Buy beauty products like an insider

Interview: Anna-Marie Solowij & Millie Kendall

When it comes to cosmetics, the beauty editor's authority is absolute. Hers is the voice we trust from the pages of magazines, whether we're swotting up on serums or revamping our regimes. And one of the biggest autumn launches seeks to use that authority in an entirely new way: BeautyMart is a cosmetics concept that will change the way you shop for slap.

The brainchild of Anna-Marie Solowij, former beauty director of British Vogue, and Millie Kendall, who not only introduced Shu Uemura products to the UK but also co-founded her own brand Ruby & Millie in 1998, BeautyMart brings together brands from across the world and the price spectrum to offer shoppers a coherent edit of tried and tested personal favourites.

"I buy products based on an expert's opinion," says Kendall. "We've had the expert hairdresser; we've had the expert make-up artists; I think now is the time for a new wave of experts. With us, there has to be a level of integrity and I think people will recognise that."

"I can't justify asking someone to spend £47 on a moisturiser unless it's someone I believe in," agrees Solowij. "The minute you put your name to something like that, you expose yourself – which is what we've done for a long time in various publications."

So the range of products available at BeautyMart spans everything from a simple and budget-friendly Anne French cleanser (the sort that your nan might once have used) to more niche and under-the-radar names, such as DHC, a cheap and cheerful newcomer from Japan, and cult German homeopathic brand Weleda. There is skincare, make-up, hair-care and other bathroom bits, all grouped by genre rather than brand, in an attempt to make your shopping experience as practical as possible. It's simply a selection of products they love and can't live without.

"We're just doing it our way," Kendall explains, "and in a way that we think is decent, honest and fairly indicative of the market."

Both she and Solowij talk about "masstige" – their name for the site's eclectic mix of make-up from familiar names such as Revlon, Rimmel and Bourjois, alongside rarefied limited editions of products that Kendall and Solowij have sourced from their industry friends' basements (all strictly within date, of course).

"Make-up artist Linda Cantello used to do a fantastic range," says Solowij. "I called her up and said, 'Have you got anything?' It still trades in South America. A lot of her products are totally genius!"

There are time-saving "insider" offerings, such as Bioderma's Crealine water, a gentle cleanser which make-up artists use to remove make-up backstage, and – Kendall's personal favourite – a salt-water nasal spray that she is addicted to during hay-fever season. And then there's the dry shaving oil she uses when doing her legs in the sink.

Solowij's favourites tend to be more about luxuriating in the fragrance and feel of a product, citing 4711 Eau de Cologne as one of her must-haves and describing Elizabeth Arden's Eight-Hour Cream as "an iconic all-round treatment balm".

This is the genius of BeautyMart, which opens as a retail space in Harvey Nichols this September and will launch as a fully functioning e-boutique later in the year: that for every product you recognise (such as the cult perfume Charlie) there'll be another seven that you don't and immediately crave. The two founders hope to induce that feeling of being on holiday in a foreign supermarket and wanting to try out every single product.

"Wouldn't it be great to have a BeautyMart like an enormous Tescos?" says Solowij, and Millie Kendall joins her in silent, excited reverie.

BeautyMart opens in Harvey Nichols, London on 7 September

What's in the BeautyMart basket?

Super lustrous lipstick in Black Cherry £7.49, Revlon; comic-book nail transfers £7, Models Own; Eight Hour Cream £25, Elizabeth Arden; Great Lash mascara £5.10, Maybelline; dry shampoo in Medium Brunette £3.99, Batiste; Kajal kohl eyeliner £6.99, Bourjois; 4711 Eau de Cologne £11 for 50ml; Deep Cleansing Milk £2.62, Anne French; Make-off Sheets £5.95, DHC, all available from beautymart.com

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