John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., and Davis Factor, cofounder and now head of global creative for Smashbox Cosmetics, have worked closely together since the former’s company acquired the latter’s back in 2010.
But their connection goes much deeper than shared business goals. Both are passionate consumers of pop culture with a profound knowledge of iconographic photography, classic Hollywood and beauty in all of its iterations, able to translate style into substance in a way that resonates deeply with consumers.
You both share a passion for photography. Was this how you originally bonded?
John Demsey: I’ve known Davis for nearly 17 years, and was a fan of not only what he established with Smashbox Studios, but of his photography, particularly the work he was doing for Italian L’Uomo Vogue. I am a student of pop culture and have a love of cinematography, fashion, glamour, Hollywood and all of that, and Davis is the intersection of all those things.
Davis Factor: What’s great with John is you go to his house and he has the most amazing photo collection. The first time I went, I couldn’t believe it. The coolest thing is that I actually gave John a bunch of photographs that are on his wall now. I’m honored to be up there. But the hard thing is that John’s got such great taste that it’s like, when he looks at something, he’ll say, “This reminds me of this,” “this reminds me of that.” He sees it and he nails it. His eye is impeccable. I never feel pressure, ever, and I never get nervous, but sometimes when I send John something, I’m like, I hope he likes it. [Laughs.] And he always does.
Do you share the same taste in photography?
J.D.: I believe we do. We both have a predisposition and love for Richard Avedon, David Bailey and anything Helmut Newton.
D.F.: Which I would love to have a print of, but they’re so expensive, it’s unbelievable. What’s great about Los Angeles is that when I opened up the studio, a lot of photographers came to L.A. to work mostly on location. There was no studio work. So all these stars, like Helmut Newton, started coming. I was around photographers who were the idols I still love to this day. What I ended up seeing, from [Karl] Lagerfeld putting everybody in a line to shake their hands in the morning and say hello to great images that I’ve watched being made here, it’s magnified my love for photography even more.
Now, with digital, there is a revolution in technology that touches all of us. The process is still the same—you still go into hair and makeup, it still takes as long—you still have to go through the creative process. You realize the camera is just a tool.
J.D.: With social media and the whole advent of the selfie, one needs to look camera ready, ready for your close up, 24/7. In this totally connected world the idea of a photo op or taking a good picture now is not a special occasion, but is part of everyday life, which lends itself to the beauty business. You never know when you need to look your best, because everybody is looking at you 24/7.
D.F.: Whoever thought we’d have iPhones and you can be photographed in one second and a million people are looking at it, which makes it even more important that you look better all the time.
J.D.: At the end of the day, it’s not true that anybody can take a good picture. There’s a difference between when a great photographer takes a selfie versus a normal person.
D.F.: I need to do a lot of them until I get to one I like. I’m so much pickier than most people would be, I think. John, do you shoot at all?
J.D.: I take pictures of my daughter and my pets. I’m not a frustrated photographer. I’m a consumer of imagery, not a creator of it.
Who’s more plugged in?
J.D.: Davis is.
D.F.: Plugged in to this, here, yes. But John’s really plugged into a lot of stuff. I don’t know how he does it.
J.D.: I’m more focused on being unfocused.
D.F.: When John and I get together we don’t really talk about work. We usually talk about stuff that’s going on, like what we did or where we like to go. We both like to seek out culture and look to see what young, hip things are going on, feel the creative energy. We’re both innovators, and we’re not afraid to take chances. I’ve learned so much from John. What John has done has made it possible for me and my brand to do what it did. If it wasn’t for MAC, we wouldn’t be here. It blazed a trail.
John, did you ever know Max Factor?
J.D.: Yes, I did, but I always get confused because there was more than one. There was Max Factor and his son Max Factor.
D.F.: Max Factor’s son’s real name was Frank, but Frank changed his name to Max. When my great-grandfather died, they decided there needed to be another Max.
J.D.: I met Davis’ grandfather, who used to have a cabana at the Beverly Hills Hotel in the summer.
D.F.: No, that was Max, my uncle. He lived at the hotel forever. There’s Maxine as well, my great-aunt. There was Max Senior, Max Junior and Max the third.
J.D.: This is all very exciting and confusing because Leonard Lauder can’t remember which Max Factor he met either. But we know Davis Factor and that’s all that matters right now.
There'll be no rest for those headed to Europe for men's, as Paris just closed the gap with Milan. According to a provisional calendar released by the Chambre Syndicale, Paris Men's Week will now open a day earlier on January 16. See new highlights on the official lineup on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
BREAKING: Jonathan Saunders is leaving @DVF. The designer has resigned from his position as chief creative officer of Diane von Furstenberg, the company said in a statement on Friday. At the time of his hire, von Furstenberg said Saunders’ arrival symbolized and facilitated her stepping back from the day-to-day duties that occupy the work of a full-time creative director. The British designer joined DVF in May 2016 and was in charge of all product categories. #wwdnews
For @versace_official’s spring ad campaign, the brand emphasized the archival prints from the spring tribute collection dedicated to the late Gianni Versace. Closing out the show were five of Gianni’s favorite models: Cindy, Naomi, Carla, Helena, and Claudia. Bowing on December 18, the new campaign is yet another tribute to supermodel-dom as the images by Steven Meisel are fronted by @iamnaomicampbell, @cturlington, @gisele and more. #wwdfashion
Four-time Oscar-nominated actress Annette Bening has been waiting 20 years to play Gloria Graham in "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool," which will be released on December 29. The movie about Graham – a Hollywood star known for her controversial relationship with a younger Englishman named Peter Turner – is based off a memoir Turned wrote. "She felt vulnerable to him, because she loved him, she really did love him. And anyone that we really truly are in love with, we re vulnerable to in a very deep way," said Bening. Read our full interview with the modern icon of an actress on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @ninebagatelles; Styled by @cristinaehrlich)
The crisp white button down: a staple that can be dressed up or down and accessorized throughout the decades. Here, on a Art Basel-goer in 2017 on the left and on the iconic Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” in 1953 on the right. #tbt #wwdfashion (📷: Andrew Morales)
Known for her work with @victoriassecret, 25-year-old model @georgiafowler is raising her profile in Hollywood. Fowler stars in @vincecamuto’s holiday campaign, which launched in partnership with “Pitch Perfect 3.” “Almost every shoot with Vince Camuto, I’ve had to face a fear…It was definitely a challenge. I’m so grateful for it, though. I’ve always wanted to be a pop star, so that was the perfect chance,” Fowler said. Head to WWD.com to read about Fowler’s experience modeling, including at the #VSFashionShow, and her relationship with Nick Jonas. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
EXCLUSIVE: Huda Kattan just became the first beauty influencer to land a major beauty deal. Kattan's business, @hudabeauty, has received a minority investment from private equity firm TSG Consumer Partners. The brand, which industry sources say is on track to do $200 million in retail sales for 2017, will receive support on product, retail and geographic expansion through the deal. Get all the details on the deal and read @_a_collins' interview with Kattan on WWD.com. Link in bio. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdbeauty #wwdnews
Peruvian model @juanaburga_official – who is known for walking the runways of @rodarte, @viviennewestwood and @torybuch – is making the move to the big screen with drama “Los Últimos.” The film premiered in Argentina in November and arrives in the U.S. and Europe in 2018. On making the switch from modeling to acting, Burga told WWD: “It’s a completely different thing – a lot of people think it’s similar or try to connect things, especially like getting used to the camera or being looked at all the time or playing these different characrers, but film is a completely different story.” #wwdeye (📷: @jgreenery)
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)