Beauty / Feature

Zoë Foster-Blake on Go-To’s success and the evolution of the beauty industry

“If your instinct has got you this far that’s good, but you’ve got so much more to learn.” For author, app creator and entrepreneur Zoë Foster-Blake, beauty has always been personal.

Clever, practical and (for lack of a less overused descriptor) authentic – Foster-Blake has cultivated a career by bringing beauty back down to Earth. With a resume that includes beauty editing at various print titles, helming digital mastheads (including her own blog Zo They Say), publishing novels, beauty and relationship how-tos and a recent guide to all maters of the heart (LOVE!, 2019), producing the TV adaptation of her best-seller The Wrong Girl, and founding her skincare company Go-To (with partner brands Gro-To and Bro-To), Foster-Blake has acquired an obsessive wealth of knowledge that allows her to recommend a killer beauty product to anyone. And it’s a talent she takes pride in, “I love that, I love recommending shit. I love saving people time and money. Like, don’t you just want someone to tell you which armchair to buy?”

In an industry of product overload, Foster-Blake’s calling card has always been her no-nonsense approach to buying and using what really works for you. It was a desire to strip away the unnecessary parts of a skincare regimen that lead her to launch her Go-To in 2014 – her first foray into the business of beauty, and one that was an extension of her personality (that perfectly peach-hued packaging, the tongue-in-cheek product names) and, importantly, good formulas that work. Celebrity beauty brands have taken off in a big way, but Foster-Blake’s has always felt like an honest reflection of what she wanted to buy: effective, easy to use skincare for every variation of the modern woman. “We don’t launch [products] for the sake of it, it has to be purposeful and we have to really want it to go through the whole process.”

“If your brand, and your company and your people aren’t listening and giving your customers a voice and a choice, and you are not informing them and being transparent, you won’t last in this climate.”

On the changing face of beauty …
“The Jenners and the Kardashians have had a huge impact. I think that if you really broke it down and did a reverse engineering of all the big trends, like the contouring, the baking, over lined lips, everything has stemmed from one family. But also at the same time there has been social media, and the narcissism and the front-facing camera, and the YouTube tutorials and how it informed and educated the customers now. Like when I was beauty editing a long time ago, we were the expert, and then the hand turned over to the hairstylists, and the makeup artists and the skin guys, and then it went to influencers, and now it’s in the hands of the consumer. I love that because it is true democracy, and only the fittest will survive.”

“Everyone is like ‘Yeah, girl boss!’ but there is so much that is really difficult and I feel so out of my depth, because I didn’t do business. I’m just a creative that had an idea and had credentials and knew what I wanted.”

On the evolution of Gro-To …
“It’s a different brand, and we are talking to different people. There is a huge crossover obviously. I think a lot of parents coming through are going “I love Go-To and I trust it, and they want to do the same for their kids”. And the gifting opportunity is massive, obviously, through all those people that know a person having a baby and don’t know what to get them, because that was me for a long time and then once you have kids your like, “Oh, don’t buy me another onesie, they fit it for about two minutes”.

On collaboration and mentors …
“We’ve really jumped a chasm in the last year or two, from a small company that just grew very quickly, from being in the States and Mecca. And we’ve got the grown ups now … I’ve brought in an amazing marketing director and general manager and senior staff, which was the first step. If I have people that know what they’re doing down here, then I am lifted up here to do the creative stuff. The business stuff I find challenging is like the board level stuff, and the financial and government stuff, so I’m just about to undertake a bit of a business mentor relationship. But I’ve never had one until now, and there is sort of some part of me that goes, “Well, if your instinct has got you this far that’s good, but you’ve got so much more to learn.” And about being a leader as well, because I don’t think I’m good at staff and I don’t think I’m good at managing and I live in Melbourne and my staff are here [Sydney], so those few touch points I have with them, I want to make sure that I’m doing the right thing. So yeah, I definitely need advice, and it’s at a point now where it’s another level that I didn’t have or had considered.”

On sustainability and clean beauty …
“We are treating it as a research project at the moment. We have been carbon neutral for a few years and we have changed all our shipping and I think that we’re doing the best we can, in terms of then getting to the primary packaging and doing an overhaul. We get a lot of questions, well, not actually a lot but enough to make us aware that people care about end product. But I’m not concerned about what we’re putting in their hand first because I don’t think that you can rely on the recycling system particularly Australia at the moment. But what I want to do is make sure that what we are giving to them has already had a life span, or we have the recycling situation set up for them. So it’s doing it properly and making sure that also when you’re dealing with natural products, making sure that how it arrives at the customer is safe. It’s going to take time but it’s a challenge that we really relish and we want to do it right, so it has to be authentic for us. It’s not just going to be a tokenism or gesture.”

On self-care and productivity …
“I definitely think that it’s a big time in my life and self-care is really critical, but something that I constantly put to the side, and it’s just because of the age of my children and the stage of my company that everything is at the same time. And I keep saying to myself, “It’s always going to be like that, you can’t try to pretend that it will pass, because this is how you have chosen to do life.” It’s big – my husband is a total extrovert and I’m a total introvert – so it’s us having that ability to be like, OK you need some extra time when you go out with two people, I’ll stay home in my soft clothes and watch my shows. So for me it’s quiet time or just time with the family just being pigs, going out for pizza or something, that’s my switch off time. In the olden days it would be going to a retreat or going for a run or something like that. Like I said, I think this stage is particularly full on, but every senior grown-up I bring to the company helps me a little bit more and as my kids get a little bit older, and it’s asking for help. I’ve got a nanny three days a week and I couldn’t do it without her. Being a realist about this stuff – a bit of a walk would be nice. I mean, I meditate a bit haphazardly.”

“We could just do something very quickly, but why bother?”

Products you love …
Kosås is actually good, I’m just using their lip oil and their foundation today. I love Charlotte Tilbury, because she’s all about glow and Nars. I love Hourglass, I love it all. I love the cheap stuff as well – I love some of the Maybelline stuff. I’m very egalitarian. Whatever’s cool, I love playing with thing like coloured eye shadow and stuff, just bring fun with it.”