He’s photographed some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world, including Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, Cindy Crawford, Cameron Diaz, and Christina Hendricks, set up one of the most famous photography studios in LA, Smashbox Studios, created one of the biggest makeup brands in the world, Smashbox Cosmetics, and is the great grandson of makeup legend Max Factor. In this interview, Savoir Flair speaks exclusively to Davis Factor to find out what inspires him to create some of the most innovative products in the beauty world and why – when it comes to cosmetics – Smashbox really does smash it.
As the great grandson of Max Factor, were you always interested in beauty and makeup?
Well it’s funny, because I wasn’t really when growing up, but I got interested in makeup when I started taking pictures and I realized that makeup could change the way you look. My mom used to take me to Max Factor shoots when I was really young, and I was so inspired by being on set and seeing the transformation of the models. I then started to understand what makeup did, and through those experiences I knew I wanted to be a photographer – that’s what taught me about makeup from a conceptual point of view. I think of my ideas and then I shoot them, and makeup is a tool that I use to create an image, a feel, a fantasy. I grew up in a cosmetics family, so it was always around me, and I was super proud of that.
I got interested in makeup when I started taking pictures and I realized that makeup could change the way you look.
What inspired you to create Smashbox Cosmetics?
I created makeup to help me on my shoots, and I started to think about what I didn’t like about it. Makeup was changing, formulas were changing, not one foundation was good for every woman – and that bothered me a lot. I wanted to spend more time shooting and less time doing makeup, so I started thinking about different things I could do to stop the makeup artists coming on set and having to powder every few minutes. This was before digital, so it involved a lot of retouching! I started to experiment with makeup as HD and digital were coming into play. I wanted to invent products that didn’t already exist, just as my family had done before me, because I was hearing too many complaints, like lips drying and eyeshadows creasing.
How involved are you in the creation of the products?
When the brand was created, I worked with the makeup artist Paul Starr and my brother, and we came up with all of the products ourselves. Then we started to hire more makeup artists as Smashbox grew, so we were developing products whilst shooting in the studio. The artists knew the language better than I did, but I knew about the photography side of things, the lighting, and so on. I didn’t get why makeup was done in a room that had bulbs with an orange tint, which looked totally different to the strobe lighting I used in the studio. Now, in the Smashbox makeup rooms, the lighting is totally controlled and it matches the exact lighting in the studio, so the makeup artists and photographer are completely in sync, which is something no other studio has ever done. We have the best makeup rooms you’ve ever seen; we have vents that take away nasty fumes from nail varnish and hairspray, our lights don’t get hot so the models don’t get sweaty and uncomfortable, and no products get burnt! We even have lighting over the chairs so our hair stylists can actually see what they’re doing. We are always trying to raise the bar with our makeup rooms and products. I love that stuff; it’s just so cool.
What makes Smashbox different to other makeup brands?
Being at the forefront of photography really helps me be at the forefront of makeup. I know what camera Canon will be bringing out next year, and how you’ll be able to see so much more information, so this means makeup has to be adjusted. We try to take photos that don’t have to be retouched, so need products that really work! The digital aspect now means that you can be flexible; it’s amazing not having to retouch anything because the makeup works so well with the camera.
What was the most important part of creating cosmetics?
It was important to me to have makeup that feels really good. Before, a model would come on a shoot and wipe off all her makeup before she left, but now they leave with it on, because the way it feels, the way it smells, and the way it looks are so much more forgiving and friendlier to the face. One of my biggest dreams is to stay ahead of everybody else, and we are ahead because we have Smashbox Studios and Smashbox Cosmetics – the photography and the makeup – which no other brand has.
Smashbox is available at Sephora, The Dubai Mall and Areej, Mall of the Emirates.