Whew! I don't know about you, but for me it's been a whirlwind of nonstop eating and shopping for the past few days. Thought I'd take a quick break from overindulging with some links.
- I wish I could have seen the cosmetics portion of this symposium. I also wish I could pitch the design-related exhibition I'm working on to an actual design museum...but I'm not going to get to it anytime soon. Sigh.
- Wacky trends for the past 2 weeks include color-changing hair and penis eyeliner. Yes, you read that second one correctly. Also, be sure to check out this new bronzer to give you a certain President-elect's (ugh) orange glow. I can't help but wonder whether Cheetos took this parody tutorial a little too seriously.
- Here's a great little read on the history of Christmas lights. If you're still feeling Grinch-like after reading, perhaps these marshmallows will inspire you to make extra fancy hot chocolate this season.
In the spirit of Black Friday, which we celebrate in the U.S. by trampling each other to score cheap TVs and the latest must-have children's toy, I thought I'd put these ladies in the ole MM boxing ring to duke it out. I found it pretty interesting that two companies decided to release vintage-inspired brush holders for the holiday season. At first glance, they don't seem so different - both are from similarly sized brands, blonde with perfect cherry-red pouts and dainty pearl necklaces, but as we'll see each have their own unique secret weapons.
It's gonna be intense, so...let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllllle! *ding ding*
In one corner of the ring we have the Bésame brush holder. With her bouncy ponytail that also acts as a handle and makeup straight from the 1940s, this girl packs a strong punch. Bésame is also available at Sephora, which could be seen as an advantage over her opponent.
But LM Ladurée won't be pushed around so easily. She boasts an equally jaunty hair style with a striped bow, but her thick black eyeliner proves she's not playing around. Her eyes seem to be closed, making her face (in my opinion) less creepy than Bésame's somewhat lifeless stare. LM Ladurée is only available in the U.S. through international sellers, making it more difficult to track down. However, this could be also be an asset in that hard-to-find items can be seen as more special than readily available ones.
While both appear to be made from ceramic, there are significant differences: Bésame's shine and heftier weight pits her directly against LM Ladurée's featherweight feel and matte finish. Bésame may be bigger and stronger, but what LM Ladurée lacks in brawn she makes up for in agility.
And while the size disparity doesn't seem that big at first, adding brushes is the true size test. As you can see, Bésame edges out LM Ladurée in terms of storage space.
I predicted this was going to be a particularly intense smackdown, and I was right. Things are getting ugly! LM Ladurée has seized Bésame's ponytail and is ferociously yanking her head around. Bésame swiftly retaliated by tearing off LM Ladurée's hair tie. Well, as long as they're not going for their jewelry I guess it's fair game. Oh, I take that back! They have now ripped off each other's necklaces...I just hope LM Ladurée doesn't reach for Bésame's earrings. Hoooooo boy! Someone's gonna get KO'ed soon, so in these final moments, tell me who you think wins. Will Bésame's larger size and ergonomic shape take down LM Ladurée? Or will LM Ladurée's international status, more subtle matte finish and lightweight feel allow her to cleverly maneuver past Bésame's blows?
Initially I was pretty unimpressed with Chanel's holiday 2016 lineup, as early reports indicated that there wouldn't be any sort of show-stopping palette for the season. But I should have known Chanel had a very beautiful surprise up their sleeve! Behold, the exquisite Ombres Lamées palette.
Unlike some of their previous palettes, this one comes in a luxurious pebble-textured box with two separate brushes.
The design is inspired by the fall 2016 runway collection. We'll look at that in a second, but in the meantime, you must appreciate the palette in all its intricate golden glory.
I did my usual "let's find the pattern match from the fashion" but I discovered that the palette was indeed only "inspired" by the fall 2016 collection rather than being a literal recreation of some of the patterns. Still, the designs on the palette are faithful to the runway pieces in that they represent the gold thread woven into the clothing in a variety of ways, from the traditional Chanel tweeds to chunky knit sweaters and lamé skirts. There was even a bag in the shape of a spool loaded with gold strands to further emphasize the craftsmanship behind these pieces, which, when combined with the pared-down runway atmosphere, seem more couture than ready-to-wear.
Of course, this isn't the first time Chanel highlighted gold in a collection (see the pre-fall 2012 collection as well as the fall 2014 and spring 2016 couture collections, just to name a few examples), but once again Lagerfeld has given new life to this shiny staple. It's a bit more subtle than in seasons past, even though it made its way onto nearly every item. With the exception of a couple dresses, bags and boots, I felt like I had to look closely to see the glints of gold peeking out along hems, buried in a pair of gloves or crinkled in a skirt. Gold was a detail and yet it wasn't; it was incorporated into almost every piece but in a whisper more than a shout. I also think the fact that the gold weave was interspersed within a relatively neutral color palette of ivory, white, beige and black also makes it seem more understated.
My favorite piece from the runway, and I think the one that most resembles the palette, is this beautiful column dress.
As you can see, it's not an exact replica of the patterns, but the various colors and textures neatly stacked on top of each other is similar to the palette's design.
Overall, as you might have guessed, I'm pretty in love with this palette. It's easily the best one Chanel has come out with in about 2 years (this is the last one I was truly wowed by), and it was well-timed - who doesn't want some bling for the holidays? As for fabric-esque makeup, I don't think anyone does it better than Chanel. Dior, YSL, Armani, Burberry, et. al. have all come up with some wonderful runway-inspired palettes, but in terms of ones that actually look like fabric, Chanel has the market cornered. (See the Museum's Woven exhibition for more fabric-themed items - I'd love to re-do it and include Ombres Lamées!) Oh, and a word about purchasing this beauty: I was told by Chanel.com that the palette wouldn't be released in the U.S. so in my panicked state I ordered from Bonbon Cosmetics, but as usual Chanel's customer service was wrong - the palette will be available on the Chanel website starting November 28. I saw a notice at Refinery29 yesterday and received an email directly from Chanel this morning notifying me that it's coming, so we have confirmation it will be stateside shortly. The email also said, however, that it will be available in "limited quantities" so if you want it don't wait!
I loved Maquillage's Snow Beauty compact from last year so much that getting my hands on the 2016 version was a top priority. Even the outer box is gorgeous.
The theme for each year's design is inspired by images of snow in a particular city. Last year's took its cue from Helsinki, and this year's inspiration comes from the Big Apple. From the Maquillage website: "The concept for 2016 version is 'Diamond Dust' dancing in New York. It keeps flying freely being fluttered by breath of the energetic city. Only shining snow from the skyscraper's window that confines the sky began to dance, and the moment the shining snow runs about in a big city was cut to the compact design."
At first glance the etching didn't really remind me of buildings - it had kind of an abstract, almost Art Deco feel - but once I saw the rest of the design it was a little more recognizable. The snowflakes are also cut off in places to look as though they're falling in between and behind the "buildings". This touch, coupled with the smaller dots of snow, produces an excellent likeness of a snowy cityscape. It's an elegant, if idealized, recreation of one's perspective if they looked up at skyscrapers during a snowstorm. Nothing in particular about the design really screams New York to me, but it's just so darn pretty I'm willing to overlook that.
I like that they changed the design on the powder itself ever so slightly from last year's.
I also love that the company put together a short film to further enhance the compact's theme. And fortunately this year it was subtitled so I was able to follow along (well, sort of.)
Despite the subtitles I'm still not 100% sure what was going on, but it seems that the architecture student experiences a renaissance of sorts through the encouragement she receives from the train conductor. In a dream, he quite literally turns her world upside down and presents her with the compact as a keepsake to remind her of what she can achieve. At least, that's how I interpreted it.
Overall, Maquillage's 2016 Snow Beauty compact is a lovely little addition to the Museum's collection and will be one of the star pieces in the holiday exhibition. It would have been nice to see a slightly more literal New York-inspired design, but I still think it's better thought out than last year's.
Here's a brief report on an item that's been attracting (sorry, couldn't resist) the attention of cosmetic companies: the humble magnet. Magnets are already used in fairly basic ways for cosmetics - many brands offer customizablepalettes and you can easily DIY your own storage board. And who could forget the great magnetic nail polish craze of 2011-2012, a fad Lancôme pioneered a few years prior? But in the past year or so beauty is going next level with the use of magnets in makeup and skincare.
In 2015 SK-II introduced their Magnetic Eye Wand, which, when used in conjunction with their Stempower Eye Cream, "induces a micro-electromagnetic field that further enhances the absorption of ingredients into the skin." It's a similar concept to Clarisonic's Opal eye brush, except it uses magnetic force instead of a special brush to increase absorption. I have no idea whether it's actually more effective than just using one's finger to apply, but it's certainly novel. SK-II might really be onto something, as a slew of facial masks continued the harnessing of magnetic technology this year. These masks all work the same in that they contain iron particles that can only be removed with a magnet. They look like a lot of fun, and there is at least some scientific validity to their efficacy: "The process of applying the magnet over the mask creates a low-grade electromagnetic current, which may help rejuvenate the skin while the mask is removed," notes Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York.
What do you think? Have you tried any of these? I own one of MAC's Spellbinder shadows but have yet to try it on my lids (I did dip my finger into the pot and to my amazement it really did stay the same shape!)
I thought I'd get the holiday ball rolling with Shu's latest collection, their second collaboration with world-renowned artist Takashi Murakami. The video above brings the collection story to life: "One late night in Tokyo, a young woman gazes up at the sky, dreaming of adventure and discovery. Suddenly the infinite darkness is animated, a myriad of vividly colored flower-stars dance across the sky. The wide-eyed, beaming flower-stars sweep her away on a cosmic journey, illuminating a new universe of beauty, and a galaxy of hope beyond her imagination." As charming as the video is, I have to admit that the story, along with the packaging, didn't wow me at first glance. And to tell the truth I'm still on the fence as to whether I really like this collection. Let's see why.
I picked up two items, the Cosmicool palette and the cleansing oil.
These crazily grinning flowers are probably Murakami's most famous motif (they even had the privilege of taking over an entire room at Versailles), so it makes sense that they would end up on the Shu packaging. Still, their use left me feeling a little underwhelmed. Off I went in search of some deeper significance for Murakami's flowers in the hopes of finding the Shu collection to be more inspired than it first appears.
According to a 2002 interview, Murakami spent much of his early days drawing flowers: “When I was preparing for the entrance exams for the University of Fine Arts, I spent two years drawing flowers. I drew some every day. And the entrance exam in the Nihon-ga section also involved flower drawing. Afterwards, to earn a living, I spent nine years working in a preparatory school, where I taught the students to draw flowers. Once every two days, I would buy flowers for my lesson and make compositions for the students to work on. At the beginning, to be frank, I didn’t like flowers, but as I continued teaching in the school, my feelings changed: their smell, their shape – it all made me feel almost physically sick, and at the same time I found them very ‘cute’. Each one seems to have its own feelings, its own personality.” I found that last sentence to be quite intriguing, since all of his flowers seem to have the same personality, yes? It would seem that they're all happy and smiling, as in these examples.
However, Murakami's ambivalence towards flowers - simultaneously finding them both "cute" and unappealing - is actually expressed in many of his flower works. In this article from 2011, Murakami explains how the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a key influence in the formation of his style, along with American and Japanese cartoon characters: "There is brightness. But my real story has a kind of darkness...I expanded it to include some of the characters that you see in my work...Mickey Mouse and the characters from Japanese games. There is the contrast between the cuteness and the cruelty. And the sadness and the cruelty and the cuteness are symbolized by the characters. So this is how my early work began. As an expression of sadness and cruelty.” If you look closely at some of the flower paintings, some of them aren't smiling; on the contrary, they're crying.
A weeping flower can be found towards the upper right in this one.
I zoomed in and cropped the image so you can see it a little better.
And another on the right, it's a small flower with pale pink leaves and a white center.
Murakami's work went especially dark in 2012, when he interspersed skulls with flowers for an exhibition at the Gagosian. The collection of 28 works for the exhibition continued one of Murakami's "central dichotomies of his art—between joy and terror, his optimistic magnanimity as an artist and his pessimistic perspective on postwar Japan." But it was also a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. "Natural catastrophes and earthquakes are things caused by nature. Such chaos is natural, but we have to make sense of it somehow, and so we had to invent these stories. That is what I wanted to paint,” he states.
More recent works also have the sad flowers, even the ones with seemingly cheerful titles.
Detail (look below the blue flower on the bottom right):
Even though sometimes the flowers aren't as bright and positive as they seem, I was pleased to see at least some explanation of their meaning for Murakami and the deeper ideas he's trying to express through them. And there aren't any sad flowers in the Shu collection, so I think it was intended to be magical and optimistic, which is more appropriate for the holiday season. Having said that, I would have liked to see an original flower piece for the Shu collection. There are so many flower paintings I simply couldn't tell whether these particular flowers were borrowed from another work or if they were something new created just for the Shu collection, but it would have been nice to know. Even though my cursory investigation yielded some answers, I'm still a little perplexed by the selection of flowers for this collection, especially after seeing the making of the video.
It's so elaborate - hiring dancers to "wrap" the city, a carefully thought-out nod to Murakami's background (he makes a cameo as a taxi driver, which was his father's occupation), and music selection - it seems like more work went into making the collection video than the packaging. And going back to my previous statement that Murakami's flowers are his best-known motif, they really do appear everywhere, from cushions to key chains to sneakers. There was even a pop-up cafe in Tokyo devoted to Murakami's flowers last year.
All of this is to say nothing of his long-time collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which, incidentally, featured a collection with the same name as the Shu palettes! Cosmic Blossom debuted in 2010; both of this year's Shu palettes are also titled Cosmic Blossom. My hunch about the packaging being somewhat uninspired seems correct in light of all this. It seems like the company just decided to slap Murakami's most iconic symbol on there and call it a day, without protest from the artist.
I also can't help but wonder whether I agree with this 2007 take on the artist's business endeavors: "Unfortunately, since around 2001 Murakami has been so set on merging fine art with commercial product that by now all he’s doing is moving merch. The best that can be said about Murakami’s new work is that he’s making pretty money. Or pretty empty money. The main attractions of this exhibition are 50 little happy-faced flower paintings and six large portraits of a haggard-looking Zen patriarch. The flowers are insipid. So are the portraits, although at least with them Murakami is up to his old extreme stylization. But the real content of Murakami’s art is money and marketability. Hence, each of the 50 silly flowers reportedly goes for $90,000; the portraits, about $1.5 mil per unit. Four better larger flower paintings run about $450,000; two boring pictures of severed hands, about $400,000. Needless to say, the gallery reports everything is sold." Ouch. While I don't want to appear nearly as harsh, on the one hand, I'm sort of in agreement that Murakami just might be a bit of a sell-out at this point. Having your key motif on commercial items is fine, but when it appears on so many things, it loses a little something - it just doesn't seem as special. On the other hand, I admire any artist who also possesses this level of business acumen; in this day and age, it's basically expected that artists will embark on these sorts of partnerships. I mean, I have an entire category of posts on makeup/artist collaborations! And while I do think at times it's something of a cash grab, putting one's most recognizable work on merchandise isn't an entirely terrible or tasteless thing, as it ensures accessibility for those who can't afford the original. I wouldn't mind having those little flower faces smiling at me from an original painting, but since I can't afford those, having them on makeup (or key chain, or whatever you prefer) is the next best thing. It's the same concept as couture house makeup: A tweed Chanel jacket is out of my financial reach, but I can buy a Chanel blush with a tweed pattern on it. It's also a way to introduce one's work to an audience that might not necessarily be familiar with it otherwise. For the vast majority of artist collabs that I've covered, I can't say I've heard of the artist prior to their working with a makeup company and I really enjoy finding out about them this way.
So where does that leave me in terms of the Shu collection? I guess the bottom line is that I think it's worthy of the Museum's collection since it does incorporate the artist's best-known work, but it's not the most inspired we've seen. Especially not when compared to the previous Murakami collection, which, though it borrowed one of the artist's animated works, at least had a more original theme. Perhaps if Murakami had created a unique flower design specifically for Shu I'd be more enthusiastic.