Mario Dedivanovic, arguably the most influential makeup artist in the world, knows the timing of his makeup brand launch isn't ideal. Makeup is having a tough time right now during the pandemic, as are the artists themselves. However, the Makeup by Mario brand—20 years in the making—isn't another flash-in-the-pan influencer launch. This is Dedivanovic's life work and a culmination of everything he's learned over his career trajectory. After playing with the products over the last few weeks and catching up with Dedivanovic over Zoom calls, one thing is clear: Makeup By Mario could fundamentally change the way we think about makeup.
The Makeup by Mario brand, out today at Sephora and online, bridges the gap between pro artist and regular person. The first drop focuses on eyes, with three shadow palettes, three Prep & Set palettes, three face and eye highlighters, a balm called Secret Glow, a liquid liner, three eye pencils, five brushes, and biodegradable makeup wipes. All are housed in sleek white-and-black packaging that can be easily wiped clean and are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Prices range from $14 to $48. Overall, the collection is thoughtfully edited. The products are fundamentally uncomplicated and easy-to-use, yet the formulas feel luxurious. These are upgraded and reimagined makeup staples.
One word that Dedivanovic kept coming back to during his description of each product was "human," which is a little unusual for an industry that favors hyper-perfection and manipulation. The artist says he began to research and obsess over the shades and colors that naturally occur in our bodies and in the world around us. Makeup matched with those shades will always look universally flattering and seamless, and allows it to become an outer extension of our inner selves. "I wanted to kind of strip us of everything, all the monetary things—the clothes, the hair, the socioeconomic backgrounds, all that stuff. I wanted to strip all of that and to see who we really are, what is our purpose, and our connections with this Earth," he says. "That process played a big role in me finally having the courage to come out last November. I didn't really tell many people that, but it was through this research and part of my brand that somehow, over a period of several months, I got the courage."
Three products truly embody this "human" quality: the Master Mattes palette, Master Secret Glow, and the Master Mattes Brightening Pencil. The first is a shadow palette with 12 neutral matte shades that are foolproof and blend like a dream. Master Secret Glow is a clear, non-sticky balm highlighter with no shimmer at all. It doesn't slip and slide or mess with base makeup like similar clear highlighters out there, and it leaves skin looking naturally dewy. The Master Mattes Brightening Pencil is an eyeliner for your inner waterline that takes away redness and makes you look alive and healthy without looking chalky. You can also use it under your brow bone as a matte highlighter. As we collectively move away from the aesthetic of "Instagram makeup," it's products like these that will become the new staples in any morning beauty routine.
The other products at launch, including the metallic eyeshadow palettes, shimmery highlighters, and customizable metal pigments are where the artist element comes into play. Education has always been at the forefront of Dedivanovic's personal brand thanks to his ultra-popular and sold-out Masterclasses (which he confirms will likely be virtual next year). He would never launch a product without doubling down on teaching us all how to use it, regardless of our skill level. You can find educational tutorials and how-tos for every single product on his social media, brand website, and even on the packaging itself.
After all, the artist recognizes that doing your own makeup and doing someone else's are two entirely different skillsets. "I began to get extremely interested and curious about how girls are doing their makeup, like my sisters, my friends, my cousins, and the people who work here in the office with me," he says. "It's fascinating to me, you know, because I never really did my own makeup. During quarantine, I actually did it a lot and let me tell you, I stabbed myself in the eye so many times." It can be easy to brush-off that quip as a joke, but humility and authenticity are central to Dedivanovic's personality. He means what he says and he pours his heart into his work. The Makeup by Mario brand was entirely self-funded, and he rightfully chokes up when he speaks about how much dedication and passion went into creating the company from the ground-up.
Dedivanovic started his career 20 years ago at a New York City Sephora, where the Bronx-born artist walked in one day and asked for a job. He graduated from fragrance sales at Sephora and soon became an in-demand makeup artist, bouncing around from different clients and shoots as he honed his skills. One of those clients was Kim Kardashian West. Brand deals and collaborations with the likes of Anastasia Beverly Hills followed. As his career boomed, the narrative surrounding Dedivanovic was often about highlighting and contouring."I was always a little bit uncomfortable with it, to be honest, like around 2015 when it was becoming such a huge thing," he says. "I was associated with contouring heavily but I didn't actually do makeup with thick and heavy stripes. I never did it like that. We did it very naturally."
Dedivanovic will be the first to tell you that he doesn't want the credit for the contour craze. "One of the things I tell my Masterclass students when it comes to contour: it's more important to know when not to contour then it actually is to know how to contour." So while many might have expected him to launch his brand with contour sticks and palettes, the artist is mostly over it..for now. "Like, it's boring at this point," he says. "Everyone knows how to contour now. That's great." That doesn't mean that he's not working on his own products for sculpting. "I want to do that authentically, where it's really about my technique. I have interesting philosophies and ideas when it comes to the regular consumer doing contour. And I don't believe that it should be done in these fancy palettes with all these colors," he adds.
Fans can expect more launches from Dedivanovic in 2021, likely including base products like foundation and concealer. With that in mind, diversity will be a major focus for Makeup by Mario. "I grew up in the Bronx and in the most diverse surroundings you could imagine, ever since kindergarten. It's a part of me. As the as the brand expands, I want to do things for everyone," he says. "I definitely see products that are made specifically for more mature skin. And I definitely see products that are made specifically for women of color. I really look forward to doing that. Because there are some things that just work better on certain people or certain ages. And I want to always be honest about that."
But the biggest hurdle the Makeup by Mario brand will face in the coming months and years is how the world views makeup from behind a face mask or Zoom call. For what it's worth, the artist thinks we are on the cusp of a makeup revolution. When it's safe, of course.
"I think it's similar to like the roaring '20s and after the Great Depression, when everything kind of exploded. I think that we're going to see this huge increase once there's no longer a pandemic going on. People are going to be really excited to get dressed and to go out and to have fun," he says. When it comes to makeup, he predicts people will want high-impact and bold products that are both easy and ultra-quick to use. "Who has the time or patience?," he asks. "When I was working on these products, I made sure everything had to be able to get an impact really quickly and without all the effort." Seeing as Dedivanovic has defined beauty trends for the last decade, we trust his word on the future of makeup.
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