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February 2018

Pre-spring blog break

some ecardHello!  Again, while I don't think anyone is positively dying to know my whereabouts, the compulsive side of me felt the need to officially announce that I'm taking a little break from the blog.  As you know, I'm feeling less than positive about it lately, and I also desperately need time to work on makeup-related things that I can't get to while writing and taking photos.  Namely, I plan on doing a lot of decluttering, re-organizing and inventory updating.  It would also be nice to, you know, enjoy a couple weekends that aren't entirely spent blogging - I'd like to maybe read a book (one that's not for review here), color, bake, spend time with family, etc.  

I'll be back in a few weeks, hopefully feeling refreshed.  In the meantime, please be sure to keep up with me on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the archives if you want something to read.  :)

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The Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Co: a forgotten piece of history

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.42.28 PMAs usual, I forget exactly what I was searching for at newspapers.com when, about a month ago, I stumbled across a very interesting article from 1938.  I know the search term must have included Richard Hudnut's name, but beyond that I can't remember.  In any case I was delighted to uncover a profile of a rather remarkable man.  Thomas R. "Tommy" Lewis apparently designed many of the compact cases for perfumer Richard Hudnut from possibly the mid-1920s through at least the '30s.  Both Collecting Vintage Compacts and Cosmetics and Skin have excellent histories of the brand, so you can check them out there.  I, however, will be focusing on Lewis and some of the compacts he may have created. The reason why I felt such a compelling need to share his story is a matter of race: Lewis was one of very few American black jewelers in his day, and one who overcame both racism and poverty to establish his own very successful jewelry firm.  In honor of Black History Month I thought it would be appropriate to share as much information as I was able to find on Lewis, and hopefully I can do it without whitesplaining or tokenizing.  I offer my sincere apologies in advance if I offend!  (Constructive criticism is welcome; mean comments are not).

According to another article written in 1935 that I found online, Lewis was born into an impoverished family in Providence, Rhode Island.  Undaunted by his circumstances and without the support of his parents or siblings, he attended RISD with the hopes of becoming a jeweler, earning a scholarship in the process.  After graduating he worked for a leading jewelry manufacturer in Providence for several years, then struck out on his own.  

I was unable to find the date he started his company or much other information besides what was in these two articles.  The 1935 online article says that he started his business 27 years prior, so I'm assuming he established it in 1908; however, the 1938 article says that he had been in business for 26 years, so maybe it was 1912.  And there's no information on his relationship with Hudnut other than what was in that article, so when he started making compacts for them is unclear.  The only (rather patronizing) mention is as follows:1  "Visit the cosmetics department in any first class store, ask the clerk to show you a Richard Hudnut powder compact and then surprise him by telling him that he is looking at the work of a [black] man.  Everyone of those compacts was designed and produced here in a plant at 19 Calendar Street, the home of the Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Firm.  The same is true of their perfume bottles, for Mr. Lewis works on glass as well as platinum, gold, silver or any other metal from which jewelry or ornaments can be made.  The Richard Hudnut people are among his biggest customers, but not his most consistent.  That honor is reserved for other jewelry manufacturers who regularly send in their commissions for original designs in bracelets, watch chains and other novelty jewelry."  So it seems that while Hudnut was not the biggest source of business for Lewis's company, we know that he was designing all of their compacts by 1938, and presumably earlier.  When I purchased these compacts for the Museum I made sure to select ones that I could get specific dates for, i.e. compacts that were plausibly produced by Lewis given the approximate timeline, and also ones that seemed to be the most jewelry-inspired. 

Richard Hudnut compacts

First up is the original "twin" compact, which was introduced in late 1922.  I didn't realize this until after I bought it, but this double case was designed by a man named Ralph Wilson in 1921 and patented in early 1922.  Wilson was the New York representative for Theodore W. Foster and Bro. Company, a prominent compact and jewelry manufacturer.  Foster, like Lewis, was also based in Providence, so maybe there might be some connection between this company and Lewis's - perhaps this is the company Lewis worked for after graduating from RISD?  In any case, we have proof that the twin compact was created by a company other than Lewis's, so this is not his work.  I still like to think, though, that Lewis may have apprenticed with Foster, grew familiar with Hudnut's aesthetic and went on to earn the company's favor over Foster.

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact ad, 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

How cool is this?  You flip over the blush and there's powder on the other side.  Genius.

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Hudnut's Deauville fragrance was introduced in 1924. Again, no telling whether this was done by Lewis, but probably not given that it's basically the same interior mechanism as the earlier twin compact.

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact ad, 1926

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Le Début, a fragrance available in 5 different variants that were color-coordinated to their bottles and powder compacts, well, debuted in 1927.  I was fortunate enough to track down an original ad for these beauties.  They're actually pretty common - I was able to find all the colors shown in the ad - but in the end I thought the black one was the most elegant.  (Okay, I really love the silver one too!)

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

In the 1938 photo below it states that Lewis designed the "famous Richard Hudnut compact", but I really have no idea which one they're referring to.  It could be Le Début, or it could be the "triple vanity" compacts designed in the mid '30s.

Tommy Lewis - 1938 profile

This enameled, oh-so-Deco case came out in 1936, according to the newspaper ads I found, and the last mention of it was in 1938.  Again, it's funny how certain objects call to you.  This one was also available in a variety of colors, but I just knew the red belonged in the Museum. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The triple vanities had three compartments for powder, blush and lipstick.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The ad also mentions jewelry several times, so I'm hopeful it was made by Lewis's hand.

Richard Hudnut compact ad, October 1936

Lastly, I picked up this stunner, which dates to about 1939.  Evidently between this one, the Three Flowers compact and the silver Evans compacts I have a thing for sunburst patterns, probably because they remind me of glorious sunny days. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

How exquisite is this jewel detail?  And in such impeccable shape for a nearly 80 year-old compact - it's mind-boggling that none of the stones are missing.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact ad, December 1939

To give you a sense of how dainty and small these triple vanities are, here they are with one of NARS' highlighting trios.

Richard Hudnut triple vanity compacts

Getting back to Lewis, I can't say for sure whether his company was responsible for any of these compacts; I can only hope at least some of these jewelry-inspired designs were his.  The fact that the 1935 article doesn't specifically mention Richard Hudnut makes me think that perhaps Lewis wasn't designing compacts for Hudnut until somewhere between 1936-1938.  But it's also entirely possible he had been producing compacts for them for years.  In any case, I want to highlight just how difficult it was for a black man in the 1900s to not only get out of poverty, but graduate from one of the top design schools in the country AND start his own business that eventually employed up to 60 workers in the busy seasons.  As the 1935 profile states: "But jeweler, designer, silversmith?  What chance would he have?  Where could he work?  Who ever heard of a [black] man, a designer, a master craftsman in the jewelry trade of all trades!  One can imagine what would have been Lewis's fate if his ambitions had been left in the hands of some of the so-called vocational guidance counselors who are at the present time shaping the lifework of many [black] students in the public schools of our large cities.  According to the formula which they use, there are no [black] jewelers now in existence, hence no future; it would be impossible for a [black] silversmith to get a job since he cannot belong to the union, and the white jewelers would not employ him anyhow."  Through incredibly hard work and innate talent, Lewis persevered, not only becoming a success himself but also helping others do the same.  Most of his employees were black, and Lewis provided them with better wages than other jewelry firms in Providence as well as training. 

Thomas R "Tommy" Lewis
Employees at Tommy Lewis's company

I just wish I could have found more information and photos to make for a somewhat complete biography.  Searching online for Lewis's company yielded nothing, as did basic searches for Lewis himself.  I ended up contacting the Rhode Island Historical Society and they kindly provided census records indicating his year of birth (1880), but said they didn't have any business records related to Lewis's company, which I think is bizarre.  If it was as prolific as the articles claim it was, and if it really did provide hundreds of thousands of pieces of costume jewelry to the likes of Saks and Woolworth's and compacts for Hudnut, I find it very strange that there are absolutely zero traces of his company left save for these two profiles.  Especially since the 1938 article even gives the address of his workshop - with that specific type of information there should be historic maps or architectural records listing it.  He also apparently had over 200 patents to his name, none of which I was able to find.  I guess the saddest part is that there are tons of other stories like Lewis's, and we simply don't hear about them.  So many histories for non-white people are erased or buried, and I really wanted to bring Lewis's story to the surface because it was truly outstanding (and not only because it's Black History Month...I just so happened to find the newspaper article around a month ago and thought the timing worked out nicely). I really hope this post didn't come across as patronizing or me highlighting a "token" black person.2  I find Lewis's story impressive not because I can't believe a black man could ever be creative and intelligent enough to start a jewelry firm, but because of all he had to overcome to achieve his goals.  "Perhaps it is the memory of a [black] boy with a dream to become a jeweler, a silversmith, a designer, a [black] boy who kept his dream despite the doubts of his family from within and racial prejudice from without.  For Thomas Lewis is an artist and so he believes in young men and young women with dreams."

Thoughts? 

 

1 I spent several hours googling whether it was acceptable to type the word "c*lored" if I was quoting from an old newspaper article.  In the end I realized I personally didn't feel comfortable using it even if it was a quote, so I replaced it with "black".

2 I rarely, if ever, highlight makeup histories featuring people of color, i.e. Madam C.J. Walker, Annie Turnbo Malone, etc. because I'm not sure whether it's okay for a white person to do that - while I think their stories absolutely need to be heard and recorded, once again I fear that it would come off as whitesplaining or tokenizing if I attempted to write about them.  In the case of Tommy Lewis, there was such scant information available I'd figure I'd make an exception in order to at least introduce him and his work.

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Press play: Jeremy Scott for MAC

I was supposed to write a post rounding up all the delectable Chinese New Year goodies, but not all of the ones I ordered arrived.  I didn't want to write it without having everything in hand so instead, I thought I'd celebrate the packaging design mastery that is the MAC Jeremy Scott collection.  You might remember Scott's teddy bear-themed Moschino/Sephora collab from last year, but the MAC collection is under the designer's own name, and dare I say, even more amazing design-wise than the "beary" cute goodness served up by the Sephora collection.  This is especially true for those of us who grew up with mix tapes and CDs - as a child of the '80s and a teen/young adult in the '90s, the nostalgia is quite strong with this collection.

Scott wanted it to look like "something you'd buy at Best Buy" and that's exactly what it resembles.  Every last detail on each of the three pieces (CD, cassette tape and boom box) make them look like the real deal.  As a matter of fact, I left them sitting on the kitchen counter for a couple days before taking photos and every time I walked by they threw me for a loop.  I couldn't remember whether I was supposed to be making a mix tape or CD for someone, or thought maybe the husband is making one for me, as he did early on in our courtship.  It was sort of like being in a time warp.

MAC Jeremy Scott

The collection is obviously inspired by music and the fact that Scott remains one of the top designers for the world's leading pop stars.  It also reflects his perspective on the similarities between music and makeup .  He explains to British Vogue:  "Music plays a huge part in getting me into the mood, whether that be music from certain time period, or something aggressive or something that sounds ethereal – it envelops me and gets my mind in a certain frame for creating. Often when I’m designing clothes for my girls like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, either for a tour or for a red carpet event, I will play their songs and channel their spirit. Or when I miss them, I play their music and they’re with me, they’re chatting in their room. Music carries the essence of somebody. That’s why we fall in love so hard with musicians, they’re connecting with our hearts on such a visceral level...I’m fascinated by music and how you can change the mood of a whole room just by changing the song. Music fills the air and wraps itself around you. To me, that’s a similar quality to what make-up can do – both have such a transformative quality. You can wear a plain white T-shirt and scruffy jeans, but put on a bold lip and there’s a whole different feeling. Make-up can overpower the apparel. I wanted this collection imagery to show different inspiring moments in music, including a boom box, cassette players and CDs, and really play on the frivolity of a night out as well as make-up and music’s transformative power."

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC originally approached Scott two years ago for a collaboration, since they've been doing the makeup for his runway shows for years.  The reason it took so long for it to come to fruition was in fact the design aspect.  I can absolutely believe it would take years to create makeup packaging that 100% mimics the technology we used back in the day to listen to music.  Scott notes the importance of the packaging to him and his hopes that one would display it. "Any time you have special molds for compacts and cases, that takes a super long time. I wanted the compacts to be a living thing — maybe after you’ve used all of the makeup, you still want to keep it because it’s an object. I think it can be repurposed and sit on your shelf."

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

The coup de grace in the collection (and the most divisive among makeup enthusiasts, as we'll see shortly) is the boom box eye shadow palette containing 29 shades.  It's simply filled with breath-taking details, from the box to the outer case to the interior of the palette.  I'm wondering whether MAC did all of these in-house or worked with an outside design firm.  Either way, the collection is beyond creative and unique, and I hope whoever came up with the designs gets an award.

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

While many shared my favorable opinion of this collection, there was a handful of detractors who outright abhorred the eye shadow palette.   Some commenters claimed that the overall gigantic size of the palette made it clunky and inelegant, but it was the inside that seemed to make people the most hostile. Many took issue with the "waste of space" necessary to achieve the equalizer effect.  Here are a few rather harsh comments

  • "That wasted space is making me sick."
  • "All I can think about is the other eyeshadows that could of been in that palette..."
  • "What a complete over production of excess packaging. Poor Earth."
  • "It looks like they forgot to add the rest of the shadows in the palette. I mean I get the concept but it shouldn't be for makeup...don't these companies realize consumers don't care about that stuff we care about cost effectiveness and getting as much as you can for your money when you're purchasing these products."
  • "Why are we being sold half empty products? The packaging is a joke."
  • My OCD is kicking in full force."
  • "What incredibly wasteful packaging. Plastic destroys our environment people. At least HALF of the packaging on a couple of these products could have been done without. It’s a shame how complacent people are about environmental destruction... and all for what? Eyeshadow."

MAC Jeremy Scott

The collection also seemed to dredge up the age-old discussion of buying makeup just for the packaging.  I'm cringing from this Reddit post: "So the New eyeshadow palette is half empty because of the equalizer design/Sound waves. And I saw someone on IG saying that she bought it, was never going to use it, But just had to buy it because of the packaging. This palette costs 75$! I hear so many on youtube talking about packaging and how they are gonna buy something just because it looks cute/beautiful/whatever, and I don't understand how that can be enough of a reasoning. Makeup is (in my eyes) not decor But something to be used. So my question is, can anyone explain Why packaging is enough of a reason to buy something, What you do with the makeup that you don't use But is pretty or just give your overall thoughts on gimmicky packaging and limited edition “collectors items”? :) I'm sorry if I Sound super judgy, I just dont get Why you would buy something only for the packaging, name, brand or theme if you know you don't like the colours or wont/cant use it."

It seems my decade-long attempt to get people to understand that collecting makeup with interesting/beautiful packaging is just fine, and even worthwhile from a historical perspective, has gone unnoticed.  It's disheartening to say the least, as many respondents chimed in with how they appreciate nice packaging but would never buy makeup just for the packaging alone and not use it; apparently it's "mindlessly consumerist" and "dumb".  One of the positive things in that Reddit post is that the OP noted that she sees "so many" on YouTube purchasing makeup just because it's pretty, without any intent of using it.  So maybe more people are getting into the notion that appreciating makeup as an art object in and of itself is an acceptable pursuit.  Still, I'm tired of people being judgmental about collecting makeup.  (I'm also sick of these same people claiming not be judgmental by adding drivel such as "to each their own" or "whatever, it's not my money" to their disparaging comment, as if that makes their statement non-judgmental.  Please.  It's like someone texting "fuck you" with a smiley face emoji - doesn't make it any less obnoxious).  I mean, no one's forcing them to buy things just for the packaging, so what do they care if other people do?  There's no harm in companies making whimsical packaging or in people buying it.  I don't want to continue rehashing my stance on makeup collectibles and why they are museum-worthy, but you can read it here.  In the case of the Jeremy Scott collection and the issue of waste, it's annoying to see people complain about what they perceive to be excessive packaging.  I guess if you only look at makeup solely as a utilitarian item, you're narrow minded and have no imagination that's fine, but I don't think it's right to be holier-than-thou and pontificate about the environmental impact of certain items when they were designed to be collector's pieces.  I wonder whether these people complain as much about this for other objects or only makeup.  I'm also betting that the vast majority of people who bought the collection aren't necessarily going to throw the items in a landfill when they're done using them - as Scott suggested, they are more than likely to keep them as display pieces.  Finally, I think in the case of this particular palette, it's actually a decent value - at $75 for 29 colors, it comes out to about $2.60 per shadow.  (Alas, the quality was dismal, but that's not what I'm focusing on, obviously).

The other packaging-related thought I have rattling about in my head that is that the collection still has not sold out.  On the release date (February 8), I woke myself up around every half hour starting at midnight so that I could have a chance of nabbing the collection before it sold out, which I was sure it would do in seconds.  Instead, over 2 weeks later all three pieces are still widely available at various retailers.  I'm wondering whether it has something to do with the packaging - not because wasted space issue, but because it's not appealing to a younger crowd.  You would think the bright colors would be a natural draw for a youthful demographic, but CDs, tapes and boom boxes probably don't have the same nostalgic impact on, I'd say, anyone under 25, so the packaging might have missed the mark with a good portion of MAC's target audience.  I'm having this vision of a group of teens/early 20-somethings walking by the MAC counter and being genuinely confused as to what they're looking at ("What's THAT supposed to be?"), since they were raised in the digital age where music largely doesn't exist in these sorts of physical formats anymore.  Indeed, I'm not the only one who thinks this might be the reason behind the non-sellout status of the collection.  I also think one commenter's musing that the collection might have been more palatable to the youth if it had included a record-shaped compact is hilarious - maybe those teenage hipsters who listen to records would have bought it.

  • "Love it!! Only people who grew up with this stuff will get it."
  • "i need this!!! as an 80s 90s lover i must have this"
  • "i was born 79..i'm so happy all you guys don't want it..that means it will be around for 2 weeks. i thought it would sell out..but i forgot a lot of these people are so young the probably never had a real boom box. Maybe if the palette was a record the kids would be more interested in it."
  • "Such beautiful collectors items. Millennials born in the 80's can appreciate this I think. The new generation Z peeps... Not so much."
  • "The packaging is everything and calling me. #90sgirl"

Final thoughts:  it might be the nostalgia talking, but obviously I think the collection was worth every penny due to the incredible packaging.  The design is also a perfect reflection of Jeremy Scott since it's just as fun and over-the-top as he is.  Even without his name on every piece you could most likely tell it was his collection.  While I'm dismayed at how some people criticized the packaging of the eye shadow palette with no legitimate reason, I'm heartened by my fellow xennials who recognized and appreciated just how faithfully every detail of the music technology we grew up with was replicated.  The only thing I would have done differently is add a Walkman palette to the mix - I was positively glued to mine in the '90s and still miss it to this day.

What do you think? 


My bloody Valentine: J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown at workWhen I first spotted this collection at Sephora I thought it was another collaboration with Curtis Kulig.  Surprise, there's actually another street artist who has made grungy, graffiti-style hearts and love the main themes of his work.  UK-born J. (James) Goldcrown spends his time shuttling between New York and L.A. making colorful, heart-filled murals to liven up city streets and spread a message of hope and positivity.  I'm not sure how the partnership with Sephora came about, but I do know that the business-savvy Goldcrown is no stranger to these sorts of deals (more on that later.)

The collection included several makeup bags, a brush set and a quadruplet of heart-shaped makeup sponges.  I picked up the last two since I thought they were the best representation of his work.

 

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

I love how the sponges are meant to resemble chocolates, both in the heart designs on the box and the paper liners to hold each one.

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

The rainbow of overlapping hearts that Goldcrown is so famous for were a sort of happy accident. "‘Bleeding hearts’ kind of started as a mistake. I was aware I was doing it, but at the same time, I wasn’t doing it for anyone. I was actually testing the pressure of spray cans because I mixed spray paint with my multimedia and fashion photography work. To get the right pressure from the cans, I sprayed hearts on this door in my studio. Eventually, the door was full of hearts. When a client came in to pick up a piece I made for him, he ended up buying the door as well—he loved the hearts. Soon after I went to Art Basel and showed a wide spectrum of my projects. Two of them were bleeding hearts and they sold immediately. It ended up being a sell-out show, but I realized that what the people were ordering were the bleeding hearts." 

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

Born in West London and entirely self-taught, Goldcrown started out as a fashion photographer.  After taking a brief break from fashion to make an award-winning documentary on the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa, he founded a communal New York studio in 2014.  In November of that year a local eatery approached Goldcrown for a mural.  Ambivalent at first, he eventually took the plunge: "[Lasso] asked me if I’d like to do a mural, but they were booked until February, and that was in like November,  so I had time, and then I was -had no idea what to do, I’d never done a mural in my life, I’d never done anything in the streets apart as a kid – I’d never done anything legally or being asked to do it and paid for it! One of my friends was like 'why don’t you just do the hearts?'  but I thought it was too obvious — again – being told what to do. I was like “NO” and as it came I was like, 'Shit yeah, I should really do the hearts, it’s valentines there’s a lot of logic behind it.'  And then I did it without any kind of understanding where I was and the power of – and people just genuinely come here to photograph street art and then I think four days later I was in a paper and it was just like people just using it as a backdrop and it just went viral." 

J Goldcrown - Lasso

J Goldcrown - Lasso

Indeed, Goldcrown's success is due not only to the quality of his work but also being in the right place at the right time.  After Lucky magazine founder Eva Chen posted a photo of her posing in front of the wall, Goldcrown gained roughly 4,000 Instagram followers.  And #lovewall has over 1 billion tags on the platform.  As more fashion bloggers started to expand their social media presence to Instagram, "wall-scouting" has become a veritable art form in and of itself over the past several years; Goldcrown's work hit just as fashionistas were searching for the latest and greatest backdrops as a tactic to boost their IG numbers. “It’s really just some hearts layered up, in bright colours. I can see the appeal to a fashionable eye – the colours are bound to match something. But it’s also fun. People like that, to liven up their social media presence. Maybe people are looking for more in their Instagrams,” Goldcrown muses.  In addition to his painting style, I'd wager that his experience in the fashion industry gives him a natural eye for what will photograph well, an ability that definitely helps skyrocket one to Instagram fame.  It's also this background that allows him to carefully select the collaborations he feels are in line with his professional goals.  "I want to kind of stay the level of the people I’m working with, the brands like Rag and Bone and Toms, because it’s very important like I’ve done a lot of work as well cause I feel it’s not the right fit for me."  I can see those two companies, but Maybelline doesn't seem like a "right fit".  However, the draw for Goldcrown was that he would be creating the packaging for their number 1 best-selling item worldwide, Baby Lips lip balm.  I don't think I'd pass up that opportunity either.  And I guess after having completed one successful cosmetic collaboration, teaming up with Sephora seemed a natural next step.

J. Goldcrown for Maybelline

J. Goldcrown for Maybelline

I think it's worth pointing out that for Goldcrown, it's less about selling products and more about contributing to the brand by creating actual art that can be enjoyed by people passing by the business, no purchase necessary.  With the exception of Sephora and Maybelline collections, I find the products bearing his work to be generally downplayed.  For example, while Goldcrown did create a line of shoes for Toms, the emphasis was more on the art he made for the storefronts. 

J. Goldcrown - Toms store in Soho

Or this wall for Space NK in Nolita.  As far as I know there weren't any products to be sold at Space NK with his work, just good old fashioned art.

J Goldcrown - Space NK

I also had the pleasure of seeing one of Goldcrown's pieces firsthand when I was in NYC a few weeks ago to see this exhibition.  We regularly stay at the NoMo Soho and I was positively tickled to see these panels in the dining area.  I managed to snap a few pictures before we left.

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

Of course, because I'm a moron, I failed to look up and witness the ceiling portion...I only discovered it at Goldcrown's website a few days ago.

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

One of my favorite anecdotes is how he turned down the opportunity to partner with Apple. Just a few years prior, while selling his art outside of an Apple store, he was told by an employee to move across the street.  Who knew that years later they'd be knocking at his door?  While Apple would seem like a plum job (see what I did there), Goldcrown maintains that such a seemingly big opportunity actually would have eliminated future possibilities and diluted his brand.  Like Murakami, the artist understands the importance of turning one's art into a marketable label.  "I just think when you work with brands that big, you lose your identity and I’ve learn from that as well that it’s really important do work for brands that my name has to be included, not like an artist thing like reason and everything, it’s more because that’s the brand identity and it’s like important, it’s like if you have a t-shirt and it doesn’t have a label that says where it’s from, it’s like they lose their identity and no one knows where to get it." 

However, if you still think Goldcrown is only doin' it for the 'gram, lately his work has taken on a more political stance.  In November 2016 the artist completed several window murals of the Henri Bendel department store in NYC, directly across from the Trump Tower.  (There was a line of purses as well, but I barely even read about those.  Again, the focus seems to be on Goldcrown's art rather than the product).

J Goldcrown - Henri Bendel

In an interview held shortly after the presidential election, Goldcrown explained how the "Love Wall" is moving beyond serving merely as a pretty Instagram backdrop and is helping to spread a positive message of tolerance and unity, notions that lie in stark contrast to the hatred and vitriol emblematic of the Trump era.  It's also a literal opposition to the idea of Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border.  "Going forward, I definitely would like to use the wall to make more of a politically-charged message. I feel a huge responsibility for the message this [artwork] puts out into the world. With the current political forecast, it’s more important than ever to make a statement with my artwork. Love Wall started off as a sort of an Instagram backdrop for beautiful photos. However, now it definitely has taken on a powerful political message...I think that having my artwork across from Trump Tower is some sort of parallel universe meant to be thing. I hope seeing the contrast here on Fifth Avenue gives people hope and faith...the past few days [after the election], it’s been crazy the things that have been coming out of the woodwork. Even kids in middle school chanting 'build a wall,' and saying racial slurs to their peers. It angers me that this country has now taken several steps back with this presidential-elect. He allows people to amplify their racist voices. I hope the Love Wall helps people take a stand against that hatred."  Lately Goldcrown has expanded his oeuvre to include text mingled with the hearts to emphasize the message.

J Goldcrown

J. Goldcrown(images from jgoldcrown.com and instagram)

I greatly admire the style and positivity of Goldcrown's work.  Hearts are not a new motif, and using them to spread any sort of "inspirational" message would normally make me gag.  But rendered in an edgier graffiti style in vibrant colors removes the saccharine factor and makes them much more palatable.  Plus, the urban setting and grand scale make all the difference.  I don't think the bleeding heart pattern has the same impact when reduced in size to accommodate shoes or makeup or bags, but when it appears on a gritty wall in the middle of a bustling city it feels overwhelmingly comforting and peaceful.  It's a reminder that while the world can be a terrible place at times, there's still beauty and love.  And it's just nice to be going about your daily business and be confronted with something positive - I'd rather see a bunch of hearts than graffiti telling me to fuck off (even though initially it would probably make me laugh).1  Finally, hearts are a universally understood symbol that has the capacity to unify people.  As Goldcrown says, "Love Wall has become a universal language. Just like soccer is played across the world and everyone knows the same rules, you don’t need to talk to each other about what hearts represent. They speak for themselves. I truly believe that seeing these walls all over the world brings peace to people’s minds." Along those lines, I wish Goldcrown would lend his talents to Baltimore.  I'm not going to pretend a mural would magically solve the out-of-control murder rate and homeless epidemic, but the city could really use some good vibes in the form of public art.

As for the Sephora collection, I definitely would have preferred to see actual makeup instead of just accessories with Goldcrown's art.  Could you imagine a highlighter or eye shadow palette with all those different colored hearts?!  Additionally, I do think his work is more powerful on a larger scale given the heart motif and underlying message.  Reproducing street art on makeup products can be tricky; sometimes it translates nicely, sometimes, not so much.  Having said all that, even though I think more could have been done with this collection, I always appreciate an artist being brought to my attention via beauty products and having a little piece of their work in makeup form.  

What do you think?  Do you heart Goldcrown's work?  ;)

1.  It reminds me a little bit of John Lennon's reaction to Yoko Ono's Yes Painting:  "It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says 'yes'. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say 'no' or 'fuck you' or something, it said 'yes'."

2.  The poor guy would probably get mugged while painting, but hey, it's worth a shot, right?

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Spring 2018 sneak peek: Paul & Joe

As you know, I'm not a fan of cold, dark days so I'm definitely over the 2018 winter season.  With that in mind I thought I'd look forward to some springtime cheerfulness courtesy of Paul & Joe.  While the theme of "April in Paris" is a bit generic and repetitive (see their 2005 spring collection), I do like that they returned to including some text about the collection.

"When the cherry blossoms burst into bloom
along with horse chestnut flowers on the Champs-Elysees
and the leaves are bedewed with springtime rain,
All the colors of the city become more intense and alive with the sparkle of spring.
It’s Paris in April, bursting with color and light.
Listen to your favorite song and enjoy a walk out into town
Paris in springtime is the most beautiful place in the world!"

Paul & Joe spring 2018

I can't say these eye shadows would be very practical - you might get 1 or 2 uses out of them - but the record-shaped packaging is simply adorable.  (And right on trend, as music-inspired makeup seems to be having a moment.)

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe spring 2018

The cat print on the left is borrowed from the Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018 collection, while the other two prints in this set are from the '70s-inspired resort 2018 collection.  I must say I like these two prints better on makeup packaging than clothing.

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018

Paul & Joe resort 2018

Paul & Joe resort 2018

The only print I couldn't identify out of the six was this one on the left.  But the style looks quite similar to one of the pop-up palettes from the spring 2016 collection. The other two in this set are from the Sister spring 2018 collection.  You would think disembodied cat heads would be a little creepy, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Paul & Joe founder/designer and cat lady extraordinaire Sophie Mechaly. That woman really knows her way around a cat pattern!

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018
(images from vogue, paulandjoe.us, and nordstrom)

What's interesting about April in Paris is that it doesn't borrow any prints from the regular Paul & Joe spring 2018 collection, just the resort and Sister lines.  Perhaps they were trying to go with a more playful vibe.  In any case, I didn't think this was anything earth-shattering, but solid and Museum-worthy nevertheless. 

Thoughts?  Did you get anything from this collection?

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Quick blog note

Somee-cardHello, if you're still out there!  Not that anyone is waiting with bated breath to see where I've been, but I figured I'd give a brief update.  My absence was, unfortunately, not the planned blogging break I intended to have, but what I'm suspecting was the flu.  And if it wasn't, it was easily the worst cold I've ever had.  I'm starting to feel better after a week of praying for death, so hopefully I'll be back to blogging in a few days.  Thanks for staying with me. :)  (And get your damn flu shot!)