M·A·C was established in Toronto when makeup artist and photographer, Frank Toskan and beauty salon owner, Frank Angelo brainstormed a makeup line. Frustrated because of the lack of colours that would shoot well with photography; their aim was to develop a studio line makeup line that would fulfill their professional needs. M·A·C was homegrown in Canada – literally. The two entrepreneurs cooked up the cosmetics in their kitchen and sold them from the hair salon. Their first customers: fellow makeup artists, models, photographers…then came stylists and editors. With every colour, and every magazine credit, word-of-mouth popularity grew. In March 1984, the duo officially launched the line from a single counter in a department store in Toronto.
It was staffed with professional makeup artists, an industry innovation. Package-wise, it stood out too: it was chic utility. Everything came in black pots rather than compacts. One of the most popular new offerings was an intense matte red lipstick that was used on a photo shoot with a New York cabaret star named Madonna, later photographed wearing a M·A·C T-shirt, the revolution was on. While other major makeup brands were predominantly skincare companies, M·A·C chose instead to establish itself as the ultimate colour authority.
The company took the industry by storm, offering a wide range of products that managed to blend street savvy with glamorous style and panache. Behind the counter, the M·A·C approach was notably different. It was the first brand in cosmetic history to invest in the training and education of its staff as well as the customer’s point-of-sale experience. Rather than driving sales through traditional advertising, gifts-with-purchase promotions and heavy sampling, M·A·C relied on the integrity of its carefully formulated product line. Adding to the image was a touch of outrageousness. A company that honored individuality and self-expression above all else, this leaning inevitably brought a brilliant sense of drag and theatre into the sleek M·A·C stores and department store counters. In 1994, as AIDS spread across the globe, M·A·C’s co-founders searched for a way to respond to the epidemic. Encouraged by input from employees, they decided to make HIV/AIDS organizations the beneficiaries of the company’s charitable focus: the M·A·C AIDS Fund was born. To date, through various fundraising initiatives such as Viva Glam, “Kids Helping Kids Greeting Cards” and with the help of celebrity spokespeople from the entertainment and fashion industries.
The company’s strong bond with its customers, intimate relationships with professional makeup artists, hip and irreverent attitude and impressive array of award-winning products did not go unnoticed by the cosmetics industry. In 1995, The Estée Lauder Companies purchased a percentage of M·A·C, effectively extending the brand’s distribution across the globe. Freestanding stores and counters at the world’s leading retailers opened at a record pace. With its enhanced profile, M·A·C teams began working backstage at international fashion collections.
In 1998 Estée Lauder acquired the remaining shares of the company, and John Demsey was named president of M·A·C. Under his leadership, the link between fashion, beauty and culture has been strengthened, allowing M·A·C to stay on the edge. Mr. Demsey has also spearheaded M·A·C’s participation at prestigious film festivals worldwide and in support of the M·A·C AIDS Fund has also encouraged the sponsorship of pop music concert tours for such Viva Glam spokespeople as Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott. In addition, he has been instrumental in collaborating with celebrities such as Linda Evangelista, Liza Minnelli, Pamela Anderson, Catherine Deneuve and more, to endorse the M·A·C Viva Glam and Beauty Icon programs.
Moving forward, M·A·C continues to satisfy the needs of its customers. Constantly developing existing and new categories, each of which grows out of a demand from professional makeup artists, M·A·C’s ultimate ambassadors. Equally important as the growth of its worldwide business is the company’s ongoing involvement in fundraising efforts and social awareness programs. Besides its commitment to the M·A·C AIDS Fund, the “heart and soul” of M·A·C, the company supports animal-free testing. M·A·C Cosmetics is owned by The Estée Lauder Companies, one of the world’s leading manufacturers and marketers of quality skincare, makeup, fragrance and hair care products.