By Laura Medina
Donald Robertson lecturing & advising at The Makeup Show LA.
During the industry-intense The Makeup Show Los Angeles, where aspiring and professional makeup and hair stylists load up on prestige brands at deep professional discounts, seasoned professionals give demonstrations and heart-felted advise and lectures in the beauty industry.
The majority of lectures and lecturers are experienced-weary makeup artists doling out life advice, as well as teaching the latest and the newest in advance techniques in cosmetic applications.
This recent Makeup Show was different. It wasn't your usual highly respected makeup artist promoting her or his cosmetic line. It was an unassuming, bespectacled preppy illustrator named Donald Robertson.
Among the tight-knit, closed circle of Manhattanite fashionistas and editors, he's a marketing mastermind, disguised as a low-key illustrator/graphic designer, behind MAC, Marie Claire the magazine, Bobbie Brown, and Smashbox, happily ensconced under the Estee Lauder umbrella.
The Makeup Show is all about giving people their due and giving those credit and acknowledgement when they earn and deserve it.
Say "Hello" to Donald Robertson, the makeup world's answer to Donald Draper, a marketing/advertising genius...without the smugness, the drinking, or the womanizing.
Donald, open-heartedly, talked about being the cliched long-haired, young starving artist/illustrator in Paris, the capital of fashion and beauty. In a typical "Cinderella-sque" tale, he met a fairy godmother, in a form of an established runway makeup artist who suggested he met and hook up with a pair of fellow Canadians who wanted to start their own makeup line. That makeup line was MAC.
When he and the two Canadians returned to Toronto, they figure they might as well get, their nascent makeup line named MAC, up and running in New York, a fashion and editorial capital of magazines.
In order for Donald to work in the United States, he had to get a green card. That's how he wound up at Marie Claire being their Creative Director then doing the same at Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
At first, they were giddy getting picked up at Henri Bendel but Donald's wife had a simpler and wiser idea. "Why not sell MAC in Downtown Manhattan where all the makeup artists live?" A risky light bulb moment.
In the heart of Christopher St., this team opened the very first MAC boutique. Soon, Uptown Girls were lining up in their town cars, causing traffic jams, waiting for their MAC that their makeup artists got them hooked on. Because of the crowds, Donald had to ask one of the employees to entertain the shoppers demanding their MAC. That employee was DJ Lady Bunny.
Juggling two demanding jobs was exhausting but a wise investment.
Once Estee Lauder swallowed up MAC, Donald was the "go-to Mad Man"-slash-illustrator/graphic designer for Bobbie Brown soon after, while still designing ad campaigns for MAC. He's the one who launched MAC's Viva Glam charity campaign for AIDS Research.
Thing about being working at Marie Claire, it was a great hub for connecting. It was there that he first met Davis Factor Jr., the heir to the mass-market makeup brand, Max Factor and a professional photographer...who didn't have a clue in marketing a brand new cosmetic line he and his brother developed to fit their professional photography needs, Smashbox.
He helped work on their packaging and graphic design then he returned to Estee Lauder's folds, working on MAC and Bobbie Brown.
Again, Estee Lauder bought Smashbox then many years later, Donald bumped into Davis.
Donald Robertson with Smashbox & Miley Cyrus at Art Basel Miami.
How to promote Smashbox's latest Matte Be Legendary Lipstick and how to theme it.
Why not make it Limited Edition and have it aligned with Art Basel where the Manhattanite fashionistas and gallerinas need makeup the most. There was no makeup sponsorship or promotion at Art Basel Miami.
Donald loves thinking out of the box and people return the love and respect for it.
He suggested why not paint a giant, white convertible in Matte Be Legendary Lipstick Kisses, take it out on a cross-country road to Miami and give out free tubes of the lipstick (in a form of good will and promotion) then park the car randomly all over Miami and continue to give out lipstick during Art Basel when gallerinas need it the most.
It was free magic! It was basically a low-cost, free-wheeling, fun-filled ad campaign.
The biggest hit for Donald was when an hotel employee called him up in his room, saying that Miley Cyrus was posing on top of the Lipstick Kiss Convertible. He and Smashbox practically beat MAC at their own game. Remember, MAC paid Miley to create and advertise her Viva Glam Lipstick at that time. Instead, she gave free advertisement to Smashbox's Be Legendary Matte Lipstick. Score!
Donald may be scoring but he's not resting on his laurels.
He's still with Estee Lauder and consider himself lucky to be traveling on their behalf, learning how different cultures desire different things from beauty. South Africans are all about being matte, no shine or "dewy glow." The Japanese are down with multi-step skincare regiments most folks wouldn't put up with.
He said "Traveling will make you a better, smarter person."
Since this is still The Makeup Show and it was in Los Angeles, Donald Robertson finally got his due when Smashbox just launched their limited edition Donald Robertson Be Legendary Matte Lipstick that you can pick up right now.
What's his next endeavor? He pitched this idea to Bergdorf Goodman. He'll take his trash from his Upstate New York home then construct it into art work at the upscale department store. They loved it.
People love it when you're resourceful, witty, entertaining, and whimsical...at a low cost.
Reading this, most folks think it's crazy to be juggling multiple marketing and artistic duties at magazines while doing the same thing simultaneously for multiple makeup brands. Not all makeup brands are alike. Each makeup brand has its own unique identity which taught Donald how to deal with and portray them differently. That's another arsenal in Donald's wisdom and experience.
When you pick up your Smashbox Be Legendary Matte Lipstick by Donald Robertson, consider this your piece of art work by an industry legend "Mad Man."