The Rise and Rebirth of Albert Kurniawan’s Teviant

Here’s how an Indonesian-owned beauty brand that’s made and produced in Italy became a Filipino cult favorite.
Reading Time: 14 minutes

Perhaps every beauty enthusiast knows the nuances of Korean beauty, French beauty, Japanese beauty, and even our very own Filipino beauty, but Italian beauty doesn’t often ring a bell. However, insiders know that Italy is the secret home base of beauty, where several of the world’s best brands are manufactured. If you look closely at the back of many cult beauty products, especially bases, blushes, and eye shadows, you’ll see a lot of them were made in Italy. The country has a long history of quality, style, and innovation, as seen in its art and architecture. Until today, “made in Italy” signals high-quality craftmanship in fashion, design, food, and, yes, cosmetics. According to Cosmetica Italia, Italian companies are already producing 55 percent of the makeup consumed globally. 

“What Vegas is to casinos, Bergamo and the Lombardi region is to contract manufacturers in cosmetics,” says Alexis Androulakis of the Tik Tok-famous Lipstick Lesbians when she attended the Cosmoprof Worldwide Bologna, one of the most renowned trade events for cosmetics in the world. In fact, in a lot of her TikToks, she blindly tests products and guesses where they are manufactured based on their performance, and often, if it’s a high-quality item, she guesses (correctly) that it’s made in Italy. With an incredible commitment to quality, attention to detail, and obsessive perfectionism, Italian artisans and manufacturers have spent years mastering powders and pigments in these factories, and beauty brands around the world are only too happy to be their partners

Even before the boom of Asian beauty, years before the pandemic, veteran celebrity makeup artist Albert Kurniawan had already brought the Italian expertise and infused it into a brand for Filipinos.

Exports have been driving the growth of the cosmetics industry in the country, which is projected to exceed 16 billion euros in 2024. Two billion of that turnover is just from contract, third-party manufacturing, and is expected to grow to 7.5 percent by the end of the year. And while the U.S., France and Germany are currently the biggest exporters, Italy is looking towards Asia to fuel even more growth.

But even before the boom of Asian beauty, years before the pandemic, veteran celebrity makeup artist Albert Kurniawan had already brought the Italian expertise and infused it into a brand for Filipinos—and hopefully, anyone who wants the highest quality in cosmetics in their makeup kit. It’s just one of the many surprising things about Teviant.

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From brides to celebrities: Albert Kurniawan’s career

Before the birth of his brand, and even before he was a makeup artist to the Filipina ‘It girls’, Albert Kurniawan was already a fan of beauty. Growing up in Indonesia, the women in his family were always impeccably put together, especially his mother. “Being a woman is so hard!” he used to think, shocked when he would come upon his mom first thing in the morning, already sporting a coiffed, teased hairdo and a beautifully, flawlessly made-up face.

Eventually, he realized not everybody had routines as rigorous as his mother’s, and he would look at other women and slowly imagine how different they would look with makeup like hers. What if she wore this kind of lipstick? What if she added a little more eye shadow, in a different color today? What if her eyebrows were a bit bolder? “That’s how I fell in love with makeup,” he says ruefully, remembering his daydreams about how ladies would and could look with different colors and details.

But it would take a few more years before he would find himself in the Philippines. When he moved to Singapore to study fine arts and then interior and fashion design, he met Filipino teachers, friends, and neighbors and fell in love with Pinoy culture. When there was an opportunity to go to the Philippines for an internship, he jumped at the chance, took a few months to be an apprentice under makeup artist Patrick Rosas, and then eventually decided to do freelance.

A long-time beauty fanatic, Albert Kurniawan’s passion and dedication to his craft transcends
through his work as a makeup artist and CEO of his own brand.

As he was getting his start in bridal, he noticed that everyone was doing the “no makeup” makeup look for their weddings. But inspired by the strong eyes of his equally strong mother, he pioneered a “soft glam” look with a bolder eye. Instead of just soft and subdued, he started using tools that seemed outrageous at the time for a bridal look—strong eyeliner, false lashes, eyelid tape, and even colored contact lenses for some. Instead of offering brides a conventional pretty look, Kurniawan gave them the chance to be a little bit more stunning and sensational on their unforgettable day. His chutzpah and artistry became his signature, and brides flocked to him.

This unique style also caught the attention of many celebrities, who loved his different, dramatic flourish. “Heart [Evangelista] opened a lot of doors for me,” he remarks about his close friend and arguably his most famous client. He was booked to do a simple retouch for her, but she ended up falling in love with his style and they ended up working together many years. Eventually, he worked on several celebrities, like Megan Young, Kim Chiu, Kylie Versoza, Toni Gonzaga, Jodi Sta. Maria, Janella Salvador, and Kathryn Bernardo, mostly from word of mouth. “They would ask, ‘Hey, who did your makeup?’ to each other, and then they’d call me,” he recalls.  “And the rest is history.”

Or so he thought.

A sign from the universe: the birth of Teviant

From booking brides and celebrities to working with some of the global makeup brands here in the Philippines, Kurniawan’s career was thriving. “It wasn’t on my [bucket] list to have my own brand at the time,” he admits. But a few years in, he found himself feeling a bit burned out over a missed career opportunity, and when he vacationed in Milan to get over the sting, he randomly ran into an acquaintance from the beauty industry. Knowing Albert’s skill, she told him about all the factories in Italy producing makeup for private labels. “Why don’t you make your own makeup brand?” she said, offering to help find opportunities and set up meetings with possible manufacturers.

He took it as a sign from the universe and decided to go for it. As he was getting started, Kylie Cosmetics launched in 2016, starting with her incredibly popular lip kits. The whole industry felt a shift in the way beauty was sold and marketed. Brands realized the power and popularity of virality, social media personalities, and branding. More than just colors, the products sold a lifestyle, a vibe that one could post about on their Instagram. Kurniawan was fascinated, but as it took off, he knew he could gather learnings and observations while he was still in the R&D process.

He had never thought about it before—initially, his goal was to get international recognition as a makeup artist. But he knew that in his work, he had already been playing with thousands of brands and products. Whenever he used something, he would nonchalantly note what he liked, but what was missing or could be improved about the formulations or colors. “I definitely know what is best and what I’m looking for,” he realized, and he had a chance to make his dream products right in the global epicenter of high-quality beauty. 

Soon after, local brands started launching in rapid succession, from Vice Cosmetics and BLK Cosmetics with showbiz superstars behind them, to Sunnies Face inspired by Glossier’s cool girl aesthetic. The local marketplace was suddenly flooded with punchy, pop colors, and millennial pinks and pastels, with the brands quickly releasing items to hop on trends, fueling demand by limiting volumes, and optimizing branding and packaging to be social media-friendly. 

What gives Italian-made cosmetics their pedigree is their painstaking dedication to detail. The whole process would take at least—at least!—one year.

Meanwhile, Albert was still elbow-deep in preparation. Turns out, what gives Italian-made cosmetics their pedigree is their painstaking dedication to detail. The whole process would take at least—at least!—one year. From choosing formulations and packaging during R&D and conceptualization, they have to do a range of tests: ingredient options, color testing, and stability tests on shelves (which is at least three months), not to mention the actual production and shipping. This timeline assumes everything is approved right away, but Albert himself is also fastidious. While his manufacturing partners had years of expertise, his background and experience allowed him to give even more input. Not to mention he had invested his life savings, and was determined to create the best products he could. “I really have to believe in the products,” he emphasized. Despite dealing with pressure and anxiety from new local brands, he didn’t let buzz or virality affect him. He continued to pour his focus on quality.

The factories in Italy were shocked that it was Albert showing up to deal with them directly, and was completely hands-on. “I can see the difference between the shades,” he says. “I would ask, ‘Can you add a little bit of yellow powder?’ They’d be all shocked. ‘You know pigments?’” Of course, he does. He has a fine arts background after all. 

Meticulous in his work, the Teviant CEO doesn’t stop until he thinks a product is really ready and up to standards—yes, even if it takes years.

In 2018, he finally unveiled Teviant, named after his mother Tevianty. It was the culmination of three years of work with his factories in Italy, as well as his 10th year as a makeup artist in the Philippines. Instead of launching lipsticks (just as the other local brands did), he started with a full range of essential products for the eyes: eyebrow products (a gel, powder duo, and tint), mascara, eyeliners, false lashes, and even tools such as an eyelash curler, brow tweezer, and false lashes applicator. It made sense; after all, people already knew him for his signature eye makeup looks.

The collection looked and felt like a high-end beauty brand, with its elegant and distinct gold packaging, but it was Albert’s expertise as a makeup artist that really shone through. The shades were carefully blended and made with all kinds of Filipinas in mind, from the porcelain-skinned chinitas to the dark-haired morenas. His eyebrow powders come as a duo because he usually uses two shades in a palette to add dimension (since light bounces off the outer brow more so eyebrows tend to look cut off in photos). The Mon Cheri Mascara has two ends, a small spoolie for easy application to the base of the lashes, and a bigger one to help curl them up without weighing them down. The lash applicator, brow tweezers, and eyelash curlers were designed in France, and made with medical-grade materials by a manufacturer of surgical tools so that they will last users a long time. “I want to show the basics of what is really standard for me,” he says.

The eyeshadows with Heart were only the beginning, and he eventually launched more collaborations, from the Lip Spell line with empowered ladies (led by Miss Universe 2015 Pia Wurtzbach and fellow makeup artist Anthea Bueno) to the Teviant Artist Collection of cheek palettes with makeup artists Jelly Eugenio and Mark Qua.

“Then pandemic happened, and it changed,” Kurniawan says.

Reinventing Teviant

As with the rest of the world, Albert found himself in shock when everything had to shut down in 2020. Teviant, in particular, experienced issues as their inventory was coming from Italy, which was one of the first hotbeds of COVID-19. He had to wait months before his shipment was released, and by then, everyone was desperately trying to survive. Makeup was the least of everyone’s priorities. The cosmetics industry suffered significantly globally, and a Kantar study revealed that cosmetic sales declined a shocking 79 percent from 2019 to 2021 in the Philippines—one of the biggest dips in all the markets. Of course, people that Kurniawan had hoped to collaborate with were also busy trying to keep their own businesses and careers afloat.

This turned out to be an opportunity for Teviant to step back and re-assess. “I’ll do what it takes to make the brand survive,” he vowed back then, making the decision to stop relying on collaborations with other personalities to drive the collections. Instead, he wanted to make use of his own creativity, experience, and expertise as a makeup artist.

Since the pandemic, people may have been using cosmetics less, but they were demanding more from them: multi-use, long-lasting, and with a unique, premium offering.

He started working even closer with his manufacturers to try and glean insights and trends from the market. Their factories in Italy also produce makeup for several other global brands, so together, they were able to observe and predict popular formats, colors, and styles. Since the pandemic, people may have been using cosmetics less, but they were demanding more from them: multi-use, long-lasting, and with a unique, premium offering.

But, through it all, Kurniawan kept the Filipina in mind. “I wanted to create Teviant as a go-to brand for every Filipina,” he says. By enhancing the functionality and formulation, he made sure products still delivered an impressive, professional finish, but were still easy to use and versatile for any lifestyle, age range, or skin type. 

Kurniawan also sought to test and certify the products dermatologically to infuse skincare benefits into Teviant, as well as using vegan ingredients. “When we moved forward, [we made sure that] the active ingredients are not just [present on a] marketing level, but on an effective level,” he shares. It wasn’t about jumping onto the “clean beauty” bandwagon, but finding ways for Teviant’s products to neither harm the skin nor the environment. It took even longer to undergo the additional certifications (“The dermatological test alone is already 60 days,” laments Kurniawan), but this was part of his commitment to make Teviant its best-ever version. 

While the pandemic surely was a challenging time for the creative, it didn’t take long for him to pick himself up, recalibrate, and churn out a series of must-try launches for Teviant, once the world started opening up again.

The brand started making its moves again in 2023. After reformulating their eyeliners to be even more resistant to our heat and humidity, Teviant started to release multi-use products: Velvet Drop, a tinted mousse serum that can be used on eyes, cheeks, or face, and then their Deity Dust, a trio face palette of a blush, contour, and highlighter. “Deity Dust was supposed to be a limited-edition holiday collection in 2020,” he shares, but it was wildly popular that they brought it back permanently. 

Soon after, they started highlighting their dermatologically tested and vegan products. Ingredients were at the forefront; when they released a tinted serum lip balm called She-Balm, they highlighted the ingredients soybean glycerides, shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and castor oil that gave the products four times more hydration.

Achieving the perfect base is perhaps the most important but the most notoriously difficult technique in makeup, and everyone—from everyday makeup users to the most veteran makeup artists—tests and tries countless products to get closer to it.

The Ultimate Skin Master collection is the pinnacle and embodiment of the brand’s promise. “It’s my dream formula,” Albert declares proudly and happily. Achieving the perfect base is perhaps the most important but the most notoriously difficult technique in makeup, and everyone—from everyday makeup users to the most veteran makeup artists—tests and tries countless products to get closer to it. Kurniawan had always been meticulous and exacting during development, but he was even more demanding for base products. “I started working on The Ultimate Skin Master in 2017,” he admits but refused to move forward until they perfected the formula and finish. When he finally approved, more than half a decade after they first started working on it, the factory all erupted in applause. “This was the only project that took six years in their factory,” laughs Kurniawan.

True to its name, the Ultimate Skin Master collection is the essential tool kit for creating a natural, flawless, skin-like base. The sensorials from these products alone are impressive—lightweight, velvety, and as always, premium—but Kurniawan made sure that they were formulated to deliver on performance. The Ultimate Master Foundation and Concealer are formulated with a unique innovation that keeps the makeup elastic to keep it from caking and cracking on your skin, as well as a color-adapting technology that allows it to look just like your skin color. The Ultimate Skin Master Loose Powder also has a unique formulation that hydrates skin while keeping the finish matte. Of course, bases are tested for 24-hour longevity to keep them long-wearing.

Each product highlights its ingredients and carefully explains the functions of the actives. A quick look reveals familiar skincare superstars like vitamin E, niacinamide, and sodium hyaluronate, but there are very interesting and vegan ones with unique functions: northern truffle extract that soothes and calms skin, silk tree bark extract that acts as an anti-fatigue and immunostimulating agent, and rosemary leaf extract that promotes skin metabolism. 

As soon as it launched, the collection quickly found its way on the “best of” lists of beauty experts and enthusiasts. “Our inventory of 18 months was finished in three,” Kurniawan reveals. While they’re ecstatic about the success, they are constantly working on restocking, as production and shipping from Italy takes a while. Kurniawan has been spending time in Italy to bargain for an increased volume from his factories, as well as flying to Guangzhou to increase the number of units for packaging already. They’ve since tripled the orders and are eagerly waiting to restock. 

That’s only the beginning.

The future of Teviant

With the success of The Ultimate Skin Master collection, Teviant is rounding off the collection with their recently launched The Ultimate Skin Master Skin Perfecting Starter, which can be used as a primer or on its own for a filter-like effect. Seemingly their unique take on complexion boosters, they’ve fortified it with actives such as calming licorice extract, absorbent powder, cocoa butter, and betaine to infuse skincare into it. 

As the brand continues to gain new momentum, Kurniawan is absolutely excited and says to expect more one-of-a-kind products this year and next year. While he doesn’t reveal what they have in store, he does tease that they’re going to have a sister brand soon. Teviant has been a labor of love, and it’s obvious that Filipino women and men appreciate the thought and hard work his team has poured into each product detail. “We always want to deliver what we promise to people,” he says. “Quality is everything here.” They’re dedicated to creating the best, highest quality cosmetics that allow people to look and feel that they’ve been made up by a professional makeup artist.

Albert Kurniawan calls Heart Evangelista his long-time muse, one of his first collaborators, and a dear friend who’s supported him and his journey through thick and thin.

“Moving forward, all our products and formulas will be definitely patented, so even the factory itself cannot even use or reuse the formula for other brands,” he says, citing an unfortunate instance where one of the formulations he made with the factories was sold to another global brand. “It’s a learning process,” he says, and even as he learns from any mistakes and experiences, he tries not to let it affect his perspective and plan in producing products. “I keep on telling my team, instead of focusing on others, let’s focus on what we really want and where we want to be.”

Where they want to be eventually as well is the rest of Asia. They’re currently finalizing distributors for Indonesia and Singapore, as well as looking into getting additional factories in Portugal and Switzerland. Their goal is to enter Sephora, which will only accept items from accredited manufacturers, so they want to make sure they’re ready.

But even here in the Philippines, they’re happy with the impact they’ve made, in the middle of a vibrant and thriving local landscape. “I am happy with the presence of many local brands right now,” he says. “I don’t see it as competition, but as a celebration of the local beauty industry.” He recalls a time when local bands had a stigma of being poorer quality, but he recognizes how much has changed, and is proud to be one of the brands to lead the charge. “Even me, someone who has worked in makeup for 17 years, I still get kilig (excited) with all these products that we produce.” 

The Superstars of Teviant

Liquid Eyeliner Pen

P445, Lazada

The eyes are the star of Albert Kurniawan’s signature makeup look, so of course, his eyeliners are top-notch. Waterproof and long-lasting, this ultra-smooth and easy-to-use liquid eyeliner was formulated to withstand the humid, hot weather in Asia. 

Eye Intensifier Waterproof Pencil Eyeliner

P495, Lazada

Reformulated and improved, this eyeliner claims to release 50 percent more pigment compared to the standard pencil liner, making it easy to achieve desired lines. It’s also made of wood from a PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)-certified forest, which means it’s managed under the strictest environmental, social, and economic requirements.

Deity Dust

P695, Lazada

This beautiful trio of blush, contour, and highlighter is intensely pigmented but made with lightweight, highly blendable powder that allows users to achieve a brilliant and natural three-dimensional finish.

Mon Cheri Mascara

P445, Lazada

What makes this long-wearing mascara unique is its double wands. One end has a tiny spoolie for lower lashes and definition, while the other end has a larger brush to help curl the lashes.

The Ultimate Skin Master Collection

The Ultimate Skin Master Loose Powder

P650, Lazada

The Ultimate Skin Master Concealer

P595, Lazada

The Ultimate Skin Master Primer

P750, Lazada

The Ultimate Skin Master Foundation

P995, Lazada

The Ultimate Skin Master Skin Perfecting Starter

P895, Lazada

This expertly made collection delivers your best and most beautiful base and is infused with skin-caring ingredients. Dermatologically tested, vegan, and made in Italy.

Collage by Dannah Valdezco. Column pedestal by © windawake. Cloudy pink skies by © Kichigin via canva.com

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