Know Your Poppy! Lipstick Queen Poppy King

poppyking Know Your Poppy! Lipstick Queen Poppy KingOver the past year or so, several young, attractive Brits that go by the lovely name Poppy have surfaced in New York society. Herewith, our weekly guide to keeping all the Poppys straight.

When the Daily Transom rang Poppy King, the downtown lipstick designer whose clients include actresses Eva Mendes, Lindsay Lohan and the model Iman, she was so amused by our Poppy series that she immediately told us an anecdote about the first time she met someone with her exact first name at a dinner party last year. This happened to be the British model Poppy Delevigne.

According to Ms King, she and Ms. Delevigne were attending a birthday party for Teen Vogue photo director Jennifer Pastore (formerly of the New York Times Style magazine) when they were introduced.

“Until then the only person I had ever heard of called Poppy was Jamie Oliver’s daughter,” said Ms. King. “We were talking about vintage, because she was admiring this dress I had from Topshop. And she said, ‘Yeah, I have some great vintage, because my mum was really friendly with Twiggy and Barbara Hulanicki from Biba.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, well, yeah, you probably do have some really great vintage!'”

Unlike our other Poppys, most of whom moved here from England, Ms. King, 36, is from Australia. When she was 18 years old and was frustrated with never finding lipsticks that had the right shade or texture, she founded her own lipstick brand under the name Poppy Industries. The company grew to become one of the largest cosmetics companies in Australia, but dissolved in 2002 when Ms. King was approached to move to the States and become a “trend spotter and color designer” for Estee Lauder.

After three years, she left the company to write a book, Lessons of a Lipstick Queen, published in 2008 by Atria Books, and subsequently founded her own company again, this time named Lipstick Queen, which is now sold out of Barneys New York and Henri Bendel. (The Observer‘s own Simon Doonan blurbed Ms. King’s book, writing, “Poppy King is the Henry Ford of lipsticks and she shows you how to be a plucky entrepreneur without losing your flossy-flossy.”)

“Lipstick is the most misunderstood cosmetic. Women are intrigued by it, but they don’t know how to wear it without looking overdone,” said Ms. King. “So I decided to go back to it and demystify it in a way and this time I wanted the product to be the focus, with me sort of secondary.”

Ms. King said that changing the name of her company had nothing to do with disliking her name, which was more of a phase she outgrew when she was younger.

“My mother knew a woman named Poppy and she just loved the name. I have a brother and his name is Justin, so it’s not like my mom was a hippy or anything like that,” said Ms. King. “She just loved it. And she is a huge fan of Art Nouveau—she’s sort of a Parisophile—so she already collected things with Poppys on them and when I came along she decided that was the name. But I haaated it. I absolutely hated it.”

Ms. King continued: “I was so angry at her. You couldn’t get any of those novelty erasers or pencils or pencil cases or name tags or number plates with the name Poppy on it. I just felt so weird having this name. So when I was 9 or 10, I decided I was changing my name to Debbie. I bought a coffee cup that had a rainbow on it and the name Debbie written on it. I put it on my desk at school and said that that was all I would answer to.” (Ms. King wrote about this in her book.)

And how did her mother react?

“My mum was horrified!” recalled Ms. King. “She was a bit like Morticia Addams who would get horrified by Pugsley wanting to join scouts or do anything normal. She liked things to be very unique and so that was my ultimate form of rebellion—saying that I was going to be called Debbie!”