09/16/1991 at 01:00 AM EDT
THE NEW M.A.C. MAKEUP STORE IN MANHATTAN'S GREENWICH Village is closed on this particular day, but two young women are knocking desperately on the door anyway. "Let them in," says the firm's Toronto-based founder, Frank Toskan, 39, who happens to be visiting. "They may have come a long way."
Quite possibly. Since the shop opened in June, women have been making pilgrimages to survey the leading-edge colors that have become the professional makeup artist's worst-kept secret. Toskan's clientele is so hip that M.A.C. (short for Make-Up Art Cosmetics) may as well stand for Models and Celebrities. Madonna
performs in Russian Red lipstick, which Toskan created for her Blond Ambition tour. When Princess Diana was photographed in M.A.C. cosmetics for a portrait now hanging in London's National Portrait Gallery, she so liked the Taupe Matte eye shadow that the makeup artist who worked with her told her to take it home. And some models who are paid handsomely to promote other companies' cosmetics reportedly wear M.A.C. off-duty.
Di's eye shadow got its start, in effect, in Toskan's Toronto kitchen. A former makeup artist, he couldn't find cosmetics he liked and decided to create some himself, at home on the range. "I read a couple of chemistry books," he says. "It was sort of like cooking."
That was in 1985. Now he supervises a staff of 80, including his parents, Sylvia and Guido, who oversee production; sister Julie, M.A.C.'s distribution director; and her husband, Vic Casale, chief chemist. "We're an Italian family, and we support each other," says Toskan, who dines every Sunday at his parents' suburban home.
The rest of the time he stays close to work, living in an apartment above his Toronto offices. "Other companies have meetings in boardrooms before deciding to make something new. I can run right into the lab."
Toskan hopes to put M.A.C, which retails for $9 (lip and eye pencils) through $18 (face powder), in 80 U.S. stores by next year. (It is currently available at Henri Bendel and select Nordstroms on the West Coast.) Meanwhile the news travels by word of lipstick. Last month, as top model Naomi Campbell
was being made up for a catalog cover, she asked makeup artist Lydia Snyder to try a new foundation that Campbell had brought with her. "We both opened our bags," says Snyder. "They were both bulging with M.A.C."