Even for Kat Von D's biggest fans, the high-profile tattoo artist can feel like a bit of an enigma. For starters, there's her impressive ability to build a beauty empire alongside a successful tattoo business. Then, when you factor in her statement-making look (the jet black mane, bold lip, and exquisite ink), one can't help but assume the 35-year-old was born with some kind of boss babe blueprint.
But that's the thing about enigmas, they surprise you. Despite enduring a long day of press to celebrate the resurrection of Saint and Sinner, limited edition fragrances that sold out quickly nearly 10 years ago, Von D is warm and welcoming. She exudes a sense of calm so Zen you'd never know she'll only have about 20 minutes to ready herself for the launch party happening downstairs at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
In fact, she's been so engaging with beauty editors and bloggers all day, she's run out of time to answer our questions. With the promise that she'll email her responses as soon as her schedule will allow (which she indeed did) the unsuspecting mogul dashes off with her glam squad in tow.
Perhaps it's this patience that played an instrumental role in bringing the fragrances back to life. After a decade of pleas to restock Saint and Sinner, Von D knew it was time, but she wanted to do it right. Instead of messing with the formula, she approached the very vessels that contain the scents. It took her a year of playing around with her own hand-drawn designs before the bottles were perfected.
"I didn’t want to change anything about the fragrance," she says. "I think the fragrance itself… I still love it. It triggers certain memories that I don't want to mess with — that's the power of fragrance. So how do we re-launch it in a beautiful, updated way? Of course it's the bottles. As an artist I've evolved so much in the past 10 years. You always want to get better, right? So it was the perfect time for me to infuse my art into the re-creation of the bottles and launch it that way."
Speaking on the power of scents, Von D recalls her earliest memory of fragrance.
"We were pretty poor growing up so we didn 't have tons of fancy stuff," she explains. "But the first fragrance I acquired as a teenager was given to me by a boyfriend. I don't even know if I necessarily liked the fragrance. I think it was my attachment to the dude, the person. But I think that's kind of how fragrance works, too."
It's not just these two fragrances Von D spends all her energy on perfecting: Everything in her business is done with purpose, which is in large part why Kat Von D Beauty has grown into such a force with which to be reckoned. And she takes nothing for granted.
"I always keep my intention in mind when creating anything," she says. "I always ask myself, 'How will this serve others? How will it serve our planet?' And usually, those two questions answer any doubt as to my approach."
After the blockbuster sales of beauty bag staples like her Tattoo Liner and Everlasting Liquid Lipstick, Von D is justifiably confident in her business decisions. But she admits she never in her wildest dreams thought she'd become a beauty mogul.
"Having been criticized since I was a teenager, I still am sometimes left in shock that people like my style or the things I create 'til this day," she confesses.
Von D has previously been candid about her humble beginnings, spending her first six years of life in a small Mexican town where her father worked as a missionary doctor. For a period of time they didn't have electricity or running water, and even after moving to Loma Linda, Calif., their household long went without a TV, the very modern day appliance that would light a fire under Von D's future career.
Despite feeling relatively caught off guard by her success in the cosmetics industry, Von D says she wouldn't change a thing about her journey.
"I'm proud of myself because we've been able to successfully be pioneers in a lot of ways," she says.
Von D has managed to stick to her guns by producing a vegan beauty business that falls in line with her beliefs, while delivering products to her cult following that also have mainstream appeal.
In a lot of ways, it sounds like she's an enigma to herself.
And for that, our makeup bags thank you, Kat.