Co-founder Nyakio Grieco opened up about the "whirlwind of emotion, excitement, and heartbreak" that went into launching this platform.

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Thirteen Lune co-founder Nyakio Grieco
Credit: Courtesy of Nyakio Grieco

Without a doubt, 2020 was a landmark year for access to and visibility of Black- and Brown-founded and owned beauty brands. A result of the uprisings that followed after the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, customers committed to anti-racism sought to make their beauty shelves more inclusive—and were happy to discover an abundance of BIPOC-founded companies that have existed for years; they could meet any of their beauty-centric needs and wants. Related initiatives like the 15 Percent Pledge created by Brother Vellies' Aurora James, Pull Up For Change by UOMA Beauty's Sharon Chuter, Consider Something Better by Lauren Napier Beauty's Lauren Napier and Meet The Owner's Whitney Brown were also born out of this period in an effort to bolster Black business across all sectors of life.

Simultaneously, Nyakio Grieco of Nyakio Beauty and Patrick Herning of 11 Honoré were developing Thirteen Lune, an e-commerce platform built on the very idea of supporting and uplifting Black and Brown beauty and wellness brands. "It's been a whirlwind of emotion, excitement, and heartbreak," Grieco tells MarthaStewart.com about the brand's conception. "Last summer, as we were going through this important and pinnacle moment of the Black Lives Matter movement, I had the opportunity to take that pain and turn it into purpose."

Grieco and Herning set out to change the narrative in the beauty industry—and they're doing just that. While other initiatives and retailers outlined their goals of representation using the demographic numbers for the Black population at large—or created their own benchmarks around parity—Thirteen Lune chose (and maintains) a bold 90/10 rule: 90 percent of the brands they feature are Black and Brown-owned and founded; the remaining 10 percent are ally brands committed to the same inclusivity the platform is predicated on.

thirteen lune
Credit: Courtesy of Thirteen Lune

"I was blown away by [the number of] Black-owned brands I'd never heard of after being in this industry for two decades," says Grieco of the discoveries she's made over the previous year, during which visibility for Black and Brown brands has been at an all-time high. That's a big statement, considering she's a beauty expert in her own right—the founder of Nyakio Beauty, she launched her company nearly two decades ago, in 2002. In the past few months, her brand landed on the lists of many influencers and editors seeking to highlight Black-owned businesses, but found that only a handful of these companies were available via major retailers (what's more, many of these brands were direct-to-consumer, with very little visibility beyond said lists). So, she and Herning put their minds together and decided to create a space where BIPOC founders could—finally—get the recognition they deserve. "Patrick and I talked about how we have a responsibility within the beauty industry to help to unify people, because beauty is universal," Grieco says. "We thought, what a great opportunity this would be."

At 44 brands strong—more and more are added on a monthly basis—Thirteen Lune is currently in its foundational phase, rooted in a place of discovery. "You need to have a really unique point of view and an authentic founder story, because this is a space where we want to celebrate, amplify, and inspire the next generation of beauty founders," Grieco says. "The brands also have to be non-toxic, efficacious, and they have to have products that can serve our melanin-rich skin and the textured hair in our communities first. Then, people of all colors can shop, come together, and move the needle for change." Running the gamut across product categories from face cleansers to candles, the brands showcased are both big and small, domestic and global, from Charlotte Mensah to Vernon Françoise.

The staff behind Thirteen Lune is just as inclusive as its product selection; their buying team is led by a key merchant, a Black woman with a long history in the industry. "She really has a keen eye for beauty and design, because we want to tell really interesting stories," Grieco says. "We started with 13 Black-owned brands and we're now up to 44 BIPOC-owned brands that can help people learn about beauty rituals from Korea, China, the Latinx community, and so many different ethnicities."

There has been much talk of allyship in the social justice space, and those at Thirteen Lune believe it's a crucial conversation that must be had in the beauty sphere, as well. "Long before the black box, [our ally brands] were dedicated to serving all—[especially] in terms of product and formulation," Grieco says of the non-BIPOC-owned brands they have since brought into the fold. "I am a consumer of these brands and have seen very quickly that their formulas work on my skin and hair. I know that the people in my community and I have been considered." Another key consideration when it comes to featuring an ally brand? "We want to look at the ecosystems of these businesses and what sort of bold movements they are making internally. With Black Lives Matter, and after the death of George Floyd, how bold were they in action? [Was it] performative?" By choosing to be a part of Thirteen Lune and its mission, these brands have committed to helping build generational wealth for Black and Brown communities, alleviating systemic racism, and encouraging their consumers to make shopping for beauty products that much more meaningful.

Thirteen Lune will debut its first Indigenous brand soon. With that launch, says Grieco, should come an industry-wide acknowledgment that "clean" beauty first originated in Black and Brown communities. "Clean beauty here in the Western world has become many things," Grieco continues, adding that what we haven't done well is to assign credit where credit is due: "So much of clean beauty originated from these cultures, whether it be my grandmother making coffee scrubs on her farm or tinctures that are made in Filipino families to cure a pimple or a stomach ache." It's also part of Thirteen Lune's mission to honor and celebrate the roots of the clean movement as it gains more popularity and prominence.

Another launch to watch for? The platform's podcast will be released this month and is aptly titled The Beauty Vanguard. "The great thing about beauty is that it is consistent in its ability to help you feel better, feel more confident, and be more curious and take chances," Grieco says, noting that she hopes to champion inclusion through this popular medium, as well. In the meantime, she's leaning into her own self-care and heralding in this new season—and all of its possibilities—by getting back into makeup and trialing the bolder looks she's kept at bay for the last year. "I want to put lipstick on a little bit more. I just updated my makeup drawer by getting rid of old products and adding some new brushes," she says. "Energetically, we're all starting to feel a little bit excited about tapping back into some of our old rituals. I'm looking forward to that."

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