Behind the Brand: Valerie Giraud of Antonym Cosmetics
By Robin Tolkan-Doyle, Beauty Editor
Valerie Giraud was born and raised in Cannes, France, one of the most glittery and glamorous cities along the French Rivera, which makes this self-made beauty boss all the more riveting because of her incredibly down-to-earth and self-effacing demeanor. In her pursuit for a life in fashion and beauty, Valerie unexpectedly landed herself in yet another sparking and exciting coastal town…Miami, Florida, where she currently straddles a successful career as a makeup artist for film and commercial projects as well as running Antonym Cosmetics, a globally renowned, organic and Ecocert certified brand of highly pigmented natural makeup and cosmetic brushes beloved by countless celebrities including Robin Wright and Keira Knightly. Coco Eco was lucky enough to chat with Valerie recently as she graciously gave us a peek into how she got her start.
I read that you actually started off in the hair industry. Is that right?
Yes, I started with hair! I always loved doing hair. When I moved to the States, I had a few friends who worked in the film industry. So I started working as a production assistant. Florida is a right-to-work state. Usually, you have to be part of the union and you have to choose either hair or makeup, but in Miami, you have to actually be able to do both. And that's how I started doing makeup.
So funny how things work out!
I also always wanted to be a fashion designer. It was between hair and fashion design. But it does go in the same world of beauty.
Were your parents creative types, too?
Not at all. My father was a contractor and my mum worked in a store. So not at all. I was not brought up in the fashion industry, but I lived in Cannes. My mum had a very nice sense of fashion and she always had her hair and makeup done. She was always perfect and beautiful.
What brought you to the states?
I went to London first and I ended up staying there nearly four years. I met a couple of friends who are half British, half American, that I am still friends with to this day. They were always inviting me to go on holiday with them. On one trip, I ended up meeting my husband at the time, so I stayed. It was never my intention and growing up, I never thought. ‘I'm going to live in the United States.’ It just happened basically. But I do love it here. I really love Miami. I love the people. It's a melting pot. There are so many different personalities and ethnicities. It's wonderful.
What encouraged you to create a clean makeup line?
Years ago, when I started doing makeup, there were a lot of mineral and natural lines, but they were portraying the natural line as a “natural look,” which is very different. It was very hard to find the right natural products that would also perform well. They were either a very faded color or very light. Like when Bare Minerals came out. The products covered well, but it was very natural and at the end of the day, the coverage had no color.
Yes, I remember that time in makeup history!
That’s why I decided to research it and I ended up starting a business with Ivo, who is my partner and also my ex-husband. He used to have an advertising agency. So he handled the logo, design, advertising, and marketing. We started researching packaging and went to the makeup trade shows in New York or LA to meet all suppliers and labs, also to work with chemists because I'm not a chemist.
You were onto something there by making sure your products were clean. Not a lot of people that were doing that at the time you created Antonym. What made you insistent on creating a clean and certified organic brand?
I wanted to have the certification because it was going with what I believe in. Why not have a clean product if you can? Why not have sustainable packaging if you can? I realized that not all natural ingredients are clean and not all synthetic ingredients are bad. But I also realized that a more natural and organic product was the way to go.
How did you come up with the name Antonym?
We were looking for a name that started with “A,” because when you go to any store, it would be first in alphabetical order. Ivo came up with Antonym and it fit perfectly. There are a lot more lines now then there was at the time, but it’s still at the top of the list. I liked that it was clean sounding and also geared to every age.
Let’s talk about baked foundation - something Antonym is known for. What’s the difference between a foundation that’s baked and one that’s liquid?
Basically a baked foundation is a cream that is baked so it keeps the property of the cream while still being a powder. Depending on the ingredients you have inside, it doesn't dry your skin. So whether you have dry or oily skin, you can use the powder. Ours are done with a swirl of colors and we have six different shades. By mixing the two colors in each palette, the baked foundation adapts to your skin tone. It’s also very travel-friendly than having to take liquids with you.
What’s your favorite Antonym product?
I do use all my products believe it or not, and I do use them on set, too. My favorite are the Eye Pencils. They’re very creamy in some ways and because they don’t dry right away you can create different looks. If you draw a line, you can smudge it or put it longer or put a little powder with it, or even put it in the ri