Photo:Courtesy of Klur
Welcome to Second Life, a podcast spotlighting successful women who've made major career changes—and fearlessly mastered the pivot. Hosted by Hillary Kerr, co-founder and chief content officer at Who What Wear, each episode will give you a direct line to women who are game changers in their fields. Subscribe to Second Life on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to stay tuned.
Lesley Thornton has been beauty-obsessed since her teen years, when after school, she’d sit in Barnes & Noble reading Kevyn Aucoin books, her first real education in the space. That appetite for learning continued as she became a makeup artist for Laura Mercier, where she was given hands-on training in the industry; a beauty director for Estée Lauder; and a freelance makeup artist working on editorial and advertising campaigns. But through it all, there was still something missing. “I had realized over the years of doing makeup that there was very little skincare education,” Thornton says. “So that was why I became an esthetician in the first place. … I needed the education to round out what I was already offering.” What she didn’t realize was that in seeking that knowledge, she’d find a new path entirely—that of an entrepreneur.
Soon after opening Klur Skin Esthetics, her own private practice as an esthetician, Thornton began formulating her own products, and with a focus group of clients available, she nailed down two formulations both she and her clients loved. Next, Thornton made products available online under the shortened name Klur, giving her customers accessibility even when they weren’t able to get in for an appointment. But when Urban Outfitters found her website, Klur took on a new life altogether. “I thought I was gonna sell them a few products and that was gonna be it,” remembers Thornton. “Little by little, the products started picking up, … the reviews started coming in, and very quickly, it became one of the top-selling lines.”
Suddenly, Thornton was a first-time, self-funded, solo founder with a purchase order from a retailer with over 200 stores. But with incredible instincts and a fearless tenacity, Thornton masterfully pulled it off. Then, after two successful years, those instincts led her to a daring business move. In December 2016, she voluntarily pulled the entire line to reformulate, rebrand, and relaunch with a crystal-clear vision for the future of Klur. “I understood this was a niche for me. I could actually be a Black-owned brand that was eco-inclusive, that can make products for everyone, but also give an elevated aesthetic to Black beauty,” Thornton says. And between the gravity of both her business decision and her vision, she wasn’t willing to cut any corners.
Photo:Studio Karl & Kristof
Thornton took three years to rebuild Klur from the ground up and relaunched in 2019 with a clean, ethical, and botanical range of products such as Gentle Matter, Stellar Restoration, and Symmetry Fluid. Each formulation is high-performance, luxurious, and, dare I say, cosmic. It's clear Thornton has thought through every aspect of the well-crafted brand, complete with a direct-to-consumer experience that allows for her deep knowledge of skincare to brilliantly shine through.
As for the arduous path to getting here, Thornton’s tenacity guided her through. “Because I believed in what I was doing, I understood that there was nothing else that was more important,” she says.
Head to Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you listen to subscribe to Second Life, and listen to this brand-new episode to hear Thornton's full story of founding Klur. To shop our favorites from the luxurious line, keep scrolling.