OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE COSMETICS
“Make sure it’s what you want to do, and then don’t let anybody fuck with you.”
—by Lorna Umphrey
“It is a huge source of pride for me that the line is vegan and not tested on animals, and it’s become the cornerstone of our business.” —Founder David Klasfeld of OCC.
To step out in the beauty industry takes a lot of courage, creativity and innovation, but to push it a bit further and develop a cosmetic line that is vegan - now that’s something David Klasfeld took on and excelled at as the founder of OCC (Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics). A self-professed “geek”, this veteran make-up artist became obsessed with creating a product that is “cruelty-free” and delivers a highly pigmented product that is long-wearing. Now with the opening of his first store in New York’s Lower East Side, Klasfeld remains true to his artsy homage to the neighborhood and looks forward to more inspiration from… drag queens!
It all started in a kitchen in 2004, after Klasfeld often found himself on set mixing products from his kit to create a “tint” of color for his clients, that he developed what would be his first product, a Tinted Lip Balm called Tarred, which was a sheer black, made to define the lips without adding color. “This was especially necessary at the time as HD Television Broadcast was starting to become the norm, and when even the most neutral lipstick was used on the talent, it still read as lipstick, which was particularly problematic when it came to say, male newscasters. I hand-made the originals in my kitchen after the need became clear to me,” explains Klasfeld.
Creating a beauty product within itself can be complex and daring, but making it 100% vegan and cruelty-free just added one more notch in the difficulty belt. Klasfeld took on this challenge and explains his discourse on how other ‘cruelty-free’ companies represent themselves, “…many of these lines weren't the end manufacturers of their product, so they weren't testing at all, let alone animals. I was struck by the dichotomy of the fact that many of these lines, the same lines that claimed to be "cruelty-free", were using animal derived ingredients that were for example, by products of both the fur and shark-fishing industries, which are two of the cruelest industries that come to mind.”
Another challenge was generating consumer mass appeal as typically vegan make-up lines are thought to offer only neutral, even drab shades and tones. “This wasn't my perception of what a vegan line should be – most of the vegans I know are punk rock kids with hair as bright as their tattoos, and as colorful as their clothing,” Klasfeld says. “It was simply that the brands who did cater toward vegans were projecting a style choice onto their clients that they simply weren't interested in. When clients stop into our store having not heard of the line before, one their first reactions is usually, ‘OMG, this is all vegan?!’”
Why do make-up artists and consumers love OCC so much? “Because we don’t skimp on the one thing that counts most in make-up - pigment!” says Klasfeld. “A highly pigmented product can be as long-wearing, as ones packed with sealants, and also be a ton more comfortable to wear. Less filler = less build up on the skin, and avoids makeup that has that "heavy" feeling…” And the public has spoken – so much that Klasfeld opened his first stand-alone store in the Lower East Side of New York last fall. But why not midtown where all the other cosmetic heavy-hitters face up to the competition? “OCC is, to its roots, a Lower East Side brand. It is and always has been my favorite neighborhood in New York for the simple reason that, no matter how gentrified it has or may get, it has always been true to its artistic core. It's also an incredibly progressive neighborhood where being a vegan line is very appreciated by locals like me.”
A self-described proud geek at heart, Klasfeld grabs his inspiration from various outlets such as horror and sci-fi movies to neighborhood flowers, graffiti and alternative fashion. And yet – one of his muses for complete inspiration is described by him, “It starts and ends with Drag Queens.” He even claims that he grabs a bit of inspiration (and de-stressing) when he plays horror video games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill at home with his partner of eleven years, which seems to make sense as the hot OCC item for fall is a dark burgundy Lip Tar called Black Dahlia, “it’s from our F/W 2012 Colour Collection, Heroine, which celebrates horror movie heroines in all their gory glory,” explains Klasfeld.
From left: Fall/Winter Color Collection 2012 OCC Makeup - Lip Tar Black Dahlia, Lip Tar Sybil, Lip Tar Starling, Lip Tar Marion, Lip Tar Psycho, Lip Tar Lydia
Klasfled shuns stalking his beauty competitors’ every move and believes in staying unaware of what they’re doing. “As counter-intuitive as that seems, if you are concerned with what your competitors are doing, then you keep yourself in a place where you are reacting instead of creating, and I would never want to abdicate my creative ability just to stay current, by someone else's definition.” If that’s not inspiring enough, he was once given the best advice from acclaimed American Playwright Edward Albee, “make sure it’s what you want to do, and then don’t let anybody fuck with you.” He seems to have taken Albee’s advice as OCC has become a leader in vegan cosmetics.
Photos: Courtesy of OCC