Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Style Page interview with Michael Marcus

Michael Marcus is the founder and CEO of an eponymous line michaelmarcus (yes, that’s all lower case). As with several makeup artists I’ve interviewed, he has a background in art, having studied art history and interior at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.  He started his career as a makeup artist at the Prescriptives counter at Neiman Marcus in Dallas and became national makeup artist for Estée Lauder. Through his travels, he learned that women, particularly those over age 35, were clamoring for brighter, clearer colors than those offered from brown-based makeup lines.

He founded michaelmarcus to fill that void in the cosmetics market. His largest account is Dillard’s, although his line is also carried by a number of boutiques. In addition, his line was picked up by Takashimaya New York (since closed), the U.S. outpost of the Japanese department store, where he had the distinction of being the only U.S. brand that its beauty department carried.

Michael Marcus
The Style Page posed a few questions to Michael Marcus:

Why a relaunch of michaelmarcus?

We are relaunching a fragrance I created originally for Takashimaya New York. It was called Takashimaya “t”. Since Takashimaya closed we have been inundated with upset people looking for the fragrance. It was their top-selling fragrance after all.

How are you promoting the relaunch? What is your near-term itinerary?

Interestingly, we have not done a lot of promotion on the relaunch. We posted on Facebook and sent out an e-mail blast. Even before the official release date we had over 50% of our production sold.

Your biggest account is with Dillard’s, which has a presence in most U.S. states. How did you land the account with Dillard’s?

Dillard’s was looking for new brands to energize their cosmetic department. There had been several big articles about me so the buyer contacted us.

Now that Takashimaya NY is closed, what are your plans to re-enter the NYC market?

We are exploring options. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of New York retailers that want unique independent brands.

You say that you got the same complaint, especially women over 35, about brown-based cosmetics lines and the lack of clear color. Yet I also wonder if the desire for color is driven by regional differences, for example, between Dallas and NYC. I also wonder if your older customers are still influenced by the seasonal color typing (Color Me Beautiful) of the 1980s. Could you comment on this?

Many of my bolder shades were first wildly successful in New York. Mainly because I have offered colors no one else does. As the baby boomers are aging they are finding that nudes and neutrals are no longer working, they simply wash a woman out.
I interviewed Robert Jones, another Dallas-based makeup artist, and asked him if there were still significant differences in beauty ideals between Dallas and NYC. My motivation in asking him this question was that consolidation among department stores may have led to homogenization in beauty ideals. Stores that I knew when I lived in Texas in the 1980s, such as Joske’s and Foley’s, have been absorbed by larger chains. Sakowitz and Frost Bros. are gone. To get back to Robert Jones’s response, he said that the difference was that women in Dallas glam up, even to go the grocery store. What’s your take on differences in beauty ideals between Dallas and NYC?

I think it’s amazing that people still think of Dallas as big hair and a lot of makeup….The biggest difference I have found in all of my travels is that Texas women and southern women in general have a tendency to be more willing to try something different. New Yorkers easily get stuck in a rut! You are absolutely right in one respect and that is stores have been homogenized in their selection of beauty brands. As an independent and niche brand we try to compete with the big players. Unfortunately, buyers find it “safe” to buy a brand that is owned by a Lauder, Coty, or L’Oreal for example. A small brand is a risk and no one can afford a risk. To me, so many of the brands out there all resemble each other, especially when a company controls a dozen brands. They all start looking and feeling alike.

Your Facebook profile says that your activities and interests are travel and art. Does your work pre-empt opportunities for travel? What are your favorite places for travel? What places would you like to visit that you haven’t seen?

Work is always first. When you own the company it’s seven days a week, even when you try to take a vacation. Italy is my most favorite place in the world. There is something magical about it. I am dying to travel to Egypt, Petra, and Angkor Wat. I could keep going. There are so many I still have not been. I love exploring, especially ruins.

Are there any parting thoughts about beauty that you would like to share with our readers?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. EXPERIMENT. It’s only makeup and it will wash off!!! When you lose the spirit of trying new and different things, you’re OLD!!

The Style Page appreciates the opportunity to work directly with Michael Marcus on this feature.

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