Kat von D for Sephora- A Brand Endures

Kat von D Photo Courtesy Mariano Vivanco of Photo MV Ltd.

Few know this. I was the private makeup developer that worked directly with Kat von D in creating the launch collection for Sephora. Kat and I are in Southern California, and at that time, Sephora ran operations and marketing split across the San Francisco and New York offices. Creating authentic product for a public figure requires an up close process.  A colleague recommended me to Sephora to be that up-close person with Kat. In 2008, I coordinated the creation of the Kat von D for Sephora Makeup brand. As Kat and I created the product, we circled back tightly to Sephora on every step. They would then execute on their end, and we maintained this long-distance loop until the launch collection was finalized for manufacturing.  

Kat von D eyeshadow palette for Sephora collaboration
Kat von D for Sephora Eyeshadow Palette

Working with Kat and Sephora was a phenomenal experience from all standpoints. Kat’s recent major news about moving on from Sephora ignited a flood of memories. Sephora announced that it is carrying on with the brand even without her close involvement. To make it work, Sephora restaged the KVD identity and has developed new product offerings.  Sephora continuing on without Kat is testament to the staying power of their collaboration and the enduring brand they created. Understanding the phenom requires some perspective. Way back in 2008, creating a makeup line born as a cross between a global beauty retailer and a tattoo artist starring in a cable show was a really, really big idea. There were barely any business benchmarks. Credit to Sephora for their futuristic insight. Credit to Kat for agreeing to an entirely new experience. Like most projects, there was enormous pressure to get it done. Being entrusted to get a lot done-and get it right, in an extremely short time frame- on a novel project that had tons of Sephora and LVMH corporate attention- as can be imagined, it was all quite intense. It paid off huge, as the project was the seeds of germination that led to Kendo, the LVMH division that fosters creative ideas and develops product. Kendo went on to create the Marc Jacobs makeup line and the more recent Rihanna fashion label.

Personally and professionally, the experience was incredibly positive. Kat was kind, professional, unpretentious and always accessible. She made every meeting, returned every call and always responded to her emails. She knew what she wanted and we nailed down the tightly edited launch collection in record time. I looked forward to our meetings. Most of the time, it was just the two of us and once in a while her sister, who was also her assistant then, would join in. She was equally lovely, professional and amazing.

Kat von D makeup colllection with Sephora press photo

Kat shared her personae and vision with me while we sat shoulder to shoulder creating and evaluating product and packaging.

The artistic element within the project was a key driver for success. It was also a super interesting experience. Barely able to draw a circle, I became in awe of the incredible talent required to permanently ink someone’s flesh with elaborate design.  Another poignant moment happened while we were brainstorming the packaging. Kat’s sleeve of roses is the basis of the packaging design. We needed a sketch of her rose sleeve to send to the printer for reproduction. Under ordinary business circumstances, creative requests like this typically take a week or two to produce. This was no ordinary business circumstance. Huge oversized parchment paper was on the table. While drawing, she barely broke conversation with me and during the entire process, she glanced down only occasionally. In what felt like only minutes, Kat produced several incredible black and white pencil sketches of roses that filled the parchment from end to end.  She passed them to me with extreme casualness while I stood stunned and speechless; overwhelmed by her talent. The entire project felt filled with moments like this.

Kat von D sketch of roses for packaging design for her makeup line with Sephora
Kat’s sketch of roses

From the very start, the brand and the business has been a huge success. Sephora has often quoted that it is one of their top 5 brands sold.

Their partnership was an amazing run, but change has now arrived. Kat has publicly shared that her new ventures are about moving forward professionally and personally, with her family. Kat is looking forwards. In looking backwards, I hope that Kat’s memories are as fond as mine.

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