How This Lipstick Brand Supports Women in Bali

Axiology founder Ericka Rodriguez turned her passion into a profitable beauty brand...and helped Balinese women along the way.

 Photo: Beauty Atlas

Photo: Beauty Atlas

When Ericka Rodriguez first moved to Bali from NYC, it was only by chance that she wandered into a paper boutique that would later become an essential part of her company.

Rodriguez founded Axiology, an eco-friendly, cruelty-free, luxury vegan lipstick line after discovering that many of her favorite products were made of unrecognizable ingredients and complex chemicals. “I thought: If there are ingredients out there that I don’t feel confident about wearing, then other people are probably experiencing the same concerns,” she says. Rodriguez, who has been a vegetarian since age 11, has always been curious about where her food and makeup comes from. “I've always questioned everything that I [consume] rather than doing things blindly.”

After creating a few lip balms in her NYC apartment, Rodriguez got the idea to further her business from a new location that embraced the conscious lifestyle that she was after. Attracted to the island's vegan-friendly lifestyle, plentiful fruit, and warm weather, Bali, Indonesia seemed to be just the place to develop Axiology, Greek for the philosophy of ethics and aesthetics.

But upon arrival, Rodriguez experienced Bali's struggle to keep its streets clean. “At all times of the day in Bali, you smell the scent of burning trash. People gather their garbage into a big pile and set it on fire because there’s no trash collection on the island."

Determined to help keep litter off of the streets without having to wake up to the smell of burning waste every day, Rodriguez remembered a paper boutique that she wandered into that turned trash into treasure. Literally. The boutique's paper supplier employed a team of women to gather and recycle waste from hotels and offices around the island to create new paper products by hand. As a dual effort to help support women in Bali, Rodriguez opted to hire the boutique's paper supplier to create the brand's lipstick packaging. “Giving women more economic power allows them to support their families and communities. It also helps offer them a sense of independence. I feel really great about that.” During the process, the artisans mix paper waste with water, press it onto molds, and allow it to dry in the Bali sun for at least 24 hours before they cut, fold, and stamp each lipstick box.

 Photo: Beauty Atlas

Photo: Beauty Atlas

In addition to supporting Balinese women, a priority that is central to the Axiology mission is making sure that the ingredients used to create the lipstick formula are safe for the consumers who wear it. “We make sure that every ingredient is completely natural, organic and free of animal byproducts," says Rodriguez. "The fact that we don’t use palm oil, for example, is really important to us. It’s something that’s destructive to our environment. It causes massive deforestation and endangers orangutans, tigers, rhinos, and a lot of other species. And unfortunately, palm oil is in numerous other products—not just beauty products, but food products as well.”

Axiology is a financial supporter of the International Orangutan Foundation, which is committed to improving the lives of orangutans and focuses on rain forest and orangutan conservation.

For those leery of natural cosmetic products, take our word for it: Axiology lipsticks are not lacking in quality. The brand offers 23 sheer and rich-pigment shades ranging from a shimmering neutral balm to an opaque black, all infused with botanic oils for a smooth glide and maximum hydration. Attitude, a bright fuschia and one of the most vibrant colors in the line, was inspired by Bali’s beautiful sunsets and exotic flowers (and Bad, a chocolate brown shade, will likely be a Beauty Atlas go-to for fall). “People still wouldn’t buy a product like ours if the quality wasn’t good. Our goal is to produce really comfortable lipstick and luxurious packaging.”

Why lipstick? “At the end of the day," says Rodriguez. "It’s just really fun!”