Annoyed by uncomfortable makeup brushes, makeup artist Billy Brasfield decided to craft ideal ones — without protracted handles or excess ounces — for his own use.
"I did shorter handles that perfectly fit in the pad between your thumb and your first finger," explained Billy B, the name he goes by in the industry. "Then, I got an incredible response from makeup artists. I decided to go for it."
The result was the launch of Billy B Beauty about two months ago, starting with a 13-item brush set that retails for $249. Manufactured by Atlanta-based Anisa International Inc., the brushes have varnished birch handles and feature natural and synthetic fibers. The brushes are numbered and range from powder to finishing varieties.
"The part that we use is the brush, everything else is extra weight," said Billy B, who is based in Los Angeles and New York with a résumé that crosses the fashion, editorial, television and music industries. "They are definitely atypical of what is out there with the exception of the foundation brush. You can't super-reinvent the head of the foundation brush."
Billy B isn't stopping at wooden brushes, however, but has stuck to the tools category so far. He added an eyelash curler for $15 and an $18 aluminum lip brush with a retractable lid because he couldn't stand losing detached lids.
"I am intrigued about a color line," he said. "But the market is overly saturated with that at the moment, so I am focused on tools."
Billy B pledges his namesake beauty brand won't be a mass market enterprise, and is aiming at upscale shops that can teach consumers how to best handle the products. The brushes are currently available in specialty stores including Stanley Korshak in Dallas and The Beauty Closet in Studio City, Calif.
"I am really trying to be thoughtful about the product not only for my peers, but for consumers," Billy B said. "I need time to grow, and I want to do it right. I want to be personally involved."
He has already recouped his initial investment in Billy B Beauty, which he estimates is in the tens of thousands of dollars, and insists developing his own line wasn't always paramount to his professional plans. "I never thought I would do it in a million years. I really am fearful," he said. "I don't want to become just a ceo of a company. I want to keep the makeup artist aspect involved, and I think that validates me as well as a creator."To that end, Billy B is still concentrating on the career that really began as a happy accident after he left Aberdeen, Miss., for New York in 1985. Once in the big city, he got a job at Macy's makeup counter by fibbing about having beauty experience and eventually parlayed that position into grooming Jean Paul Gaultier. From there came music videos — he worked on Pink's "Stupid Girls" and Missy Elliott's "The Rain" — and television commercials such as cosmetics spots with Sharon Stone and Molly Sims.
Billy B will wrap up a stint with The American Beauty Tour in November. Operated by The Powder Group, the tour takes Billy B to select cities, where he gives application demonstrations. And he also is finishing up a book with publisher Insight Editions called "Skin Deep: The Make-up Art of Billy B" that is tentatively scheduled for release late next year.
"Coming from my humble beginnings, I don't aim for much," he said. "So, I'm thrilled."
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