On most fashion photo shoots, there's a moment that would make Estee Lauder and Elizabeth Arden cringe. It's the post-lunch makeup retouch, when models, makeup artists, stylists, editors and any other women on hand reach into their purses for lipstick.
Out come M.A.C.'s deep red Viva Glam and pink-brown Twig, Bobbi Brown's Raisin, Chocolate and Walnut Stain, Poppy King's Ambition and Trust. Each deeply pigmented shade is sheathed in a similar black case. Not a flash of gold in sight.
In the cliquish fashion world, cosmetics developed by professional makeup artists are the equivalent of Prada bags and Calvin Klein belts. But lately these small, independent lines have been attracting a much broader audience. In the last year or two, reports Women's Wear Daily, M.A.C., Bobbi Brown, Trish McEvoy and other makeup artist lines have become "the fastest growing segment of the otherwise flat $2.2 billion color cosmetics market."
And they've done it by breaking most every rule. No advertising. No supermodels. No seasonal promotions. No gifts with purchases.
The key, say the pros who use them, is the products themselves: Lipsticks with creamy matte finishes that stay on forever. Yellow-based powders and foundations that give most skins a more natural look than traditional pinkish shades. Colors that flatter people of every ethnicity.
"These companies really see makeup in a different light," says Gary Parson, a Dallas-based makeup artist.
Like many makeup artists, Mr. Parson was introduced to M.A.C. by models who'd bought the lipsticks in New York. The Toronto-based company was founded by Frank Toskan, a makeup artist, hairdresser and photographer who brewed his first batch of lipstick in his kitchen. Word-of-mouth, editorial touts in magazines such as Allure and Vogue, and testimonials by celebrities including Madonna, Roseanne, and k.d. lang helped fuel a fanatic following. This year, M.A.C. anticipates sales of $140 million.
"M.A.C. was the first company to do the real matte thing," Mr. Parson recalls. "The heavier pigments they offered, the bold matte colors just weren't available in other lines. They really filled a void."
A similar void led veteran New York makeup artist Bobbi Brown to develop her own line. Frustrated by the need to constantly mix products to get the natural-looking colors and frost-free finishes she wanted, she finally concluded: "I can do better."
Her first collection of 10 brown-based lipsticks went on sale at New York's Bergdorf Goodman in 1991. Next came a range of yellow-based powders that pros such as Mr. Parsons swear by.
Today, Bobbi Brown Essentials offers approximately 120 items, from brushes to bronzers, and ranks as the No. 1 selling color line at many Neiman Marcus stores.
As to price, makeup artist lines are not as cheap as drugstore brands, but they're typically less expensive than top department store lines.
Trish McEvoy's sable brushes are her line's most expensive items. They start at $18 and top out at $63. Lipsticks sell for $16.
At M.A.C, lipsticks are $13. But customers get a break for recycling. Contribute six containers to the "Back to M.A.C." program and choose one lipstick free.
Despite their explosive growth, the professional makeup artist lines are still no match for the big guns like Estee Lauder, with worldwide sales estimated at $2.5 billion. But the giants are paying attention. Earlier this spring, M.A.C announced a new venture in which Estee Lauder will distribute its products overseas.