What Kat Von D’s scandalous departure from her eponymous makeup brand taught us about the beauty industry
I've been well-informed by Heidi Klum that in the cutthroat world of fashion, one day you're in, and the next, you're out. It's a saying that wasn't always applicable to the beauty industry. Sure, it might be riddled with its fair share of controversy, but there's no shortage of comeback stories either.
Patrick Starrr overcame accusations of cultural appropriation to become the face of Benefit Cosmetics; Tarte pulled their non-inclusive Shape Tape Foundation but sold out their new-and-improved Face Tape; and Kathleen Fuentes was fired from her own nail polish brand, KL Polish, but re-emerged with new label, Lacquer Lights. Much like the Star Wars franchise, it seems no one is ever really gone in the beauty industry. Recent events, however, is proving the opposite. And by recent events, I mean Kat Von D's abrupt exit from her makeup line, Kat Von D Beauty.
For those out of the loop, the long-running label (12 years, to be exact) is now fully owned by LMVH beauty incubator, Kendo, and has been rebranded KVD Vegan Beauty effective 16 January. The official word is that the tattooist and television personality is stepping away to devote more time to her fledgeling music career and vegan shoe label, Von D Shoes. Members of the beauty community, on the other hand, have their theories — most of which have to do with the anti-Semitic and anti-vaccination rumours surrounding Von D since 2019.
The accusations began in June when Von D posted a (now deleted) Instagram photo of her pregnant belly, and explained how she and her husband aim to raise a "vegan child, without vaccinations." Fans began boycotting her makeup brand. Their revolt wasn't helped by's Von D lack of remorse; she later advised her critics to "press the unfollow button and move the f*ck on". Angered, fans dug up past instances of her problematic behaviour, including the time she tried to name a lipstick Selektion, which refers to the Nazi death camp practice of 'selecting' people to be executed. It was also brought to light that she once dated a known Neo-Nazi, Jesse James, a revelation worsened by the fact that her current husband has a swastika tattoo on his neck.
Von D later released a video clarifying that she is neither a Neo-Nazi or anti-vaxxer. The Internet remained unconvinced — some theorised that her video was a ploy to counteract boycott-related drops in sales. Was this the final nail in the coffin of Von D's likability? Beauty influencers have bounced back from all manner of allegations, ranging from racism (Jeffree Star) to predatory behaviour (James Charles), but in a time when transparency and authenticity are paramount, many feel Von D made the most fatal mistake of them all: being deceptive, with the hopes of recovery from a non-apology.
It's hardly the first time an influencer's career has imploded after disingenuity. Laura Lee has yet to bounce back from her notorious apology video where she shed crocodile tears; Too-Faced co-founder, Dani California, was fired for making transphobic comments about beauty guru, Nikkie De Jager, and lying about it; while Jaclyn Hill is still scrambling to regain the trust of her consumers after a disastrous lipstick launch from which she assigned blame to everyone but herself. If it sounds like the distinction between the personal and professional lives of beauty personalities are being blurred, it's because they are.
Consumers are turned off by big, faceless corporations and transactional affairs conducted behind a screen without meaning nor context. The cold market has fostered a new desire within consumers — they want to connect with the brands they're buying from. It's not good enough for companies to offer beautiful makeup and skincare that work. Instead, they need to exhibit the same values and beliefs their users live by if they hope to keep them loyal, whether that's eco-conscience, natural beauty, or diversity.
This is why it's tricky when brand founders display questionable conduct in opposition to the messaging of the brand they founded. If consumers can't buy into your values, they won't buy your products. No matter how good they are, because that is the beauty (or tragedy) of an overssaturated market. The next big thing is just around the corner. Everyone, and by extension, every formidable formulation, feels replaceable. Social media has enabled many small brands to gain market share from conglomorates, but that magic potion can also be a poison which lead brands to a darker fate should their misstep be too grave to recover. Unfortunately, Von D has had to walk the plank.
Cancel culture has a huge role here too, where customers turn their back on their once favourite brands in an attempt to shame them into action. Businesses can choose to gloss over all boo-boos and move on (ZPalette), or remove the source of toxicity, root and stem (Lime Crime, Too Faced).
In the end, it all boils down to you, the consumer. You hold the purse strings, so what do you think? Does a beauty founder's personal affairs affect your decision to purchase their product? Vote below.