Desiree Rodríguez (Des) and partner-in-crime Salvador Pérez (Zal) are the power couple behind one of the coolest vegan and cruelty-free makeup brands you’ve ever encountered. Born, produced, and based out of Puerto Rico, Necromancy Cosmetica has created a line of high-quality, goth-centric products and cultivated an international community that favors the dark and occult.
What started as a small production of lipsticks in their kitchen in 2015 has turned into a successful business with a brick-and-mortar located in the heart of Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, as well as a massive social following across channels. With a desire to fill a void in the beauty industry, Des and Zal set out to build something that would reflect their own aesthetic and identity.
We got to chat with them about the origins of the brand, the inspiration behind it, and the strides they’ve made as business owners in Puerto Rico.
How did Necromancy Cosmetica get its start? What inspired you to be entrepreneurs, particularly within the beauty industry?
Des: I was starting my relationship with Zal, and we were working in retail together. We were not entirely happy doing that, so I told him that I wanted to try to start my own makeup brand, to which he replied, “why don’t you?” I then asked him if he would help me, and, of course, he said, “let’s go for it — what’s the worst that could happen?”
As for why, I always noticed a gap in the makeup industry for people who are not necessarily into whatever the trend is and are more into alternative, goth, and dark.
On your website, you define Necromancy as “the practice of magic involving communication with the dead,” where one of the purposes is to discover hidden knowledge — that feels like such an empowering mantra, especially for makeup-wearing folks. Why choose Necromancy as the brand name? What does it mean to you?
Des: We chose “Necromancy” because makeup is the one thing that makes me feel more alive when I feel dead inside. It’s always been a way of making people feel good, more beautiful, and empowered. It works to hide the things we don’t love and bring attention to the features we want to highlight most. We want people to feel alive when wearing our products.
Zal: I’ve always gravitated towards the occult and since we both are esoteric and metaphysical beings, the word “necromancy” popped up as a strong contender because of its meaning. It didn’t matter how we looked at it; it just made so much sense with what we were about to create.
I know you are parents, so I’m curious, how has being parents and caribeñxs influenced the way you run the brand and its creative processes?
Des: I believe being a mother subconsciously made me think about the possibility of making this happen in the first place. At the time, I was in a very terrible work environment — I wasn’t happy, and I was never able to spend time with my son, so that was a huge reason for me to start looking into options that allowed me to.
Being in Puerto Rico has definitely impacted how we’ve done things, such as starting the business in our kitchen with handmade lipsticks instead of getting a contract manufacturer right away because there were no local contract manufacturers.
Zal: We needed to be very budget-conscious from the get-go since we were both taking care of a little 6-year-old human while giving birth to a business in Puerto Rico’s economy. Being caribeñxs made us think outside the box because of some limitations, like the lack of local manufacturers and shipping costs. Plus, because the overall occult aesthetic of the brand was rare on the Island, it pushed us to become an e-commerce. Thanks to that, we quickly got international attention from the niche we were catering to — the internet couldn’t believe that this goth couple from the Caribbean was delivering such a good product.
How has the concept and process changed since starting the brand?
Des: The concept has stayed the same. I’d say it might feel a little more mature because it has been growing with us, and, as we grow older, our brand gets wiser (or at least it kind of feels that way). The process of how the lipsticks are made is still the same. However, we branched out to a contract manufacturer to develop our eyeshadows and future products since our production capacity is so small. We wanted to continue expanding the brand, so it made sense to look for a manufacturer in the United States that complied with our standards and made this happen.
Alongside all of the hard work to build this brand, I know you also rescue cats in Río Piedras. How did Cats of Necromancy get its start? How many cats have you helped so far?
Des: Cats of Necromancy started in late 2016 when we started renting the storefront space, and we noticed that, on our street alone, there were over 50 cats in a colony, and we knew we needed to help them out. Since then, we’ve been spaying, neutering, feeding, and finding homes for our colony cats. By ourselves, we’ve done TNR (trap-neuter-return) to over 80 cats and have found homes for over 30. We have also worked with local rescuers in bigger TNRs, where more than 300 cats have been spayed & vaccinated. Out of all those cats, we have nine of our own, eight of which we rescued in front of our store!
You’ve amassed over 120,000 followers on Instagram alone. How did you grow your following, international support, and clientele? What role has community played?
Des: Our growth has been really organic and smooth. We’ve gained a huge international following from all of the amazing supporters we have around the globe who have been spreading the word and love for what we do. The community has played a huge part, particularly in our local area. We’ve collaborated with many groups to bring pop-up markets and events to the residents of Río Piedras and people all over Puerto Rico.
Zal: I think it’s been due to our authenticity — we’ve been ourselves the entire time, and the brand is us! We genuinely believe in everything we speak and do. Thanks to that, we managed to develop an awesome brand that combines everything we learned from trial and error and every little criticism from our customers. Real recognize real, so everything we do is for weirdos like us and everyone who dares to look at the world from outside the box.
What’s to come in the next months or years?
We are super excited about our upcoming palette, “Swamp of Sorrows,” which will hopefully be out in the summer. We are working really hard on some big things for Necromancy as a brand and as a local business in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico — so stay tuned!