Always wanted to be a beauty buyer? Drogheda girl Lucy McPhail is the newly appointed head of beauty at Liberty London. It sounds like a dream job – so we asked her to tell us about her career journey from Dublin to London, her advice (and favourite beauty buys) and what it’s like to work in beauty.
… on my journey from Fetch in Dublin to Liberty London
“I relocated to London in 2019 to work on a consulting project for Harrods accessories and to fundraise for the next stage of Fetch Beauty [an online beauty boutique founded by McPhail]. Within six months the pandemic hit which sadly made continuing Fetch Beauty in its current form completely unviable. Thankfully, everyone involved is thriving and for me personally I was able to move into a permanent role at Harrods leading the accessories division. A year later I was approached by Liberty for the newly created role as Head of Beauty. I was blown away by their plans for growth and continuous innovation in the industry and the entrepreneur in me felt really compelled to be a part of it.”
… on what the job entails day to day
“Day to day is varied but from a product perspective the week is split in two. Current brand strategy meetings with my buying team, which could be either marketing or business focused, and then potential new brand meetings. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to meet every emerging beauty brand, but I have an incredible buying team who do their best. The beginning of the week has a big focus on dissecting trade and ensuring we have the right stock in the business. LibertyLondon.com has become a hugely influential platform both in the UK and internationally so that kept us extremely busy during lockdown. The stores have now reopened here in the UK which is such a pleasure. Liberty is the go-to authority for discovery in beauty and has been the home of many firsts in the industry. It’s my job to make sure this continues through our product curation and longer-term innovation. Previous first to markets include the Liberty Beauty Advent Calendar which launched in 2014. Liberty also had the very first Kiehl’s and Aesop counters in the UK to namedrop a few!”
… starting a new role like this during lockdown
“I live close to the store so I’ve been able to meet some of the team and be a part of the store reopening plans. The business world is now online and we just have to adapt our communication style. Of course it’s more difficult to build up a rapport when you don’t spend time with people in person and you have no idea how tall anyone is.”
What qualities do you need for a job like this, beyond a passion for beauty?
“Being good with numbers and probably more importantly, good with people. I think it’s important to be able to provide feedback in an open and honest way. If a brand takes the time to pitch you should give honest and realistic feedback. Nobody will thank you for being polite if it turns out you’re not interested.”
… what excites you most about the job and advice would you have for anyone interested in working in this field
“Beauty is fuelled by innovation, which makes it an incredibly exciting category. Aside from beauty, how we consume has changed fundamentally over the past 12 months and will continue to evolve as we navigate through life post-pandemic. My advice to anyone looking to work in the luxury retail industry – whether that’s fashion or beauty – is to have an interest in design, culture and exploration. Be curious and never stop learning. At a high level, it’s fundamentally about experience, escapism.”
… the big focusses in beauty this year, and how you think lockdown has affected our beauty buying and the products we’re interested in
“In 2020 we saw a massive shift in make-up, from a full face to a more pared-back look, with skincare taking a larger proportion of our beauty spend. It should be no surprise that sales in the lip category were down on 2019. With that said though, if a launch is exciting enough (and there have been some examples even in lipsticks) it will still exceed. Along with skincare, sales in haircare and the wellness categories (luxury bathing, candles, body care) have flourished over the past year. Looking ahead to 2021 and beyond, I agree with a lot of commentators who believe we will see ‘revenge shopping’ [spending more on luxuries we’ve been deprived of during lockdown] that complements our (hopefully not too distant) return to a more social world. I also believe that the time we have spent consuming beauty on social media over the past year has reached a point of plateau, and women are ready for the realness that comes with relating and sharing beauty in real life.”
… ones to watch: the brands/products I’m loving right now
“My beauty regimen has always been a mix of experimenting and trialling new products which are yet to launch, balanced with some tried and tested heroes. I will always have certain products on rotation, such as the Augustinus Bader Moisturiser. I’m massively into multipurpose products and loving the Universal Oil from Lixirskin. I use it in the bath, on my hair, as a body oil, on my cuticles.
Working in front of a screen all day has made me obsess more than ever with setting powders and I love the Laura Mercier loose powder in glow. The standout new beauty step in my life is at-home hair styling (of the root cover-up variety). I’m now obsessed with texture sprays and finishing products such as the Ouai finishing cream which I use from the ears down to add shine and smooth curls. Also, if you use dry shampoo then follow up with this – it brings my hair to life completely.
My favourite thing about the stores reopening is being able to discover new fragrance again, I’ve really missed this. I’ve been wearing Bal D’Afrique from Byredo of late, it’s such a sexy fragrance.”
… on Irish brands stocked in Liberty
“I was so thrilled to see Modern Botany in the Liberty mix when I joined. Watch this space for more!”
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.