At Home With School House Founder Christopher Skinner

At Home With School House Founder Christopher Skinner

At Home With School House Founder Christopher Skinner

Everyone knows that beauty products aren’t judged solely by their innate charms. The medium a product comes in—not just the jar or tube or bottle, but also the way it’s presented to the world, in general—matters. And perhaps no one knows that better than Christopher Skinner, founder and creative director of School House, an independent agency specializing in strategy, creative, and environments for the world’s most in-demand beauty brands.

Skinner hasn’t always been in the beauty game—he started out in the theater. After many years of traveling the world for companies, including Space NK and Fresh, he launched School House five years ago, melding his eye for art and architecture with his keen sense of the theatrical. We spoke with the beauty-world expert about his career path, the ways he sees the beauty industry morphing and transforming, his favorite artists, and his greatest indulgence.

School House specializes in many areas, but perhaps the most important project they’re taking on right now is their new 1,000 Hours Pledge, a program that will donate $150,000 of the company’s design hours to independent, Black-owned beauty businesses.

Is founding a beauty creative agency what you’ve always wanted to do? How has your career progressed over the years?

Christopher Skinner: “From a very young age, I was involved in theater—acting, singing, dancing, production design—and in high school, I attended DeKalb School of the Arts with the likes of Donald Glover and Saidah Nairobi, in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Out of high school, I took a few years to pursue a theater profession, woke up one day, and decided that I wanted to study interior architecture, due to my love of production design. I was accepted to be a part of the first class of Savannah College of Art and Design’s Atlanta campus, during which I was rehearsing and performing in the evenings and selling back scratchers at Restoration Hardware in my spare time.

“RH eventually let me go (they actually stopped answering my calls, so I might still work there) so I applied as an overnight stock assistant at Sephora North Point Mall in North Georgia—and it was there that I became obsessed with beauty. It was the first time I had found an industry with the same passion and dedication—even at a grassroots level—as theater.

“I ended up finishing at SCAD, staying with Sephora for five years, and moving to New York City to study at the Atlantic Acting Company. I joined the now-closed Sephora at 76th Street and Broadway, overseeing events and visual merchandising (where I once got to sell Bernadette Peters an eyeliner), and slowly began a path of melding all of my passions into a career.

“Twelve years ago, I decided I didn’t have what it took to pursue a professional life in theater and that I would continue towards a fused path of beauty, design, and storytelling. From that decision onward, I joined Space NK Apothecary during their initial US launch. I then joined Fresh, overseeing global store experience and design, where I split my life between New York and China—and five years ago this month, I started School House, a beauty think tank and creative agency. Select clients include Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare, La Mer, Joanna Czech, Elemis, Tata Harper, Pat McGrath Labs, and Perfect Diary.

“The lesson in all of this is to follow your gut, do what makes you happy, take risks, and remember: To climb the ladder of life and career, you must let go of the last rung to reach the next.”

You collaborate with some of the most amazing beauty brands in the world. What are your beauty obsessions right now? What are you reaching for daily?

CS: New obsessions include CHANEL Le Lifting Collection, Joanna Czech Facial Massager, and R.Swiader Mott NYC Incense Candle.

 

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