A day with "jeweler to the stars" Paul Flato

Tiffany?  Harry Winston?  Fred Leighton?  Forget about 'em.  While they might be supplying the sparkling baubles for today's red carpet, back in the late '30s and '40s there was a jeweler bigger than those 3 put together:  Paul Flato.  I'll get to why I'm talking about a jeweler in a sec, but first a brief bio is in order.  Paul Flato (1900-1999), moved from his home state of Texas to New York City at the age of 20.  He opened his own jewelry store shortly afterwards and employed several designers.  By 1937 he had another store on the West Coast to further solidify his status as the go-to jeweler for the biggest Hollywood stars (think Joan Crawford and Katherine Hepburn) as well as a jewelry designer for major films.

Now here's where his story goes off the rails.  In 1943 he was arrested for pawning over $100,000 worth of jewels that clients and fellow jewelers had entrusted to him on consignment and served 16 months in Sing Sing.  Upon his release from prison he started a lucrative business designing compacts, which was fortunate as his Hollywood career was basically over.  After the compacts, Flato continued to design jewelry in the store he opened in Mexico City from 1970-1990, then returned to Texas for the last decade of his life.  To my knowledge he never got back into Hollywood's good graces - I couldn't find anything about him supplying jewelry for movies/actresses after 1943 - but it didn't matter since he had already become a legend.

I had seen the Flato brand floating around previously during my various vintage compact hunts and figured one would be a good addition to the Museum's collection, but none of the designs really appealed to me.  Since they can be on the pricey side I decided to hold off to see if any really caught my fancy.  And as luck would have it this adorable compact and lipstick case, still in the original box, eventually surfaced.  Against my better judgement I got involved in a nasty Ebay bidding war, but ultimately won (and probably overpaid a smidge). 

Paul Flato compact box

Looking back it was totally worth it given how awesome the design is.  You may or may not know I have a thing for mint green/jade/bakelite so when I gazed into this kitty's glowing mint green eyes I knew she had to be mine.

Paul Flato compact

Paul Flato compact

Paul Flato compact

Love the matching design on the lipstick case!

Paul Flato lipstick case

I thought it would be good to discuss Flato's style a little so we can see how it translated to the compacts.  I find his pieces to be whimsical and tongue-in-cheek, while still piling on the sparkle.  Some examples, according to his obit in the New York Times:  "Among them were a diamond 'corset' bracelet, with garters in rubies and diamonds, based on Mae West's undergarment...a compact for Gloria Vanderbilt was studded with gold and enamel angels, including an angel on a chamber pot. A pair of little brooches of gold feet with ruby toenails was originally made for Irene Castle, a play both on her maiden name, Foote, and her dancing career."  Flato also drew on everyday experiences and items - his observation of fallen leaves one crisp autumn day turned into this brooch, while a basic belt buckle became a dazzling aquamarine necklace.

Paul Flato leaves brooch

Paul Flato aquamarine and ruby belt buckle necklace
(images from langantiques.com)

Another prominent motif in Flato's work was hands, according to this site:  "Hand imagery had always been of interest to Flato, who notably used antique hand sculptures to display jewelry in ads that appeared in Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar during the 1930s."  Here are some quite literal examples.

Paul Flato hand brooches

Not only that, but Flato's own battle with hearing loss at a young age inspired a series of sign language pins.

Paul Flato sign language pins

Paul Flato sign language pins
(images from jewelsdujour.com)

This same playfulness mixed with a healthy dose of sparkle carried over to Flato's compacts.  I liked that he created designs that were different from his jewelry line but still maintained his signature style.  It looks like Flato filed the patent for the compacts in February 1948 and they were available for sale later that year. Interestingly, this wasn't the first time Flato had the idea to design compacts, as evidenced by this 1940 patent for a compact, cigarette case and lipstick combo.

Paul Flato compact patent(image from google.com)

I meant to order this ad from hprints in time for this post and completely spaced on it.  Sigh.

Paul Flato compact ad, 1948
(image from hprints.com)

The ones shown in the ad above are fairly common.  I wouldn't mind adding the seashell one to my collection.  ;)  There's also a patent for it too, which is pretty cool.

Paul Flato shell compact
(image from pinterest.com)

The popular dogwood design:

Paul Flato dogwood compact
(image from etsy.com)

And this circular patterned one.

Paul Flato compact
(image from ebth.com)

Apparently the compacts were a pretty big hit right away, according to this news snippet from 1949.


Some more, just for fun.

Paul Flato compact ad, November 1949

Paul Flato stars compact
(image from pinterest.com)

Paul Flato luck compacts

Paul Flato "crown jewels" compacts
(image from perfumebottles.org)

It's not just a key design; it's a key holder!  Yes, you could have the key on this compact custom filed to fit your door.  Personally I'd be petrified of losing it - my keys need to stay on a ring - but you have to admit there's some innovation there.

Paul Flato key compact ad, December 1950

Paul Flato key compact
(image from pinterest.com)

Another key ad, plus the wonderfully blinged-out teardrop design. 

Paul Flato compact ad, May 1951

Paul Flato teardrop compact
(image from liveauctioneers.com)

This one definitely shows Flato's sillier side.  Would you like one of his "scatabout" pins while you're at it?  You know, to anchor your lapel flower?  Fashion sure has changed!

June 1950

Paul Flato circus compact
(image from etsy.com)

This one is also a lot of fun.  I couldn't find any ads for it but I wonder if it was a special release for Easter.

Paul Flato bunny compact

Paul Flato bunny compact
(images from liveauctioneers.com)

The kitty one I have seems to be relatively rare. In my searches I did see one other in a beautiful tiger-eye colorway instead of the green, but I can't seem to find the photo of it now.  In any case, I'm pretty pleased with this acquisition as I do think it's one of Flato's better compact designs.

What do you think, both of Flato's jewelry and compacts?  Most of them aren't my style but I appreciate them nonetheless.  If his jewelry is really striking your fancy you can always buy this lovely catalog of his work.

MM Musings, vol. 24: all the bells and whistles

Makeup Museum (MM) Musings is a series that examines a broad range of museum topics as they relate to the collecting of cosmetics, along with my vision for a "real", physical Makeup Museum. These posts help me think through how I'd run things if the Museum was an actual organization, as well as examine the ways it's currently functioning. I also hope that these posts make everyone see that the idea of a museum devoted to cosmetics isn't so crazy after all - it can be done!

Yoga at the Brooklyn MuseumI forget how I came across this Observer article, but it was a rather eye-opening piece on how museums are upping their game in terms of what they offer besides art.  And it got me thinking about what, if any, over-the-top amenities and programs the Makeup Museum would offer if it occupied a physical space.  Let's explore that, shall we?

The article discusses the rise of extra offerings for visitors that goes well beyond the scope of the museum's mission, including fitness and yoga classes (the latter is a huge trend, apparently), world-class restaurants and programs for specific populations.  The goal of all these amenities, obviously, is to attract more visitors overall and turn regular visitors into donors.  "All over the country, museums have been looking to change their image from boxy buildings that just store and exhibit cultural objects to community gathering spaces with activities for preschoolers, teens, single adults, families, the elderly and probably some other demographics...It is the hope on the part of museums that this effort to make their institutions gathering spots for their communities and to view the population as customers whose needs are to be met will turn casual visitors into members, some of whom may become donors and board members."  While I haven't found any official studies on whether these sorts of things actually increase the number of visitors and donations, they comprise an interesting marketing tactic worth looking into.  However, I must point out that some of the "extras" the article highlights, such as community outreach programs, shouldn't be viewed as additional amenities, they should just be part of regular programming and services.  I don't think electric carts for elderly visitors should be lumped in with, say, having a Michelin-starred restaurant. 

Anyway, I can envision the Makeup Museum adopting similar programs to the ones mentioned.  I had always planned on an excellent gift shop and cafe, not to mention that the museum building would be beautifully designed and have amazing signage/collateral (e.g. museum maps, exhibition labels, etc.).  But reading the Observer piece makes me think that perhaps the Museum could offer a fitness or yoga class - maybe have one of those so-called "athleisure" makeup brands sponsor it and offer free product samples to people taking the class.  Other programs might be a decorate your own compact night or an "apothecary" workshop on how to make natural pigments and serums (similar to this setup). For kids, we could have finger painting classes using old makeup - lord knows I have a ton of stuff I don't use anymore but would still be safe to use for artistic purposes.  I think any cosmetics museum-goers might want to have these sorts of things available to them in addition to the standard tours and exhibitions.  As the article notes, “Our expectations of going to museums increasingly are like our expectations when going into a Starbucks: We want things to be tailored to our individual likes and interests."

On the other hand, though, I do see these sorts of extra programs and services being problematic, particularly for a cosmetics museum.  As the article points out, one issue is the possibility of objects getting damaged or destroyed.  This little nugget was truly horrifying:  "Marcy Goodman, a museum-planning consultant in La Crescenta, Calif., who developed the plans for the Bruce Museum’s expansion, said parties should not take place in the actual galleries. 'Some years back, an art museum in Oregon hosted an all-you-can-drink event in a gallery where, among other things, some people ended up having sex on a Henry Moore sculpture,' she told the Observer."  Meanwhile, New York Magazine asks, "How long until someone breaks a priceless piece of art during the Met Museum workout?"  Museums already have to deal with careless people breaking things, why invite even more of it if it's not crucial to the mission? 

Secondly, these sorts of programs might distract from a museum's true purpose.   Do you want visitors to actually, you know, pay attention to the displays or visit simply for the frills?  It's a really tough call since museums are dependent on visitors - this is a key benchmark for receiving funding and sponsorships - but you don't want to turn a museum into something it's not.  Plus, as we learned with exhibition display, one has to be very careful in making sure a museum devoted to cosmetics doesn't morph into a store.  I don't think I'd sell makeup in any capacity at the Museum, not even in the gift shop.  It's a museum, not Sephora!  (One caveat:  I think the recently discussed Museum of Beni and its accompanying store is an exception to selling makeup in a museum setting.)  And sponsorship by makeup companies for special workshops and classes is problematic, since you want people to have learned something about makeup history, not be exposed to what amounts to glorified advertising.  Yes, people's expectations of museums are more on par with those they have for businesses like Starbucks, but frankly, museums aren't businesses.  Even if they partner with and receive funding from businesses, museums need to stay firmly on the nonprofit side.  That would be particularly difficult to do with a cosmetics museum - the kind of showiness and gimmicks you'd see in retail needs to be kept at bay lest you "sell out" and lose sight of the museum's true mission.

Finally, and I think this is the core issue for me, is that I would probably not engage in all the extras and simply put all funding into making the Makeup Museum as accessible as possible for as many people as possible.  While the some of the amenities mentioned in the article are nice, they're not necessarily critical to people's understanding of the art.  And let's face it, funding for museums is so scarce, there's no way I'd be able to afford most of the things I'd love to have, like fancy architecture and an internationally-renowned cafe.  Even if I did have this sort of money, I think I'd spend it on, say, making the museum's resources - everything from pamphlets to audio guides - available in just about every language.  Instead of yoga classes, the Museum would offer state-of-the-art touch-tour and 3D printing technology so that blind visitors can have a richer experience.  Funding that would pay the salary of a world-class chef for the cafe would instead go to ensuring the Museum remains free.  And I maintain that kids' programming is a necessity, but the Museum could go a little further and have programs just for special-needs kids (like this.)  This ties back into what I noted earlier:  some of the programs the article talks about should not be perceived as extra.  In addition to my other ideas, I'd be all over those community outreach programs!  The bottom line is that I'd definitely focus less on the frills and more on accessibility, inclusiveness and civic engagement.  Specifically what that would consist of will be explored in later installments of MM Musings. ;)

Thoughts?  Would you like to see crazy, over-the-top amenities at a makeup museum? 


Spring 2017 sneak peek: Burberry Silk and Bloom palette

Burberry Silk and Bloom blush palette

I hope Burberry doesn't stop releasing their runway-inspired palettes, as I've become quite fond of them. While their most recent offering isn't my favorite, I will certainly take it over nothing.  For their spring 2017 blush palette, Burberry chose a hexagonal floral pattern that appeared on several items in the fashion collection (and, interestingly, on the runway floor).

Burberry spring 2017
(images from us.burberry.com and vogue.com)

Burberry Silk and Bloom blush palette

One significant item of note that I somehow missed when discussing the fall palette was that the wallpapers Burberry borrowed for patterns to use in their spring 2017 collections are housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, so off I went to see if I could find the originals.  To my astonishment and great delight they were available to view online!  Here's the one that inspired the spring 2017 pattern.

Wallpaper, ca. 1830
(image from collections.vam.ac.uk)

According to the V & A, this was made around 1830:  "This wallpaper was designed to imitate moulded plasterwork.  Moulded plaster was a fashionable method of wall and ceiling decoration in the 17th and 18th centuries, but it was expensive.  Wallpaper printed in shades of grey and buff was a cheaper way of achieving a similar decorative effect."

Just for my own gratification here are some of the other items that I mentioned in my previous post and the nail polish set, along with the original wallpaper.  These were available for purchase back in the fall, but considered part of spring 2017...sort of.   It's all very confusing to me, but Burberry was testing out the see-now, buy-now approach back in September 2016, hence why I thought the wallpaper-based items at the website were part of the fall 2016 collection.  Apparently Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey is doing away with formal spring/fall collections (in name, anyway) and showing one collection in September and February, with styles that are meant to be "seasonless".  I don't know about that so I'm continuing to refer to the Silk and Bloom palette, as well as the other wallpaper pieces, as part of spring 2017.

Burberry wallpaper-inspired jacket

Burberry wallpaper print tee

Burberry nail polish set
(images from us.burberry.com)

This paper is from the mid-18th century and used to imitate "print rooms".  "This was a room decorated with prints that had been pasted on to the walls, with the addition of printed paper frames and borders. It was intended to give the impression of a room hung with framed pictures. Designing and installing a print room was a fashionable hobby for the wealthy in the 1760s and 1770s. Using a wallpaper with a 'print room' design was a cheaper way of achieving the same effect. This is one of several print room papers from Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire; it was hung as part of the major redecoration of the house undertaken by Sir John Hussey Delaval around 1760."

Wallpaper, ca. 1760
(image from collections.vam.ac.uk)

Anyway, back to the Silk and Bloom palette.  Overall it's pretty and the vibrant rose color is to die for, but there are a couple details I'm not loving.  First, there's this odd rough texture surrounding the flowers.  I'm guessing it was a deliberate attempt to replicate the textural variations of silk fabric, which would make sense given that the pattern comes from silk garments, but I feel like it should be smooth - it almost looks like the palette is defective.  On silk clothing obviously this texture is to be expected, but I don't think it works on a powder surface.

Burberry Silk and Bloom blush palette

The second detail I'm not crazy about is the closeup view of the pattern.  While in other palettes I adore the zoomed-in effect - it allows you to see more detail - in this case the closeup of the flower cluster sort of reminds me of cells under a microscope (in this case, algae cells).

Burberry Silk and Bloom palette

I think the pattern works well on the clothing (and on wallpaper, for that matter), but this is one of the few that, in my humble opinion, did not translate well to makeup form.  (Or maybe I'm still cranky over not being able to snag the adorable heart-adorned First Love palette, grrr.)  Whatever it is, I vastly prefer the spring and fall 2016 palette designs over this one.  It's especially disappointing given that they could have modified the pattern to make it work for makeup - I would have gladly sacrificed a closeup view to have more of the whole pattern, since maybe then it wouldn't remind me of a biology class.  :P  Or Burberry could have chosen a different pattern entirely, like this one.

Burberry spring 2017

This single flower would be gorgeous - with a design like that, I'm envisioning the level of intricacy and color variety on par with Chantecaille's Butterfly eye shadows, and it could have with lots of shimmer on the petals like Sisley's Orchidée palette.

Burberry spring 2017

Or maybe eschew flowers entirely and do something totally unexpected, like the graphic pattern on this bodycon dress?  I bet it would make a great bronzer.

Burberry spring 2017
(images from us.burberry.com)

What do you think?  Check out the Museum's Burberry category for glimpses of previous runway palettes and let me know how the spring 2017 one stacks up in your opinion.  :)


Curator's Corner, 2/12/2017

CC logoSome mid-February links. 

- Thoroughly enjoyed this interview with MDMFlow founder Florence Adepoju...you might remember MDMFlow from my 2014 post on the weird lipstick color trend.

- On the beauty history front, Byrdie had a nice little roundup of vintage makeup products, and I'm head over heels in love with these images from Shiseido's official monthly magazine.  More thought-provoking was this piece on the history of women's battle against body hair.  I have to admit that if it were more socially acceptable I'd never shave my legs or armpits again.

- Attention, pizza fiends:  the eyeliner of your dreams has landed.  You could even use this pizza wheel-like cutter to apply it.  If pizza isn't regal enough for you check out princess eye makeup.  Meanwhile, nail art gets political (and possibly illegal in some states).

- Finally, here are two beauty fads that downright confused me.

The random:

- Edward Hopper is one of my favorite artists, so I'm loving these animated gifs of his paintings. 

- There is much '90s nostalgia to be celebrated!  I posted a while back that Wayne's World will be making its way back into theaters for its 25th anniversary, but Wayne and Garth's hometown of Aurora is pulling out all the stops. Mike Myers has also done a few interviews about this classic comedy.  In other '90s related news, it's very clear there won't be a Pulp Fiction sequel (or prequel), which, honestly, I'm totally okay with.  It would never measure up to the original.  It's also very clear that some '90s interior design trends need to stay in the decade.  Finally, can I get a "woohoo" for the 20th anniversary of Blur's "Song 2"

- Chocolate Peppermint Crunch will probably always be my favorite Ben and Jerry's flavor, but these new ones sound promising.

What's new with you?  Are you doing anything for Valentine's Day?