Wednesday, December 18, 2013

What Kind of Man Makes Lipstick? Interview with Adam Coutts of RED Burlesque

A couple weeks ago, I raved about how much I love RED Burlesque lipstick. But I had to interview the creator. This lipstick, you see, was created by a man. Adam Coutts is a man with a marketing background who doesn't wear makeup in his regular life. He doesn't have the hands-on, up close and personal experience with lipstick; he hasn't had the satisfaction of lipcolor changing his whole face, so why this line? I asked Adam a few questions about the kind of man it takes to make a fabulous cosmetic product.

You're a man. How did you find yourself creating lipstick?
My background is advertising and marketing and I've spent decades successfully growing other people's brands. Subsequently, I've always held a desire to one day launch my own product. But it was a series of slightly bizarre circumstances that led to the creation of RED Burlesque.

The strangest was, not having had any exposure to the burlesque world, I found myself partnered with an Australian burlesque producer for about 18 months, which somehow ended up in me financing and co-producing a number of high profile burlesque shows in Australia.

Then came a couple of conversations at different times with women (my partner being one of them) who had discovered their favourite red lipstick had been discontinued. I honestly couldn't believe the reaction from them. as though life as they knew it had suddenly come to a grisly end (Ed: same goes for when they discontinue your favorite red nail polish. It hurts). My immediate reaction in both cases was pretty much "suck it up princess, just go out and find another one!" I then discovered how hard it was for women to find the perfect red and even more strange, that in all the time lipstick has been gracing the lips of women, not one cosmetics company had created a comprehensive range of reds!

To cut a slightly longer story short, my advertising & marketing persona kicked in and (despite a 'false start' in tagging RED with the name of my now ex) the result was the creation of RED Burlesque.

What's the philosophy behind RED Burlesque?

Simply to be the largest range of long-lasting, premium red lipsticks on the planet and ensure that every woman can find at least three shades of RED Burlesque they adore.

Where did the idea to associate each shade with a burlesque performer come from?

It all goes back to the 18 months with my burlesque producer. Red lipstick is almost a staple diet of burlesque performers, so the association was almost a fait accompli after being exposed to the world of Burlesque and meeting so many amazing performers from all over the world. The chance to promote a number of them, the brand and Burlesque in general by having them hand pick and name their own shade appealed to my the marketing and ad guy in me. It also meant the brand wasn't tied to a single personality and instead was created around multiple personalities.

What do you love about burlesque?

The people. The shows. The creativity. The enormous sense of family, especially at major events such as Burlesque Hall of Fame and New York Burlesque Festival. It's an incredibly diverse but singular community that looks after its own like no other industry.

Do you participate in other "vintage culture" events? I know there's a big vintage and rockabilly scene in Australia.

Not really. Although there is a very big vintage and rockabilly scene in Australia, the RED Burlesque personality is rooted very much in burlesque and I try to keep it on the straight and narrow and not cross pollinate to the point where our customers get confused as to who we are as a brand. However, vintage, pinup and Rockabilly are closely linked to Burlesque and we seem to be getting an increasing number of enquiries from stores in these areas wanting to stock RED Burlesque.

How do you find your performers?

Because of my exposure to Burlesque as a financier and co-producer, I obviously knew - and knew of - a huge number of performers from all over the world. Why did I choose the performers who are now RED Burlesque girls? A multitude of reasons: quality of performance; their look; level of respect amongst the Burlesque community and the wider community; their following; not having a similar look or style to the other RED girls; and of course, that they rock red lipstick!

The gorgeous Calamity Chang in her signature shade

What did you do before creating lipstick?

I was in advertising for most of it. I set up my first ad agency at 23 after working fro a few multinational agencies. A few years ago I got jack of it and went to the dark (client) side as Global Marketing Director for 2 1/2 years. Not having worked for anyone but myself for decades prior, it was fun, different, amazing, weird, frustrating and all sorts of other emotions, but I eventually left to work for myself again and launch RED Burlesque.

What's next for RED Burlesque?

We've just launched a range of 7 lip liners, which means means there is now a RED Burlesque liner to match every shade of lipstick in the range.

I also have another shade/global performer up my sleeve and will announce her early next year. That will take the range to 20 reds, so I'll probably leave it at that for a little while.

Oh, and we have an iPhone and iPad app in development at the moment that will enable women to take a selfie and try each of the RED Burlesque shades on so they can see how they will look on them before buying. They can share the shots of them with their social media groups to see what their friends think of them in different shades. They can read about each of the RED Burlesque Girls. There's also a makeup mirror function so they can apply their lipstick perfectly. And of course, they can buy any of the range of lipsticks within the app. The app should be launched in the Apple Store in January 2014.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. This is funny. I wonder how he sleeps at night I honestly do.

  3. Well actually, thats not entirely true. I started a career in cosmetics as Estee Lauders youngest ever employee at their Grace Bros Sydney store, in 1995. I went on to work for many brands including Clarins, Clinique, Arden. I managed salons and cosmetics stores and even worked on cruise ships in cosmetics, working in store and running beauty workshops for guests.

    I dreamed of having my own range of reds since the beginning.
    in 2012 I presented the idea to Mr Coutts, and told him about my idea, celebrating the great burlesque ladies I had represented and worked with. I hand selected the range, picked the product, got the first suppliers and of course, was the face of the brand.

    2013, I faced financial hardship temporarily, and Mr Coutts took advantage of the situation, walked into my suppliers and literally "tore my face off" the stands and repackaged everything - without my permission.

    I did not have the funds or strength to fight it at that point.

    Ever since, I've had to read articles like this about his great "idea".

    Should you wish to interview me about the history of this lipstick brand, it will be featured in my book.

    Jac Bowie
    Founder of RED by Jac Bowie


    and for an advertising gentleman ,he clearly doesn't understand the power of a good red for rockabilly!lol

  5. Brigette-Renee Spicer.December 28, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    This is a complete researching fail. As I burlesque dancer, I would not dream or wearing any other brand of lipstick other than RED, and I'm not stupid about the origins. This is Jac Bowies lipstick and always will be, this scum took advantage of a situation and I can assure you it's well known within our industry who the read founder and designer behind RED is. It's shameful that you even published this 'article'.

  6. A coincidence, not!. you are one now one of three he has tried take what was initially thiers. Thankfully i woke up .

  7. Thanks for your support ladies. Xxx

  8. Ah, the venom of a bitter ex! Adam did mention her involvement and a previous brand-name but chose not to name names. All we'll say about this is that this blog has indeed been well researched.

    The brand, the logo, the imagery, the current 20 shades, the performers who have personally picked the shade they are named after ... and the financial resources behind the brand are ENTIRELY Adam's.

    Some research into Ms Bowie's reputation in the Burlesque industry and her long-standing financial 'hardship' would tell a very different story than the one above.

  9. Just acknowledge my long term hard work towards this product properly and with facts. That's all I ask.

  10. Comments removed by the Author? Now that's not playing ball? Wonder why is? Somewhat courageous would you say? .


Thanks so much for your comments!