Sunderland-born Kimberley Cattin has made a name for herself in the beauty industry, being one of the CEOs of cosmetic company West Barn Co (WBCo.) The brand has been used by celebrities such as the Kardashians, Billie Eilish and Becky Hill. In an exclusive interview with Fashion North, Kimberley reveals all about her background in the beauty industry and the power of makeup.
Kimberley began her journey into the industry in her early teens. “I’ve always been into art and drawing from a very young age. I got a book when I was 14 – Bobbi Brown’s manual – and because there was no Instagram, no Facebook, and barely any internet, if you wanted to learn something it was from a book. So, I had this book and I read it cover to cover, repeatedly. By the time I was 15 I had all of Bobbi Brown’s brushes.”
As her career progressed, Kimberley ventured into roles within both the beauty and fashion industry. “I started in occasion work, so friends, family, weddings, Christenings and did that for a good couple of years. I then moved into fashion, which included editorials and magazine work, but I hated it. Doing London Fashion Week just wasn’t for me; the beauty editorials I loved, but it was just the fashion industry I struggled with as I wasn’t enjoying it. I moved in TV and film which is very niche with a close-knit group of people, but I loved it there.”
She’s always been keen to maintain the aesthetic that she’s best known for. “My style was always very fresh and with skin looking like skin – not minimal, as it was still more red carpet – and I just got known for that look.” This led her to feeling frustrated about the fact that a more natural brow product was missing from her makeup bag, so alongside her mother, she came up with the idea for soap brows.
“My makeup teacher in college taught me about the old Hollywood trick. Back in the 50s people such as Sophia Loren would use a bar of soap on their eyebrows, but I wasn’t about to put soap on anyone else’s eyebrows, especially not in TV or film. I wanted to try it so many times on somebody else because it works. But that soap might also then cause a rash or irritation – imagine me doing that to somebody in TV and the whole production shutting down for a couple of days. It wasn’t worth it.
“I knew that we had to make it cosmetically registered and safe, and my mam was formulating at the time, so we pulled our heads together and said right can we make this a cosmetic and can we make it safe for people?”
She admits that she could never do a look on models that involved harsh lines, whether that was in TV, editorials or the red carpet as it was too unnatural. “Trending wise, being natural is the look and it has been for a very long time now. It’s the skin that people love now; it’s not even fashionable, it just became more acceptable to have skin.
“We’re in a different era to the 90s when everything was filtered to the high ends and skin didn’t look like skin. Real is now in. I think it’s going to continue like that for at least the next two years.”
Kimberley encourages people to experiment with makeup, whether that’s with the soap brow products, or makeup in general. “If you’re using soap brow products, especially extra-strong, make sure you have a play first. Don’t expect to get it right first time – it’s a makeup artist product. It’s not a skill as such but you might just need a bit of practice at first.
“Some of the thinner brows are coming back, so I’ve been doing some tutorials on how to get the 90s brow using our products. Figure out what your look is. Change it up a bit. Experiment.”
As well as soap brows, WBCo have their own clinic which provide a range of treatments, such as massages, facials, Botox and hydro facials. “We have a WBCo facial that we use all our products on, but other than that we don’t use our own products in treatments as we don’t have the range. However, the skincare is moving over from dotcom to the clinic and we’re splitting them out. The clinic will have all our skincare products and WBCo will have all our cosmetics and brows and we’re branching out.”
When asked about her biggest pinch-me moment, she said: “One day in the old office someone said that Beyoncé’s tagged us in her latest picture. That’s a memory I don’t think I’ll ever forget because I’m obsessed with Beyoncé.”
As for remaining true to her North East roots, she said: “We try and keep our suppliers as local as possible and bring as much business back into this circle as we can. It’s hard as there’s not a lot of beauty companies in the Northeast. Even models we try and get from around here to bring the region together a bit more.”
With experience in the business world before launching WBCo, Kimberley had some tips for growing a business. “The main thing was creating an environment where people wanted to work – it’s all about the people. Also, look at your vision board and create it in the very beginning when you’ve got that burning desire to start a business. Think about what you’re trying to achieve.”
A final piece of advice from Kimberley is: “Don’t be afraid to say no. Do whatever is best for you.”