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Smashbox Cosmetics opens its first U.S. store in Venice

New Smashbox store in Venice

In this digital era, looking camera ready at all times has become almost a necessity. So, the timing seems right for a beauty concept store and photo studio that caters to the Instagram crowd and the head shots required for online dating and business networking.

That’s the idea behind Smashbox Cosmetics’ first freestanding brick-and-mortar store in the U.S., which opened July 14 at 1335 Abbot Kinney Blvd. in Venice. It also makes sense given the brand’s history. In 1990, Dean and Davis Factor, great-grandsons of Hollywood beauty guru Max Factor, who pioneered cosmetics that enhanced stars’ complexions on the silver screen in the early 1900s, co-founded the Culver City-based Smashbox Studios, frequented by famed photographers such as Mario Testino and Annie Leibovitz.

Photographs of models are reflected inside makeup kits at the new Smashbox store on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Photographs of models are reflected inside makeup kits at the new Smashbox store on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In 1996, the brothers launched Smashbox Cosmetics to address a need for makeup that kept pace with lighting and photography advancements. Smashbox Cosmetics was acquired by the Estée Lauder Cos. in 2010, the same year that Dean Factor left the company.

The family factor

“When I was 7 or 8 years old, I used to go to the [Max Factor] photo shoots with my mom, and it was so exciting to be at the studio,” said Davis Factor, senior vice president of global creative for Smashbox and a professional photographer. “I watched the models go into the makeup room and come out transformed. It was like magic to me.”

Factor’s father and grandfather, both named Davis, worked at Max Factor & Co. until the family sold the business in 1972.

A photograph of a model peers behind a row of eyeliner pens inside the new Smashbox store in Venice.
A photograph of a model peers behind a row of eyeliner pens inside the new Smashbox store in Venice. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“I watched the models go into the makeup room and come out transformed. It was like magic to me.”

— Davis Factor

“The [Max Factor] greasepaint came about [in 1914] because of silent movies,” Factor said. “They used to use a heavy makeup that would crack, so people couldn’t make expressions. So this allowed actors to actually smile. Pan-Cake makeup was created for Technicolor film [in 1935]. And when the television turned from black and white to color, my family adjusted the makeup again [with Max Factor’s Hi-Fi Fluid Make-Up’s debut in 1955], because the light was so green. As technology changed, there was a need to have makeup change too. We are doing the same thing.”

Smashbox Cosmetics’ No. 1 seller is Photo Finish Foundation Primer, launched in 2000 as a solution to minimize photo retouching after shoots.

The studio store concept

“You know what this really is?” quipped Factor, gesturing around the new Smashbox Cosmetics store. “This is a big set. … It’s about collaboration, community, having people come in and play with makeup, to experiment and shoot here. I don’t want anyone to feel pressured to have to buy something.”

Marlo Messer, left, and Aubrie Slater prepare the new Smashbox store for its recent opening in Venice.
Marlo Messer, left, and Aubrie Slater prepare the new Smashbox store for its recent opening in Venice. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The innovative design includes props, pull-down backdrops and a video booth. Lighting is a priority. The stations, staffed by makeup artists, are programmed with four light settings to ensure a precise look for any time of day or location. Phone holders enable customers to tape makeup tutorials, while an app allows anyone to upload a selfie and virtually try on Smashbox Cosmetics’ makeup colors on a phone or tablet.

“Trying on all of our 120 lipstick shades takes a long time, but not if you’re just pressing buttons,” said Beth DiNardo, global brand president of Smashbox and Glamglow. “This way, you narrow it down to maybe three shades, and then you can try those on in the store.”

In rotation are machines that create 3-D-printed lipstick in unique designs and personalize packaging with words or patterns. Customers purchasing at least two products can mix their own lip gloss, using colored pigments and glitter in a dedicated space.

Various colors are offered to customers who want to make their own blend for lipsticks at Smashbox's new Venice store.
Various colors are offered to customers who want to make their own blend for lipsticks at Smashbox's new Venice store. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Beyond housing all 390 Smashbox Cosmetics products, the Venice store features products that aren’t available anywhere else in the U.S., such as an exclusive matte version of the Be Legendary Lipstick Palette ($75) and a drop of 30 new makeup brushes ($18-$42).

Services range from a complimentary 15-minute makeup touch-up to a $90-per-person makeover and shoot with a professional photographer. The studio space also is open to local businesses for photo shoots.

Reflected in a makeup mirror are photographer Davis Factor, Smashbox co-founder and senior vice president of global creative, and Beth DiNardo, global brand president of Smashbox, who stand inside their new Smashbox store on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice.
Reflected in a makeup mirror are photographer Davis Factor, Smashbox co-founder and senior vice president of global creative, and Beth DiNardo, global brand president of Smashbox, who stand inside their new Smashbox store on Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

“Hollywood is great,” DiNardo said, “but we chose Venice because it’s like being at Smashbox Studios with the makeup artists and photographers and producers who are working behind the scenes to make all this beautiful stuff happen in L.A.”

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