Valdé Beauty founder and CEO Margarita Arriagada proves that it’s never too late to pursue your passions. The Peruvian beauty expert left her successful retail career to start her “very unconventional, yet purposeful” beauty brand, and has never looked back.

Inspired by her immigrant mother, Valdé is a luxe, cruelty free and vegan lipstick brand. Both of their high-quality satin lipstick and moisturizing lip balm formulas took four years to create.

Arriagada’s mother fled Peru in pursuit of independence in the United States, and she would wear lipstick as her armor. Later in her life, she began suffering from dementia, but she would never forget how her favorite product made her feel. Whenever Arriagada would take out lipstick to apply on her mother, she says she would react with happiness.

A family photo featuring three generations of Arriagada women.
Photo used with permission from Valdé and Margarita Arriagada

“She would be ready for application, and look in the mirror and kiss it because she saw a beautiful woman in the reflection,” recalls Arriagada. “I thought, ‘How is it possible that she could not remember me, but she never forgot how lipstick made her feel?’”

Valdé — which means “very” in Latin — is her “homenaje” to not just her mother. It’s for every woman and the industry that has allowed her mom to feel beautiful at every stage of her life. Arriagada spoke to mitú about why her brand is all about lipsticks and how her culture is intertwined.

Valdé takes flight

Born and raised in Lima, Arriagada went to fashion school in California while working at beauty counters. She would eventually climb the corporate ladder in the beauty, fashion, and home interiors industries for three decades. She most recently served as the former chief merchant at Sephora.

Before Valdé was launched in the fall of 2020, it took Arriagada four years and her own funds to develop the product. Searching for perfection without compromising, the result is impeccably detailed. 

The Ritual Creamy Satin Lipstick comes in refillable packaging and priced at $40. There are nine shades ranging from nude pinks, to fiery reds, in addition to a universally-flattering lip balm. The Valdé experience is complete with the lipstick “armor”: a carefully crafted case resembling a woman’s body, featuring feathered wings. It was brought to life from a sketch Arriagada had drawn.

A pink Valdé lipstick next to a gold armor case over a pink and red background.
Photo used with permission from Valdé

According to Valdé’s website, the feathers are meant to honor “each woman’s individual and collective power.” Although feathers are light, together their purpose is to be strong enough to take flight.

Overcoming public perception

According to Arriagada, “everything was and still is an obstacle,” since starting Valdé. The uber luxury lipstick systemstarts at $150, and has everything a makeup lover would need for practical use and display. However, Arriagada understands that the price won’t appeal to everybody.

She admits that, unfortunately, being a Latina creator without universally-known ties to the beauty industry can be seen as a hard sell.

“This brand was not created for the purpose of having an expensive, elitist product, but to honor, celebrate, and provide meaningful value of the investment, while forging deeper connections,” said Arriagada.

Making the product for a highly commoditized and saturated industry, and fine-tuning every feature was a challenge. 

Nonetheless, the uniqueness of the lipstick armor case and refillable features prove that the quality and good intentions are there. Sustainability is one of the brand’s key focuses. “I feel both the industry and premium beauty customers are worthy of more thoughtful brands and products,” said Arriagada.

Showcasing her culture as a Latina entrepreneur

Maneuvering through the ups and downs of running a business can be taxing for many. Arriagada takes pride in celebrating her family and cross-generational values through the Valdé System, from food and sounds, to rituals and indigenous cultures.

“These are all aspects I want to weave in the brand to show people that our culture is just as beautiful [and] aspirational as eurocentric cultures that the beauty industry has had a fixation on forever,” said Arriagada. 

In the beauty realm, her vision was to fill the emotional gap with her products. Arriagada understands that a great product isn’t enough these days, so a message behind it is crucial. She advises Latinas that are interested in beauty entrepreneurship to identify how they want to impact the industry. In addition, finding their communities to network and learn from.

Passion is also needed in the process: “Are you willing to bet the farm? Because it’s a big risk at best,” she says. “If it’s a concept that inspires you, you dream of, you have clarity of vision, and are willing to go the distance, then absolutely you should go for it.”