5 Minutes With Sonia Kashuk, Brand Founder & Makeup Artist

What does the name Sonia Kashuk mean to the beauty business? Well, it means being on the speed dial of top supermodels such as Cindy Crawford and Christy Turlington and an ‘it’ name on the beauty shelves. It’s a near-guarantee that the city’s most beautified have at least one of her products in their packed makeup bags. Not an easy crowd to please — they’ve seen and tried it all. What makes her stand out? Kashuk is one beauty insider that has blurred the line between mass-market and prestige cosmetics. And she’s not stopping at makeup alone.

In classic Kashuk style (read: hyper-ambition) the beauty entrepreneur recently launched a bath and body line of product with Target. The line launched unofficially pop-up style last week with a grand display—where else, in the middle of Grand Central Station—complete with a larger-than-life bathtub (and bather), giant balloon bubbles and mini makeup stations for passersby to try and buy. The products launched in-store at Targets across the U.S. on November 10.

So, how does a VIP makeup artist from the ‘80s and ‘90s fashion heyday become a modern makeup mogul with an eponymous makeup line and now body line? We interview the industry pioneer about her inspirations for the coming season and her secrets to succeeding in the ever-evolving business of beauty.

Stylesight: What is inspiring you for the S/S 14 and F/W 14 season?
Sonia Kashuk: “I pay attention to what’s happening around me, what women are wearing and overall makeup trends. It all goes into the giant brain factory. What’s really exciting for me is the way we’re using color. On the runways and on the street color is there, but there’s less of it, there’s a tone instead of an over-the-top look. I’m inspired by fabrics right now: gingham, snakeskin, florals and creating an interesting play on pattern and texture. I adapt some of that color play in my makeup bags and packaging.”

SS: Your motto that has set you on a path to success?
SK: What I set out to do was to really bring luxury (products) to mass-retail. Whether I was introducing my line to (a high-end retailer or low-end retailer) I made no compromise on quality while still making it affordable to those particular shoppers. It’s the same product. The only way I was able to do this successfully was because of the support from the brands I’ve partnered with. My motto has always been to ‘be luxurious, but be affordable.’ Luck is all about timing and it’s really the ability to understand good timing. An idea can be great but if it isn’t executed at the right time, it won’t work.”

SS: What is the secret to succeeding in the beauty business? Is there one?
SK: “Staying humble. I think so often people start believing their own press and they start to believe their own success. I always think: ‘Does anyone know about my line or might know that I have a brand?’ I just always believe that I can do better and be better. That’s the key. That keeps you creative and thinking about the next project.  As a makeup artist, I saw that there was a huge divide between mass-market makeup and prestige. There was such a separation between what people wanted from their makeup and what was out there. You would go to use an eyeshadow from a drugstore and it was like getting color from a stone, the quality was so different. It’s so exciting to see how great mass-market products are now. The competition gets fiercer and with it I try to bring even better products to women.”

SS: Good luck charm (item, person or pet)?
SK: “My husband has been my good luck charm forever and has been a wonderful support system for me. He’s in the haircare business (Daniel Kaner, founding partner and co-president of Oribe Hair Care) and it’s nice to have someone who you love and trust who is going to be that sounding board for you. He really understands the industry and it’s nice to bounce ideas off of him.”

SS: First experience with beauty? Tell us about a moment or memory.
SK: “I was working for the “Funky Town” video, the makeup artist cancelled and they had no one else, so they asked me to do the makeup. I had no idea about makeup but I loved color, shape and form. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted my career to be but I knew I wanted to be artistic but I wasn’t sure how to get there. The moment I did makeup it was like I found my calling. That was truly the turning point for me.”

Sonia Kashuk and supermodel Stephanie Seymour.

SS: Name the beauty campaign or editorial spread (old or new) that’s inspired you the most.
SK: “I remember being at a rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming with Cindy and Arthur Elgort for Italian Vogue or pictures with Christy Turlington in Russia or on safari. All of the photoshoots that would take us to really glamorous places, cities I never thought I’d travel to when I started in makeup. To be able to work on those famous faces and with the beauty icons of the day, is still amazing to me.  I’m floored at how wonderful the experience was and I feel very blessed to have been a part of creating these iconic moments—I call Cindy one of my best girlfriends to this day. I will always cherish the makeup I did backstage with Oscar de la Renta, Marc Jacobs, Betsey Johnson but I find what I do today is so much more fulfilling. I’m blown away by the way that I can help change the beauty industry, bringing quality, luxurious products and tools for an affordable price to beauty lovers everywhere.”

SS: Beauty habit (skincare or makeup) helps keep you looking great?
SK: “I make sure I have a facial once a month. I love skincare products and always need a good moisturizer in my life. In my late teens and early twenties I wore way too much makeup, I felt like I wore so much I was practically in full drag. I remember years ago going to a brunch without makeup and my friends didn’t even recognize me. That’s when I knew it was time to make a change. My motto after that and now is to be as confident walking out with no makeup at all as you are with a full face and to make sure that your makeup look is natural. Foundation and bronzer are must-haves in my personal kit.”

—Glynnis Mapp, Stylesight Beauty Editor

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