Influence Peddler: Kristen Noel Crawley on Streetwear and Beauty’s Love Affair

Streetwear and beauty have a thing going on.
The jury's still out on whether fashion's streetwear obsession is dying down or heating up, but the delirium is so strong, it has poured over into beauty. Italian streetwear brand GCDS released a beauty line that made its debut at ComplexCon late last year. In January, Puma and Maybelline unveiled a line of streetwear-inspired makeup products, and a few months later, Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. revived its original logo for a collaboration with popular streetwear retailer Kith.
The intersection of streetwear and beauty may be niche, but it's ablaze nonetheless. Few know its ins and outs better than Kristen Noel Crawley.
"I come from the streetwear world. That's in my roots," said Crawley. A decade ago, she and her husband, Don, opened a men's store called RSVP Gallery in Chicago. They, along with Virgil Abloh, are co-owners of the store, which has been a hotbed for street-style stars such as Aleali May, a former RSVP employee.
RSVP, said Crawley, was "all about fusing high-end and streetwear culture." This fusion would eventually explode into the current streetwear craze — 10 years ago, it was hardly mainstream. It would also be an underlying theme of Crawley's beauty brand, KNC Beauty.
Crawley launched KNC Beauty three years ago with lip masks. Growing up in Springfield, Ill., her lips were "dry no matter what," she said. While on a trip to Tokyo with Dior, Crawley stopped into a Don Quixote, found Japanese lip masks and bought a few. Upon further examination of the ingredients list, she tried to find natural alternatives, but to no avail.
"That's when the lightbulb went off and I thought, I should make this," she said.
KNC Beauty has expanded to include retinol-infused eye masks in the shape of shooting stars and, most recently, lip balms. Crawley plays a key role in formulating the products, testing them and designing the inner and outer packaging. The latter of these is part of the reason the brand has picked up interested from luxury retailers.
"I didn’t mean to be a luxury brand — it’s not a luxury brand," said Crawley. "But the aesthetic of it feels luxury, so it just happened that way."
KNC Beauty is sold at Net-a-porter, Neiman Marcus, Urban Outfitters, Cos Bar, Violet Grey and as of a few weeks ago, Sephora. The company is said to have done $1.1 million in sales in 2018, with about 70 percent of sales coming from online. KNC Beauty has nearly 55,000 followers on Instagram, with no paid marketing thus far. Crawley has 413,000 Instagram followers.
For the design of KNC's latest launch, Supabalm, Crawley drew inspiration from the 1972 film "Super Fly."
"I love the font they used for that so I did a very similar font to that movie," she said. "Color-wise, I wanted it to be monotone, but also I wanted you to be able to see immediately the difference in scents."
She revealed the product at ComplexCon Chicago in July and almost sold out the first day. She was just as in-demand as her product, it seems, as she lost count of "how many times I FaceTimed with guys' girlfriends" at the convention.
ComplexCon has been upping its beauty offerings — via Urban Decay, GCDS and Nail Swag — in recent iterations. The convention is still male-dominated, but there's an uptick in women attending, according to Crawley. Those women are exactly who she is targeting with KNC Beauty.
"The KNC girl is the girl who wears Jordans and Chanel bags," she said. "She’s the girl that goes to ComplexCon or goes to fashion week, but isn’t super dolled up."
New product launches are in the pipeline for fall — namely a scrub set in time for the holidays and "the ultimate lip-care kit," said Crawley. She is also planning to release an eye mask without retinol — perhaps with CBD — as well as full face masks and an exclusive lip-balm flavor for Violet Grey.
Asked what's currently exciting her in the fashion world, Crawley said, "Not much."
"A lot of my friends are running the fashion industry," she continued. "Matt Williams, for example. I go back with these people for over 10 years. It’s great to see Heron and it’s obviously great to see Virgil and Ye with all the Yeezy stuff. My husband, as well. He has his brand, Just Don, that he just started doing full collections — no more just hats and basketball shorts. It’s really great to see all of my friends winning. Like Giorgia and Gilda from The Attico, who I’ve known for a really long time. Gilda was one of the best street-style stars and now has one of the best brands. That’s why I like to support my friends rather than big houses that are probably always gonna be around. That’s what’s exciting for me right now: the moment that we’re in."
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