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Interview with Sheila McKenna, Founder of Kett Cosmetics Cruelty Free Vegan Makeup

Sheila McKenna Founder of Kett Cosmetics

Sheila McKenna at The Makeup Show

Tell us a bit about yourself and what prompted you to create Kett Cosmetics

I am a native New Yorker, art school drop out, wife and mother of two, from a creative family of 7.  My dad was an award-winning photographer and as a small child I would spend hours with him shooting and developing film. That early exposure to the nuances of contrast and tone has served me well as a makeup artist. I studied Art History and Jewelry design at the Fashion Institute of Technology but it was my love for makeup artistry that ultimately steered the ship. In the year 2000 there was a tidal wave of technological advances in digital and Hi-Definition formats. As a freelance artist I experienced this leap firsthand on set. Where the lens once acted as a forgiving filter, it now highlighted and magnified skin imperfections. There was an urgent need for imperceptible makeup. I created Kett to answer the call for professional-quality cosmetics that were able to withstand the unforgiving lens of the hi-def camera. I also viewed that moment as an opportunity to create a global representation of skin tones – something I felt was not being offered or even considered at the time. Another goal was to keep the formulas clean and free of parabens, fragrance and oil as well as cruelty free and vegan.

As an industry veteran with over 30 years experience in makeup artistry, how did creating your own company come to pass and how did you begin the process?

Honestly, I never dreamed of starting my own company or establishing a brand. Necessity, the “mother of invention” drove me to it. During the mid 90’s I was enjoying a career as a professional makeup artist, freelancing for broadcasts, film, music videos, runway- you name it. I was very fortunate to have steady bookings. It was while working on an HD project in the late 90’s that the creative juices started to flow. The technology was new – and presented a unique challenge. At that time, the makeup products in my kit were traditional, and as it turned out, inadequate for HD. It was a problem that needed a solution. Being an artist with very little creative fear, I decided to figure out what would work best under the light and lens. I experimented at home with a chemistry set from Toys ‘R’ Us. The formula and colors began to take shape. The next challenge was to find a lab that would make my custom formula in bulk. The kitchen sink was not large enough. The rest is history, or rather her-story!

 

The Kett Line of Products and Equipment

Kett’s product line includes Fixx Creme Makeup, Fixx Powder Foundation, Hydro Liquid Foundation, Kett Sett Powder, Blush, Contours, Shimmers, Metals and Kett Airbrush

How difficult is it to establish yourself within the Make-up brand industry?

Branding today is very different from when Kett was born in 2000. All of the initial research was done on a dial up internet system. There was no advertising or marketing campaign, social media blitz or paid Influencers. YouTube did not exist. The effort was entirely grass roots. The products were field tested by professional makeup artists and the brand grew organically by word of mouth. The proof was in the product.

Today, there are entire departments at corporations devoted to the strategy of advancing a brand agenda. There’s a huge emphasis on the visuals and presentation, not necessarily the merits of the product. There’s also this notion of “newness” – the idea that brands need to keep re-inventing, extending and launching at an astonishing pace.

I personally create each formula and color so a lot of blood, sweat and sometimes tears go into each product.  I truly believe the reputation and integrity of the Kett brand is responsible for our continued growth.

 

What has been the high light of your career with Kett Cosmetics so far?

Founder of Kett Cosmetics, Sheila McKenna

Sheila McKenna, Founder of Kett, yodeling in Swizterland

There have been many “big” moments during my time with Kett but three stand out. One is a daily highlight – I am my own boss and that provides a certain freedom and independence that outweighs the stress of being the owner.

The International travel that comes with the job is another thrill. My work has brought me to parts of the world that I never imagined visiting. I’m really a homebody at heart so traveling all over Europe, as well as Australia, India and Vietnam are definite highlights.

Last but not least, I get a big rush when I see images of Kett products on Instagram in the kits of renowned makeup artists. I’m a bit of a rocker so it’s particularly thrilling to know that the products I created are on the faces of Joan Jett and Lady Gaga, among others.