Interviewed in London in August 2017
DISCO DUST LONDON is an eco, vegan and cruelty free glitter brand to inspire you to create, be free and have fun, no matter who you are…
On a mission to break stigmas and push boundaries in the beauty industry, Disco Dust London is known for inclusive and diverse campaigns, inspirational pop ups and innovative yet sustainable products.
Nicole; “I left school in York at 17, moved to London and took the Portfolio Course at LCFPortfolio Course at LCF instead of finishing my A Levels. I passed the course and was auditioning for a part in Skins when I found out I’d got a place on BA Textile Design. (I didn’t get the role in the end). I graduated from that in 2014 and embarked on a series of random jobs and internships.
The idea for glitter came from doing hair wraps; my final collection at LCF had involved hair wraps and body wraps to go over clothing – and a friend hired me to hair-wrap and bring glitter at an LGBT Fresher’s party at Goldsmiths she had organised. The glitter did so well there were queues all evening and people loved it. It was rewarding to have such an instant and enthusiastic response to your work; I remember thinking then that glitter had potential. At the time, as well as hair wrapping, I was making jewellery; I’d recently started assisting an amazing photographer after walking out of my job in a department store having decided a 9-5 wasn’t for me. I decided I needed to focus on one thing and see how that went.
My goal was to learn how to run a business. I feel like glitter is only the first one – I’d like to run more businesses in the future. I love fashion and studied textiles but having interned and worked for small fashion businesses, I know how difficult it is to turn a profit and what the risks are. So many of my favourite labels have ended up closing down.
I had an accident on a job where hot oil was spilt on my leg. They paid me a lump sum as compensation – so that was my main start-up investment capital.
I started out by doing a few glitter stalls at events to trial the products, but I found that there are already loads of small boutique glitter brands out there so I didn’t want to follow that route and focused more on the product, branding and quality.
DISCO DUST LONDON’s point of difference from other brands is the combination of love and attention to detail within each glitter product, as well as our hand-picked selection of high quality products. We place ourselves in more of a luxury product market, we want it to feel like treasure that you can roll around in. I did all the branding and design, it’s my favourite part of the job, and built and designed the website myself.
In May we did [trade show] Pulse at Olympia, which specialises in gifts, modern living and fashion accessories with a design focus. We gained a lot of stockists and support from it alongside attention from our Instagram, and currently have 32 stockists including Cyberdog, Not Another Salon [on Brick Lane], Dolls Kill in California and Beyond Retro in London with more in the pipeline.
Instagram has been an amazing platform, it has allowed us to really build up an identity and document some of our favourite customers creations. It also allowed us to reach out to some insanely talented people and makeup artists such as Theresa who did our first campaign or Bea [pic above] who introduced me to this blog!
The wholesale model is quite a challenge; significantly less profit per sale. Straight to consumer is more profitable but we do really enjoy working with other companies. It is also rewarding to have the support of some really influential stores which in turn can tend to send traffic in our direction.
The big development in the world of glitter is that everything is turning biodegradable. We launched our biodegradable range of 15 colours at the trade show in May 2017 and it’s definitely the way forward.
Biodegradable glitter is made from cellulose film which is a raw material that can decompose with heat, water and air. It has to decompose within a certain amount of time or it can’t get certified as biodegradable.
Our best sellers include SPARKLE bio glitter which is totally plastic-free with a metallic shine, our PURE bio glitter which is aluminium and plastic free with an opal iridescent effect. We also stock stencils, vegan and wooden brushes, and our natural aloe-based gel, making application chemical-free and safe for kids and sensitive skin too.
Our biodegradable glitters are plant based from hardwoods mainly eucalyptus. Made in the UK, they are vegan, cruelty free and 40% softer than regular plastic glitters.
Standard cosmetic glitters are based on tiny pieces of PET or PVC plastic film and are also known as ‘micro plastics’. Micro plastics make up 85% of plastic pollution found in our environment since the small size of the glitter are hard to be filtered out and take over 1,000 years to degrade. The tiniest of organisms then ingest the plastic which creates a huge problem for sea life and consequently, us.
Unlike most glitters, our Bio-glitter is a new technology, based on a biodegradable film that is OK Compost Home certified, Marine and waste water biodegradable, suitable for anaerobic digestion making it much kinder for the environment and oceans.
Our glitter is just as sparkly as a conventional PET glitter, and feels softer to the touch. It comes from sustainable sources, does not contain genetically modified materials or materials obtained from genetically modified organisms. We also ensure that everything is 100% cruelty free, suitable for vegans, and never tested on animals.
Having spent time sorting out all our credentials for the products we then turned to sourcing our packaging that’s as sustainable as possible.
Our orders are posted in recyclable bubble mailers or white cardboard boxes with eco friendly paper wrapping. Our glass jars are made from part recycled glass with aluminium lids and our pots are made from PP Plastic which is also widely recycled.
The next goal is to expand our workspace. In the beginning we had five months in a property guardianship so that really helped to cover start-up costs. I haven’t made too many sacrifices to get the business going, although I haven’t been able to learn to drive yet as it’s just been so busy.
The way I set things up was to jump into it without a long planning period. You could spend forever planning so you may as well learn on the job by making mistakes. My biggest challenge is deadlines, time planning, getting orders out on time.
I’ve got a mentor at the Princes Trust and I’ll have mentoring for a few years for free. My mentor is a huge support and always gives good advice. In terms of investment I’ve been growing slowly rather than spending too much. My general rule is not to outsource investment – I’d rather grow slowly.”