The eye for detail that has made Troy Surratt a favorite of Adele and Charlize Theron will soon be visible in the makeup artist’s first signature beauty collection.
This story first appeared in the September 13, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Called Surratt, the line is inspired by his fascination with Japanese beauty products, which he’s become familiar with on annual visits to the country.
“As a beauty lover and a product lover, I was so taken with Tokyo,” said Surratt, who has become a veritable student of Japanese beauty culture. “In Ainz-Tulpe in Tokyo there are aisles and aisles of eyelash curlers,” said Surratt, as his eyes widened with excitement.
He’d stock up on beauty products during trips to Japan, but his clients began to bemoan the fact that they didn’t have access to the Japanese items in his kit. So Surratt and his partner Nathaniel Hawkins, a celebrity hairstylist who serves as the Surratt brand’s chief marketing officer, spent the last four years developing a makeup range sourced and produced entirely in Japan.
The collection — comprised of 114 stockkeeping units — is slated to launch next month on the new beauty floor at both Barneys New York’s Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills locations. It will then roll out to Barneys’ six remaining doors, where it will be available exclusively for one year.
Bettina O’Neill, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of cosmetics and fragrance at Barneys New York, said she first met with Surratt about the line before he had product in hand to show.
“Usually, we look at product before we decide to carry a line, but I was really sold on him,” said O’Neill. “He has a passion for makeup. He’s definitely a perfectionist and he wants to make it the best possible.”
Determined to infuse the line with a point of difference, Surratt — who helped develop Tarte Cosmetics 13 years ago — has zeroed in on the details.
“When I designed the line, I asked myself two questions the entire time: Is it cool and is it modern?” he said.
Products that fit that description include the Smoky Eye Baton, which has a creamy liner on one end and corresponding eye shadow on the other to allow users to achieve a foolproof smoky eye; the Auto-Graphique Liner — with a tip inspired by Japanese calligraphy brushes — with a refillable ink cartridge, and Pointilliste Mascara, a lightweight formula designed to tint lower lashes. “I’m Team Lower Lash,” quipped Surratt.
Blush and eye shadow pans are ultrathin and slide open, and are designed to fit seamlessly inside customizable palettes. “We’ve created a system of shapes to allow customers to create their own palettes,” said Surratt. He pointed out that formulas are not pressed into metal pans but poured directly into the plastic container in slurry form, which give the powders a “velvety smooth texture.”
The finish on the packaging, described as a matte gradation, was inspired by a trip to Monaco, where matte black luxury cars were abundant. The glossy logo, designed by Carl Wellman, is subtle and only visible when it catches the light. The retail displays were designed and manufactured by RPG.
“Out of the gate, I want to be perceived as a new brand that’s a player,” said Surratt, who has positioned the range to sit comfortably among Chanel and Dior. Prices begin at around $20 for an eye shadow and rise to $50 for the tinted moisturizer, Surreal Skin Perfector.
Surratt’s interest in Japan has been percolating since his days as a protégé of legendary makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin more than a decade ago. At that time, Aucoin was working with Shiseido to develop products for the Japanese cosmetics brand Inoui.
“I felt like if I could get my hands on Inoui, I could do makeup as beautifully as Kevyn,” recalled Surratt, who becomes visibly emotional when speaking of his former mentor, who passed away in 2002. He’s certain that Aucoin, who favored the pet name “ladybug” for friends, has given this pursuit his blessing. Surratt has recently spotted ladybugs everywhere — including on location during a photo shoot and printed on the blouse of an executive with whom he was meeting. He pays homage to Aucoin with the rose shade of Lipslique lipstick called Hevyn.
Surratt and Hawkins are self-funding the venture, but are currently meeting with potential investors.
Surratt’s entry into Barneys is part an upswing of activity in the color cosmetics space. This month alone, makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury’s beauty collection launched at Selfridges in London and the edgy, music scene-inspired line Ardency Inn hit 31 Sephora stores in North America. Meanwhile, in August, L’Oréal launched Em by Michelle Phan online and Sephora introduced Marc Jacobs makeup.
In Surratt’s view, makeup artists offer credibility to consumers. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had newness,” he declared.