Behind the Brand: David Klasfeld of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics
Published Jul 05, 2012
It’s no surprise that Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics founder David Klasfeld is a stickler for top-notch products—a reason why his ultra-potent Lip Tars have become cult-loved in the beauty world.
With experience at the makeup counter, backstage at fashion shows, and on set for television, David understands how makeup works both in real life and on camera—and he's turned OCC into the ultimate beauty brand for both the color-and quality obsessed. We were able to chat with him about all things OCC and future plans for the brand.
B: How did you first get into the industry?
It was 1996, and I was pursuing a film degree at Purchase College. One day I found myself wandering the local mall looking for a part-time job and instead ended up with a full-time career. I took a job at The Body Shop back when it was still independently owned, largely due to my respect for their trailblazing stance against animal testing. I was quickly promoted to a "Colourings" consultant—their in-house makeup line—after taking into account my experience with makeup in high school theater productions. I finally taught myself how to do non-theatrical makeup, and soon found myself approached by MAC—they were opening their first New York counter outside of Manhattan proper. It was an incredible learning experience, and I eventually ended up as part of their inaugural Pro Team as a trainer. In 2002, I left to pursue my freelance career and quickly found agency representation, which provided me with the opportunity to work in diverse fields including editorial and advertising print work, as well as work in film, commercials and music videos.
B: Was your makeup artistry background the driving force for product development?
Absolutely! One of OCC's first products was OCC Skin™, our water-based airbrush foundation. I developed it because silicone-based foundations and other dewy offerings, while beautiful in still photography, didn't work as well as I needed them to for Hi-Definition television and video. I was lucky enough to work with advertising clients including Best Buy and Target, who were filming in HD as far back as 2002. I learned very quickly what worked and what didn't. This experience also extended to color cosmetics, whose texture could no longer be "thick" to opaque. Across the board, my goal was create products that were high in coverage, but sheer in texture for true color impact minus product build up.
B: Why is airbrushing your main tool of choice for face makeup and do you have any tips for artists learning how to use airbrush?
Very simply, because it puts down coverage the way the camera reads it—in tiny pixels—and because it gives you the ability to achieve a maximum amount of coverage with a minimal amount of makeup—who doesn't want that? It's the easiest tool I've found to perfect the skin effortlessly. That said, the technique itself must be learned and practiced. A painter making the switch from brushes to an airbrush would never buy their first system and expect to create masterpiece murals straight out of the box, and neither should a makeup artist.
B: Is there a story behind the brand name, Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics?
Yes, there is in fact. I joke that I'm not just the President of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics; I'm also a client. In naming the company, my intent was to celebrate the way these sorts of compulsions can be channeled into a productive lifestyle, and to also convey a sense of humor and enjoyment in the art of makeup. So many companies make makeup sound way too serious, and almost prey on people's insecurities in order to get them to buy their product. I can't stand that approach. At OCC, we know you're beautiful already and want you to want to purchase our product because you love makeup as much as we do. Our motto says it best, "Because You Don't Need To Be Made Over."
B: You seem to be breaking the makeup mold with your products—lip tars over lipsticks, airbrush over regular foundation, pigments over pressed shadow.
The world has enough bone and brown eye shadows. I have nothing to contribute in the bone and brown eye shadow department that isn't already out there. Instead, we like to think about what's not available but needs to be. As makeup artists, we all have little mixing tricks that we resort to when the color or product we need doesn't already exist. OCC is all about willing those things into existence.
B: Lip Tars have become such a cult-favorite product—how did you come up with the idea?
Lip Tar answered two questions. One: How, as a makeup artist, do I carry a varied enough selection of lipsticks that I can blend as necessary in a hygienic way? Most lipstick palettes I see out there look like they should have a biohazard symbol embossed on them! Two: For those times that you just want to wear lipstick, how can you offer that option along with the same convenience of application as a gloss? The answer to both is Lip Tar.
B: We've heard it took two years for you to perfect
OCC Skin: Conceal, how do you feel now that they are on the market?
I am finally happy with them! I tell people that I didn't name the company arbitrarily. When I said I obsessed over the formulation of this product, I meant it.
We started developing OCC Skin: Conceal when we first sponsored LA Fashion Week back in 2010. It was one of several products we needed to have in order to complete an entirely OCC face. If we were sponsoring the show, we needed to use our own products exclusively. When it comes to concealer, I've always found myself settling for one of two options: a creamy texture that blended beautifully but didn't last, or a drier texture that stayed put but wasn't exactly flattering to the skin. In creating OCC Skin: Conceal, it took us a lot of time, but we were really able to create something that filled both needs. And we're so happy with it we're positioning it as more as an all-over complexion product than just a concealer.
B: Was it challenging to come up with a vegan formula?
Sadly, it is considered more cost-effective to use non-vegan ingredients than to source alternatives. Personally, creating a vegan line was simply a matter of principle, but you don't have to be on board with the animal rights movement to appreciate vegan cosmetics. They are cleaner and greener, contain less allergenic ingredients than non-vegan cosmetics, and comply with a wider variety of lifestyle choices, religious or dietary restrictions. For us, it's also about truth in advertising. The cosmetic industry gets away with calling things like bug juice (literally!) "Natural Red 40." Whether you're vegetarian or have steak for dinner every night, I think most people prefer not to have bugs in their makeup.
B: As a makeup artist, have you had any major blunders with jobs in your past?
I was booked on a job for Chicago Magazine. My plane got in right around midnight on a Sunday night before the shoot, which began on Monday 8:00 a.m. sharp. The airline lost my checked luggage, which unfortunately had my kit. It was already after midnight, so I had no other option but to go to Walgreens and create a complete kit out of drugstore makeup. I showed up the next day with a purple Kaboodle, (which anyone can tell you is not a look I can pull off) stocked with Wet n Wild, J.A.N.E., Almay, etc.
I got the dirtiest looks I've ever gotten on set the next morning, and I'm sure there were many people wondering why on earth they flew me in from New York. In the end, it looked beautiful in digital photography and I'm confident would have looked just as good in HD.
This experience taught me something that's super-important for every artist to know: HD makeup is a technique, not a product. Just because the words "Hi-Def" are stamped on the bottle of makeup you purchase, doesn't mean you've bought an insurance policy against bad makeup. It's all about the technique, which is meticulous in application and blending, and choosing the right products, which allow you to achieve maximum coverage or color payoff without a lot of product build up. It really is that simple!
B: Any new plans coming up for OCC in the near future?
There are so many new product launches and new product categories coming as early as this fall. Also, we're partnering with the ideal beauty retailer to make OCC more readily available nationwide and beyond. I can't say much more about that right now, but an announcement is forthcoming.