LAKEWOOD, Ohio - Stipple and dab, stipple and dab with a brush or a sponge, makeup artist Lou McClung works the tools of his trade with a fine eye, an experienced hand and the focused aura of a painter as he demonstrates his Lusso Cosmetics line of makeup.
Lusso Cosmetics is designed, manufactured and packaged in Lakewood by makeup artist, photographer, chemist and museum curator McClung. Lusso is one of the few independent makeup brands produced in this country and McClung's attention to detail is without bounds.
Lusso, which McClung started 18 years ago, includes eye shadows, liners, bronzers, powders, blush, mascara, lipsticks and glosses, and custom blended foundations. He has been designing and manufacturing the line for the past 10 years, starting with lip-glosses and within the last five years, he's been making everything in-house. Prior to that, he sold private label products that were manufactured elsewhere.
His makeup showroom, on the second floor of a 1927 school building that he renovated himself, is much more than a store. With serene gray walls and beautiful lighting, the space makes shopping an almost Zen-like experience.
McClung, a relaxed T-shirt and jeans kind of a guy, is always on hand to show his clients techniques and new products. He doesn't charge for consultations and instruction, and his makeup prices fall in line with many department store brands. Prices range from about $14 to $39.Lusso Cosmetics owner Lou McClung gives a makeup demonstration
McClung has a talent for taking a makeup trend, for example contouring kits, and scaling it down to work for everyday life.
"The reality is, there's a time and a place for contouring, but with the heavy creams involved, the look is better suited for when you're being photographed," McClung said.
He said he learns what his clients' needs are by taking the time to get to know them. Once a customer knows what she likes, she can restock her supplies via the Lusso website or by phone with free shipping if she can't make it back to the showroom.
"Makeup is an art, it takes technique and expertise, it takes skill and practice," McClung added. "People take about four seconds to form an opinion about you and your makeup is one of the first things they notice."
McClung said he finds that women really want to learn and to know that what they're doing is appropriate. They want to see what's trending and find out if it's right for them.
"There isn't a lot of money to go around, so learning to buy the right things will save you money in the long run because you won't buy things that don't work."
As for the manufacturing side of Lusso Cosmetics, McClung has a keen eye. Creating color cosmetics is not easy and the colors can range from soft and subtle to bold and serious. McClung's background as a photographer and a painter play a huge role in the spectrum of colors that end up pressed into pans and poured into pots and lipsticks.Lusso Cosmetics owner Lou McClung shows us his lab and production facility in Lakewood
His production facility looks like a cross between a science lab and a medical office. It is clean and organized.
"Lusso products aren't tested on animals and are fragrance-free. People have a misconception that 'natural' and 'preservative-free' is a good thing. If your cosmetics had no preservatives, they would have to be refrigerated and wouldn't last very long ... like food," said McClung.
"We want to be as green as possible, but we need some ingredients for safety. I can safely say that 60 percent of the ingredients in Lusso Cosmetics are found in food and most of our waxes are made from plants."
"We have a microbiology lab. It's a very important step. We have a microbiologist who handles this domain for us. We test the raw materials that come in to make sure we'll have no problems with them before we even start producing anything. Then once we make a product, we test that as well. We even make our own testing plates. We're looking for yeast, mold and bacteria. Those are the main things that can cause problems in the product."
McClung said he thinks of producing cosmetics like a chef making food. He strives to deliver not only a first-class product, but also a valuable experience.
He says that choosing a single name for each color in every product line is the most difficult part of his job. He's done well so far with names such as Dawn, Mulberry, Latte and Lotus.
What's next for Lusso?
"I like having a small business but I do want to grow it. I can't spread myself out everywhere. I'm hoping for some kind of format like QVC or HSN where I can do some TV, which I do with Fox8, demonstrating products. It's a way to reach people and to show them the makeup and how to use it properly."
When McClung isn't demonstrating, designing or pressing compacts in his two-ton powder press machine that he bought from Revlon at auction, he's the curator of the Museum of Divine Statues, a collection of religious artifacts in the closed St. Hedwig Church next door. He's been restoring statues and curating the museum for the past six years.
Lusso Cosmetics Showroom Details:
Where: 12911 Madison Ave., Lakewood
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday - Friday, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday
Links: See the Lusso website for details and shopping at lussocosmetics.com and the Lusso Cosmetics Facebook page for more.
Parties: Lusso Cosmetics will host your private makeup party for up to 12 friends. Guests receive a mini makeover. Call for information and booking.
This is the second story in a three-part series about Lou McClung, Lusso Cosmetics and the Museum of Divine Statues. See the links below.
Read part one: Lou McClung is Lakewood's own Renaissance man.
Read part three: Lou McClung created the Museum of Divine Statues after several local churches closed.
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