Travel Diary: Celebrity Makeup Artist Troy Surratt in Japan
Troy Surratt: You may not know him by name, but you’ve certainly seen the famous faces he’s painted a million times over (Jennifer Lopez, Charlize Theron, Adele). With this bravado comes adroit skill and eons of insider’s knowledge. So when the celebrity makeup artist decided to introduce his own namesake line, Surratt, in 2013, he knew exactly where he wanted to produce it—Japan.
“In my experience and research, traveling the world over and studying the different beauty markets, visiting labs and manufacturers, I find that the attention to detail and the quality in Japan is superior to other places,” he explains.
That decision means he travels to Japan at least four times a year, developing new products as well as conducting further research (in addition to squeezing in time for shopping and delicious meals, of course). "Many of my best ideas come to me on the airplane," he says. "A flight means quiet, uninterrupted downtime, which allows me to generate creative ideas and find solutions to any problems I might be having."
He spoke exclusively with T+L about his most recent trip to Tokyo, after which he also made quick stops in Osaka and Kyoto.
"In Tokyo, I always stay in a business hotel called Tokyu Stay—it’s not the cushiest or the most glamorous, but it’s in the heart of Aoyama, which has so much going on. I’m terrible with directions, but Aoyama sort of feels like my own neighborhood. It’s easy to get around and has all of my favorite places."
"In Shinjuku Station, there’s an actual kiosk for Ladurée macaroons and pastries. To the right is a glacé stand (which they don’t even have in Paris) that serves different flavors like violet glacé, rose glacé, and gjanduja, which is sprinkled with broken macaroon cookies. It’s magical."
"This coaster is from brunch at a café called Lotus in Aoyama. All of the servers are dressed like American waitresses—or what they think American waitresses from a Mel’s Diner would wear. The saying just hit the nail on the head for how we were feeling that day."
"I bought these soaps in Kyoto at a makeup and skincare store. They sell rice powder, oil blotting powder, and kabuki brushes, but it’s more of a tourist trap than an actual makeup store. These soaps are suspended in some kind of fluid. It remains jelly-like when you use it to cleanse the face, which is really unique."
"These are—believe it or not—Hello Kitty contact lenses. I was in the Harajuku district when I discovered them. They’re called circle lenses; the Japanese use them to make their pupils appear larger, which makes the eyes look bigger. It’s a strange beauty phenomenon."
"My eye—with the Hello Kitty contact lens! I love all things Hello Kitty & Friends. There is a charm about Sanrio that really appeals to my 13-year-old girl sensibility."
"I’m not the biggest seafood fan, which makes eating in Tokyo a bit of a challenge. I grew up in the landlocked state of Kansas, so the only fish that I ate growing up was from a lake or a river, which did not taste great. I tend to order really basic sushi rolls, like tuna or yellowtail. I start to get nervous when more exotic plates of food come out."
"Part of doing business in Japan is attending after-work dinners, so I have been to many, many late-night meals. That said, I usually have someone guide me through the full-blown sushi experience—so that I understand exactly what I’m eating."
"Isetan is Tokyo’s premier department store, located in Shinjuku. I took this photo of the line at the entrance; people stand there for hours before they open the doors at 11 o’clock. Inside, there was another line of people waiting to see a new handbag. The saleswomen wore white gloves, so they wouldn’t dirty the purse, and everyone waited in a single file to get a look it."
"These potato sticks are one of my favorite things! They are literally dehydrated French fries and are salty and crunchy and delicious. Calbee is famous for their potato snacks—they’re like the Frito-Lay of Tokyo."
"This was a whole graffiti window at the Agnes B. boutique in Aoyama. I love street art—it’s always an inspiration, especially for packaging."
"The 3rd Burger in Aoyama is one of my favorite places when I’m in town for a long period of time and just need a delicious a cheeseburger."
"This is a 'hot pot' at a restaurant in Shinagawa. It’s like Japanese fondue, with an assortment of tofu, pumpkins, and bok choy that are dipped in hot sauce."