May 23, 2016
By BETH LANDMAN | January 18, 2012 | Style & Beauty
The makeup counters at Gee Beauty
|A-ttak! founder and senior makeup artist Fred Vellon|
Here in Miami, the art of looking good is practically its own parttime job. Between the regular hair and nail appointments expected of sophisticates in any cosmopolitan hub, life in our city means bikini lines to wax (or laser), spray tans to apply (post-full-body-exfoliation, of course), ear canals to candle, eyebrows to thread, and even eyelash extensions to maintain. Thanks to 12 months of 70-plus degree weather—a 365-day beach season—it’s safe to say we show significantly more skin per square inch than our peers in New York and LA, let alone Poughkeepsie and Peoria. So what does this amount to? It means that when the recession kicks in, many of us would rather cancel cable television and eat ramen noodles than buy a cheaper moisturizer or miss our eighth Zerona treatment (you don’t start seeing results until session number 10!). We’ve witnessed the real estate crash firsthand, and know that one of the best investments we can make is staring straight back at us in the mirror. So it’s no surprise that a few entrepreneurial souls have picked up on our plight, and chose a slow economy to capitalize on Miamians’ ubiquitous obsession with vanity.
Two sleek, unusually intimate beauty boutiques have debuted here over the past six months, each placing a priority on personal service over volume. This is perfect for Miami, really, because mass marketing to such a melting pot of cultures often misses the mark. Gee Beauty, in Bal Harbour Shops, offers seven different facials (four of which are glow-inducing oxygen treatments) as well as special hard wax for cringe-free bikini cleanups, plus its own line of skin and beauty products. Miami Beach’s A-ttak!, meanwhile, is a fantasyland of makeup, complete with appointment-only application services and $100-per-hour instructional classes. We checked in with the owners of both to get a read on the state of Miami’s cosmetic culture, and why—when it comes to dropping cash on cosmetics— there’s no time like the present.
Fred Vellon began working as a makeup artist at MAC Cosmetics in 1995. A former member of the brand’s Pro Team as well as a fashion retailer and stylist, he premiered A-ttak! last September as its founder and senior artist.
Who are your customers?
FRED VELLON: I cater to people who want to advance or experiment, to create a look that’s unexpected. My clients want their own stamps of individuality, and you can’t get that in a department store—not the vibe and not the treatment.
What are they obsessed with right now?
Texture and tanning. Miami women like to show skin, and they want it glowing and bronzed, not dark like in LA. Here, they go after a more natural golden, sun-kissed look and a flawless finish. Imperfections and fine lines have to be covered, but not with makeup that looks heavy. Think veil, not mask. Still, they don’t mind looking like they’ve had their makeup done—it’s a status symbol. It says, “I am a fashionista; I keep up with the trends.”
And what are the trends?
Bold lips are very strong, particularly red and fuchsia. What I’m loving now is a bright mix of pink and orange; deep coral is becoming more important, paired with naked eyelids. Neon nails are also a new trend.
Do you cater to your clients differently depending on their age?
The younger set of women are seeking image consulting; they’re still developing their identities. They are playful, fresh, and more open to experiment. Many ask to look like Taylor Swift. Women who are a little more mature are more interested in advancing their careers, so they try to find makeup that can be worn at work. Several of my clients in this group are also thinking about marriage, so they want to look sexy, more Kim Kardashian.
What surprises you about Miami women?
People think it’s more relaxed here, but that easy look takes a lot of work.
What is the Miami look now?
There is a sexual charge in the air here, and everything is shiny and wet. Nothing is matte; here, it needs to be sheer and creamy, creamy, creamy! They use gloss like crazy, and skin has to have color and luster. Even legs have shine and tint.
And the biggest mistakes women make?
There is nothing worse than seeing the root or glue on lash extensions. Overdrawn brows are another no-no; it’s like saying “I’m angry’’ all the time. You need to see some skin under brow hair; otherwise it’s vulgar and tacky. Some Miami women are afraid of looking too oily because of the humidity, so they go for matte makeup, but that looks like paint. Better to embrace the moisture.
Gee Beauty partners Celene, Stephanie, Miriam, and Natalie Gee
Natalie Gee, her sisters Celene and Stephanie, and mother Miriam launched the offshoot of their Toronto flagship in Bal Harbour last August. Each has special skills to contribute. Natalie is the studio’s eyebrow-shaping master, Miriam the skincare guru, and Celene handles the creative direction, while Stephanie oversees Canadian operations.
What is the difference between the Miami client and the Toronto client?
NATALIE GEE: In Toronto, women are not so interested in showing off their bodies. It’s a sexier market here, and clients want to be more glamorous. Oil is also a bigger factor in Miami, and clients are always trying to decongest and detoxify their skin, so we sell a lot of masks. Clients here are also more international, so skin types are more diverse.
How do your clients’ requests differ, depending on their age?
Younger women are just beginning a skincare regimen, and they are usually shopping for one product. We often recommend sunscreen. Those a bit older are beginning to get fine lines and have some pigmentation issues. They are looking for antiaging products like retinols, vitamin C, and hyaluronic acid, as well as eye creams.
What surprises you about Miami clients?
They are extremely knowledgeable about ingredients in the products. Since many get injections and medical-grade ingredients from their doctors, our South Florida clientele are particularly results-oriented, and they won’t buy products unless they can see them work.
So which products really sell?
SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic serum ($144, 30ml)—it increases cell turnover and makes skin look brighter and tighter. We sell about 20 each week. Tata Harper Skincare’s Hydrating Floral Essence ($65, 50ml) also does well. It comes in a travel size and is perfect for Miami because you can spray it all day to hydrate and control oil.
Are there any new trends in waxing?
Brazilian is still hugely popular, and there is also a lot of full-body waxing now. In Toronto, people would come in every month or two. In Miami, they are here all the time. It’s hot and you never know what party or beach you will be at.
Tell us about Miami’s current makeup trends.
The Miami look used to be smoky eyes and light lips—very J.Lo—but now it’s strong lips and eyes accentuated with lashes and full brows, not shadow. Cheeks should be subtly illuminated—flushed and fresh.
And mistakes to avoid?
Stay away from too much color on the eyes or cheeks; it looks unnatural. Save color for the lips!
photographs by nikola miljkovic/gettyimages.com (rotator); axel soler (vellon)