What does "Indie" mean to you?


I mentioned in my last post (the one on Venomous Cosmetics Lip Poisons) that you guys wanted to see more posts featuring indie brands and that begs the question, what does the word "Indie" mean to you? I remember when Christine of Temptalia held her annual Reader's Choice awards and there was some controversy with the "Best Indie Brand" category, as some of the brands listed weren't considered to be "Indie" by some readers. So what is considered an "Indie" makeup brand? Is it related to the manufacturing process, who is in control of the company, where it's being sold, etc?

I think we can all agree, anything corporate-owned is decidedly NOT indie but I think beyond that it's quite difficult to navigate the waters of what is considered to be indie and not indie. I mean what is the spectrum and how do we quantify what is considered what is and isn't?

Let's consider Temptalia's 2012 contenders for the "Best Indie Brand" category and parse out some of the brands. Like I said before, there was disagreement with some of the brands nominated but I think it just necessitates a clarification of indie (which is basically what this post is about though I don't know if we'd ever come to a consensus). In 2012, Inglot won, followed by theBalm, then Sugarpill. The other nominees were Cult Nails, Fyrinnae, Glamour Doll Eyes, Lime Crime, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics (OCC), Shiro Cosmetics, and Sigma Makeup. In 2010, the winner was NYX.

I know that the great majority of the companies listed employ a laboratory or other manufacturer to product their products, (Inglot, theBalm, Sugarpill, Cult Nails, Lime Crime, OCC, and Sigma Makeup) and many of the brands are sold in physical stores or have their own freelancing stores (Inglot, theBalm [previously in Sephora but I do believe they're being sold in Nordstroms now], OCC [they have a freestanding store in New York and recently started being sold in Sephora!], Shiro [there is a physical location selling them in Oregon]. I'm not 100% sure on Sugarpill and Glamour Doll Eyes being sold in physical locations. Fyrinnae does not sell in another location. 

So what does "Indie" mean to you? I think I can consider brands like Fyrinnae, Shiro Cosmetics, and Glamour Doll Eyes to be firmly "Indie" since they do manufacture and sell the products themselves but the line is blurred for brands like Cult Nails, Sugarpill, Lime Crime, and Sigma who don't manufacture the products but do most of the selling themselves. Would they be considered small businesses as opposed to strictly Indie?

I can't say I consider Inglot to be Indie (being sold in 300 retail locations worldwide has a more corporate feel) however OCC and theBalm are a little difficult to classify when the Founders of the companies still play a huge role in the company but the brands are/were being sold in Sephora which is a very big retail chain.

So my question to you is, what do you consider to be "Indie" and why?


  1. I consider indie makeup to be 'small business' makeup, tbh. Having your product sold in ten stores, max.

    1. I don't mean big name stores either. I'm mostly talking about local boutiques and things like that.

  2. I consider indie to be small businesses where the owner/formulator(s) has ultimate control and things are made in house. I don't consider someone like Inglot, The Balm or SugarPill to be indie as they don't hand blend their products.

  3. To me, an "indie" company - in anything - resells less than 5% of its total lineup, and pays a lab to formulate less than 35% of their total lineup. So if more than 40% of their stuff is not formulated in-house, I personally consider them to be a small business, but not an "indie" business.

    Examples: Meow Cosmetics formulates their own foundation, eyeshadows, blushes, and finishing powders, but resells the indelible gel shadows (along with at least two dozen other beauty microbusinesses) and quite likely buys the brushes they sell from another company. I personally consider Meow, and other such ventures (a jewelry store that makes earrings and necklaces and rings, and also sells jewelry stands and boxes, but they don't make the boxes themselves beyond having their brand name stamped on them) an "indie" business.

    Sigma Cosmetics probably buys their brushes and applicators from another company, who puts the Sigma name on them for a fee. Sigma handles marketing and end-user sales and end-user shipping. I do not consider Sigma an "indie" business because I don't think that they make most of their products. Assemble the kits, possibly. But I don't think that they make the brushes in their own factory. I have no idea of the size of Sigma's payroll or their business volume, but I'd feel comfortable putting them in the "small business" range. They're more like any other mainstream company: they resell, they handle their own marketing/branding/packaging, but I kind of doubt that they have a factory where they make all the brushes themselves. Same with the makeup that they've started selling.

    Looking at Sugarpill's lineup, I'm going to guess that they handle all packaging and branding, but I don't know that they make all of their pressed products in-house. (They might - what do I know?) Without knowing the manufacturing process for Sugarpill's products, I can't say if they're indie or not, though my initial guess is that they have just under half of their products made elsewhere, which makes them a small business, but not indie. (Though - hey, I could be wrong about their manufactured-inhouse / manufactured-elsewhere ratio.)

  4. !!!

    Had a comment, lost it when I hit Publish. (I truly loathe Blogger's comment system for sign-ins.)

    To me, if a company resells or lab-formulates over 40% of its total lineup, they may be a small business, but they're not an indie business. It doesn't matter to me how many stores sell their products, or how many channel partners they may have. If they aren't formulating at least 2/3 of their products themselves from raw or near-raw ingredients, they could be a small business, or even a microbusiness, but they're not what I consider an "indie" business.

    I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that SugarPill and Sigma would not qualify as indie under my definition. (In fact, I'm almost positive that Sigma never did. I can't imagine them making their own brushes. Having a wholesale factory make them to their specs, sure; but made in a facility that also makes makeup brushes for other end sellers and wholesalers.)

  5. I personally agree with Prissy, I think of a brand as "indie" if they are a small business (whether they ''hand formulate'' or not) and not big enough (yet?) to be sold in major retail stores. For this reason I think of Sugarpill as indie but not Inglot or OCC.
    (I can't believe NYX was considered indie just 2 years ago!!)

    1. Agreed - I still think Sugarpill is indie because I think Amy Doan still, as the CEO, personally makes 90% of decisions rather than a random chain of command that ends up with her not really doing anything at all (do I make any sense? lol) but yeah.. I don't think OCC is indie because they are selling in Sephora. With all the controversy around Lime Crime, I hear stuff about repackaging (*nod to Lipsticks and Lightsabres*) that just doesn't make me think of it as indie per se, but more just a business.

  6. My definition of an Indie business is an independently owned business. You do not have your products in major retail shelfs and if you do it's a very small number.


  7. This is a great question. My first thought was that an indie company is one that is small and handmade. Companies like NYX are not indie to me personally because they are not handmade and are sold at drugstores and major chains like Ulta.

    I think one of the ideas about indie companies is that they do not intend to become a giant worldwide brand. They may grow and thrive, but won't ever become a brand sold in drugstores or Sephora.

    But that's just my opinion, of course.

  8. I definetly don't think Inglot or the Balm is indie. I think indie is Sugarpill, Lime Crime, Glamour Doll Eyes, Darling Girl, Femme Fatale, Fyrinnae, & brands like that.

  9. I think of indie companies as a much smaller scale operation, usually basing themselves from a website or maybe 1 or 2 local boutique stores. Finding an 'indie' brand in a chain store breaks my definition.
    Sugarpill and Lime Crime are always on the teetering edge for me, because whilst they are independent in the purest sense (that they wholly own their own brand), I don't feel that they don't have a strong "independent" connection to their product compared to those who hand make their product. Sure, those who go the hand made route still get their goods from suppliers, but they make them in small batches, not spending money to have them made elsewhere.


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