Charli Howard Takes Her Inclusive Message Into the World of Beauty
As a model, Charli Howard’s trajectory has been anything but traditional. Since arriving on the scene, the 28-year-old British star has used her career as an opportunity to challenge conventional notions of beauty. Thrust into the spotlight in 2015 after she was dropped by her London agency due to weight discrimination she turned the tables by penning an open letter than challenged the industry’s status quo. Since then she has disseminated her body positive message via social media, her collaborative work on inclusive photo series the All Women Project and a best-selling autobiography, Misfit released in 2018. If being a model, author, and activist weren’t enough, her latest endeavor pushes her into a new role: beauty entrepreneur. As the founder of Squish Beauty, Howard wants to bring her perspective into the world of skincare. “I’ve been playing with the idea for a while,” shares Howard during a visit to the Vogue offices in New York. “I wanted to start with an eye mask because I never could find what I needed on the market.”
The adorable cherry-shaped masks Howard has created for Squish’s launch promise to depuff eyes and cheeks—and also lend themselves to epic selfies. Shot by photographer Ben Ritter, the campaign images are pretty attention-grabbing, too, and feature a thoroughly inclusive lineup of personalities—disability activist Jillian Mercado, LGBTQ activist Munroe Bergdorf, and gender fluid model twins, Joseph and Jake DuPont among them—all of whom are using their platforms for change. “Following my work on the All Women Project I knew that whatever I did in the future had to be diverse. It really taught me what having different body shapes and real bodies [in imagery] can do,” says Howard, who pushed for unretouched photos that didn’t hide scars or acne marks.
The products themselves also strive to break new ground. Focused on portable hydration essentials, the line features flower-style stickers to treat pimples, retro cube hair ties, and a sheer balm for chapped lips. The designs, all of which Howard sketched herself, have a charming, almost childlike sensibility, a quality she insists gives her products cross-generational appeal. “I think all women love a bit of cuteness,” she says. “Just [having] a small accessory that can make your day or that you’re excited to run home to the post to.”
Finished with a groovy ’70s-style logo, the Squish packaging is designed to offer users what Howards calls the “influencer experience” of unboxing a new find. More than providing instant gratification though, the packaging also happens to be biodegradable. “Throughout this process I've been learning about what’s recyclable, what’s sustainable,” says Howard who worked for months to find viable environmentally-friendly options. “Tissue paper looks great on Instagram, but it doesn’t biodegrade. We’ve tried wherever we can to make sure things are sustainable.” That goes for the products as well as the packaging. “Our cherry eye patches can be reused three times, which is more than any other product on the market,” says Howard. “It was very important to me that we find formulas and ingredients that were long lasting and safe.”
With her first drop of Squish goodies out in the world, Howard has big plans for the brand’s future. “We’re already at work on a paraben and sulfate-free moisturizer and I’m really excited about that [as] I want this to be a skincare brand first and foremost, focused on young skin and helping girls feel good about themselves,” she says. “That’s our main message. It isn’t about making a quick buck, it’s about making girls feel empowered whether that’s the via imagery, the products they use, or just in the skin they’re in.”
Originally Appeared on Vogue