Millie Bobby Brown on Building a Gen Z Beauty Empire
In her own words, the actor tells the story of how her brand Florence by Mills came to be.
Millie Bobby Brown is a member of The A List, which honors individuals who are driving and shaping the future of beauty. Between takes on Stranger Things and Enola Holmes, Brown dreamed up Florence by Mills, a beauty brand for Gen Z, by Gen Z. (An eye balm designed to combat the dark circles of late-night study sessions sold out immediately at launch.) As the line approaches its third birthday — and Brown marks her 18th — the actor and her family have bought the majority stake in the company from the incubator that helped launch it. And now more than ever, Brown is running the show.
Growing up, I visited my grandmother during the winter and summer holidays. One of my earliest beauty-related memories is watching her do her makeup in the morning. That smell of the old-fashioned kind of makeup…it’s very nostalgic [for me]. On both sides of my family, the women were very strong. I never got to meet my great-grandmother Florence [who the line is named after], but she was very, very independent and expressed herself unapologetically. I’ve been told I’m similar to her.
I had always had my makeup done for me [as an actor], but the time I first started using it for myself, I was on the floor, cross-legged in front of a mirror. I think I was 11. Somebody had given me some of their old makeup, which now I realize is such a huge, bad idea. I started to learn contour and how to do eye shadow. My mom had expressed that she didn’t want me to go outside, that it was something that she wanted me to learn inside. [Laughs] So I did that for about a year, and then I finally started doing pretty good at it.
[Florence by Mills] really started to develop in late 2017, early 2018. I was on a [long] plane ride and I brought makeup to keep me busy. I realized that I found so much comfort in doing makeup. I loved not the idea of covering up who I was, but of creating different versions of me. That’s why I’m an actor. I love the act of being a chameleon, of being able to be different people. I started sketching stuff and writing ideas down. By the end of the plane journey, I had a whole idea.
I called a bunch of different people, and we started creating Florence by Mills. I was quite young [Editor’s note: She was around 14.], but I think what was so special about my situation is that I got to really stand my ground on certain things. People push things on you — “This is what we’re doing, this is what’s selling” — and I was like, “I don’t care what’s selling.”
The brand was truly my vision. I didn’t want to make [the products] too complicated. I really wanted pastel colors [for the packaging]; nothing too bright. I wanted to draw people’s eyes, but also make them feel relaxed. [Choosing the packaging] was probably one of my favorite moments in creating the brand. And I also love naming the products. I named a shade in an eye shadow palette Bethnal Green because that’s where my grandmother lived [in London] her whole life. It holds a very special place in my heart.
Sometimes what I find hard is that as I grow, my vision changes, and I’ll have to tell the whole company, like, “Hey, guys, I hate that color now,” and they’re like, “Yay!” [Laughs] I’ve made it my number one rule that as I grow, Florence does. I’ve always said, I’m not going to speak for the whole generation. I’m just going to make products that I [like], and if my generation and other generations like it, that’s great.
Florence by Mills is somewhere that people can come to from all over the world. If you want to nurture yourself, then come here, this is the right place for you. It’s a real family. As someone who has anxiety, it’s something that I find really important — to find a place where you seek harmony. So that’s what Florence is for me. And it’s never felt like a job. — As told to Dianna Mazzone