April 19th, 2016
Being born and raised in the make-up world, it made perfect sense for Tate Holland, the President and Co-Founder of Make-up Designory (MUD), to create his own company. MUD has cultivated a unique blend – keeping dedication to education and make-up artistry, whilst remaining commercially appealing to the everyday user. We had the opportunity to speak to Tate about the brand’s evolution and how it is looking to shake up the UMA Expo competition in a few weeks’ time.
WP: What was your first introduction to the world of make-up?
TH: Birth! My father, Byrd Holland, was a professional make-up artist. He had a full career as a film and television make-up artist in Hollywood. I spent many days on set with my dad on iconic shows like American Bandstand. Although I was exposed at a very young age to make-up, I did not imagine myself working in make-up. I attended University in Washington DC and worked in politics and human rights for several years after graduation. Eventually I decided to move back to Los Angeles where I was offered a job working for a small make-up school and cosmetic line. After some time, I became the company president and was involved with the company as it expanded into other parts of the country. I eventually left that position in the fall of 1997.
WP: When did you make your transition to MUD and how did it come about?
TH: I was one of the founding members of Make-up Designory (MUD). In September of 1997 we started by working in a small apartment in Hollywood. There we wrote a business plan and imagined a company that would eventually operate a school and cosmetics company. From that apartment we moved to a commercial space in North Hollywood. It was there that the brand took form. The brand, whether our school or cosmetics, was envisioned by us to focus on the needs of the professional make-up artist.
WP: MUD went through a thorough rebrand in the 2000s – what changes did you need to reflect the modern marketplace for make-up?
TH: While a focus on professional make-up artistry was, and is, a founding principle of MUD. We realised that if we wanted to sell our line of cosmetics we would need to re-brand and provide packaging that was more consumer friendly than our original packaging. In terms of product formulation, something else interesting occurred in the industry. Older professional [film and television] make-up was very thick – the make-up had to be very opaque in order to compensate for the strong lighting that was needed. As video evolved, we moved to more efficient forms of tape on which to record content, and eventually to recording devices that required no tape at all. All of the evolution of the medium resulted in the use of less light or the creation of low light photography. These advances lessened the need for the make-up to be so heavy or opaque. Conversely, HD technology became the norm. This technology became common in both professional and consumer equipment. So in a way, the requirements of the make-up became more aligned with professional and social settings. While low light photography became the norm, HD provided vivid imagery. You are now far more able to see the natural flaws in the subject and the make-up used to cover them. So our challenge was, and is, to create sheer products that provide great coverage and can stand up to the requirements of professionals and consumers alike.
WP: What are some of the brand’s top sellers and why would you speculate that they stand out among the rest?
TH: Our foundations and brushes are definitely our top sellers and most popular products. The foundation is a silicone-based product that is designed for the professional as a palette-based system. The product blends perfectly, has outstanding lasting power and allows a great coverage without a heavy build-up. The products can be as sheer as the user or artist desires. In fact, by using our primer, you can create a liquid type make-up while still getting the benefits of a cream.
On a recent trip to Asia I visited literally dozens of brush manufactures. I was amazed at how few understand how to really create a make-up brush. The brush starts with the weight. You have to first get the balance right. From there it is about making sure that the material, whether synthetic or natural fibers, are the right type and correct mix for the intended use of the brush. Then it is the quantity of the material, the fit inside the brush and finally the overall time and expertise that goes into a brush that makes for a quality item. To achieve all of this, you must be willing to spend top dollar on your brush line and must have the expertise to know what makes a truly good brush. Our brushes are expensive, but we will not compromise quality. It seems our customers share that same commitment.
Beyond the brushes and foundations, we have a complete line. What makes the line special is that it all works together. Eye shadows can be used wet or dry and can be mixed to create just about any colour. Our airbrush make-up can be mixed with our cream foundations. The entire range also comes in both professional and consumer packaging.
WP: Your schools have been described by some as the Harvard of make-up schools – what is it that sets your education programs apart from the other courses and schools available?
TH: Just about 20 years ago we created Make-up Designory and the first thing to be designed was the school. From the beginning we were committed to bring the educational experience up from the workshop model to a proper curriculum-based educational system. It was important our educational methodology follow normal educational systems. We have literally created thousands of pages of curriculum, complete with lesson plans, rubrics, syllabi, etc. Beyond curriculum, we hire high calibre school professionals and instructors. We have a very competitive compensation and benefit package and believe in initial and ongoing training. The instructors actually have to go through a teacher training program that takes several years to fully complete. Lastly, we demand that our students also take the education seriously. We have strict attendance policies and academic standards to which students must adhere.
TH: What we were able to offer the UMA Expo make-up competition this year was an unbiased and academic way to approach the judging of the various make-ups. We have noted in past competitions it seems that often the most dramatic look tends to win the contest. While overall appearance should definitely weigh into the judging, it is important to also judge the individual aspects of the make-up and to do so with rubrics, just as we would in a classroom.
WP: It is a crowded market in terms of professional make-up brands which are also marketed for the general public, with the likes of MAC, Laura Mercier and other MUAs who have started their own lines. What would you say is MUD’s stand-out aspect which attracts your customers? Or, conversely, what is it about your customers which draws them to MUD?
TH: Without doubt, it is our foundation in education and our make-up team organisation that give us a point of difference. As a self-funded independent company it is hard to compete with large corporate brands on their terms. We are at our best most competitive and meet the needs of our customers when we stay close to our educational start. Whether that means a young make-up artist who has learned our line by attending one of courses or a consumer who has benefited from the explanation of a MUD make-up artist, it is education that is our point of difference and the one area that we feel we not only compete in but lead.
TH: For sure, this is a challenge. What we have seen work is communicating directly with the customer. The communication cannot be a one time event; a relationship needs to be established that allows them to return to us directly, one of our MUD Studios or retailers. We offer a series of classes around the world that seek to help the consumer understand better make-up application.
WP: What does 2016 hold for MUD?
TH: I think the most exciting growth and opportunity for MUD comes by way of our Studios and Partner schools. Today we have over 50 locations worldwide where individuals can receive some level of MUD training and certification. Our MUD Studios are retail locations with one or two classrooms. These facilities offer not only professional training but also a great way for consumers to get to know the product and learn about make-up application in a calm and warm environment. We have just opened new Studios in Belgium, Iceland, Germany and will be opening our second South Africa location this year, as well as plans for our first studio in Russia. For our online customers, both the USA and EU will be seeing the launch of new websites and a closer association with Amazon.