KAT VON D
written by Becca Gilmartin
The spotlight on the beauty influencer regardless of makeup artistry talents seems here to stay. At least for now. And with a seemingly endless stream of press releases announcing yet another new collaboration between brand A and influencer #2762 with huge following, Makeup Artists are having quite the time filtering the authentically good product from yet another ‘must have’ palette; a palette that usually turns out to be click-bait for hungry eyes, pretty packaging and bank account abuse. Yet, through the sea of highlighters, contour kits and questionable collaborations, there is one collaboration that we can be grateful to the creative gods for its existence. From makeup artists, to influencers, to beauty junkies – we are all celebrating equally not only the quality of a brand that delivers, but a brand built on integrity and with purpose.
Known as one of the worlds most talented tattoo artists, Kat Von D was featured on the television show Miami Ink then moving on to secure her own show, LA Ink, at her tattoo studio High Voltage in Los Angeles. As a self-confessed beauty junkie with two books on the New York Times best seller list, Kat was approached by Sephora to collaborate on a beauty brand back in 2008. Being an advocate for animal rights and veganism with a strong sense of self on top of all that talent, Sephora got it right collaborating with an artist who not only embodies incredible artistic talent but a strong vision for what she wants to contribute to the world. When talking about the initial launch of her brand, Kat remembers “One of the most vivid moments of launching the brand wasn’t really something you could see, or hear it was more something you could feel, you know. For me it was like being on the verge of something that was new and different and that was going to change not just the world of makeup, but my goal was to change the worlds perception of what beauty was to women and people in general. I think that was the underlying vibration that was happening through that time for me that was very exciting, and scary, but more exciting than anything.” With brand values that read: “We are bold, unapologetic, outspoken and different in our own way. We are artists, poets and lovers. We are the outsiders and the insiders.” You just know this isn’t some brand created to make sales with it’s promises of youth, radiance and flawless beauty whilst riding the tail of a celebrity’s comet. Kat Von D Beauty is a brand that leads with the knowledge and confidence it’s created for everyone to embrace their own kind of creativity and self-expression. That confidence has clearly filtered through the brand to it’s buyers from Kat herself. “You know, I never really have any doubt when I’m releasing anything just because I make the decision to never get myself involved in anything that I don’t really believe in. I think when most people go into launching a product… perhaps their intention is a little different than mine. For me, it’s kind of like as long as I do something that I believe in it just becomes successful in its own way. And I’m not talking about just sales. I just think if I create something that I’m impressed by, that I love, I know other people are going to love regardless if people know about it or not. It’s already a success if you know what I mean.
And then if, IF, tonnes of people end up admiring it and purchasing it, that’s like icing on the cake.
So, then I think if you see it that way, you lose all the things that are more frightening, the things that would hold you back in a sense. You know, I’m not scared of the idea of failure because to me it’s so illusionary to begin with.”
If you’re someone who feels like your bucking the trend by feeling at home in a sharp liner with a bold lip, you’re in good company. Kat has “always been a fan of red lipstick and eyeliner so I think that those two things were kind of the pillars that really created Kat Von D Beauty. Whether you’re talking about a lipstick formula or a liquid formula, I think those two I think are my absolute favourites and the products I get the most excited about.” Priding quality over quantity as a brand value, “Without sounding super conceited, almost every product we make is a hero product and is usually a hit. It’s hard to name our most popular product because it just depends on like, certain regions respond to different colours differently. Our numbers show pretty much we’re in the top colour category so, yeah, people are just excited which is good. It means I’m doing something right.”
In recent times veganism seems to have gone mainstream and is predicted to be one the leading food trends of 2018. Not that being vegan is a trend or a fad, but a conscious lifestyle choice widely growing in popularity. Kat tells us “When I first started making the makeup line 10 years ago, we were already cruelty free and we never tested on animals (of course) but I wasn’t vegan back then. I wasn’t fully aware of the thousands of ways that we exploit animals from the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear and obviously with the cosmetics that we put onto our faces. I was quite ignorant about it. The more and more I learned, the more and more I really wanted to be able to walk the walk and not just talk the talk. We took a look at all my ingredients back then and realised that I was using certain ingredients that were animal-based such as Carmine. A lot of people don’t realise that carmine is a specific pigment that’s being used that is made up of crushed beetles. You can get a lot of finishes and a lot of red tones from that at specific insect, so we had to do all the hard work and reformulate. It took time, energy and money but it was really worth it.
Now I can say that we are a 100% vegan makeup line and I also think it sheds a lot of light onto the subject. This is especially good for the vegan population which in Australia, such a large proportion of the population being vegan which I think is the coolest and I admire! So, it gets me excited to be able to use this platform like one other form of an animal rights movement and that’s important to me.” When asked what the most difficult thing was to navigate whilst creating vegan brand Kat explains “We live in a time where technology really lends itself to vegans. If we’re able to put a man on the moon or whatever, I’m pretty sure we can find a substitute for beeswax… and we have. There are so many amazing ingredients existing right now that work just as well, if not better than animal-based products so there really is to be honest, no challenge. I think the challenge more so now is raising awareness and getting people to be more conscious consumers when they’re purchasing products. You know, I don’t personally care if you don’t want to buy my brand. That’s cool, I’ll give you a list of other vegan and cruelty free brands that are awesome as well. That makes me just as happy so, it’s more about just raising that awareness. It’s been pretty amazing to see so many makeup artists really switching their kits over to cruelty free kits. I think it’s a really big movement that’s happening and it really shows that people give a f**k and they should! It’s so exciting.” As such a forward thinker in the vegan beauty movement, we couldn’t help but ask Kat what makeup product she wished existed that doesn’t currently? “Let’s see. There’s a hundred million ways of doing one thing in a cool way. I’m currently working on this one pigment that I kind of don’t want to talk about yet because I haven’t got it yet – before anyone else beats me to it (laughs). There are formulations that are so exciting for me. I’m a nerd about that and I love learning how things work because I feel that really inspires you to create something new that perhaps doesn’t exist. That goes the same way for componentry. When I look at the tattoo liner for example, we did twelve different revisions on the component alone, just to get that bristle brush. It’s all about the distribution and I honestly feel like there’s nothing else out there and I’ve tried every eyeliner out there. I’m not a big felt-tip person, I love bristle brush better and I honestly can’t imagine how I ever lived without it before. So that’s what gets me really excited. I’m also always pushing the amount of Glitter I can put in stuff (chuckles) whatever the FDA allows me to do (chuckles again). We’ve got some things coming up in the works that we think everyone’s going to get really excited about.
For someone who has their own beauty brand with her only experience being a beauty lover, she leaves no room for doubt about the performance of her pigments and formulations. Kat embodies the understanding of what it is to be an artist through so many other mediums in which you trust in the idea that her passions are being funnelled into a brand that performs professionally and for the everyday person who wears the products. When you think about it, she HAS mastered a artform that aside from application talents, if the products and tools don’t perform… their failings are left permanently on another human’s skin. She understands needing equal parts ‘performance of product’ and inspiration. Kat is “inspired by so many things, you know. I don’t think it would it be possible to dwindle it down to one thing – I’m inspired by everything from interactions I have with people, falling in love, getting your heart broken to architecture and animals, cities I’ve visited, and obviously music has been an inspiration for me for a long time. I couldn’t live without music. I think inspiration is all around us and you would be a fool not to pay attention to that. It’s constantly all around us all the time.” It’s easy to think for someone with so many projects going on, there would be little down time. But Kat tells us “You know, I like to sit down with my boyfriend and my cat… I love meditation I’ve been into transcendental meditation for years now but that’s usually how I start my day vs how I end it. I think as long as I can draw, as long as I can play music those are the two things that really bring me back to my element. Apart from some meetings that really switch me off, I don’t actually feel like I’m really working I feel like I’m doing things that I just enjoy.” As our time together was coming to an end, no one could blame us for asking this final question to such an inspiring woman: “If every woman in the world was listening to you right now what would you say to them?” “If everyone was listening I’d probably be quiet. That’s such a big one, there is so much responsibility! I’d like to think that all the things that I’ve said so far, I would be proud of if I were dead. I think ultimately, I just want to be a good example to show not just women but to people in general you don’t have to settle for less. You really can do anything you want. It might take a lot of blood sweat and tears but it is realistic. I think dream crushers are criminals you know, we crush our own dreams all the time, we can get in the way of our own dreams, so I hope that if anything here people can be inspired to live more free liberated compassionate lives”.
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