Laney Crowell Built Saie for Your Mind, Body, and Planet

Beauty

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In ELLE.com’s monthly series Office Hours, we ask people in powerful positions to take us through their first jobs, worst jobs, and everything in between. This month, we spoke to ELLE alum Laney Crowell, who founded the beauty brand Saie in 2019, after leaving a nearly five-year stint at Estée Lauder. “I love that this is an industry where women are leaders,” Crowell says about working in beauty. “They’re running these companies, and the majority of our consumers are women. I love how unique that is.” In honor of Saie’s long-awaited bronzer launch, Crowell dishes on how her skin-focused company has made its mark, the difficulties of being a female founder, and her take on the controversial term “clean beauty.”

My first job

My first job was right out of college as an assistant to a movie producer in Los Angeles. It was such fantastic training, because [people in] the entertainment industry, specifically the assistants, are held to really high standards. You’re thrown in with the sharks, and you just have to figure it out. It helped me be extremely organized. And always find a solution. That’s one of my biggest tips for people starting out: There’s always a solution. Rewire your brain to know that, and always come to your boss with the solution to the problem. Your solution might be wrong, but a great boss will help you figure out the right one. But never just show up with the problem.

My worst job

I didn’t love being an intern at Gucci, because I just don’t think high fashion is my passion. But that’s what got me my internship at ELLE, which opened so many doors. So I don’t think I ever had a worst job. It always takes you to the next thing.

My first beauty memory

I distinctly remember Amber Valletta on the cover of Allure and just being completely transfixed with her face, the makeup look that they did. It was a true no-makeup makeup look. I remember buying the magazine and bringing it home. I was in elementary school, and my dad was like, “I don’t think you should be reading that.” But I was hooked from that moment on.

laney crowell office hours

Design Courtesy of Leah Romero

How I got into the beauty industry

I moved to New York with this dream of working in magazines. I immediately went into fashion, not knowing how the beauty departments worked. I became really good friends with the beauty assistant when I was at Lucky. She just started telling me about everything, and I would spend more time in the beauty closet that I would spend in the fashion closet. I was obsessed with trying every single new product and learning about what made products different. What was the innovation? How do you apply it? So when I got a job offer from Estée Lauder to start their social media channels, I jumped at the chance. It was a dream job.

Why I started Saie

I left Estée Lauder with this really big idea of beauty being better. What would that mean for beauty to be great for our bodies, our minds, our souls, our hearts, the planet? And I started a blog to have that conversation that was called The Moment. I had so much fun writing that blog, because I got to interview so many incredible founders and have these really great conversations spanning nutrition, mindfulness, and then, of course, clean beauty. And pretty quickly, my community said, “Can you create something? Here’s exactly what we’d want it to be: Products that are high-performance at a great price point that are exciting and are good for our planet.”

What it’s like to raise funds as a female founder

A huge hurdle to have to get over is the fact that there’s such a small percentage of investment that goes to women. It’s a lot of convincing. But really, for me, it was just perseverance. I kept telling myself that I had to keep going until I got it done. And that was my mantra. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. [Investors believed in me because] I was bringing the big beauty expertise to clean. That really had not been done before. My background at Estée Lauder just provided this incredible platform to bring world-class formulas to the clean market.

laney crowell office hours

Design Courtesy of Leah Romero

What “clean beauty” means to me

To me, clean beauty means formulas that are safe for your body and the environment. How do we have every single ingredient in our formula serving your body? How are we hydrating your skin? How are we brightening with ingredients like licorice root? We start all of our formulas with SFAC, which is Saie Fatty Acid Complex. It allows us to penetrate your skin barrier, so our formulas aren’t just sitting on top of your skin. We’re able to get down to those deeper layers of your epidermis and deeply hydrate with ingredients like hyaluronic acid, shea butter, and jojoba esters—these really beautiful, nourishing ingredients. The flip side of that is your skin looks gorgeous, dewy, and hydrated, as opposed to having silicones or petroleum-based ingredients that are just going to sit on the top of your skin and clog your pores.

My five-step makeup routine

I got ready for this 10 A.M. interview at 9:55 A.M. I put on Saie Glowy Super Gel, Slip Tint, Dew Blush, Glossybounce, Mascara 101. I got ready in three minutes. Every single time I put on Slip Tint, I get butterflies. It’s so hydrating. It evens your skin tone out immediately. It plumps up your whole face because of all that hydration—and it has SPF 35. It’s the best.

How I created Saie’s first liquid bronzer

All of our products come from our community. That’s where the name of our brand comes from—you say it, we create it. We have been getting a lot of requests for a liquid bronzer inspired by Dew Blush, so that’s what we started working on. This formula has silica in it, so you get this really gorgeous airbrushed look but with all of that gorgeous hydration that you also get in Dew Blush.

I am a California girl. I just love that California look, so bronzer is a product that’s always been a mainstay for me. And I’m not a makeup artist, so our formulas are effortless. I wanted to create something that instantly melts into your skin, is so easy to apply, and achieves that really cool-girl, surfer look. And it was definitely inspired by our viral Dew Blush. The formula is not the same, but the experience is similar. You have this fantastic chunky doe foot that can actually allow for a pretty precise application. I named all of the shades after my favorite parts of summer.

Saie Dew Bronze

Dew Bronze

My approach for building a home office

I have worked out of my bedroom for years. Designing my office, I wanted it to be really feminine. I wanted it to be really calming. I wanted it to be full of wellness opportunities for myself. So I have my meditation pillow where I can go and meditate at the beginning of my day or if I have a break in my schedule. I have my walking pads so I can get my steps in and be standing. I have a bulletin board with all the art that my girls make for me, so I get to look at that every day, which is just the best feeling. I have lots of water for hydration and my little supplement corner with electrolytes and focus gummies and all those things that make me feel good. I feel way more productive. I think it’s a better balance, because when I’m in my office, I’m focused on work. And when I’m done for the day, I can shut that door and then go and be with my family, and be really present there.

laney crowell home office

Courtesy of Laney Crowell

Laney Crowell’s home office.

On the future of Saie

We have some really exciting announcements coming around our commitment to fighting the climate crisis. That is part of our DNA. Every decision we make is through the lens of: How do we have the smallest footprint possible? There’s obviously no denying the climate crisis that we’re in. I’m really proud to be a brand that not only is conscious about it, but is actively fighting for a better future. We’re very vocal about our community and encouraging them to vote. Our merch is vintage. And then of course, we work with 1% for the Planet, amongst other incredible organizations like rePurpose, who are all fighting really hard to support our planet.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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