A brush with destiny

Cult internet makeup brand morphs into first Austin brick-and-mortar

Cult internet makeup brand morphs into first Austin brick-and-mortar

Morphe North Star Mall San Antonio
Morphe is making a big push into Texas. In addition to its upcoming Austin store, it opened its first San Antonio shop on August 3. Morphe Brushes/Facebook

While once-mighty chains are crumbling under the nation’s continuing retail apocalypse, a cult internet beauty brand is making a major push into brick-and-mortar. This fall, Morphe will open its first Austin store inside Barton Creek Square.

Founded in 2008 by siblings Chris and Linda Tawil, the San Francisco company initially made a name for itself with affordable makeup brushes. Although Morphe now has distribution deals with Ulta Beauty in the U.S. and Sephora in Canada, its early growth was largely founded on a direct-to-customer model.

Morphe was an early beauty industry social media adopter. Its Instagram account, currently hovering at 9.7 million followers, frequently showcases outré makeup looks from its community of MUAs (makeup artists) it tags as #Morphebabes.

As part of that strategy, Morphe works primarily with beauty YouTubers and influencers both in marketing campaigns and in developing product. Some of the biggest names in the industry, including James Charles, Jaclyn Hill, and Jeffree Star have created palettes and other products for the company.

Of course, with influencers comes influencer drama. Most notably, Hill was accused of knowingly selling faulty products through her 2018 collaboration with Morphe. The company has also been on the edges of other YouTube controversies, including the “dramageddon” between Star, Laura Lee, Manny MUA, and Gabriel Zamora.

In that debacle, Lee was dropped by the company when racially charged tweets were uncovered in 2012. Star, who also has a well-documented history of using racist language, continues to be one of Morphe’s marquees faces.

Still, for Austinites who keep their beauty drama to a smokey lid, the store should be a hit. The line is as heavily pigmented as upscale lines like Smashbox and Urban Decay but sold at a fraction of the price.

“Barton Creek Square shoppers are in for a treat as we continue to welcome cutting-edge brands like Morphe to our retail lineup,” said the Barton Square's general manager, Scott Budge, in a release. “Providing an unmatched experience for our guests is always the ultimate goal, and we are excited to debut this concept to the Austin market.”

Though an exact date wasn't given, the release did reveal that the new Morphe will be on the lower level of the Dillard's wing, between Tillys and Attic Salt.