Lilac St. was founded by Alicia Zeng, when the pandemic lockdown left her high and dry in the eyelash extension department. Longing for a self care routine, she tried all the DIY lash brands out there, but ultimately felt they didn’t live up their hype or their very steep price tags. Alicia wanted something fluffier, lighter, cruelty free and handmade, but with nothing that met her wishes- she made it happen herself.
I had the wonderful opportunity to try these DIY lash extensions and interview Lilac St. founder, Alicia to learn about her past and how she got to where she is today!
EE: What was it like for you growing up?
Alicia – My parents immigrated from China to the US for their doctoral degrees, so when I was very little we didn’t have much, especially as they were just finishing school and starting to build their careers. I remember getting my very first doll when I was 4 years old from a garage sale – she didn’t have hair and was pretty battered, but I loved her to death. I drew different looks and hairstyles on her with my markers, and always imagined how fun it would be to do makeup and dress up myself one day.
As my parents developed their careers, we moved from our tiny apartment to a house in the suburbs in the Bay Area of California. When I was 12, my parents brought me to Shanghai, where my mom had an exciting job opportunity in solar power, and she wanted me to understand some of the culture of where she came from. I attended international school in Shanghai through the end of high school, and then came back to the US for college at Princeton.
EE: What inspired Lilac St. and how did you get to where you are today?
Alicia – I started dabbling in researching lashes and making lash samples while I was still working a full-time job as a product manager at Google. I had previously been on the founding team of a company called L., where we had designed and sourced organic cotton tampons and pads, so I had experience with developing consumer products.
Lashes were a very different space, though. To get the best product, I obsessed over every tiny detail. The difference between a natural-looking, comfortable lash and a plastic-y, heavy lash could be a matter of a few micrometers of fiber width.
Only when I was confident we had made the most beautiful, light, and durable lash possible did I then turn to testing if anyone else would want and appreciate this. With no expectations, I put up an ad on Facebook for $5. This tiny ad got lucky enough to catch the attention of a few people in an online lash enthusiasts group. Two weeks later, we were sold out of our first small batch of lashes!
Throughout our first year, we stayed very close to our online fan group, and kept making product improvements and launches based on their feedback. We owe them so, so much for all our success. Fast forward to today, and we’ve now sold hundreds of thousands of lashes to people in every US state – and a few Canadian provinces too! Now we have our own online group, the Lilac Pack, who we continue to listen to and talk to all the time to stay true to our roots of building what people truly want.
EE: What inspired you to work in this specific industry?
Alicia – I have always been obsessed with art and makeup, drawing constantly and loving trying new makeup products and looks. Even while I started my career in management consulting and then the tech industry, I have always loved the artistry of makeup and how amazing it feels to build products that bring people joy.
EE: How is Lilac St. product made? What makes it unique?
Alicia – All of our lashes are made with individual fibers of the highest quality Korean silk, hand arranged into our different lash styles by highly skilled artisans. The use of only the highest quality base materials, and the requirement that all styles are arranged by hand (never a machine) – is what sets our lashes apart. Although creating handmade lashes takes much longer, we believe that the high-definition, natural looks it creates are unmatched.
After the fibers are arranged, an extremely thin and lightweight band is created to connect the lash fibers. This band has a core of soft black cotton thread and is bonded to the lash fibers by a high-precision gluing process. Unlike other DIY extension brands, we never bond our lashes by melting plastic at the base. That would create a heavier, less flexible base. And for us, the lightness and comfort of the lashes are critical.
After this glue is cured, the lashes are curled. Finally, each lash segment goes through a final quality assurance check before being arranged into our packaging. There are some “secret sauce” additional details I can’t divulge, of course.
EE: Has the Lilac St. journey been difficult for you in any way?
Alicia – When we were first getting started, there was another company in the DIY lash extension space that came after us and our customers to try to run us out of business. We were accused of being copycats, which was so hurtful after how hard we had worked to make our products more natural-looking, soft, and comfortable to wear.
It was a terrifying and very stressful time. They taunted us in online forums, and I received personal insults and threats over and over.
But we refused to let them bully us into folding, and we stood our ground knowing that our processes and products were ethically developed. The most important reason we never gave up in those early days was the constant support and positive messages we were receiving from our first customers. They reminded us that we were making a product that people truly loved, and their kindness kept us going through the darkest days.
EE: What are you most proud of as a company?
Alicia – Because I come from humble roots, it’s always been super important to me to create a product that is accessible for all. To that end, we’ve maintained a lower price point than many other DIY extensions brands. I think some people think that means our product is inferior, but I know that anyone who’s tried our lashes will know better. At the end of the day, I want people to feel good about wearing our lashes every day, or as often as they choose – without the guilt of premium pricing.
EE: Is Lilac St. ethical/sustainable in any other ways?
Alicia – We use recyclable packaging for our lashes with partial post-recycled paper and plastic.
EE: What do you ultimately hope to achieve through Lilac St.?
Alicia – I would love for Lilac St. to open the world of beautiful lashes – and the confidence and creativity they inspire – to everyone! I want to grow our incredibly supportive, amazing community to uplift lash lovers everywhere (and hopefully mint some new ones in the process)!”
I’ll be the first to admit, eyelash extensions have never really been “my thing”. However, after trying Lilac St. a couple of times over the last few weeks I am HOOKED. The application process takes some practice but once you get the hang of it, there’s simply no looking back!
It’s SO nice to skip the eye makeup part of my daily routine when I wear my Lilac St. Lashes. Now I slap on some skincare, a little foundation and I feel super glamorous in a matter of a few seconds. It’s also great for summer with all the hot weather, beach days, pool parties, and hikes without mascara running down my face or smearing around my eyes.
If you use other DIY lashes out there, make the switch to Lilac St. Not only will you love the quality of these lashes and accessories but the price is dramatically lower. Lilac St. also has a subscription option and an amazing rewards system to keep you well stocked.
PLUS for each month of your subscription, an individual girl (or other child facing particular barriers to education) in sub-Saharan Africa or India will be sponsored for a month of school and family support, through partnerships Lilac St. has with local non-profits and existing government programs.
Shop the site at LilacSt.com
be sure to follow them on instagram @lilacst.lashes
if you like vegan beauty you might love Clove + Hallow too!
until next time…
Note: This article contains affiliate links or codes, this means if you make a purchase I may get a small percentage of the sale (at no extra cost to you). As always, I only recommend products that I have tried and truly love.