September 1st, 2016
With extensive experience across the globe, including heading up MAC’s Asia-Pacific rapidly expanding region, skin king James Molloy has shifted his skills and talent towards his own make-up brush range, MyKitCo. Already winning rave reviews from artists including Val Garland, James’ vision of make-up tools and equipment is an actual dream come true. Warpaint jumped at the chance to talk kit with him.
WP: When did you start doing make-up and playing with make-up? What first inspired you to pick up a brush or a sponge?
JM: I was playing with make-up from super early, from six or seven I remember, and when I say make-up and it was more like felt tip pen on my record album covers. It was from an early age where I would doodle and sketch. I was a huge fan of comic book art, I would often sketch and I guess it kind of plays hand in hand with make-up, with the design, colour and beauty. And then make-up for real, that was after a short stint as a visual merchandiser; I got really friendly with a couple of guys who worked at MAC in Manchester and they told me they were opening the new MAC store in the Trafford Centre. I just thought, “I’ll give it a go, why not?” I literally had no experience, just a passion for make-up and a passion for beauty. Just on the off chance of them giving me a job I went for it, and a week later I was a full time artist at MAC in Manchester – that was 15 years ago now.
WP: What was that like as a training experience, working for MAC?
JM: It was the best on-the-job training you could possibly get. I remember Terry Barber did my basic training at MAC. We had a hotel room in Manchester and Terry came along, he covered the toilet wall in pictures of Madonna and I was thought, “Yes, I feel like I’m in the right place.” And we just did basic make-up for the week, we went through all the products and he shared some ideas on beauty, on what it could be. He really opened my eyes to it. It was the right training for me because there were no rules and it was more about setting your mind free rather than ‘this is how you do this.’ It was a playground. Me and Terry have stayed closest of friends ever since.
WP: How long were you at the MAC store?
JM: It was a bit of a whirlwind. I was hired and then after three years I was the Senior Artist for the UK. I was a senior artist for seven years and in that time I got to experience so many things. I think my first overseas job with MAC was a Bulgari show with Charlotte Tilbury in St Petersburg. I took a year away from MAC and worked freelance when the job position for the director of make-up artistry for MAC’s Asia-Pacific region came up. That was six years ago, and I decided that I would go for that and broaden my horizons. I was based in Hong Kong, but looking after 12 countries at the time.
WP: Was that when you wanted to do something on your own and create MyKitCo?
JM: After five amazing years of experiencing all of this newness, I’m never one to stand still for too long and I felt like I needed a new challenge. The idea for MyKitCo came along between me and my partner Alex, who also lived out in Hong Kong, when I was looking for something new. There were so many make-up brush brands coming out and I thought they all seemed a little bit the same. I would constantly go into my brush bag and think, “If I only had this brush” or “If only this brush was made of this fibre or was this shape.” It was a little glimmer at the back of my mind. Alex came across a producer in Shanghai who had 20 years heritage of making make-up brushes and he brought some handles back and they felt great. So we started working on this plan together. The plan was originally to have 12 brushes, which quickly turned into 32 brushes. We have a limited edition, which is MyKitCo Nude, a collection of brushes for creating really gorgeous skin.
WP: When did MyKitCo come together as a realised brand?
JM: I had the idea when I was at MAC and Alex was running away with it because I was still busy working for the brand. He pulled it all together and then when I left, we could go 100% into it. It was nearly 8 months when we pulled everything together. We are a baby, MyKitCo is still so new – we launched in November 2015. Everything you see is a work of two people. I shot all of the visuals and I did the make-up. There were times when I had a make-up brush in one hand and a camera in the other. I shot all of the products and Alex designed the website. We’ve found skills that we never knew we had.
How are your brushes different from other brands?
JM: They’re from the hands of a make-up artist, so you’ll find the handles to be a little bit more weighty and they’re longer. When you pick up them up they feel like you’re in control of the brush, which is something really important to me. It’s the fibre, the way that they’re shaped; they’re all hand-crafted brushes. We don’t snip the fibre so that they pick up and lay down product really well. We have a brush called the Expert Line and Define which is a tiny little lip liner brush, it’s kind of a strange shape but works amazingly. This will sound really cheesy, but they’re put together with passion. We go back and forth to the factory until they’re spot on. I know one brush doesn’t fit all, so that’s why we like to offer a selection which we will keep building and adding to – although I need to cap myself on how many brushes we have because it’s going to get out of control.
WP: If you could pick your top brush out of your collection, what would it be?
JM: The 2.2 brush, My Bold Brow is a really coarse brow brush that brushes them up while filling them out, but it will never give you a hard HD brow. It brushes the product through, so that you get very bushy and gorgeous brows. As a make-up artist I’m definitely a brow person.
WP: You also have a lot of collections, do you have a favourite set?
JM: The Advance Artistry is great because it has a nice mix of our grey range, which is the standard MyKitCo collection with your everyday brushes with a few little gems in there from the MyKitCo Pro blue range. That one has a good selection.
WP: How did you come up with the idea of your own make-up bags?
JM: Once we had the brushes sorted, the next thing was where do I put all of my make-up. I was so tired of mish-mashes of bags from here, there and everywhere; my kit just wasn’t packing well. So from there, we started making durable make-up kit bags, some from PVC and some canvas. We came up with this concept of a MyKitCo Organiser where we offer different sets. Whether you’re a beginner make-up artist, where you have a small kit and you want it to look slick, or if you’re a big make-up artist with three kits and want all your make-up organised. The bags are as important to us as the brushes. Alex and I were sat in the kitchen one night, thinking that we needed a new way to store brushes – I wanted something that was upright and make it feel like a set bag. I wanted to be able to keep my clean and dirty brushes separate. And so we came up with this idea for this little PVC, over-the-shoulder bag and we call it the Brush Buddy.
WP: How would you describe your personal make-up style? What do you think you’re known for as a make-up artist?
JM: I think definitely skin. I like the idea of a texture play, something like a veil of interesting texture. Working all those years backstage, tailored skin is my thing – I’m definitely a beauty make-up artist. I appreciate a bit of androgyny and a bit of raw, but ultimately you’ve got to know your style and I’m definitely a bit more polished.
WP: What are the biggest challenges that people need to be aware of if they’re thinking of getting into the industry now?
JM: I think it’s a tougher job to get into more than ever. The biggest challenge is breaking into teams, because you can be a make-up artist in your own right and have your own feed, but – for me as an editorial make-up artist – it’s about finding those teams that have synergy. I’m talking other artists, stylists and photographers. I think that’s probably what takes the longest because technique is technique, and you can practice and practice but there’s all those people skills that are really important. It takes a long time to build up a reputation. It’s knowing when, as a make-up artist, you need to step up and be the star, or knowing when its about the clothes, or the hair, or if it’s just about the girl. There’s so many times when you can rock up to a shoot and there’s an amazing girl, and in your head you want to transform her into X,Y or Z, when really its just about the girl. It’s not always about some big do, sometimes it’s about being a very quiet artist and knowing when to step up to the mark when you’re needed.
WP: What are your feelings about social media, its ability to self-promote and creating an online presence?
JM: It can be your best friend but also your worst enemy. As a make-up artist I am active on social media but I always like I need to retain a level of ‘Is this really me I’m putting out there?’ Or am I just putting out a swatch because I feel like people will want to see a swatch of this lipstick. It’s great but I will only put something out there if I’m truly passionate about it or if it speaks to me. Hats off to the insta-famous artists because it’s the way that it’s going and it can’t be easy. What I miss is the referencing, I miss the storytelling. That, for me, is where the magic lies and I’m not sure a personal Instagram tells you a story. It tells you the technique rather than a story.
WP: If you lost your kit, what would be the first five products you would buy?
JM: I would say Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage; it’s heaven. You can do a whole face with that little pigment. I don’t know what’s in it and I don’t know how they did it, but there’s something really special about that product. I will say the same about their Translucent Setting Powder, stunning. Something for the brows, maybe MAC Lingering Eyebrow Pencil, a great all-rounder. I love Egyptian Magic for the skin because you get so many effects from it and I think that’s what feels like real skin to me. And then a good lip – it would have to be MAC’s Ruby Woo.
WP: If you were to advise aspiring artists, what would you say to them?
JM: Know yourself and your style. Develop your own style from the beginning and don’t try to replicate something. Practice is great but ultimately it is about you as a make-up artist; knowing yourself, what you like and what you don’t like. I know what I don’t like and I don’t really play in that world anymore. Be true to yourself and know your style. Work on that because that will always be your strongest suit.
WP: What does 2016 hold for you?
JM: We are launching in three different countries over the next few months. We’re expanding into three new territories and there’s new brushes coming out in November.
You can find James’ Instagram here.