When I decided to start Reed Clarke (www.shopreedclarke.com) one of the first people I reached out to was Theo Kogan, owner of Armour Beauty. I love her range of lip glosses, which I have had in my kit for years, and knew that I wanted them to be a part of the site. She was on board from the get-go and I adore her for that.
I have known Theo, indirectly and directly for 20 years. She was the front woman for Lunachicks, one of my favorite bands in college, and then over the years also became a friend. She is talented, candid and just an incredible person. When I decided that I wanted to interview some of the people who's products I love and that are featured on Reed Clarke, Theo was (again) the first person I reached out to. And she didn't disappoint.... she gives a great interview!
Theo Kogan, owner of Armour Beauty
- Let's start with some basics. How long has Armour been around?
Officially in Brooklyn since 2009.
- What goes in to designing a color?
I am inspired by so many things. One of the newest shades we have, Hi-Way Star, was literally inspired by a painting my daughter Lucy did. I sent my lab a cut of the paper, a purple brush stroke swatch, from her painting and said, "please add a silvery shimmer". Sometimes I see a photo of a classic hollywood icon and make a color that is comparable to that; the newest shade, Brigitte, was inspired by a lipstick on a photo of Brigitte Bardot. The color Nina was taken from the color of a dress I saw that was an amazing red/orangey/coral color, so really, it's everything across the board that inspires me. Then the lab I work with sends me samples and we go back and forth until it's right.
Theo in a Burberry campaign
- The names of the colors are all inspired by music and many by female performers. Out of all of your color names, which lady has been the most influential in your life?
Oh man, so many. I mean, I would have to first go with Debbie Harry; the shade Dreaming is named after a Blondie song. Her and Marilyn Monroe. Debbie Harry is like the modern NYC Rock N Roll Marilyn. Her and the whole band's style is timeless and constantly copied. But also Lucille Ball. Her beauty, smarts, comedy, business savvy.... I mean I can't. I love her so much we named our child after her… She influenced me so much as a performer on stage, as much as Debbie does, in an equal but different way. There are many more, such as Grace Jones. Her talent, fearlessness, she was so ahead of her time. And her gender-bending beauty is just beyond.
- Your roots are as a performer. What was the impetus to go from the stage to the lab?
It was a 'lightbulb-idea" moment. A divine intervention or inspiration perhaps. I kind of felt like, OK, this is all cool... I was performing and I was also working as a DJ and a party promoter and still doing some modeling at the time but I sort of felt like, "What's next here"? I always wanted to have some sort of company: clothing or makeup or something. Makeup has been a passion since I was super small. I used to eat my grandmothers Chapsticks and lipsticks. I would uncap and inhale them all (they smell a lot better now). I can remember getting into my mom's lipstick and putting it all over my face and getting in trouble. It was a crazy move because even though a band is a business and performing is a business and modeling is a business, it's very different from the cosmetics business. But lip gloss was such a no-brainer choice for me. So many women love it, and so many women I know wear it even it they wear no other makeup.
A modeling shot of Theo
- Creating your own line requires a different skill set than being the front woman for a band. What were some of your unique challenges?
Luckily it was easy to get a business loan when I started. I got one and then paid it back within a year or so. I didn't know about so many things in the cosmetics business; from how you even become a legitimate business, to compatibility testing your components, to charging sales tax, sellers permits, etc. I mean it goes on and on. So many challenges, so many learning curves. I took some courses, asked everyone I knew for advice and got a business coach which helped enormously.
- You always had such great stage look, and now you're not only the owner of a line of amazing glosses, but an amazing makeup artist. That's a lot of really fun hats to wear. How does your past persona influence your present one?
Wow, firstly, for you to say I am an 'amazing makeup artist' means the fucking world to me! Thank you!!
I did things in my own way as per usual, some might say backwards. Once I started the lip gloss line I thought, hey, I should do makeup since I have a makeup line.
From my career as a Lunachick/female drag queen/club kid/dj/model/actress etc, etc I would have to say it influences it A LOT. I love dramatic glamourous makeup. I love to paint people up! I also love making skin beautiful as I had terrible cystic acne for a year or so during the early years of Lunachicks. It was so bad that I was on the horrible but effective drug Acutane for a little bit. For shows I used to cover my face with derma blend - total drag, literally and figuratively. Now I love to create gorgeous skin even when it might not be so gorgeous. And I don't give skin advice to talent unless asked. I have heard makeup artists tell models with acne what they should do and that is dangerous because first, it makes the model feel bad about themselves and second, the best advise if ASKED is to go to a dermatologist. Even as experts we aren't dermatologists.
Having been model I was tortured by hair and makeup sometimes. I find it really important to be gentle and use the softest brushes, removers and products I can. I also love the chemistry of skin and how you can see it come to life when you add moisture to it. Do I sound like a weirdo, like Jaime Gumb of Silence Of The Lambs?
I am not going to lie, in the beginning it was sometimes very weird to be on this side instead of in the spotlight but I am good with it now. I also really love working with musicians; I work with Tegan & Sara and the adorable band Echosmith when they are in NY as well as many others. I just really 'get' how a musician needs to have their look feel right to them. I always hated when makeup artists would try and force a look on me that wasn't 'me'.
Theo as the singer and front woman of Lunachicks, an all girl punk band in the 90's
- What would you tell your 25 year old self? What inspiration and advice would you offer?
I feel like I would tell her/me to REALLY BELIEVE in myself mostly and that it's all going to work out. And good thing you broke up with that guy… Haha!
- I hate that no one ever asks men "How do you do it all?". It's so insulting to ask a woman how she juggles all of her responsibilities; you're a mom, a business owner, a makeup artist, a wife and you kick ass! So instead of asking how you do it... I'm just going to say "You're awesome!"
Thank you! I KNOW! It's so sexist!! It's like when people would ask, "Is it harder to be a woman in the music business". ( see me making a fart noise). I am sure you get that all the time too. I like to say we make like Nike and we JUST DO IT. LOVE YOU!!!!