Uslu Airline founders Jan Mihm and Feride Uslu.
TOR lipstick by Uslu Airlines.
The Uslu Eleven. Photo by Jan Friese.
Every colour in beauty company Uslu Airlines’ collection is assigned a three-letter airport destination code, acting as an identifier for both a specific location and the product itself. The airline concept gives the Berlin-based cosmetics brand, founded over a decade ago by Turkish makeup artist Feride Uslu and German entrepreneur Jan Mihm, a global appeal. “The code either has a connection to us, our collaborators, the cosmetic, or the geography,” says Mihm.
Mihm and Uslu enjoy creating stories around individual colours, often bringing in influencers or collaborators from outside the cosmetic industry for inspiration. For their lipstick TOR, Mihm was eager to turn their standard market research approach upside down and define a target group with a different perspective. This group was comprised of 11 men with varying professions, including a bar owner and motorcycle mechanic, and limited beauty backgrounds that extended as far as purchasing shampoo. Over beers and bratwurst, Mihm posed his question: What is the most kissable shade of lipstick on a woman?
“I thought it would be easy,” says Mihm. “It was actually a much more challenging process than anyone expected.” After nearly two years of meeting, brainstorming, sample testing, and heated debates, it came down to a vote. “If we tried to make the colour something that all the men agreed on 100 per cent, it would have never ended.” Though certain men were more in favour of a purple hue, their democratic compromise took the form of a highly pigmented, vibrant red-orange that “lights up the face and makes teeth sparkle.”
The airport code TOR is in the United States, specifically Torrington, Wyoming, but the colour has nothing to do with the destination. TOR pays homage to Torstrasse, one of the longest streets in Berlin, where the “Uslu Eleven” lived, worked, and developed the lipstick. “Since it was born on Torstrasse, we wanted to sell it there too,” says Mihm. Following its release, TOR was geographically restricted, only available to purchase on Torstrasse—a destination product in the strictest sense. A lack of beauty shops along the avenue encouraged Mihm to get creative with its sale, making it available at banks, hardware stores, galleries, and even laundromats. Beauty buffs from Japan to Australia sought out the exclusive shade, making bulk purchases for friends and family back home. Later this month, TOR will take off in a worldwide launch, just in time for Valentine’s Day.