Kat Von D Beauty Studded Kiss Crème Lipstick ($23 each), at sephora.com. Image by: Instagram.com/katvondbeauty
And they're still going strong.
This May, Kat Von D Beauty will reach 10 years of business—and oh, how things have changed in that time. In 2008, when the Kendo-owned, tattoo artist-founded brand was created, Kat Von D (born Katherine von Drachenberg) was best known for her stints on TLC reality shows Miami Ink and LA Ink, Sephora was not yet a household name and the idea of lipstick consumption causing websites to crash was incomprehensible.
Now, the pace of beauty products released on the market rivals that of clothing from fast fashion brands.
"We've never really played that game," Von D tells me of how her vegan and cruelty-free line is responding to the relentless newness, during a visit to Toronto for a conference with Sephora employees. "Perhaps it's because I'm not coming from a corporate angle and I don't really have any interest in being number one, even though we are. We're just not feeding into what's expected."
Here, Von D discusses the enduring appeal of her brand, the reformulation of Studded Kiss Crème lipsticks and collaborating with Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong on a limited-edition eyeliner.
On navigating the changing industry:
"Even five, six years ago, makeup brands were really celebrity focused. It used to matter what people were wearing on red carpet. Now that doesn't matter; nobody cares. The shift turned to social media and influencers and YouTubers, and now there are so many that it's oversaturated. They're freaking out figuring out what to do next. Whereas for us, we've never paid anybody to wear our stuff. My gifting consisted of people that inspired me, that I just get happy if they use my makeup. I think that's what makes us cool. There's a certain authenticity. When people are posting a good review, it's real.
I do love how social media has given the people the power. Before, you had to care what Vogue thought about you. I've never cared what anyone, even my parents, thought about me. So it's nice to be able to just have that direct conversation with people.
What's even cooler about [social media] is makeup artists. Everyone is a makeup artist now. You don't have to be a professional working makeup artist to have a massive following and to be creative and to f**king move mountains. I didn't have that growing up. I just had to do everything by word of mouth, and build my tattoo career one person at a time."
DRAMÁTICA! 🖤 Check out the new smoky feline-cat eye tutorial on the @katvondbeauty YouTube channel! 🖤 *link in bio* 🖤 Pretty sure this will be my new everyday-casual look. 🖤🗡 [for those asking: I’m wearing @katvondbeauty Everlasting Liquid Lip in “Double Dare” • Vegan-leather bolero by: @majestyblack]
How the Billie Joe Armstrong collab came to be:
"The Basket Case Eyeliner is a collab that I did with Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day, and I'm really proud of that. Billie Joe texted me in the middle of the night—I can't remember what asshole move having to do with immigration our current president made at the time. As an American, it's something that is really frustrating and hard to cope with. You really don't know what you can do other than just to stand up for what's right and say things that people are too afraid to say. Billie Joe's on the same page as me and he was like, 'I want to be on the right side of history, so what can I do to help?'
He said why don't we do an eyeliner collab and I can donate the proceeds to ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union). I texted my product development team at midnight that night. [We need] to shout out what we really truly believe in, and what we stand against, which is everything our president is about, unfortunately. We're jealous of you guys [in Canada]."
On releasing 40 new and reformulated lipsticks:
"I’m always looking to improve. I’m in competition with myself, really. The new formulation, it’s still longwear, highly pigmented, but it’s comfortable as hell and obviously the colour ranges are out of this world. We added several new shades. A lot of them were shades from the Everlasting Liquid Lipstick collection that people loved, and that weren’t created into a cream formula.
The one that stands out the most is Whiteout [an all-white pigmented lipstick], which in America has been selling out. What I love about it is that you can use it for an avant-garde photo shoot, but for me, I use it as a mixer. So you are able to mix—not even with just my lipstick, but with any cream formula—and make so many variations of shades. You can make anything pastel depending on how much you use. It's also a really great tool for creating ombré lips."