May 29, 2015

Meet Pigment Cosmetics Founder Manhal Mansour

Manhal Mansour

Behind the runway looks of painted faces and spritzed ’dos in Bay Area fashion shows such as Snow II, San Francisco Fashion Week, and this year’s Charity Fashion Show is Pigment Cosmetics founder and CEO Manhal Mansour.

And while Pigment Cosmetics and its line of fashion-driven beauty products are constants when it comes to San Francisco fashion events and photo shoots, they’re not just for industry insiders. Anyone can stop by the white-walled downtown location for makeup lessons and a touch of color. Mansour also opens Pigment’s doors to the Bay Area fashion community as a hub for local fashion shows, networking events and collaborative projects.

We sat down with Mansour recently to talk about the man behind Pigment’s many makeup brushes, what goes into creating a runway look and whether San Francisco women are putting their best faces forward.

We’re familiar with your company, Pigment Cosmetics, from all the fashion shows and events we’ve attended in your downtown headquarters, but we’d like to know a little more about the man behind the company. Tell us about yourself.

I was born overseas—Kuwait, but I’m not from Kuwait, I’m Palestinian, actually—by parents who work in a completely different field. When I graduated high school, my parents sent me back here to go to school in Sacramento. I went to college, graduated with a degree in engineering—emphasis on architecture—so you can see where the art started to seep into this. Then I worked in the industry: engineering, structural, architectural field for about five, seven years.

How did you go from designing buildings to working in fashion?

I had an incident where I didn’t get paid for a job from a developer who was a family friend, and he turned the incident around to where it seemed like it was my fault. I was really young, my early twenties, and that’s when I decided that that would not happen to me again. So I was already looking at things that were more of my interest, and that literally was the final straw that pushed me over. I started working in the industry, in the hair aspect of it, but I always had an eye for fashion. I started doing fashion shows and working with modeling agencies, and things like that.

How did Pigment Cosmetics come about?

[At first], we were Elite, and we were just doing hair and makeup, there was not cosmetics, which is what gave birth eventually to Pigment. We would get these jobs and when we would sit together after the jobs, we would all be like, “Wouldn’t it be awesome—wouldn’t it be amazing—if there was this line that had beautiful colors, but could last longer?” Well, you don’t need a hammer to hit me on the head to get it, so after about two to three years of that, I was like “Really? It has to exist somewhere.” Well, it didn’t. And we started to talk to people, manufacturers, and nobody wants to talk to you when you are not going to order a thousand pieces of a shade. [In] about two and half to two years, we’ve found someone that was willing to talk to us, and they had a lab, and that’s where it started.

What goes into creating the line of makeup?

We’re very lucky because we work with fashion designers year around, and we have a pulse on the colors. We see what the designers are doing, and we see the colors that they’re into. We are around the runway, so we see other makeup artists and other stylists, being so intimately familiar with that scene.  Then you go back and you create what you think is happening. There are instances where you go out on a limb, you just do something or see something and you go, “Oh my god, that is absolutely stunning,” and it has no basis, but that’s a very risky proposition when you’re going to order thousands of pieces in that shade.

How does Pigment Cosmetics coordinate with a designer to create a look?

It’s quite an involved process, and I think people don’t think it’s as involved as it is. Generally, when a designer begins their collection, we like to be invited and be involved from the get-go. Then we can see the swatches of the color, we see the evolution of the collection. We actually touch the fabrics, which allows us to have a three-dimensional perspective, and that’s what creates three-dimensional looks sometimes in makeup. Once we’ve developed that final look, and we invite the designer to look at it, then we develop the palette, and we hand the palette to every makeup artist at the show. It’s a very narrow choice of colors and needless to say, they’ve all practiced with those colors in advance. The show is about the fashion designer and their clothes, and showing them in the best possible light.

What show are you most proud of?

Los Angeles Fashion Week 2007. We were doing a collection for Joseph [Domingo] the year prior, and he walked in two nights before the show in the rehearsal room. And one of our staff was doing something off-the-cuff, a look that we couldn’t do for that show for 2006, but Joseph allowed us to explore the idea and develop it for Fashion Week 2007. What it was, was the eyeless models where we covered the models’ eyes. We made them look like their skin. I mean, you couldn’t see their eyes—nothing. It was almost eerie. It was perfect; we rehearsed it for five months. That’s something I really like about him, he was open to exploring something different. In some respects, it might’ve backfired.

What do you think of the looks you see off the runway and on the women of San Francisco?

The San Francisco woman is classy, sophisticated, beautiful, well put-together, fashionable—all of those. In their yoga pants and their dresses, they still look very sophisticated, nothing over done. It’s not an ostentatious display of anything.

Do you have any makeup advice for local ladies?

They could use a little bit more makeup. Well, you know, I’m a makeup artist, so you know I like to see a bit more color. Personally, my recommendation would be more blush, more lips, but you know that’s an artist for you.

More San Francisco fashion news

Feeling Campy? End Summer with One-Day Summer Beauty Camp

Here’s a way to wind down summer, beautify for fall and sharpen your makeup skills all at once: Summer Beauty Camp from Makeup Gourmet. The one-day event taking place on Monday fits pro makeup instruction into an eight-hour crash course that covers three separate looks. [Read more...]

Eco-Beauty Recommendations from I-Spa’s Janine Giordanelli

Looking for ways to up the eco ante when it comes to your daily beauty routine? For eco-beauty tips, we checked in with San Francisco aesthetician Janine Giordanelli of I-Spa, the day spa at the InterContinental San Francisco, which is aiming to become a LEED-certified hotel this August. Read on for Giordanelli’s thoughts on eco-product lines, the benefits of opting for eco-friendly skincare and the importance of recommendations from those you trust.

What are some suggestions for eco-beauty options that can be found in your local drugstore?

Yes To Carrots C Me Smile Lip Butter, $3.69, available at Walgreens. It has so many healthy ingredients: organic carrot extract, coconut oil, jojoba-seed oil, shea butter.

Burt’s Bees Radiance Body Lotion with Royal Jelly, $8.99, available at various drugstores. This shimmering moisturizer is all-natural. Royal jelly contains essential amino acids and B vitamins, and the lotion has no chemical preservatives.

L’Oreal Bare Naturale Soft-Focus Mineral Finish, $15.25, available at various drugstores. The translucent powder absorbs oil and minimizes lines and wrinkles, giving you a flawless finish in seconds. It’s preservative-free for sensitive types, and it has a built-in brush applicator.

100 % Pure Organic Cranberry Facial Cleansing Foam from Sage Beauty, available online. This gentle facial cleansing foam washes away makeup, excess oil and other impurities without stripping or dehydrating the skin. Rather than using harsh detergents, 100% Pure cleansers are made with a mild virgin coconut cleanser. Cranberries are high in vitamins, flavanoids and fruit acids to wash away dullness. The product is also made with soothing and hydrating organic rose hydrosol and antioxidant-rich white tea. There are no synthetic chemicals, no artificial fragrances, no parabens, no petro-chemicals or any other toxins. It’s also all natural and 100 percent vegan. This cleansing foam is touted as nourishing for all skin types, but especially for skin lacking a healthy glow.

What products do you recommend at (I) Spa?

We specifically carry eco-friendly products and use them in our professional treatments. A few of the eco-beauty lines are: Phytomer, Eve Taylor and Spa Ritual.

Are these eco-friendly products more effective than their non-eco counterparts?

Absolutely, in fact, most times they are more effective than those not so eco-friendly beauty products in terms of irritation and sensitivity, as well as improving the quality of the skin overall.

What other advice do you have for women trying to add more eco-friendly beauty products to their routines?

It’s important to make sure that you get effective results from eco-friendly products. You want value and results, so you want to make sure you are getting high quality products from a trusted source. Recommendations are always a plus.

Photography courtesy of I-Spa

More San Francisco beauty

Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics: Our New Fave Foundation


We have a new favorite in the mineral makeup department: Youngblood Mineral Cosmetics.

Long story long: Back in 2005, the research I’d done for several freelance articles on chemicals in cosmetic products led to a serious skeeved-out feeling towards makeup. But I’m not really one to go au natural, so I first tried going totally organic. And sad to say, my skin went f-ing teenage crazy and quickly sent me rushing back to my trusty arsenal of chemical-laden cosmetics. Sigh.

Soon after, I tried switching things up again and became an all-out Bare Escentuals girl. I use many of the company’s products, but I’d always had this sinking feeling that the foundation was making my too-dry-here, too-oily-there skin look over-powdered and maybe a little too sparkly for daytime. In any case, I could always tell I had a fair amount of makeup on and wanted a more natural look, but I didn’t want to go back to using scary liquid-who-knows-what’s-in-this-stuff-?-foundation.

A few weeks ago, I went to JuvEssentials – Jeannie Wong’s skincare studio located next door to The Mission Statement – for the first time after winning a free brow shaping and mineral makeup session in the Mission Statement’s one-year anniversary raffle.

After making my brows look tidy, Jeannie took me to The Mission Statement, one of only two San Francisco locations to carry the Youngblood line, and we played with several of the products she sells through the co-op. I ended up buying the Pressed Mineral Foundation, which combines powder foundation and rice powder – great for controlling shine. I liked the look and feel of the product when I bought it, but with makeup, I find that I’ve got to wear it for a few weeks to tell if a) I really love it and b) my skin agrees. I’m happy to report that both A and B are true.

What’s so cool about it? Well, obviously the way a product works totally differs from person to person, but I love how weightless the foundation feels – even though it’s pressed powder. It looks much more natural than what I was using before, controls shine well and is almost invisible on my skin. It also works well as a spot concealer when used with a different brush. So I’m now a convert.

I’ll still be using my existing stash of mineral makeup (don’t get me wrong, I still like Bare Escentuals products – especially the extensive array of eye shadows), but I was really impressed with Youngblood and plan to try more of the line’s products in the future.