These Welsh Sisters Started A Beauty Company In Their Garage — Now It’s One Of The Biggest Brands In The UK

by Hannah & Sophie Pycroft
Hannah and Sophie Pycroft

When sisters Hannah and Sophie Pycroft of Spectrum Collections were first starting out their business, they operated out of the girls' garage in Barry Island, Wales. Today, the beauty brand has grown to become one of the nation’s most-coveted lines of makeup brushes and accessories. The next few months are set to be even bigger for the Spectrum sisters, with a cosmetics collection (and many other exciting projects) on the horizon. Below, the entrepreneurial pair tell Bustle about their beauty routine, their business, and what it means to them to represent their hometown.

In the media, Welsh girls are often portrayed as thick. When you see a Welsh girl on TV or in a magazine, it’s more than likely that she's getting the mick taken out of her. It’s incredibly rude, and also downright ignorant. We know a lot of people in Wales — in Barry and Cardiff, in particular — who, like us, have started their own businesses and are really entrepreneurial. And most of them are women, which makes it even better. It means we're actively counteracting the negative stereotype, and we’re really happy to do our part to help that.

That's why we love going out to represent Spectrum. The company means so much to us; Wales means so much to us. We started the collection because we wanted to work together, and we wanted to do something completely for ourselves. At the beginning, we put our own money into the brand — we didn’t have any outside investors. It started in our garage in Barry Island, and now we’re in an office 10 minutes away in Penarth. The whole space is "Spectrum" pink and marble — basically an office version of our Carnaby Street pop-up. Everyone always told us we’d have to move to London if we wanted to make it big in the beauty world, but we didn’t listen. There are now 10 of us, and we’ve come to learn that we made the right decision.

Sophie and Hannah Pycroft with their brushes

We love Wales; we’re Welsh girls, and we’re at our happiest and most creative when we’re here. The Barry community is so friendly and supportive; they’re so proud of us, and that makes us proud to go out and promote Barry and to bring job opportunities to our community. This is our hometown, it’s where we grew up. We’re so happy to be living and working here.

So, most mornings, we’ll wake up, maybe take the dogs for a walk on Barry’s beautiful beach, and then we’ll head over to the office. It may sound bizarre because we work in the beauty industry, but for our day-to-day look, we like to go for something very natural. We have fairly fuss-free makeup routines, using just a moisturiser, a little bit of Charlotte Tilbury foundation (which we mix with her primer), Laura Mercier concealer and powder, Anastasia Beverly Hills eyebrow pencil, and Becca highlighter. Of course, it’s very different when we’re putting together an evening look, or when we’re going out for a business meeting or an event where we’re representing the brand, but for days in the office, we like to keep it simple.

Sophie and Hannah Pycroft with their mum, Colleen

Over the years, we’ve taken loads of different approaches to our beauty routine, but we’ve come to realise that, if you take good care of your skin, you don’t need a lot of foundation or base makeup. So we’ve developed our own routine to maintain healthy skin. Firstly, it’s really important to cleanse and moisturise your face properly. We both use a Vitamin C face wash by Obagi, which is a medical-grade skin care line. We also use the Obagi Hydrate Day Cream and Obagi-C Fx C-Therapy Night Cream. They’re our go-tos — we use them religiously. Then, when we’re travelling, we’ll use the Moon Fruit Superfruit Night Treatment and the Pink Cloud Rosewater Moisture Cream from Herbivore. We never use makeup wipes, as they’re bad for the environment and bad for your skin.

Other than that, we just like to make sure we keep ourselves hydrated. If we could tell our younger selves one thing it would be, “Drink loads of water.” That, and “stop plucking your eyebrows!” In the ’90s, it was such a cool look to have pencil-thin eyebrows. We look back on photos now and can’t believe we ever thought it looked good. But, then again, it was all about experimenting back then. When you’re young, you should experiment with different colours and styles to see what works for you.

Hannah and Sophie Pycroft

If we have an important Spectrum event, we’ll spend a bit more time on our makeup and hair. And the same goes for a night out, because we know people will have their cameras out. (As the saying goes, pics or it didn’t happen.) A great beauty look can be an extension of a great outfit. So, for example, if you’re wearing a bright-red outfit, you could go for simple makeup but chuck on a bright-red lip. That way, it just completes the overall look.

Our customers are aspirational, smart beauty lovers, and they are incredibly conscious buyers. They are mindful of what they consume and how they consume it; they don’t just go out and buy products willy-nilly.

We’re really excited to be launching our own line of cosmetics this year. It’s a natural expansion for us, as we already have the brushes, and we want to make Spectrum a strong beauty contender within different categories. However, it took a long time — almost two years — to find a factory that we were happy with. We never rush anything, and we wanted to make sure the facility we used was in line with Spectrum’s beliefs as a brand. We’d never get makeup manufactured anywhere that conducts animal testing, for example. In the end, we found a factory in Italy, and that feels like the centre of beauty, so it’s very exciting.

Hannah and Sophie Pycroft at their new factory in Milan

Right now we’re working on colour cosmetics, and the line will be an extension of our beauty ethos: You don’t need too many products to get a great look. Just one shade of eye shadow for a pop of colour, or a great lipstick that will stand out. Our customers are aspirational, smart beauty lovers, and they are incredibly conscious buyers. They are mindful of what they consume and how they consume it; they don’t just go out and buy products willy-nilly. They educate themselves about what is the best of the best, and they invest in it.

As with our previous products, we have tried to be as environmentally conscious as possible when producing the cosmetics. All the packaging will be recyclable or reusable. Wherever possible, we have tried to keep the products completely vegan, but our factory advised us that some of the ingredients that are used to make cosmetics 100 percent vegan have an incredibly high chemical content. Whenever a product is not totally vegan, we will make sure our customers are aware so they can decide what is right for them.

Sophie and Hannah Pycroft in 2009

We’re excited for 2019, as it’s set to be one of our biggest years yet. Spectrum will continue to support local people and bring business back to Wales. We’ll also be looking after our local environment: We’re hoping to set up an initiative in the summer to do a big beach clean. Barry Island is very beautiful, and we want to help keep it that way! Watch this space.

This interview, as told to Rowena Henley, has been edited for length and clarity.