To open a box from MAKE Beauty is almost, one feels, to commit a desecration, so lovingly are the glowing colors cradled in their perfectly mitered packaging. But brace yourself for abomination and get ready to repent: MAKE is opening a pop-up shop at its private showroom in Soho on Fridays and Saturdays in December, and now you can partake of the OCD religiosity of the space as well as the artistic epiphany that is the company’s NYC-designed and -manufactured products.
Rejecting the trend-driven, high-markup, sex-sells, “candy pink” ethos of the modern makeup manufacturer, MAKE Beauty looks and acts like a line born in a Chelsea art gallery and tested in a secret Swiss laboratory, with products named after Icelandic waterfalls and palettes devised in collaboration with hot downtown artists. Plus, again, it’s local: conceived in Soho and produced entirely in Long Island City.
The aesthetic of the brand, as yet under the radar but poised on the precipice of fame, employs the clean lines of Danish modernism in the service of an almost Byzantine insistence on materiality: The makeup is pretty much the purest you can buy and looks like it’s been scooped out of a great glass jar in a painter’s supply shop. The nascent skincare segment is science in a bottle, offering products like the winter-protective Marine Salve (one of many unisex items), which is basically a parka for your face. The attention to detail is close enough to please the most neurotic among us: The lipgloss’s frisson of mint is antibacterial, and its game-changer applicator is shaped like your lip. Oh and if that’s not quite enough to render MAKE something altogether different from even your normal luxury line, consider this: Ten percent of sales are donated to the We See Beauty Foundation, a nonprofit that supports female-run cooperative businesses. So you can preen yourself on your morals at the same time you preen your eyebrows.
So how does MAKE get away with the highest levels of design, quality, and innovation without costing even as much as standard high-end beauty lines? The secret is in the backing: MAKE’s founder and CEO, Nikos Mouyiaris, also owns Mana Products Inc., one of the largest high-end private-label cosmetics manufacturers in the country. With Mana behind it, MAKE has special access to both expertise and scale; cutting out the middleman allows the products to remain relatively affordable but also gives MAKE’s creative and business directors, Ariana Mouyiaris and William Smolen, unique freedom to dream up madcap products like a blue lip-paint that turns red lipstick purple, all while freeing up money to support their many collaborations with artists. The latest, with singer-songwriter Caroline Polachek of cult band Chairlift, is inspired by the Greek myth of Endymion; the resultant song and video will be downloadable for free, and the skincare serum available to buy, on MAKEBeauty.com. According to Smolen, the process of collaboration is “about exploring an idea,” a process he extends to the customer. “Ultimately,” he says, “MAKE is rooted in creative self-expression, inspired by each individual and her personal style.”
The brand has already developed a passionate following among the arty smart set, but its newest product, Moonlight Primer, figures to have an especially broad appeal. The most important skincare item you don’t have, Moonlight is a cutting-edge shield from, basically, your actual life. It blocks out damaging radiation from electronics that normal sunscreen doesn’t, uses algae to neutralize heavy-metal city-gunk, and promotes the manufacture of the vitamin D your SPF is occluding. Plus, it’s the only skincare product you’ll ever use that feels subversive. Although it goes on colorless, it comes out of the bottle a milky, luminous gray. Moonlight-colored, if you will.
560 Broadway, Suite 507 (at Prince Street, above Dean & DeLuca)
Open noon–7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in December, and by appointment
[This is part of the winter 2015 edition of The Seen, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of The Seen’s featured stories here.]