An exclusive interview with the makeup maestro.
Whenever I interview people I admire, I tend to ramble. A lot. See: my recent conversation with makeup artist Kabuki about Kabuki Magic Collection, his upcoming collabo with M.A.C Cosmetics. During our chat, I was in full-on first-date mode, stumbling over my words and talking over him.
Lucky for me, not only does the New York-based Brit have the patience of a kindergarten teacher, he thoughtfully answered all my questions, even checking in with me if they were “good enough” answers. (They were.)
Kabuki Magic is his first official collection with M.A.C. – even though he's worked on their campaigns and has been using their products backstage at fashion week for ages – and he’s in good company. The iconic makeup brand also enlisted best-of-the-best makeup artists James Kaliardos and Diane Kendal to design their own must-have products as part of the Makeup Art Cosmetics Collection, available online Jan. 19 and in stores January 26.
Kabuki’s roster of lipsticks, shadows and blushes is super playful – think richly pigmented lip colour and vivid eye paints – but also super practical. Here, he talks about his vision and how Kendall Jenner inspired a VIS – very important shade.
Kabuki backstage with Gigi Hadid at Jeremy Scott's Spring/Summer 2016.
What inspired the Kabuki Magic collection? These are products I wanted that didn't exist – either the colours or the formula. Like Fallen Angel Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour (below, left). It’s a deep berry. I have to do that colour all the time when I’m on a shoot. It’s such a pain because I have to combine three different colours to get something to look the way I want it. So now it’s just a one-step thing. I also wanted a natural matte pink that was like a real lip colour rather than something that looked “lipstick-y.” I was working with Kendall Jenner and I created this colour by mixing [a few] pinky nude shades together. I brought that sample from the shoot to M.A.C and that's how we created Sweet Thing Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolour (below, right). I wanted these products to be very practical—things that people would really need, and not just more stuff.
M.A.C. Cosmetics Fallen Angle Retro Matte Liquid Lip Colour and Sweet Thing Retro Matte Liquid Lip Colour ($25, at maccosmetics.com).
The names of the products are so fun – “Johnny Guitar” and “Sense Of Doubt” (both eyeshadow palettes) and “Ice Follies” (a gloss). How did you come up with them? I made three categories. One was made-up names, the other was Joan Crawford movies and the other was David Bowie references. So I suppose in my subconscious, maybe there are elements of Bowie and Crawford’s careers? Just because I’m a fan so maybe there is something to distil from that into my approach to self-creation.
Do you remember the first time you used a M.A.C product? My first break was in production, [I did makeup for] Sex and the City and then movies afterwards and M.A.C was always very generous in helping with the makeup. Plus, they have real makeup artists working for them and the artists are people I’d be friends with. There is always the feeling of community and sharing tips and, “oh what’s that product?” so it was always like Aladdin’s cave of beauty items.
Let’s talk about spring makeup. Are there any trends you are totally over? I kind of have immediate responses to trends. The ones that I’m over I was never into in the first place. I don't like it when there are a lot of people all doing the same thing. For example, I don't really like when they put that white in the inner corner of their eyes to create a glow. Because we know it’s a trick. I guess I’d rather be challenged and see something new. This surprise is always more exciting than seeing something you’ve seen a million times.
“I use the paints as an eye primer. There is nothing worse than a perfectly blended, precise eye that melts. I wanted these in very bright colours and in white so you could mix them together and created different colours. I tend to use a flat brush to put them on and if I need to blend them out I use like a fluffy brush. But if you’re doing it on yourself, it would be easier to use your finger.” M.A.C. Cosmetics Paints in Cracked Emerald, Holy Holy Overnight Sensation and Win and ($26 each, at maccosmetics.com).
What about "Instagram makeup"? Are you for or against? Mediums create their own style so in a way it’s almost like it works in the medium. I wouldn't say anything bad about it because they’re having fun. It’s like self-publishing. And you can learn from things that are exaggerated. I like going the whole distance [into a look] because it’s easy to pull back and just take an element from that. You can always make something more mild, so to me it’s more interesting to see somebody do all the tricks because it’s more information on one face.
And finally, I’ve always wondered how long it actually takes to make a makeup collection? I think it was about a year and a half! There were a lot of meetings, but they were spaced apart. But it was very enjoyable and I would do it all over again if I could.
Editor's note: We can only hope.
Kabuki created the Precision Brush – in his words “ a really small soft eye shadow brush” – because he found “that a lot of the brushes when they get smaller, they are also firmer so they weren’t good for blending.” M.A.C. Cosmetics Precision Brush ($30, at maccosmetics.com).