October 11th, 2018
When you get a call asking if you’d like to come to lunch a makeup superstar, the answer is a no brainer. We toddled up to town to chat about all things rose gold with Smashbox’s Lip Editor in Chief, Vlada Haggerty.
WP: What’s your background and how did you become involved with makeup?
VH: I grew up in Ukraine and I guess that Pat McGrath was my main influence – she still is, she’s brilliant. I went to conventional makeup school there about 10 years ago.
WP: Did you train at a conventional makeup school?
VH: Yes, about 10 years ago. Are you familiar with the pencil technique? It might be a Ukrainian thing. They use the eyeliner pencil as a base to build the shape of the eye, and it uses logic and you analyse the face, and you just really have to look at the person and the same shapes don’t apply to every single face, so it’s not like there are ten different styles of eye makeup and you can just do one of them on anyone, it’s very tailored to individual eyes. You basically build the shape with a pencil, and then you layer the shadows on top. So, I learned to do that, and it was very strict, we weren’t supposed to bring Q-Tips to classes – so when you made a mistake, you had to wipe the whole thing off and start again, which I appreciated, because it really taught me to be precise from the start. Really, I don’t ever use Q-Tips now.
WP: That sounds more like art school than makeup school.
VH: It was very artistic – they actually have a makeup, hair and nails competition every six months in Russia, and they train like an Olympic team – I actually attended one after I graduated. The school was very traditional – a lot of the things that I learned there, I don’t really use anymore, but I still have that understanding of how to approach different faces. That was actually my second school – I was really disappointed with the first, because they had a one-size-fits-all approach to makeup – which I don’t think works. I really didn’t think at the time that I would go into makeup, I was just learning for me. After I graduated the second time, I started freelancing in Ukraine for about three or four years before I moved to the US.
WP: Is there a big bridal market in Ukraine?
VH: When I first started, it was kind of still developing – some bridal, some graduations, and a little bit of photoshoots – and photoshoots were the ones that I was really passionate about.
WP: Of course, you’re well known for your photography as well as your artistry.
VH: Yeah, I started doing my photography after I moved to LA, but back then I was just doing the makeup and hair. I just loved the atmosphere, and that you can actually have a professional picture of your work.
WP: Do you think it’s important for a makeup artist to be able to do hair as well as makeup?
VH: In the beginning, it really helped me to book more gigs, because in Ukraine everybody wanted both, and didn’t want to pay two people. People kept asking if I did hair, and I lost a few jobs because I said I only did makeup, so I went back to school – they had a hair program for makeup artists – and I don’t do any colouring or cuts, only styling. That was fun! I feel like when you reach a certain level, you don’t need to do both anymore – I would rather have an actual professional who knows way more than I do, and I feel like big brands think this too – it also saves time because we can work at the same time.
WP: Do what took you to the U.S?
VH: My husband – he’s from there, we actually met in Kiev and did long distance for three and a half years. From the get-go, he told me, “I need to know that you’re actually at least open to moving, because no offence, I’m not moving to Ukraine.” Then I moved to the San Francisco area first because he’s from there and I was trying to freelance there, which was really tough. People don’t really care that much about makeup there. I did a lot of proms and brides, but I knew something was missing, I missed that creativity, because I’ve always been creative. I suggested that we move to LA – I felt like that was where I should be. And that was four years ago in December.
WP: Do you feel that things have just exploded for you?
VH: Pretty much – I moved to LA with no job, no friends, no connections and that’s when I started to do lip art. I didn’t know anybody, and my husband has a really good camera – he does photography as a hobby – and that was such a blessing, because then I was so focussed. I was working every single day for six months, on myself, because I didn’t know any models. I actually prefer to do my lip art on myself, because I feel like not a lot of people can sit through three hours of not talking or smiling or moving your mouth.
WP: What’s your process when you create your lip art? What are your favourite products that you need?
VH: It depends. If it’s a bejewelled lip, then I need ProsAid, and I love Crystal Katana: it’s a little tool that helps you pick up and place jewels – it’s so convenient. We used to use beeswax candles when I was at school – that works too.
WP: As far as inspiration goes, when you were doing your six months of just creating, were there ideas that you already had planned in your head?
VH: The makeup artist that kind of sparked my interest in lip art is actually UK based – Karla Powell – and she’s amazing, she’s been my inspiration since day one. She had this photo that I really liked, it was a colour run series, so I was trying to play with that technique where it stays within the lips. I was taking pictures myself, I couldn’t really see what was going on, and one time I accidentally caught it mid-drip, and realised it looked amazing, then I tried to recreate that. I had to just know when to snap the picture – I ruined a lot of tops. I still prefer to do everything alone, it’s alone time, a kind of meditation for me.
WP: What’s your studio set up like now?
VH: I use the Canon 5DS and a beauty dish, and strobes – my lighting setup changes, I don’t think I have the perfect one yet, I want to try something else every time. I use strobe lights over makeup lights – it’s so powerful, you can close the aperture a little more, so the image is a little sharper and the depth of field is not so shallow: for some things that’s great, but for what I do, you want to see everything. Also, for that frozen in time effect, you want the shutter speed to be really high. I learned all that just from trial and error.
WP: How did your collaboration with Smashbox come about?
VH: One of the girls in product development saw me on Instagram. Three years ago they had a launch of their Liquid Metals and Liquid Pigments, and she suggested they work with me. They invited me to their office to mix a custom lip shade: they have this project for influencers where you can come in and mix your own custom gloss, and then you can do a giveaway for your followers. We really hit it off, and about a week later I got an email giving me another offer.
WP: You obviously get copied a lot, how does that feel?
VH: Since it happens so much now, I pick my battles, otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done. I put my work out there so that people can see what I’m capable of doing, kind of like a resume, so that I can get booked, so when people take it without your permission, you get lost in the crowd of people. I’m trying to raise awareness about it: a lot of people don’t know that they actually have rights to their photos. A lot of people get a bit defensive if you bring it up, but many people are very grateful and I get messages every day thanking me. People should know that there is accountability and that you will get called out.
WP: What advice would you give a makeup artist who was active on Instagram, but needed to be a little more organised? What are the three tips for making an Instagram work for creative work?
VH: I think the most important thing is to stay original, really contribute something unique and find your niche – that’s what worked for me. I like all makeup, but lipstick gets my heart going. I think when it comes from a genuine place, people will see that too.
WP: Out of all of your work, what’s your favourite shot?
VH: I have lots of them, for different reasons. I guess the most iconic one would be that rose gold lip because it brought me here, and I just went through so much with it. I’ve tried to replicate it a few times because my setup back then wasn’t as good as it was now, so I would love to recreate a version of it, but I can’t do it. It was the perfect combination of everything: lighting, temperature, the stretch of the drip, it was just the perfect moment. I’m still amazed that people are interested in this – I was just playing with makeup at the beginning.
WP: You’re busy doing an extensive tour with Smashbox – where does that take you next?
VH: The UK is the last stop. I’ve been to Canada, Australia, Mexico… The exhibition in New York was insane.
WP: Favourite products?
VH: For me, it’s Bawse lipstick by Smashbox (£19): it’s my confidence red, I wear it all the time. I feel like every time I have an event or something, if I don’t wear a bold lip, I don’t feel like me.
WP: Were you involved in creating the Petal Metal line all the way through?
VH: Oh yeah, I was really involved – the reason there are three liquid lipsticks is that we tried to match the shade to my rose gold picture, and I was in the studio trying to match it, and I gave them the pigment that I used to create that picture, which they matched – that became XO Vlada – but we felt that the picture was a little more on the brown side, and we wanted something to match the actual version of the photo, so we created a second colour that’s a little more rosy, and then we felt that we needed a deeper version for darker skin tones. We had to narrow it down a lot.
WP: How long were you working on the Petal Metal collection and which is your favourite?
VH: It’s been about a year and a bit. It felt really long to me, but everyone tells me how quick that it. My favourite has to be one of the highlighters, just the packaging is incredible. I actually have it framed at home.
If this is her first collection, we’re certain we’ll be seeing a lot more from Vlada in the future.