The relationship between makeup artists and their brushes is deeply personal—romantic, even. It’s the magical tool they use to translate their artistic vision to the canvas in front of them. For the rest of us, makeup brushes are that thing you clean sometimes when you can remember. Unlike artists, we don’t often think about our makeup brushes. We have them, we abuse them, we get rid of them when they fray or fail.
But Mario Dedivanovic—affectionally known to the internet as @MakeupbyMario—wants to change all that. On December 26th, the artist is releasing a collaboration with Sephora on a set of 13 stunning makeup brushes. Made with synthetic hair, the brushes were a labor of love for Dedivanovic, who wanted to create sturdy, effective, and luxurious brushes for us mortals to use every single day.
Related article: A New Makeup By Mario X KKW Beauty Collection Is Coming
“I actually didn’t want to do any collabs for 2019. I wanted to take a break because my next chapter in 2020 is going to be big for me. But then 2019 came around and I got incredible offers from massive brands to do massive collabs and I just said no, no, no,” Dedivanovic recalls to BAZAAR.com. “When this came along—sometimes it takes me months to answer—but I said yes instantly without even knowing what it was. I am indebted to Sephora forever because it’s the place that I discovered my purpose in life at that time. I wouldn’t be here today had I not discovered Sephora.”
Nearly 20 years ago, before he became Kim Kardashian West‘s loyal makeup artist, a young Dedivanovic walked into a Sephora in New York City looking for a job. He started out as a greeter and also worked in fragrance sales. “It was there that I discovered my talent and something I could work toward—a dream. I never had a dream before that,” he says.
Nearly two decades later, Dedivanovic jumped at the opportunity to design a set of brushes for Sephora. At his sold-out Masterclass events, Dedivanovic can’t pick up a single tool during a live tutorial without a fan screaming out at him on stage, wondering the exact brand name and brush. The biggest challenge, however, was manufacturing a synthetic brush when he prefers handmade, artisanal Japanese brushes crafted with real hair.
“Why I didn’t love synthetic bristles before, aside from foundation and concealer, is because they’re so dense. When you pick up product with a dense brush, it applies heavily upon initial application, not evenly, that’s the main problem,” he says. “So we worked on the density and removed a ton of hairs.” Dedivanovic also made sure the weight was substantial, but not too heavy, to give the user the perfect level of control. The brushes are also slightly shorter and thicker than others on the market. The density, weight, shape, size, hand feel—it all had to be just right. The brassy gold color–semi-matte with a glow when the light hits it just right—was inspired by a sconce in his living room. For Dedivanovic, inspiration is everywhere.
Many of the brushes in the collection were in fact inspired by ones he owned in his kit for years. “My kit was stolen three year ago. All those brushes…that was really the devastating part. I felt like I lost someone. It wasn’t for the makeup. It was really because of the brushes,” he says. Picking up one of the collection’s new contour brushes, Dedivanovic recalls how a brush he once owned had developed natural tapering at the tip because of the way he repeatedly used it. This new tapered contour brush was designed in its honor.
But just because a brush says it’s for contour doesn’t mean it can never mingle with highlighter, setting powder, or blush. Indeed, the makeup artist says that’s one of the two biggest mistakes we’re all making with our brushes. “People don’t use their brushes to the full capacity. All these brushes have way more than one use. This contour brush, this can be used for blush as well for powder detail, for buffing out highlight, for highlighter, for blending the whole entire face,” he says. “When I started to create the brush collection, I dissected what I do and why. All the brushes I use have way more than one purpose.”
The other common mistake? “Not taking care of their brushes, that’s number one,” he says. “What people do with their sponges, my sisters do it. When I open my sisters’ bags I am mortified. But not really because I am the same way. For some reason we don’t take care of our own tools like we do for others.”
Makeup artists clean their work tools every single day, after every application. Most of us don’t have that luxury. Dedivanovic advises to clean your brushes with baby shampoo at least once a month. A good set of brushes, he says, should last years. “Makeup is disposable. You use it and throw it out and you buy new ones. You don’t throw out your brushes that often. At least, you shouldn’t because you should have quality ones,” he adds. “If you take care of these, if you put the love into them and take care of them, they should last you for years.”
Related article: Celebrity Beauty Lines You Need To Know
Dedivanovic has been quietly working on his own makeup company for the last four years, and 2020 will be the year it’s all revealed. “I planted the seeds 19 years ago, the dream, the manifestation. And I knew that I had to work for it. I knew it wasn’t going to come easy. I had to do it myself and build it from the ground up with my values, beliefs, and vision,” he says. “It’s been a hell of a process and it’s hard, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life career-wise. It’s happening on my 20th anniversary which will be late next year.”
But in a sea of new beauty launches, brands, and collaborations with celebrities and influencers, we asked Dedivanovic if he thinks there’s still room for innovation. “People that work in product development are generally not artists with many years of experience,” he says with a smile. “When you put a really brilliant product developer together with a really brilliant artist, magic happens.” As if we had any doubt that a Makeup by Mario brand would be anything less than magical.
The Makeup by Mario x Sephora brush collection is available in three versions—Complexion ($99), Eye ($69), and Master Brush Set ($175)—beginning December 26th exclusively at Sephora ION, on sephora.sg and via the Sephora Sinagpore App.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.