In 1997, Tate Holland had a vision: to create his own make-up school for artists, by artists. Son of make-up artist Bird Holland, Tate always understood the make-up industry, but never made the choice to be an artist himself. Having met and befriended several other make-up professionals at a similar cosmetic company, however, he found the perfect team to start an enterprise of his own. Each individual had their own unique talents and interests so as to fill the roles needed to found a well-rounded make-up school. By January of 1998, Make-Up Designory was born.
Twenty years later, MUD has primary campuses in both New York and Los Angeles, partner schools around the United States, and MUD Studios across the globe. Based in LA but traveling constantly, Tate Holland has maintained a hands-on approach as the company has grown. A father of two, he acts as parent to the larger MUD family as well, addressing each task with the same people-focused compassion he’s had since the very start.
Q: Growing up on set with your dad, did you ever expect to run an international makeup company?
A: Definitely not. I knew early on that I would like to have a business. I didn’t think necessarily about the cosmetics side of it at the time, but it was not unusual that people did what their dad did, union-wise. So there was some expectation that I might become a make-up artist.
Q: In drafting MUD, how did you go about connecting the education and the cosmetic branches?
A: A lot of us worked at a similar makeup company previously, and had an idea as to how this could all work together. The education was first, and then we started to identify the cosmetics we needed in order to teach properly. We’re very specific in how we teach, so we needed very specific products and we needed those products to be readily available to us. We had some trouble on consistency with our distributors, so that caused us to start getting those products manufactured especially for us. So originally just really for the school, but then it eventually grew into its own standing cosmetic line.
Q: Are any of the same products from 20 years ago still around?
A: Oh yeah, sure. The way we teach foundation and base matching is all still the same. I mean sure, formulations change, and regulations and consumer demands cause things to change, but the basic essence of what we’re trying to get that product to do doesn’t.
Q: How did you envision the future of MUD back in 1997?
A: The goal at the time, outside of needing a job, was to make a place where the artist felt comfortable. It really was about creating a space more than a business. I thought that if I created that space, the business would come along with it.
Q: Did you ever expect it to get this big? Was the goal to go international?
A: I think so. I went to school in DC and was an International Studies major, so the international piece was always part and parcel. It was always part of the plan.
Q: What do you think sets MUD apart from our competitors?
A: We definitely take this very seriously, every single day, from ownership on down. We wake up and we work, and we work like everything is dependent on it. We work really hard on our curriculum, and our teacher training, and our formulations. It’s not even doing it thinking of competition–it’s doing it just to be the best we can be, and every day challenging ourselves to be a little bit better.
Q: Do you think that mentality leaks into how the MUD grads think?
A: I think so. There’s a lot of things we do in the school that don’t have anything to do with make-up. To teach work ethic, we have guest speakers that reaffirm the ethic. Again, back to how we’re able to create that space that’s comfortable: I think that we’ve done very well. People can always come back to us, and there’s a MUD way. That MUD way isn’t really about technique; it’s about the seriousness and the work ethic.
Q: Where do you see MUD in the next 20 years?
A: I think we keep going! We’re an independent company, and we always have been. We’re not owned by anybody. There’s no investors. In this space, that’s rare. I like keeping it the way we are, growing it slowly. I think in 20 years you’ll see more MUD studios here in the United States and also worldwide. I think it’s a good compliment to the online distribution to have your own brick and mortars, but not just brick and mortars that sell a product–rather, ones that provide something you really can’t get the full experience of online, which is the training.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from the last 20 years?
A: There’s a lot. I think it was kind of cool that when we first started and I had to bring my daughter to work. That’s kind of a fun memory. She was a baby! Also seeing students, and what they’ve done. To see somebody years after they finished with MUD doing great things, whether they’re a film or a TV makeup artist, or they’re working for a cosmetic line, or they’re an entrepreneur, is completely affirming.
Q: Is there a funniest moment?
A: There’s lots of stories. It’s getting stuck in different parts of the world and having to deal with things, and the daily challenges that come up with running a company. I don’t know if they’re funny, but they might be funny later.
Q: Is there anything else that you want to include?
A: I think the important part for me is that the sentiment that we’ve had from the beginning has not changed: it’s about the people. It’s about the people that are going to the schools, it’s about the people who work here, and it’s about giving people an opportunity and a chance. It’s letting that firework go throughout the company so people feel accepted. I choose that often over anything else. My mind goes to that; it doesn’t go to things like finance or investors. It goes to the people that make the place up.