Review: The SheSpace

Posted on Sunday, at bought • 589 views

  • Company name: The SheSpace
  • Presence: online storefront and one physical location (Naperville IL USA)
  • Products: eyeshadows, blush, face powders, foundation, brushes, lip colors
  • High points: wide range of colors; large permanent line and frequent limited-edition collections; "savvy shopper" discount program
  • Low points: long order turnaround times; individual jars are not sealed / spillage hazards; products sold by jar size not by weight
  • Manufactured in-house or resold: eye pigments, face powders, lip balms, and blushes manufactured in-house; brushes resold; previously-sold products (cream shadows, eye pencils, mascara) resold
  • Would I buy from them again: as of June 2010, no
Review: The SheSpace

Yes, this review is more than a bit after-the-fact, since The SheSpace closed last month...but I still think it's important because Heather has opened two new online storefronts (some similarity in direction, but not exact duplicates.) If you're thinking of shopping with Eye Couture Cosmetics or Heatheresque, read for some good points, some not-so-good points, and some things to watch for and expect from these colors.

I was first attracted to The SheSpace in April 2008, when I read raves about the colors and prices. I headed over to the site, signed up for the customer forums in June 2008...and finally placed my first order shortly thereafter. At that time, the products came in 5-gram jars with no sifter, and were $4 a piece. There was a fairly wide selection of eye colors, as well as blushes and some face powders. I liked the colors I got: they weren't too expensive, they were vibrant and colorful (especially compared to Bare Escentuals, which was almost the only MMU I'd purchased before this point), and the colors adhered well. Average order turnaround took the better part of a month, but since she was open about the shipping times, and was dealing with a huge influx of new customers AND a rash of orders (and since Bare Escentuals' shipping took nearly three weeks, and they were a great big huge company), I decided not to let this delay bother me too much. At one point she was sending free pots of color with every order, as a "thank you" to her customers for patience. She definitely seemed to be trying to provide interesting quality products, and listening to her customers...big pluses.

How Intense is Intense

There were many complaints that The SheSpace's colors were not vivid or vibrant, as her descriptions claimed. Since I loved The SheSpace's colors, and also knew the vendors some of the folks voicing complaints regularly bought from, I can see where the problems came in: these folks used lots of MAC, lots of MUFE, lots of highly-pigmented colors. To them, "vivid" and "vibrant" should have also meant "highly pigmented." (To me, "vivid", "vibrant", and "pale" refer to hue intensity - a bright tangerine orange as opposed to a pastel peach, for example. "Sheer" is the only word in Heather's color descriptions I ever recall being used to refer to pigmentation levels.) About 1/3 of The SheSpace's colors were vivid, but not all the vivid colors were highly pigmented. Overall, I'd say that 10% of the line was highly pigmented, 50% of it was medium-weight (appeared weightier when applied wet than when applied dry), 20% was somewhat sheer, and 20% was very sheer. As things neared the end of operations, and even as the later Astrology collections came out, I began noticing that the colors were more sheer and seemed to have less heft. While Heather tried (at least in 2008 and the first 2/3 of 2009) to specifically mark when a color was sheer, some people still felt mislead by the terms "vivid" and "vibrant". This never struck me as problematic, since I like layering colors to get different effects and since I prefer less pigmented looks - and I liked the more colorful shades, even if they weren't all correspondingly heavily pigmented. If you went to buy from The SheSpace expecting heavily-pigmented colors, chances were you'd be largely or wholly disappointed. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that it will be the same for the new ventures.

Another issue among many customers, including myself, were the velvet/matte colors. Over 90% of them were softer pastels or medium-light shades. There were no jeweltone velvets, and not really many dark ones, either, except for one or two browns. I don't know if this was a pigmentation issue or something else - but when Heather asked what her customers wanted to see in 2009, some of us did ask for darker velvets. They never ever happened. Early on in my TSS-customer career, I bought some of the velvets just to see how well they worked. I intended to mix them with the additives that Heather sold. However, the colors were fairly pun intended. They were powdery, didn't adhere well at all, and mixing them with the additives would have lightened the base shade even more. I bought perhaps 5 or 6 shades from the matte line until near the end of the company, when I went to stock up on some "staple layering" colors. I liked what I ended up getting, but they had more shimmer than I I think the formulation drifted a bit.

Crying Over Spilled (Powdered) Milk?

Fairly early in my time as a customer of The SheSpace, I placed a gigantic order (truly gigantic...truly, truly gigantic...just trust me on this, it was enormous). When I finally received the box I was ecstatic, and looking forward to playing with my new colors. I opened the box and was very dismayed to find nearly a dozen spilled jars. It was a bit like opening your Christmas gift and finding that the wonderful toy is very visibly broken. I called Heather, told her about the spillage, sent her photos, and she shipped out replacement jars right away. I reasoned - with an order that contains a few hundred jars (yes, really - I told you it was gigantic), some spillage is bound to occur. And she was very responsive to the problem, so that's good customer service, right?

Well...yes, and no.

Over the course of the next few years, orders kept arriving with spillage. I rarely just ordered two or three colors at a time, and I always ordered multiples, so these were between 12 to 30 jars per order. There was significant spillage in over half of the orders. (I define "significant spillage" as a jar losing 1/2 of its content.) I finally reached the point where I was asking that my orders either be sent in sample baggies (one of Heather's large sample baggies could easily hold the entirety of a "full size" jar) or have the lids taped down. The tone of Heather's email responses to me varied from mystified at the repeated spillage, to cheerfully disgusted with the postal folk who kept treating the packages so cavalierly as to cause the lids to loosen and the product to spill. According to an email exchange Heather and I had, I was the only person who routinely had this problem; so to keep the peace, I kept the same tone in my responses and became the PITA client, requesting special treatment for my orders so that I didn't have to deal with the constant spillage-and-disappointment. Many of my orders arrived mummified in packing tape, but the lids weren't taped down. Sometimes this helped prevent spillage, but it wasn't a foolproof method. I kept sending my photos of the spillage and requests for replacement jars, and kept up the cheery tone in my communications. After all, I reasoned, if Heather's willing to keep replacing spilled product at no additional charge to me, she's the one losing money here. I even suggested once that she package the colors in 5-gram jars with a sifter - more labor-intensive up front, but if it prevented spillage and aggravation, so much the better.

When Heather announced the business closure on January 15 2010, a number of people - including myself - started placing *lots* of orders. We placed more and more as she brought out old collections, all at $2 a jar, to clear out inventory. Turnaround times got longer and longer (as would be expected.) I included requests that all of my jar lids be taped down, as usual...but one large order arrived, lids not taped down, and with several spilled jars. Another email, more attached photos, and I was just about ready to stop ordering no matter how good the prices were. But...then the Cinderella collection was going to be on clearance. And I noticed that I had more BE colors than The SheSpace, and I really really wanted to flip that ratio (don't ask me why, but it became a rather fixed idea.) Then the holiday 2007 collection, which had predated my interest in The SheSpace, went on clearance. Then the two grab bags came out. And the "last hurrah" collection, Fortune Cookie Wisdom, was released. And yes, I bought. And these orders all arrived with lids taped down, no spillage. I was immensely relieved. (I'm also glad I got the last two grab bags, because even though many of the colors were lightly pigmented to sheer, they were some very nice shades! Though if they'd been the standard full-sized price, I don't know that I would have been so eager to "catch them all", as it were.)

That Brings Us To Today

Heather's opened her new storefront (two of them, actually). She intends to focus on inspiration and empowerment, and wants to not build up an inventory of 400 colors. As Sirvinya says, this has happened before. Heather had a site before The SheSpace, called Twisted Fayte. She closed that business down, saying that she wanted to keep in touch with her customers, not get so big that she lost that aspect to the business, and didn't want to build up a huge inventory of colors and have to deal with all of that inventory and soforth. She closed down Twisted Fayte...and about a year later, opened up The SheSpace. Sirvinya (and a few other customers) came along for the ride, and bought quite a bit...but things changed. For Sirvinya, it was the order turnaround times - a month for domestic customers, even longer for international clients - that finally convinced her not to continue being a customer of AboutSheTwistedFayteFaceSpace. For me, the shrinking amount of product, the decreasing pigmentation, the constant addressed-after-the-fact issues with in-transit spillage, and the fact that I've got over 400 colors from Heather means that I've probably gotten all the good out of her products that I'm going to get. I wish her the best in her latest venture(s), but I don't know that I'll be buying from either storefront.

Things may change. Heather may increase the pigmentation of at least some of the colors. She may change her packaging. She may finally decide to bring on others to help her manage a largeish inventory. You may just want to buy the makeup you're seeing on her site because you're interested, and don't care about heavy pigmentation or siftered vs. non-siftered jars or possibility of in-transit spillage. Just be aware of Heather's history, and if you enjoy the colors you see...then most definitely, buy them and enjoy them.

End Analysis: Yea or Nay?

If you like layerable colors, don't demand highly-pigmented shadows, and don't mind that the colors you love won't be available in two years, then Heathesque or Eye Couture Cosmetics might be something you'll like quite a lot. There's the added bonus that Heatheresque also sells face powders (the Cashmere line, under the About Face menu item) that were extremely popular with her previous set of clients. And if you live in or are visiting the Chicago area, you'll be able to make an appointment to stop into the boutique and get a full, customized makeover.

Positives: a variety of colors; roughly comparable costs compared to other indie MMU retailers; does have a boutique in the Chicago IL area; does have fairly responsive customer service.

Negatives: high international shipping; very few heavily pigmented colors; slower order turnaround times; repeated and not-isolated prolems with in-transit spillage; doesn't have a large longtime steady inventory of eyecolors (if you fall in love with a color, you will have a short window to buy backups / recommend the color to others).

Overall, it seems that Heather has found a way to play with colors and sell truly "unique, artisanal" items (ie, things that will only be created once and not ever available again) and get paid for it. She doesn't have to worry about inventory, or overhead, or repeat supplier issues, or a huge array of product formulas, or many of the other administrative factors that go into running the majority of businesses. She just finds her raw materials, creates the colors, and sells them. Instead of having a single powerful patron whose good opinion she must get and maintain (like Da Vinci or Michelangelo), she has a pool of a few hundred - and that pool can lose members as it adds new ones. So good for her, that she's found a way to make that work, and make herself and her clients happy. For myself, I've come to the conclusion that I prefer a bit more stability from my vendors - especially if other people want to duplicate any of my EoTDs or FoTDs using the exact same products I use, or (as I originally intended) I want to match up similar shades from various indie companies with colors from the big names, so that people have lower-cost alternatives and / or can choose to support smaller/independent businesses. (Bluntly, I'm also tired of finally receiving a long-awaited package and eagerly opening it up...only go be emotionally deflated when there's yet another spilled jar or four.)

EDIT/UPDATE: some other long-time, enthusiastic customers of The SheSpace have written up their own views and reviews regarding the company and the change of direction:

We each enjoyed The SheSpace very, very, VERY much; but while we enjoyed it quite a lot, we probably won't continue to be customers. (Or at least not for quite some time. Never say never, with makeup addicts.)

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