Buro 24/7 Exclusive: Tattoo or makeup? Kat Von D tells it all
Inking her status
The date was set and my outfit was picked out for my tête-à-tête with the Kat Von D. Putting on my best goth impression, I set out for the venue of my interview. Lo and behold, traffic was working against me. I panicked and chastised myself for my lack of foresight. I got to the hotel just in time for a breather before I sat down with Kat Von D, who was all dressed in black (no surprise!) with perfectly done eyes, lips and face.
I was awestruck to see this person that I've watched on TV and read about in the news. Kat Von D has a presence that makes you curious to want to know who is she, what makes her tick and what she's up to next. With a big welcome hug and a huge smile on her face, I knew it would be an interesting morning with Kat Von D.
Welcome to Malaysia. Let's start off by talking about beauty, what does it mean to you?
I could probably write a book about what beauty means to me but I'll put it in a nutshell. I think like a lot of people, beauty has nothing to do with makeup actually. I've met some of the most beautiful people who don't wear a drop of it and some who consider themselves to be most beautiful but maybe their hearts weren't so nice. I think it's really a lot about what's on the inside, I know that sounds cliché but I truly believe that.
On the other hand, I see makeup as a form of self-expression. It transcends beauty. I think it's like music in a sense where it's about expressing what we feel and it's a reflection of what's going on inside. So, in a sense, it's truly art.
What is your beauty secret?
I don't know if I have a secret but to me, one of the sexiest attributes that anybody can have is confidence, and that is going to shine through no matter what. I'm a firm believer that beauty comes from within. There is a really great book published by Dr. Jessica Wu and it's called 'Feed Your Face'. She's a dermatologist and also a nutritionist. After reading that book, I learned so much about how scientifically what you eat directly affects you, especially your skin. I remembered how I'd have breakouts sometimes under my chin and she told me it's because of dairy and sugar. So, I cut those out and instantly saw results. Of course, I'm like any other girl who likes to do a mask every now and then; I cleanse, tone, moisturise and all that stuff. But other than that, I really believe I have the best skin when I eat the best.
What do you remember about your first experience with makeup?
Like most girls, we have the same story of sneaking into mum's makeup drawer and experimenting while she's gone. I remember being 11 or 12 at that time. I remember we were really poor growing up and couldn't afford much, not even the makeup brands in drugstores, let alone Sephora. I also remember getting my hands on whiteouts and I would use that as nail polish. I'd put it on before going to school and try to take it all off before coming home— before my mum saw it. (Laughs)
How does it feel then to actually start your own makeup line?
I get asked 'is this a dream come true?' a lot. I'd never imagined that I would have a makeup line. When Sephora first approached me nine years ago, I was definitely shocked. I come from years and years of people making fun of what I looked like because I was always different; for example, I had a shaved head growing up and when I was a teenager, I'd wear crazy eyeliners all the way. I think in the States especially, the way I dressed wasn't considered beautiful at all; in fact, it was considered a rebellion against beauty. So to have a company such as Sephora address you and find interest in you is quite the compliment, or it was to me at least.
I agreed to sit down for a creative meeting not knowing what to expect and I think we were all very excited after discovering how much I loved makeup. It was never a licensing deal or endorsement. For us, we saw this as an opportunity to create something new that has never been done before that really fills this hole in the market. We started off wanting to create the four most perfect shades of red and I remember thinking, "Oh my God! Four is a lot of lipsticks!" and now I have a whole collection of it. It's been pretty exciting; I think not a day goes by that I'm not grateful for this opportunity. I don't ever take this for granted.
What was the single most important thing for you when you started the KVD Beauty line?
In the beginning, it was very important to me that my message wasn't "Hey, buy my makeup to be beautiful" or "buy my makeup to look like me" cause a lot of people can look at the line—and maybe the aesthetics of its—and they tend to see it as niche, like you have to be punk rock or gothic to wear this. Whereas for me, I always had my mother in mind; I remembered when I came out with my first eyeshadow palette, I thought it was a palette that I could wear and my mum could wear. We're both going to look very different but there's versatility there.
So, when people ask "Who Kat Von D is for?", my answer is that it's not for anybody but for everybody. That would be the main message that I want to first and foremost have people understand.
Secondly, it's what we talked about earlier about our idea of beauty. Coming from a tattoo artist background, where you have no room for error, your work is going to go on someone's body forever, and it's a huge responsibility that can be stressful sometimes. With makeup, the beauty is that it washes off. So, you can go crazy and do something that you'd never imagined doing; if you don't like it, at the end of the day, you just wash it off. That's the fun part about makeup. We should all relax a little when it comes to it.
As you know, beauty is a fast-moving yet fickle industry. How do you know what works and how do you find the balance?
Well, I don't know what works and that's kind of like our charm. Most brands will do research on trend predictions, colour predictions and all that stuff. But for my team and I, we always believe in being a pioneer versus a follower. It's more just letting yourself be truly creative. If we're not limited by expectations, we're going to create the best things. That's our approach to creating KVD Beauty because I think it's a really scary route to take if you're constantly chasing your tail and trying to predict what's the next big thing. We've actually been successful that way because without knowing it, we've stumbled upon a lot of really great hits like the Everlasting Liquid Lipstick is our number one lipstick in Sephora.
Can you tell us a little about the artwork on the packaging?
A lot of people will find it a surprise if they don't already know that I'm creatively involved in the entire process. So to me, it's not just about coming up with the ideas. I test the shades and the formulas and I'm constantly giving feedbacks. Then, next is coming up with the art direction. I work on all the artwork and the graphic layout, and of course, I have a team that really supports that. When you look at all the artwork on the palette, I've drawn that with my hands. You know, we archived all our sketches from the beginning, eventually we'll have a Kat Von D museum somewhere. (Laughs) I think it's an important part of the brand's charm, something that not a lot of other people can do. As an artist, it is actually very creatively fulfilling. I'd feel weird if anybody else were to do my artwork.
Do you find any differences between doing beauty and tattoo?
I think there are a lot of differences and similarities. I'm not a makeup artist so that's probably my biggest difference; I'm more of a makeup fan. I've much respect for the professionals. I've mentioned about the whole permanency about tattoo but I think there's a power to makeup—there's a power in sharing makeup skills with others. This is also one of the reasons I do YouTube, just to share tips and tricks with people. I know that for me, when I learned these tips and tricks, it really made makeup more exciting and it opened up a new world for me. So with tattooing, you're doing the same. When you give somebody a tattoo, it's like you're giving them a gift that they can express themselves with and tell a story.
As far as my artistic background in tattooing, drawing and painting goes, it has been a huge influence in how that has translated into makeup. When we first came out with the contouring palette, I felt it was technically advanced for the masses where they may not necessarily know about facial structure and anatomy. But for me, coming from an artistic standpoint where I'm always drawing portraits, I really understood the use of shade and light. That was why I named the palette 'Shade & Light', you highlight the things you want to come forward and put shadow on things that you don't want to show. So, that definitely helps.
Ok, so what are three KVD Beauty items that you'd recommend to a girl who is just starting out with makeup?
Tattoo liners, for sure. What I love about tattoo liners it that it's so precise. Eyeliner is one of the most intimidating things for any women; you're expecting to do something and it's supposed to look really professional but if you mess up, it's really noticeable. When we created the component for tattoo liners, I really wanted to make a dummy-proof eyeliner. While some people prefer the felt tip, I personally don't cause I think it's harder to do as it tends to drag a lot but again, some people like that, so we created the ink liner which is felt tip. But I feel like tattoo liners are very user-friendly. It glides on easily and you can make it very thin. I like to wear it extreme but you don't have to do that, you can just do something more natural.
Other than that, I think the Everlasting Liquid Lipstick is such a great formula for anybody. What I love about it is obviously the fact that it's long-wear and also how matte it is. If you haven't worked red lipstick before, try the Everlasting—it's the kind that's not going to get on your teeth or all over your face. I was talking to Miley Cyrus about it. On stage, she likes to wear red lipstick and Everlasting is the only one that can withstand her performance because she gets her lips all over the microphone and all that. So, if it works for her, I'm sure it can work for anybody.
The third I'd say is the foundation, especially in the climate here, you guys are going to absolutely love it. It's so hard to have a flawless finish when it's so hot and humid, but this formula just makes it so easy. People will fall in love with it.
So, what's next in the Kat Von D world domination?
(Laughs) Everything we start producing is done at minimum a year in advance, so we've got tons of stuff coming up. We're launching the full collection out here, so that's really exciting. You guys are also going to get the new Locket Complexion set this October. It's going to have a new packaging for the components, same amazing formula but with a few new items. That's in the very near future.
Coming up after that during the holidays, we have so many great new things. I'm doing my first collaboration with Too Faced which has never been done before, so it's really super exciting. You guys will be getting it too!
When it comes to beauty products, I have so many ideas of the things I want to create. I'm definitely going to end up die-trying to do all of them. I feel like if you can think of it, dream of it, you can make it—sometimes it just takes a bit more time.