Chester Higgins Jr. | The New York Times
David Klasfeld, founder of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, in his New York shop
NEW YORK — “Venus’ flytraps are sort of my spirit animal,” David Klasfeld said, referring to the
lusty pink-and-green plant tattoos curling around his bicep.
“There’s a line from
Little Shop of Horrors: ‘They say the meek shall inherit,’ and for some reason people are
always telling me how humble I am. But I do know what I’m doing, and if anything I’m trying to be
Klasfeld — who is as slight and sinewy as the sleepwalker Cesare (tattooed on his shoulder) from
the 1920 film
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — is a makeup artist and the CEO, creative director and
founder of Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics.
It is best-known for Lip Tar, a cult favorite among cutting-edge makeup enthusiasts. The company
is named after Klasfeld’s obsessive-compulsive disorder, diagnosed when he was 14.
“I had 42 shampoos and conditioners because I could never use the same ones twice in a week, so
I could go six weeks without using the same combination,” said Klasfeld, now 35. “I didn’t name the
The line also has the distinction of being completely vegan and “cruelty-free.” People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals honored the line with a trailblazer award, which is framed on the wall
of Klasfeld’s store and headquarters.
He was sitting there recently in a cramped back space, while a team of five worked on computers
and mixed nocturnal shades of scarlet in paper cups. He frequently invites this crew to his
apartment to watch movies for inspiration.
Blade Runner and
Prometheus were significant influences for a Sci-Fi Lullabies collection, released this
spring, he said.
Growing up in Fort Lee, N.J., Klasfeld became consumed by cosmetics at a young age.
“One of my earliest memories was being at a friend’s sixth birthday party, and she got a Barbie
head — the kind you could paint the makeup on — and as soon as she unwrapped it, I grabbed it and
locked myself in the bathroom with it because I wanted it so badly,” he said.
In high school, he quietly pored over
Allure magazine in the back of the cafeteria and became the head of the theater makeup
He went on to major in film at the State University of New York at Purchase, taking a job as a
color consultant at the Body Shop, a pioneer in the cruelty-free cosmetics market. In 2004,
Klasfeld struck out on his own, mixing two vegan lip balms in his kitchen — naming one Tarred and
one Feathered — and selling them online and at makeup stores.
The company now has almost 300 products, including concealers and nail lacquers, which are sold
at 240 North American Sephora stores.
Humane animal treatment may be the brand’s mission statement, but counting rituals play a role
in the brand’s strategy. “
What’s been amazing about the company is turning what’s viewed as a negative into a positive,”
said Klasfeld of obsessive-compulsive disorder. “Coordinating and matched sets are definitely
things that are born out of an OCD mind.”