Florence Adepoju, 24, worked on a luxury cosmetics counter at age of 17.Student from Essex became fed-up with lack of choice for darker skins. Did a degree in cosmetic science and learnt to make her own lipsticksHer products are now stocked in Topshop and writer Lena Dunham is a fan .
Florence Adepoju, 24, from Rainham, was just 17 when she started working on the luxury cosmetics brand at the Lakeside shopping centre.
She became frustrated at the lack of make-up suited to darker skin tones, and went on to launch her own line of lipsticks… from her parents’ garden shed.
Florence’s range is now stocked in Topshop and she counts Lena Dunham as a fan.
As a teenager, she worked on the Benefit make-up counter in Lakeside, while studying for her A-levels at sixth-form college.
‘I was struck by the lack of choice there was for women with darker skin,’ Florence told FEMAIL.
‘Brands would bring out limited-edition capsule collections, but none of the make-up would suit me; the foundation wouldn’t be dark enough or the lipstick wouldn’t be bright enough. I always found it disappointing.’
Benefit invited her for a training day in the lab where she was shown how to mix make-up, and she was fascinated to see how different pigments and textures were created. It inspired her to pursue a career in science.
She went on to study for a BSc in Cosmetic Science at the London College of Fashion, where she learnt to make her own lipsticks and, over the next four years, she came up with the idea of creating her own brand.
She did her dissertation on how colour affects different people’s perception of lipsticks, testing out different shades of black and blue.
‘I worked at Space NK throughout university, and people were always requesting shades like blue, but there weren’t many on the market,’ Florence said.
‘They’d see people like Rihanna wearing crazy colours and they’d want to copy her.’
As part of her dissertation, Florence had to put together a hypothetical business plan and social media campaign. ‘I got a bit carried away with it,’ she admitted.
Her provisional plan turned into reality when she applied for a business grant from the university, which she used to set up a lab – complete with scales and moulds – in her parents’ garden shed in Rainham.
It is there that Florence developed her own formula of oils and waxes, slaving away over batches of lipsticks in a process that she describes as ‘like cooking’.
By the time she graduated in 2013, she had a fully-fledged business on her hands.
Her brand, MDMFlow, takes its inspiration from the mid-nineties to early-Noughties hiphop videos that Florence grew up with, and features a range of lipsticks in richly pigmented shades of black, blue, orange and pink.
Initially, she was selling lipsticks on an individual basis. ‘But I wanted to go bigger,’ Florence says. ‘This year, I started sending samples to beauty buyers.
It paid off; in May this year, she was contacted by Topshop, who wanted to stock her lipsticks in their flagship Oxford Circus stores, and in July she became a stockist for French brand Colette.
She is now inundated with orders and creates up to 300 tubes of lipstick a day, even doing her own packaging and postage.
On 23 December, actress and author Lena Dunham wrote about her appreciation for MDMFlow to her 2.2 million Instagram followers, saying she was ‘so inspired’ by Florence after reading a New York Times article about her.
She wrote: ‘So inspired by Florence Adepoiu, the woman behind @mdmflow, in the NY Times today. Thanks for alerting me @geometricsleep!
‘Reading about female creators who look around for what’s lacking in their universe and fill that void. Seems like the winning formula.
‘Also, is there a world where I can wear blue lipstick to the office and my local diner in a real chill way?
Florence told FEMAIL: ‘I was not expecting to see myself on Lena Dunham’s Instagram page. It’s really cool.’
Now 24, Florence is considering her next step. With a growing army of fans and orders coming in thick and fast, she said: ‘It might be time to move out of my parents’ shed.’