Angel Merino AKA @mac_daddyy knows a thing or two about makeup. The former MAC employee and celebrity makeup artist (Ariana Grande, Christina Milian and Mel B to name just a few) is the creator behind one of the hottest indie brands – Artist Couture. Found at Sephora, Artist Couture is a YouTube love with many beauty creators raving about the accessible luxury brand’s first palette release – Supreme Nudes. A YouTube star in his own right, with 167,000 subscribers and 1.4 million Instagram followers, Merino recently released the Caliente Summer Collection – an homage to his Latin heritage. The launch was designed to complement all skin tones and includes a mini palette with an array of 8 wearable & vibrant shades, a red lipstick, and two high-shine glosses. We had some of our burning questions about the launch answered by Merino:
There is something special about the Artist Couture formula. Your products whether it’s the Supreme Nudes Eyeshadow Palette or your Diamond Glow Powders have received universal praise. As a makeup artist, what was missing for you that led you to create Artist Couture?
From my experience in the industry, I always found myself having to mix multiple products to get the desired finish or the desired impact or the desired colour that I wanted. So, I took a look at my kit, my makeup style and what was trending in the makeup space at the time and I found this void for high-impact products which led me to create them. I started with the Diamond Glow Powders and those are loose highlighters, but they pack a really big punch. We’re all about high impact with minimal effort.
I was able to produce a product that is super high-impact without having to mix 5 different products or layer various products to get these results. Creating my own eyeshadow palettes now, I’m really able to create colour stories that I feel just kind of hit every mark. I’m doing it in a way that is compact, it’s sleek and it’s easy to carry. But, at the same time, it has everything you need to create wearable day looks – warm looks, cool looks and sultry evening looks. I’m able to create colour stories that fit my needs and fit the needs of makeup artists.
Colourful eyeshadow palettes and bold lipsticks are having a moment. Caliente is different – the colours seem more vivid than other colourful collections. You call it a tropical fantasy (fantasia tropical). Tell us the inspiration behind the collection?
The collection is inspired by my culture and my heritage. I really wanted to pay homage to my upbringing and being able to translate all of those things within colours. I was actually really inspired by J Balvin – he’s a Latin star. He made an album called “Colores” where he named each song after a colour. I’m super inspired by music and art. When I was listening to the album, I was hearing the music, but I visually saw the colour. For me with creating this colour story, there were certain aspects that I wanted to bring to life. For example, the yellow shade is called “cultura,” which means culture. When I think of my culture and all that it encompasses, I thought that yellow was the perfect colour to represent that.
With every shade in the palette, I was able to think of something that I wanted represented or something that meant a lot to me and I was able to put a colour to those thoughts, memories or moments. That’s how I created Caliente. We created a really beautiful story and I also feel like it’s perfect for summer – super fiery and hot. You’re really able to create colourful looks with the collection. And for me, in quarantine, I wanted it to be a situation where people are able to have a little taste of summer, even though summer looks different this time around. It’s about being able to bring summer into your home through your makeup looks and really playing up your eyes since that’s all you can see with masks.
You can definitely create a bold look with the shadows, the lipstick and the glosses. What application tips do you have for people who want to try a more colourful look but are intimidated?
I think a lot of people are intimidated by colour because they think that they have to include all of these colours into their look. Some of the shadows in the palette, whether it’s fuego, which is more of that neon orange, or libres which is more of that neon pink or mamasita which is more of that pink/red are vibrant. People automatically assume that you have to put those colours all over your eyelids which is not the case at all. You can really take a step back and do a look that’s more wearable for you. Even creating a really good graphic liner with these tones is a good way to start to get your feet wet with colour so it’s not overwhelming. I like to do a neutral tone on my lip but then add a pop of colour on my lash line. With this palette, the tones that are a little bit more vibrant are pressed-pigment so you can use them as blush as well.
Larger eyeshadow palettes with up to 30 shades are everywhere. Your shadows are more compact and there is no colour duplication. How does being a makeup artist who happens to be a makeup influencer impact your choices when it comes to developing a colourful launch like Caliente?
For me, one of my biggest things when I was a working artist and freelancing, you literally take so much stuff with you on set. When I first started, I felt like I needed to have every foundation in the spectrum, every finish, every colour, every brand, and I felt like that across all categories. I was just finding myself lugging a ton of bags onto set. It was really just inconvenient for me. So, with my products, everything is multi-use, everything is multi-functional – and that really is to diminish the idea that you need to use multiple things for one look.
Specifically, with my palette, the stories are carefully curated so that it is exactly what you need to create full looks. You have your transition shades, you have your pops of colour. You have a good balance of mattes, shimmers and high-metallics. All of the packaging is super thin and lightweight so it doesn’t take up too much space. So, even if you’re not a professional makeup artist, and you’re just a makeup enthusiast, you can have one of those palettes with you on the go and easily throw it into your backpack, your makeup bag or your purse and it doesn’t take up too much room.
What did it feel like the first time that you saw Artist Couture in Sephora?
It was literally a dream-come-true. That was one of my biggest goals, to able to walk into an environment like Sephora and see my brand. The first time that I saw it, I burst into tears. It was such a big moment for me in my career. You work so hard to get an idea off the ground and then when people start to support your brand and purchase your product, it starts to become a reality. But, when you see it in an environment like Sephora, it was the biggest validation for me as a brand and as an artist. It really made me feel like I was on the right path in my career and it made all of the hardships, blood, sweat and tears that I had gone through to get to that point completely worth it.
Artist Couture is really about a community, which is unusual for a makeup brand. You call them #GlowGetters. Why was creating community so important to you both personally and as a brand owner?
Community is really important to me. That’s the way I’ve been able to build myself as an artist, and an influencer, through my platforms – creating a sense of community. I think that the great thing about social media – something that it’s given us – is that we are able to find people that we can identify with, relate to, and connect with. Especially when you don’t have that around you. Growing up, social media wasn’t a thing, there weren’t a lot of gay men that I could ask questions to or have as examples. I went to middle school and high school and I think I had like one gay friend. But, now on social media, you’re able to find people that look like you, that you identify with and you’re able to have a sense of inspiration. So, for me, it’s all about finding that human connection and people you can connect with.
I wanted to ensure that everyone who was a supporter or a fan of the brand felt like they were a part of something bigger. I wanted it to be a safe space and a place that people could turn to. Now more than ever, people aren’t just buying into brands because of pretty packaging or pretty colours, but because of what the brand stands for. So, for us as a brand, it’s really important for us to scream at the top of our lungs our beliefs. We’re super pro-LGBTQ+ rights and initiatives. Obviously, I am a gay Hispanic male. So, it’s definitely really important for us to be vocal about what we believe in because I think that consumers identify with that and that also, in turn, creates more brand loyalty.
You always talk about the importance of skincare when it comes to makeup application. Is a skincare line something that you are looking at for the future? How do you get your flawless complexion?
I would love to develop skincare. That’s my goal when it comes to my brand. But I really want to make sure that I’m taking my time with developing it because I want to make sure that I’m creating really amazing formulations, using great ingredients, and creating skincare that’s effective. I think skincare is so important because in order for your makeup to look good, you want to start with a good canvas.
Growing up, my mom always taught me to moisturize your face, etc., so it’s always been instilled in me. I’m all about my skincare in the mornings and in the evenings. And you know, I recently turned 30, so now more than ever, I’m very mindful of my skincare routine so that we’re keeping those wrinkles and crow’s feet away. I’m trying to preserve my youth, so skincare is a really big thing for me.
What’s next on the horizon for Artist Couture?
We have a couple more exciting collections that we’re launching before the end of the year. Something a little unexpected that I think people are going to be really excited about. But, looking forward to 2021 we are finally going to be playing into different categories. We’re going to start to get our feet wet with a little bit of complexion. I’m super excited about that because it’s something that’s been in the works for the last couple of years. To finally see it come to life and put it out there for people to experience is really exciting.