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Review and Q&A with Too Cool For School’s Creative Director, Young Kim

Mable Yiu

I recently heard about Too Cool For School (TCFS), a New York City-based beauty brand, around the time they were featured as the exclusive skincare and makeup brand for Libertine’s Fall/Winter 2016 fashion show. Makeup artist Robert Greene was behind the beauty look, which focused on bold graphic eyes and natural lips (seen above).

What caught my attention about TCFS was first, the fun design and packaging of the “Dinoplatz” line, and second, how easy and multi-purpose their products were. For example, the tinted Lip Balm, made with rosehip, argan, and evening primrose oils, doubles as a jelly cheek stain; while the CC concealer contains both CC cream (includes SPF protection!) and concealer in one convenient tube. Another favorite would be the Escalator Mascara, with which you are able to adjust the brush wand size depending on your preference for longer or fuller lashes.

To learn more about the line, see my interview with TCFS's Creative Director Young Kim, where I asked about the inspiration behind the line and the question we were all thinking: Why dinosaurs?

How did you end up at TCFS? What is the story behind it?

I was just a junior designer at Crosspoint - a branding and design studio in Seoul when the founders of TCFS approached us to work on their cosmetic retail brand ‘Todacosa’ in 1997. It was a very successful collaboration and Todacosa did very well. By the time the owners decided to change direction, I had moved to New York to start Crosspoint New York, Inc, and TCFS was my first major project with my new company. Naturally our long relationship greatly benefitted the collaboration, and being in New York helped us to build the brand in a creative way. Ever since TCFS launched in Korea in 2009, my studio has been in charge of its creative branding direction and packaging design.

The Dinoplatz line is my absolute favorite in terms of packaging - there's nothing like it! Why dinosaurs taking over the city? Can you tell me about the process you went through and where you drew inspiration from?

Haha, thank you so much! Dinoplatz has been a terrible amount of fun.

Each packaging is designed to relate to the product it contains. The 'Escalator Mascara' inside the Empire State Building has a telescoping function, it lengthens and shortens for different cosmetic effects, so we designed the packaging with that function in mind. 'Shadow on Flatiron' eye shadow is placed inside a shadowed Flatiron building. Sometimes the product’s unique feature came first, and sometimes the packaging ideas came first and then I would pick the product to fit in it. For example, I wanted to have the Flatiron building in Dinoplatz, so I picked the smallest product - a cream eye shadow tube - and named it ‘(eye) shadow on flatiron’ and the illustration depicted a dino drawing his shadow on the Flatiron building. More artwork becomes uncovered as the package is opened. This further enhances the user experience, as they can discover more little bits of each story.

People have been asking me ‘why dinos?’ and my answer is ‘why not?’ The dinosaurs could represent several things… outsiders, escapists, saunterers, pacifists, hooligans, artists. [Perhaps] New Yorkers who are suffering from high rent! The untold backstory of the dinos is they somehow escaped earth millions of years ago, and have now returned as vegetarians and are simply and peaceably rediscovering the urban environment of New York City, and maybe causing a little trouble, too. Users/viewers might see other stories at play, so we didn't share much of the backstory, but just let each package tell its own little story through the person holding it. Also the artist’s architecture background influenced a lot of the theme of the Dinoplatz collection.

Speaking of the artist that you worked with on this line, I heard that you were friends with him (Hatori Sando) beforehand. How did you two meet, and how did that collaboration come about? 

We met in Seoul in 2007 through a common friend. At the time was residing in Korea, having just returned from a personal Hawaii stay and Germany residency. I moved to New York in 2008 and he also came back to New York, where he used to work as an architect.

TCFS always looks for something new and different, so I always had to look out for cool inspirations. The urban dino motif was chosen after I saw a white dinosaur figurine at Jee Hoon Stark’s (aka Hatori Sando) studio. It was in a basement studio in the East Village. I had also recently watched a documentary about dinosaurs which, long ago, lived in the area now known as New Jersey. The dinosaurs seemed to be just that, as nothing quite like it had been done before in cosmetics. It also had a kind of unisex appeal, not so girl-centered, which we liked. So I invited the artist and the dinos when I was asked to develop a new makeup range by the owners of the brand.

Are there any other upcoming collaborations TCFS is working on that we should be on the lookout for?

Yes, we’re really excited about a new collaboration we’re doing with Danny Scales, a Brooklyn based musician and photographer. I used his skull illustrations for the ZA collection which is TCFS’s cleansing line. We’re hoping to surprise everyone once again!


For next time, I’m eyeing their popular egg cream mask, from their “Egg” line… 

TCFS is now available at Sephora

By Mable Yiu


Photos courtesy of Too Cool For School.