Welcome to The Quality Makers, an interview series highlighting pioneers in the direct-to-consumer space. Join us as we get an inside look at the world of digital shopping through the eyes of the individuals shaping it…
It was human connection that inspired Lesley Thornton to turn her flourishing facial practice into the beloved skincare line Klur. “The hands-on practical experience gave me the confidence to pursue and build something unique in a crowded market,” she shares.
Before Klur, Thornton started as a makeup artist, which didn’t quite provide her with “knowledge of skin function, ingredients, or education.” So in 2010, she began studies to become a Licensed Esthetician focused on skin care education and product development. It only took a few years of doing treatments on patients to recognize patterns. “Many used improper or harsh skin care, lacked the education to make informed decisions and had an unhealthy lifestyle that didn't support their skin health,” she explains.
“I also saw many clients had the same skin triggers, ranging from stress, lack of circulation, insomnia, and various food-related issues.” Thornton was shocked to see how positively their skin responded to fragrance-free products and more straightforward botanical formulas.”Over time the routines I curated concentrated less on the problems and products and more on adjusting one's individual lifestyle. I had developed a holistic framework to treat skin, and it worked to improve skin and health, “ she shares. This was the moment Thornton realized Klur was more than a facial studio, but a grounded, reliable brand her clients could trust.
What was the inciting moment for Klur?
LT: “There was no singular lightbulb moment. It was an accumulation of decades of different experiences. I've been in the beauty industry for twenty years. I had always been passionate about making people feel beautiful. I eventually stopped doing facials and focused on building the brand. Even though the market had everything, it was my well-considered philosophy and a decade of teaching my clients how to achieve optimal skin health, which needed to be shared with others.”
Can you talk about how you've seen the word "clean" evolve in the skincare space as an esthetician and formulator?
LT: “The beauty and skincare industry is constantly changing; everyone has their definition of clean. I find it exhausting to decipher every new marketing term, so I don't get wrapped up or keep up with the trends. Instead, I focus all my energy on empowering our community by providing transparency and comprehensive education, supported by facts and ever-evolving science. I do this as a skin health educator, and I know it is more valuable than the latest marketing term. Our process has always been well-considered and focused on optimal skin health rooted in scientific education. I stick to that because it defines all the marketing and what truly matters to myself and the Klur community—we like doing our own thing and do it very well.”
What about launching a brand has surprised you the most?
LT: “Every day I'm surprised at the overall reception and success of the brand. I'm shocked by the impact we've had and the interest from around the world. I'm from humble beginnings and started this thing in a tiny rented facial room; Klur was just an idea, and over time, it's grown into a beautiful community that shares the same values. I'm a Black neurodivergent woman, I don't have a business degree, my background is not corporate, and we aren't VC-backed; the odds have been stacked against me. I'm shocked that we made it through a two-year pandemic.
Despite the crowded market, we have found such a wonderful community. We have grown tremendously and seen many significant brands find influence in what we are doing in and what we offer the marketplace, which is a surprise because we are so small and strive to do things differently. Every morning I wake up, I'm living out my dreams; to say I'm surprised is an understatement. I take absolutely nothing for granted; it's been a journey of surprises!”
As founders featured in our "Quality Makers" series, what does "quality" mean to you?
LT: “Although I firmly believe in quality over quantity, I try to avoid using the word quality as it relates to Klur. It's too easy to say we use quality ingredients and packaging, which justifies the price. Unfortunately, the best quality ingredients don't necessarily make the best skin care products; they can be the rarest botanicals and do nothing for your skin's health. I believe quality should have a defined purpose, and you should be able to feel, see, and measure the quality of something depending on how much use you can get out of it. At Klur, quality means doing things right the first time. I aim to go beyond perceived quality and build things with integrity and usage in mind, with a consistent level of care put into every detail. Something of genuine quality will always be better than you expected and made to last.”
What about the clean skincare space excites you?
LT: “I'm generally excited by beauty and its forms, but I find the shift to clean, clinical, and high-performance products exciting about clean skincare. Just around 2015, there was this hesitation to embrace science, and now I see that there is demand beyond marketing and fluffy words. Consumers not only want high-performing products that work, but they want to know how they work, and that is so incredibly exciting for me because there's a lack of education and expertise in clean beauty.”
What do you look for in a brand when shopping for products personally?
LT: “I'm an avid vintage shopper/enthusiast, and aside from personal care, I prefer to buy most of my home goods and clothing used. I like to hunt and find good stuff; there are more unique things at the vintage shops. If I buy anything fancy, I first look on eBay, Poshmark, or at a resale shop in my neighborhood.
I use Klur for my skin daily, and my beauty regimen is minimalistic. I like to use brands that are on the smaller side, founded by women who aren't likely to be on shelves; they are often better than what you can find in large retailers. I'm huge on localization and buying my food from local growers. Occasionally I treat myself to some natural soaps at our local farmers' market or on Etsy directly from the maker.
I find so much gratification in shopping for ethically made products. I feel better about my consumption, and as a small brand founder, I know the dedication and physical work it takes to make something from nothing. I appreciate brands that give back to their community; these are my values. I think it's imperative to support other people's visions; in some odd way, I always see myself in other creators.”
Can you talk about your approach to sustainability? How has creating for the demands of everyday life inspired you?
LT: “Klur was founded with my values, and I built everything around them. I believe that most things are interconnected, and taking this approach to Klur, caring for the environment is just one part of our sustainability framework. The environment was never a second thought or something we implemented later. We advocate for a greater understanding of well-considered and holistic care by holding ourselves to the highest eco-inclusion and collective sustainability standards. I have always considered the entire picture, not just the separate parts. Our foremost goal is to create products that are considerate, consistent, and ecologically compassionate – all while being skin-loving and effective.”
What's your most-used Klur product right now?
LT: “Honestly, every product in the range has a place in my routine. I use something from Klur every day, it's a tightly curated selection, so I guess that's pretty easy. The two most used right now are Unseasonal Kind Lipid Replenishment Oil ($90), a vitamin C oil, and our restorative retinol night cream Sculpture + A ($150). I use them together every night; they are the dream team. It's always sunny here in Los Angeles, so I consistently use vitamins and antioxidants day and night to help restore my depleted skin. As I get older, I feel like I need a bit of everything, and these two were made to work in sync with the best combo for a night routine focused on restorative skin health.”
Have a founder you’d like us to interview next? Let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.