clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

A Tale of Two Guys, One Car, and Hundreds of Smashbox Lipsticks

New, 1 comment
Photo: Ashley Brozic for Racked Miami
Photo: Ashley Brozic for Racked Miami

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

To compare Donald Robertson and Davis Factor is to compare cars and cosmetics, but if you caught glimpse of a stark white Cadillac 1974 El Dorado splattered with giant lip prints driving down collins during Art Basel as passengers handed out cherry red lipsticks, you'll agree that the two are rather complimentary.

Both Factor and Robertson head some of the biggest beauty businesses in the game- Davis Factor is the founder of Smashbox Cosmetics and a big time celebrity photographer, while Donald Robertson is currently Creative Director at Large of Estee Lauder Companies. Robertson is also listed as the first creative director of M-A-C Cosmetics, but if you ask one of his over 109 thousand Instagram followers, they may rally their praise for another one of his titles: Instagram artist extraordinaire.

Depictions of Ana Wintour on a dollar bill, colorful sketches of models in Spring 2015 gowns, cardboard DIY projects that turned into "Kermés" bags- nothing's off limits for Robertson's Instagram feed. His prints can retail from $250 to well in the thousands, so naturally Robertson had to celebrate his blossoming success as fashion's premiere illustrator during Art Basel.

And so begins the #BingToBasel campaign, which saw a Cadillac 1974 El Dorado named "Bing" drive from Smashbox Studios in California to the Shelborne Wyndham Grand Miami Beach while the Smashbox team handed out free lipsticks along the way. We sat down with Robertson and Davis on the Friday of Art Basel to ask them about their horse-powered, Miley-approved installation, when Miami should expect its first Smashbox store, and why these two manly creatives jumped into the billion-dollar cosmetics industry in the first place.

@mattstarrmattstarr thanks! @minimichy see ya!

A photo posted by donalddrawbertson@gmail.com (@donalddrawbertson) on


Sounds like you two had an interesting night! Do tell.
Davis Factor: The idea was that the car was supposed to drive around all these clubs and stuff like that and we were going to stand out front and [hand out makeup].
Donald Robertson: So the first thing we did was we went to the Kim Kardashian dinner [for Paper Magazine] and then we went to the next party, and then my phone died and I panicked. A dead phone is a stopped cart… so I went desperately searching for a plug. Totally bailed. And then Davis' phone was still charged so he could stay out, so we cut him loose. But he kept up his end of the bargain and did the town all night long.
DF: I went to the W Hotel, at a party there last night. It was fantastic… we all ended up at Eleven.

And now you have this 1974 Cadillac convertible parked outside the Shelbourne Wyndham Grand Miami Beach. Tell me about your experience working with Smashbox, and what inspired the idea to work on a project like this.
Donald Robertson: Everybody kept saying, 'Are you going to Art Basel?' I don't know why. It seemed to be the sentence, the adjective or the verb, so I was like, it's too late, I'm never going to get anything framed, I don't know the setup. But I kind of don't want to go to Art Basel like everybody else. So what I'll do instead is I'll get my car— I have a white jeep— I'll paint it, drive it down and just drive around Art Basel and it will become something you photograph and then post. It would be like an Instagram thing— very public, very Miami Beach… so I said to my wife, I'm going to do my car. She said, 'you're not doing your car.' Then I was like, well, then I'll buy a car. She said, 'you're not buying a car.' So then I said Smashbox will buy me a car. They're awesome and they don't say no to anything! The whole idea was to sort of take over Art Basel, in the most obnoxious way, but make it a collaboration with friends as a new way of promoting and marketing things in an artistic way, but also in a tech, up-to-date way.

So how did you approach them with the idea to buy you a car?
DR: So literally, we were at dinner in LA, and I said to Simon [James], the creative director of Smashbox, can you get me a big folded piece of paper car, so it's literally like a box that I can paint? They were like, 'yes we totally, totally can.' He pulled it up on his phone two seconds later! Then Nina [Van Arsdale], the head of Smashbox PR bought it at dinner… so they sent it to my house in New York. My wife said, 'there's a car on our front yard' and I said, yes, but only for a couple of days!

Out of all the hotels on the beach, what made you choose the Shelborne as the lucky parking spot?
DR: The Shelborne Hotel was modeled after the El Dorado. Every floor has car pictures and details, so when we called them and told them we were coming, they were like, 'Stay here. Park here.' Now what's happening is that random people are sort of like catching it and posting it. This is what I love the most. People are just spotting it and reblogging it.


What inspired you both to get into cosmetics?
Davis Factor: I'm shooting in the studio and my makeup artist is powdering and powdering every two seconds. I have to stop shooting so she could powder. I was getting frustrated because before digital we were by hand and I could see it all in the photo. The other thing that was happening too was that eyes were creasing and every girl had to use a different foundation because she had a different reaction to it. We had to mix all our foundations together to get one color. For lips, I knew I needed the great nudes, I knew needed great reds but all the colors in between were things we came up with for individual people. The other thing about lips is that with other brands the lips were drying out too much, so I wanted to make a creamy matte that didn't dry your mouth.

Smashbox was one of the first companies to really own the primer category, if not the very first one. Talk to us about that.
DF: This is really silly. I used to think that, ok, face. Before you paint a car, before you paint a house, what do you do? You sand it and prime it. The theory of priming, why wouldn't you do that to a face? So there was a primer that existed, and we tried it on and we looked at it and thought, oh my god, this works! So we kind of took it from the ground up... The weird thing is I'm not a makeup artist and I might not be right about all this stuff. There may be other brands who did something similar. But because we went into the primer immediately, what I think happened was that… We were able to expand the primer category and kits... So we blazed a trail and were able to grow fast enough to keep the competition away.
DR: Because the two of us are outliers and aren't makeup-y people, we get different ideas and so the fact that he even mentioned the car I thought, oh my god, this is perfect. It's so LA. It's so Davis. Also, beauty people get bored of beauty things. If you give them something new, they're also the most enthusiastic people on the planet.

Davis, Would you ever consider opening up Smashbox Studios in Miami?
DF: I did! I almost bought the studio down the street from here. Then we figured it couldn't make money. There's a very aggressive plan to open Smashbox Studios around the world right now... Like, London needs a good studio like Smashbox... I would love a freestanding store in Los Angeles. We have a giant space coming up next year. We're going to turn it into a studio/store so we can test it, see if it works and then come up with a model that's different from every other store.

Would you ever consider Miami again?
DF: I would never not consider anything. The thing is I know it's expensive to open up stores and we're still kind of a small company. There are countries out there in Asia or the Middle East where you have to have a freestanding store, and then there's countries where you're fine in the mall in a department store. The people at Estee Lauder know exactly where we need to have a store and make that investment in order to maximize sales and exposure. So would I like to have freestanding stores all over the world? I would like to have them. Is that something we've planned? We never have. We're like experts in the specialty market— the Sephoras, the Ultas, that kind of environment. I think travel retail is something we need to take advantage of and expand.
DR: This is the other thing you have to understand about beauty. As a business for guys, it's completely recession proof. You never have a bad year.

They say the same thing about alcohol.
DR: It's 100 percent. Lipstick and booze- you never have a bad year. So you can go and try and sell cars, but [with beauty] you're so much better off. You work with way cuter people.

What's your biggest pet peeve about women who wear makeup?
DR: I don't like sticky.
DF: When you put your makeup on in a dark room.

Last spin! #wellthatwentwell #bingtobasel

A photo posted by donalddrawbertson@gmail.com (@donalddrawbertson) on


You both wear many hats. What's a day in the life like for you?
DF: I hustle a lot and I also have a lot of other interests. I'm a surfer and a skier. I love sports. When I wake up in the morning I'm answering emails. I'm a photographer too...
DR: I'm the opposite. I have five kids, so the only think I'm worried about pulling up is diapers. We are the odd couple. He's the LA single guy who's, like, pulling off the cool stuff.

Donald, you have many roles: artist, corporate guy, five kids. How do you balance it all?
DR: My secret? I've eliminated sleep from my day to day.

What's an idea we can expect come to life in the next few months?
DR: It's all awesome, but it's all top secret.
DF: I can tell you what I want to happen and what is going to happen. We're going to bring Hollywood into the studio. Now the tricky thing is because we're in Culver City, we're not in Hollywood, there's this big debate on how we can bring Hollywood in. Sony Studios is right next door to us. It's not Hollywood but it's one of the major studios in the planet. So I'm like, Hollywood, in the studio, discovery, come up with the next greatest people, shoot em, put em out there and bada big, bada bing.

What's your take on social media?
DF: I've never been into social media. I don't have Facebook, I don't have Twitter. I don't like people knowing where I am or what I'm doing or where I've been. I kind of like to keep a certain amount of privacy about me.
DR: Again, I'm the complete opposite.
DF: But also your art is so empowering. [Social Media] has been a really good way to get his art out there, so people can really see what he does. It's fantastic. People love it. Also his family. He does the funniest photos of his kids.

Where do you get your inspiration, Donald?
DF: Donald has been doing this for so long. He's at the top of his creative field. Donald has always been at the top of innovation in everything he's ever done. He's doing the same thing now that he's always been.
DR: Yeah, I'm just recording it now. When I first started at M-A-C cosmetics, it was all drawn. The whole thing was painted.
DF: And he also came up with a lot of the major themes that made [M-A-C] what it is today.
DR: Yeah but in the beginning, it was what we did. So it's nothing really new, just new technology. New phone.

What is your favorite subject to draw?
DR: Girls.

Who's your favorite person to follow on Instagram?
DR: Who's that styling group?
DF: The Bartoli Sisters.
DR: The Bartoli Sisters! We've been using them to style.
DF: They're my friends and they're super cute… they're like really up and coming. They're identical twins.
DR: I follow all the kid artists… there's like ten of them, and I wouldn't say one over the other. There are a lot of kid illustrators that normally wouldn't have gotten any recognition, and they're coming from different walks of life and they're really kicking it on Instagram. It's, like, unbelievable.

@mileycyrus POSING IN @moschino ON THE HOOD OF @donalddrawbertson CUSTOM HOT ROD FOR ART BASEL ! #HOT2TROT

A photo posted by Jeremy Scott (@itsjeremyscott) on


· 50+ of the Best Street Style Shots from Art Basel [Racked Miami]
· Where the Digital Director of Harper's Bazaar Heads During Basel [Racked Miami]
· Art Basel Coverage [Racked Miami]