Known for projecting their extra ordinary assignments in Bollywood, Fat Mu Pro Make-up Academy has made a niche in beauty industry with movies like Dil Dhadakne Do and Slumdog Millionaire.
Following her father’s advice of ‘just do it and stop talking about it, women entrepreneur duo Virginia Holmes and Natasha Nischol started Fat Mu Pro Make-up Academy in Mumbai. Aiming to train Indian make-up artists in professional make-up courses of international standards sans traveling to London or the USA, the academy offers technically advance courses.
“We wanted to bring our experience and education to aspiring artists, as no one was doing a course like this in India,” said Holmes in an exclusive interaction with WI Bureau.
Started with small workshops in 2007, the duo opened its first Fat Mu Pro Make-Up Academy in 2010 with 12 students. Five years down the line, the well appreciated courses offered by Fat Mu academy had received students from Europe, Africa, Asia, Mexico, Nigeria, Mauritius, London, Germany, Austria, Italy, Moscow, The Middle East, as well as all across India and Nepal.
“These overseas students come to India because of the affordability of the quality education here compared to Europe, which is very expensive. A 5 day London course is approximately the same as our 8 week course. In our eight weeks, we are focusing on strengthening the basics or the foundation knowledge of the students,” informed she.
In an exclusive conversation with WI Bureau, Holmes unveils more about her venture, expansion plans and future endeavours:
Tell us about Fat Mu.
Fat Mu is not a parlor. We paint faces and through make-up we give a face to your imagination. We only specialise in make-up, but with some assignments, we also design hair. We offer professional and non professional courses/workshops. Our main professional course is of eight weeks in duration, which includes glamour (Hollywood and Bollywood) fashion, character make-up and an intro to airbrushing. The key focus is on creating artists, who think and not just open a box and ‘do’ make-ups. We also have a three weeks Beauty/Bridal/Glamour evening course designed for anybody, who doesn’t have time in the day to study or possibly enough financial resources to do the full 8 week course. We have one week workshop also for non professional enthusiastic women, who just love make-up and want to improve their own skills. Finally, we also hold workshops for women for two hours everyday.
These are fun, informative, hands-on sessions from The Art of Flawless Skin to the The Art of the Smokey Eye to latest trends and fashions. Next month, we are running what’s in Vogue! In this, we follow the trends of make-up projected from New York, London, Milan, Paris fashion weeks. We track the trend and design a workshop accordingly to educate every day Indian women.
We have a fabulous team of make-up artists all trained by me and Natasha. We encourage and celebrate every artist as an individual, as no artist is ever the same. So in each class, we do a roster every month like who is teaching what, giving the students an experience of different artists etc. We try to take our students to as many events, shows, and jobs for practical experience. We have artists handling many different projects from theatre to fashion to TVCs to film and to makeovers. Last year, we did Lakmé Fashion Week. Our motto is Passion, potential and perfection.
What is the enrollment and fee structure?
In every batch, we have 12 to 20 students and we charge Rs 1.30 lakh for our eight week course, which is Rs 42,000 for three weeks course, Rs 10,000 for one week course, and Rs 1,800 for our two hour workshop.
There is no education qualification criteria for enrollment of students as such - they should be 18+ in age, with enthusiasm. An 80 year old can also come and learn make-up here, learning never stops and beauty never ages. We look for students with passion and a hard working approach.
After these courses, we ensure that the girls become confident in starting work immediately. Hence, soon after courses, we help to place people at the right job opportunity with excellent contacts. We have developed in the make-up community and industry-like references of old students. Thus, while ensuring quality education we share our knowledge, experience, new products and techniques with students. So far, we have trained around 500+ students in the last five years.
What is a ratio of cosmetic and Ayurvedic products in your make-up?
Currently, it’s a more of man-made make-up, but we are trying to obtain and search for products, which are green and eco friendly for people to use. We are always looking for organic and sustainable product manufacturers. We find out companies which are ethically sound, have not tested their products on animals and offering vegetarian products, but it’s not easy to find. Generally, it’s a 90:10 ratio of cosmetic and Ayurvedic products in our professional make-ups.
How many academies you have presently?
Currently, we have only one academy in Mumbai and we are flirting with the idea of having more. We have been watching lot of other companies with vast expansion spree losing focus on quality and shutting down, so Natasha and me being quality conscious, have decided to not to move forward unless we have the plan in place. We have a perfectionist approach, where people will trust paying us for quality.
With running an academy, how are you managing the other projects?
Fat Mu, as a company, is an academy and has an agency. The agency covers Film projects, Theatre jobs, TVCs, Events, Bridals and Workshops. It’s essentially a make-up consultancy, where we do make-up according to the different needs of the people. There is always something new with make-up, and so we have to be top of our game and ready for anything.
It has taken us 9 years to form a team of skilled people to manage our outdoor events and projects. Natasha and I used to take classes and we have gradually employed people and trained them to teach up to our Fat Mu standard. We have a superb team and are extremely proud of our Fat Mu community.
What is your view of the make-up industry?
It’s a massive industry in India and there is a huge demand for good working artists! It’s a very tough industry to be in. You have to be tough to succeed, but there is enough room for anybody who wants to join in.
Tell us about your make-up in Bollywood films.
When designing the make-up for any film, we always read the script. We have to break it down as a designer oversees every character’s look. It’s like creative project management. These projects last from a month to uptill three months and above. For films, it generally means working under high pressure. We have worked on many film projects like Slumdog Millionare, Margarita with a Straw, Dil Dhadakne Do amongst others. Slumdog Millionare is our most famous film.
How did you start your career in the make-up industry?
In London, I completed my training 15 years ago, and started working with films. Natasha also did her training 15 years ago. We had strangely parallel lives. We met in India, she was in London, and I was here. We were friends and in 2004 we started working together.
We had the same passion of working on film sets and that’s all we wanted to do. Then after working for few years, we realized that we could do something else with our skills. We wanted to start a make-up company offering services and education. Initially, Natasha and I started doing everything from answering phones to handling accounts to teaching. We have worked really hard to reach this point.
How has your journey been so far in the make-up industry?
The journey has been very satisfying. We have done things in our own way, we have picked our projects carefully. We have never been reliant on one actor or actress. We established ourselves slowly, but properly at our own pace. It’s been slower process of development and reward, as we are happy with the quality that we have created. People have started understanding that Fat Mu are innovators in education and make-up design, and always come up with something new in the market. People have been appreciating us for our work and the way we work and think.
What are your future expansion plans?
Currently, we are thinking on a lot of ideas. We had laid down our future expansion plans in the year 2006 - the first of it was services, academy and products. So now, it has taken time to fulfill with our plan of services academy. We are looking at the digital space for education as well as thinking about branching out to a couple of Indian cities. Natasha and I want to see Fat Mu really out in other markets and when you think of make-up, people should think Fat Mu!
What is your yearly target of skill development?
Yearly, we are planning to skill 250+ students and in five years, we are planning to skill at least 1,000 students.
How do you do promotion and marketing?
We advertise online and through our website for marketing and advertising. Much of our marketing is done by word of mouth and we rely heavily on that.Following her father’s advice of ‘just do it and stop talking about it, women entrepreneur duo Virginia Holmes and Natasha Nischol started Fat Mu Pro Make-up Academy in Mumbai. Aiming to train Indian make-up artists in professional make-up courses of international standards sans traveling to London or the USA, the academy offers technically advance courses.