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May 2018

No shrinking violet: Erdem for NARS

Flowers get a bad rap for being predictably present in every spring collection, but I can't complain, especially when they're as gorgeous as the ones gracing the packaging for NARS's collaboration with London-based fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu. I must say I haven't seen a beauty collection in a long time that so completely and cohesively represents a designer's work.   I'll get to Erdem's line towards the end of this post so you can see for yourself just how perfectly the NARS collab encapsulates it, but I'm going to start off with the makeup.  I'll relying heavily on interviews with Erdem, since, as usual, I find that the designer/artist's own words explain their vision better than I can (and I'm also lazy).  Let's dive in!

Both the boxes and the palettes themselves are covered in Erdem's signature juxtaposition of bold and delicate blooms.  Specifically, he chose not his favorite flower (anemones) but dahlias and lilies, since "dahlias are fiery, and the lilies can be equated with beauty."

NARS Erdem

Erdem's vision for NARS stemmed partially from his love of exotic flowers, particularly this photo of actress Molly Ringwald taken by Sheila Metzner for Vanity Fair in 1984. "I was thinking about this idea of a strange flower and I wanted to create a range of makeup that had an ethereal and slightly surreal beauty to it."

Molly Ringwald by Sheila Metzner, 1984(image from thegloss.ie)

Erdem expands on the notion of a "strange flower" in several interviews. A key element was the idea of contradiction - how some flowers can be beautiful but deadly at the same time, and also the harmonization of flowers that bloom in different seasons.  "I find myself looking at nature and seeing [contradiction]. For example: the black dahlia. There’s something about it that makes it beautiful, but at the same time it can be dangerous or poisonous. I find those contradictions in nature quite interesting, so that was my starting point for the name...At first it was kind of a working title when I was trying to gather all my thoughts as to what the collection was going to be, and then as it developed it became [Strange Flowers]. I liked this idea of contrast and tension, and I think a flower [has that]. For example, a rose is a symbol [of] softness and femininity and beauty, but then things like a black dahlia [has] a strangeness for a flower. I was interested in exploring the idea of a flower being quite complex and odd and dangerous and beautiful at the same time—the spectrum of it. The softness of certain colors and the oddness and exoticness of others."  He adds that dividing flowers into the four seasons "helped guide me in terms of thinking about palette, and even thinking literally about certain plants that grow in certain times of the year and figuring out how certain colors could work with each other. Once those parameters were set in my mind I was very interested in exploring odder shades and new shades as well and that’s how all of these range of colors in the collection came about."

NARS Erdem

The packaging for the cases themselves was changed to a pale dusty blue, the same custom shade painted on the walls of the Erdem store in London.  I pictured the blue packaging sitting in my blue Mayfair store and liked that image," he says.

NARS Erdem

My photos don't show it well, but the color is very close to the store walls.

Erdem store(image from 10magazine.com)

The idea of juxtaposing opposites was fully realized in the color selection for the collection.  There are delicate pinks, such as the pale lavender Love Me Not blush, sitting along side dramatic dark blue and purple eyeshadows.  "The idea of contrast runs through all of my work – the aspect of the feminine juxtaposed with something slightly dark, which is an extension of my aesthetic. The colour palette (of Strange Flowers) combines delicate colours, which may be more associated with the feminine, such as lilacs and blush (seen in the lipsticks and slightly pearlescent blusher), but contrasts them with more unexpected hues like yellow or deep burgundies (find more of these in the eyeshadow palettes, which are highly pigmented with a velvety-matte finish)." Different textures also highlighted Erdem's desire to express the notion of contradiction; the highly pigmented lip powder palette is a stark contrast to the sheer, weightless Carnal Carnation lipstick. "Developing these colors that were so saturated and then playing with sheerness and the idea of transparency and how certain pigments are completely opaque, but if you look at the rose on the lip palette powders, there’s so much pigment in it. Even the highlighting pencil has so much pigment in it, but something like the Carnal Carnation lipstick has that kind of sheerness to it, which is really beautiful.”  In this way Erdem managed to create something for everyone. "I think my woman is a lot of different women, and she’s got a lot of different characters. I’ve worked with Nars for so many years (on my runway shows), and sometimes the makeup looks are very clean and fresh, and sometimes they are bold. It just depends on the mood of the collection."

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

The lip powder is one of the items inspired by one of Erdem's closest family members.  "My earliest memory of makeup came from my mother. She never wore any makeup on her face, but before she would leave the house she would always put on a very specific shade of red lipstick, and then she could face the world. I remember as a 5-year-old creeping towards her bedroom and looking at her lipsticks and lipstick palettes. I remember thinking her lipstick brush was so fascinating. The ritual of it all was so interesting; there’s something incredibly powerful about it. The idea that you can put something on and immediately feel different."

NARS Erdem lip powder palette

NARS Erdem lip powder

The other family-inspired item was the blotting sheet compact, which drew on fond memories of his twin sister and her friends using blotting sheets in high school.  "I loved how the paper felt and smelled - there was something so tactile about it...It was something that was particularly useful in the summer. And actually, in places like Singapore, I think blotting paper is such a practical thing. The idea of providing a matte base without any kind of makeup is really beautiful. It leaves you a lot of space to play with, such as creating a beautiful focus on the lip or eyes. I love the idea of how you can just keep it in your handbag and apply it whenever. It’s a really chic way of touching up your face without the idea of piling on any makeup...There’s something so beautiful about this idea that it wasn’t really makeup, but something you do just do to feel together. Considering this comes out in the spring, it felt like such a practical thing to include. It’s a tool to support everything else."

NARS Erdem blotting sheets

As for the rest of the packaging, it's filled with beautiful details.  I love the print on the inside of the boxes.

NARS Erdem

Even the plastic overlays are brimming with flowers.

NARS Erdem

As for how the collaboration came about, it was the usual fashion/makeup collab path: NARS has been working with Erdem on his runway shows since 2013, so it was a natural fit.  In true NARS style, Erdem was given free reign to come up with the colors and even new products - the lip powder, blotting sheets and highlighter stick are all new for NARS, and they were innovations Erdem enjoyed coming up with.  The process to develop the collection took two years and seemed to be truly a labor of love.  "The Nars aesthetic is forward-thinking; it’s chic, it’s strong. I think François is such an extraordinary visionary. Nars is known for its innovation, and people go back to it again and again, which is a testament to their quality as well. They’re so open-minded to different products. I collaborated on every aspect of it, from working closely with the product developers for the new products to the colors and formulas of the lipsticks. We were allowed to do the campaign imagery from London, and I got to work with my favorite florist and photograph it. It was wonderful...The lip powders are something I’m really proud of, because that was something that didn’t exist in the Nars range. [It was] based on a look that was created for a fashion show that was done years ago. The color is so beautiful and intense. It took a long time, and it was a lot of back-and-forth."

I don't want to spend too much time on Erdem's clothing since I want to focus on the NARS collection, but I think his personal background and aesthetic are essential to fully understand the choices he made for the makeup, so here's a brief bio and a little taste of his work.  Between growing up with a British mother and Turkish father and being raised in Montreal, Erdem was endlessly fascinated by the cultural differences in his family.  This experience was a key influence in his desire to express contrast through his clothing.  According to this article, "Holidays were spent visiting one grandmother in Birmingham and the other in Antakya in Turkey...this enthusiasm for contrast and contradiction now informs his work – the classic dresses with the futuristic prints, the overtly feminine collections with a dark underbelly."  He earned an MA from London's Royal College of Art and launched his own line within a year of graduating.  His frocks are favored by a range of A-list clients (Natalie Portman, Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama), and last fall, he created a capsule collection for H & M, for which, as with the NARS collection, memories of his mother and sister served as inspiration.

Erdem for H & M

As for his devotion to flowers, it's part of a larger interest in the myriad ways in which femininity is represented. "I’ve always been fascinated with femininity and women, even as a child. Maybe it has to do with growing up with someone who is of the opposite sex. I also grew up without any sense of 'that’s for girls, and that’s for boys.' I just had an odd fascination with flowers, and I think it’s partly because of my fascination with the language of femininity. There’s a wonderful power to that. Yes, I am interested in nature and botany, but what a flower implies is more interesting to me." And while we often think of flowers as fragile, Erdem sees feminine strength:  "They're resilient, and they regrow," he says.  This still sounds like an oddly gendered perspective - flowers don't necessary have to be feminine and I'd argue Erdem's clothing is overtly, traditionally girly for the most part - but he does seem to be shifting towards more a gender-bending outlook, at least with the H & M collection.  "I loved the idea of creating a group of clothes for men that could be absorbed by women too. It’s great to think of someone taking the fleece from the men’s collection, and wearing it over the sinuous sequinned slip dress, or a man taking the frilled collar shirt from the women’s line, and wearing it with tailored pieces. I wanted the collection to be very much an open proposal...It was also fascinating to see how flowers worked on men’s clothing.”  I'd argue that if one really wanted genderless clothing, you wouldn't design two separate women's and men's lines, but hey, it's a start.

Erdem for H&M

Erdem for H&M(images from femalemag.sg and mr-mag.com)

Anyway, here's some of Erdem's regular line, starting with the spring 2018 collection.  I can definitely see how he plays with pairing opposites, relishing that push/pull quality that makes his designs unique.  Sometimes it's incredibly bold and vibrant blooms alongside frilly lace details, or a powerful silhouette adorned in smaller, more delicate floral patterns.  I can't say any of these are my taste, but I certainly admire the dichotomy of the various elements. 

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2017

Erdem spring 2016

Erdem spring 2015

Erdem spring 2013

His earlier prints remind me quite a bit of Paul & Joe's, but with a completely different vibe.

Erdem spring 2012

Erdem spring 2010(images from vogue)

As with most designer collabs, looking at the clothing brings the makeup full circle to me.  I bought the NARS collection because it was pretty but had no clue who Erdem was or what he was about.  Even though I had a clearer sense upon reading the interviews with Erdem about the NARS collection, I wanted to see for myself whether the clothing tells a different story than what appeared in the makeup.  I was pleased to see that it was indeed an accurate embodiment of Erdem's aesthetic.  In fact, I'd say this is one of the best designer collaborations I've seen due to how thoroughly the spirit of Erdem was represented. His approach to fashion carried over seamlessly to the makeup, and every single shade and detail seemed meticulously planned to adhere to his vision: a study in contrasts. 

What do you think about this collection and Erdem's designs?

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A donation for the ages

Wow!  I am seriously overwhelmed by the enormous generosity displayed by a long-term Museum supporter and fellow blogger, Mag from Makeup Stash.  It all started with an innocent remark I made on Mag's Instagram page about some old MAC paint tubes.  She graciously offered to send me the ones she had since they were going to be thrown out anyway...but ended up decluttering a lot more, as you'll see.  One woman's trash is another's treasure, so I happily accepted all of the other goodies she offered up to me, completely for free!!  How awesome is that?

Donation from Makeup Stash

First up are the items that started this amazing donation: MAC paint tubes.  I was so sad that I threw mine out, as they'd be excellent for a makeup-as-literal-art exhibition (along with Chanel Les Gouaches, which I'm still kicking myself over for getting rid of).

MAC paint tubes

These eyeshadow trios from Japanese brand Kesalan Patheran were huge in the early aughts.  I'm very pleased to have these cult items join the Museum's collection.

Kesalan Patheran eye shadow trios

Ditto for these eyeshadow quads from Ed Pinaud and Lise Watier.  The Ed Pinaud is a particularly great addition to the Museum given the company's long history.

Ed Pinaude and Lise Watier

I'm in love with these palettes from Tokidoki.  In one of my very first blog posts I talked about how cute the Smashbox collab was, so when I saw Tokidoki was releasing its own line at Sephora in 2010 I was ecstatic.  The line was truly a flash in the pan, lasting only 2 years, but its short-lived nature was actually intentional.  Unfortunately during those two years I never budgeted to pick up anything from it, so I'm deliriously happy to have some items now.  These three palettes came from The Robbery set, showing Tokidoki's signature characters engaging in naughty hijinks. 

Tokidoki Robbery palettes

How adorable are these Anna Sui goodies?  The floral eyeshadow is from the fall 2010 Kaleidoscope of Color collection, while the heart-shaped eyeshadow is from summer 2014.

Anna Sui makeup

Anna Sui makeup

Some other recent treasures Mag bestowed upon the Museum include Shu Uemura's Fuchsia Fusion palette (2013), YSL Flower Crush palette (2014) and Etude House's Berry Delicious palette (2016). 

Shu Uemura Fuchsia Fusion

YSL Flower Crush

Etude House Berry Delicious

But honestly, my favorite part of this donation (or any donation, really) was this incredibly sweet handwritten note.  I've received others and they mean so much.

Note

I know I get pretty down about makeup companies and museums not paying any attention to this little blog of mine, and it's things like this that help keep me going.  In addition to all of the nice comments and emails I get, donations are a way of people showing me that they think the Museum is a worthwhile project.

I'm positively overjoyed at all of these wonderful additions to the collection!  Do you have any favorites?  Big huge thanks again to Mag, I still can't believe her generosity!

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Curator's Corner, 5/13/2018

CC logoIt's link time!

- There is no one more deserving to sell her makeup at a world-class museum than Pat McGrath.

- Here's an interesting piece on the rise of the transgender sector within the beauty industry, and another on how millennials are embracing one of the oldest approaches to beauty

- "Green" and "natural" don't mean much when it comes to beauty labels, but fortunately Sephora's new "clean" section makes it easy for consumers to identify products that lack certain potentially harmful ingredients.  In other words, it's now possible for you to go paraben-free without getting a migraine from reading an extensive ingredient list in tiny font.

- These nails are so incredibly unsettling...I much prefer this glitter trend, even though 1. we've seen it before and 2. I'd never partake in it.

- Speaking of glitter, great news!  Soon I'll be able to stop worrying about plastic-based glitter killing all the mermaids and their underwater friends.

- Lady Gaga is the latest music star to come up with her own makeup line.  Will it be as popular as Fenty?

- Meet Usage, a new beauty magazine that seems artsy but not so weird/pretentious as to be inaccessible.  I'm excited to check it out.

The random:

- Thank you, NBC, for rescuing one of my favorite TV shows from cancellation.

- Dying to see this colorful exhibition.

- This Mother's Day, remember that child-free women like me can be maternal too (but it's okay if we're not!)

What's new with you? 

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A rose renaissance with D & G

You might remember a time when many roses in makeup were simply not Museum-worthy.  I'm pleased to say that between Smashbox's amazing rose highlighters (the result of a collab with makeup artist Vlada Haggerty) and this stunner from D & G, the rose motif has redeemed itself. 

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

The blush is appropriate for the designers' spring 2018 lineup, which can arguably be described as an explosion of roses.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018
(images from us.dolcegabbana.com)

As a matter of fact, D & G has been celebrating their favorite flower rather heavily the past few years.  A few highlights from recent seasons:

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2017

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016

Dolce & Gabbana fall 2015

Dolce & Gabbana fall 2014(images from vogue)

While there seems to be a noticeable uptick in the use of these blooms more recently, they've been blossoming in the D & G line nearly since its inception.  According to this profile, the first instance of the rose motif appeared in the the fall/winter 1989-1990 collection, which was inspired by actress Anna Magnani in the 1955 film The Rose Tattoo.  The collection was modeled in Vogue Italia by Isabella Rossellini.  Alas, I was unable to find a good photo that actually showed one of the pieces featuring a rose, but I hope this dress from the mid-90s will help trace the evolution. 

Dolce & Gabbana '90s rose dress
(image from 1stdibs)

The runway makeup also has a rose-centric tendency of late.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018 makeup

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016 makeup(image from makeupforlife.net)

Dolce & Gabban fall 2015 makeup(image from vogue)

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2014 makeup
(image from yourfacebeauty.info)

Finally, D & G's makeup itself serves up a rose bouquet.  One of the inspirations behind the beauty line is Stefano's memories of his mother's rose-scented lipstick:  "The rose was everything to the [fall 2015 fashion] collection, not just because it's the flower you give your mother on Mother's Day, but because Stefano's favorite childhood memory of his own mother is the rose scent of her red lipstick. That's why Dolce & Gabbana's lipsticks are uniquely fragranced."  Additionally, the mauve and pale pink tones of the spring 2016 makeup collection took their cue from a rose garden, and later that year a line of cream blushes called Blush of Roses was introduced.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016 makeup collection(image from fashionisers.com)

The spring 2018 highlighter, however, is the first time the rose has been visually represented in the makeup.  While I don't think this is the most unique palette - roses in makeup are nothing new, and D & G might have chosen a more interesting motif that reflects their appreciation of Sicilian culture like the carretto or coins as they did in seasons past (and how cool are these fish?!) - I believe design-wise they did a good job.  The rose looks more like a somewhat abstract illustration rather than a literal image of the flower, lending an artful and sophisticated air.  And I can lose myself in the ever so slightly shimmering pink and fuchsia swirls of the powder.  Would I like to have seen the rose embossed rather than a flat representation?  Maybe, but it's gorgeous as is.  I just wish I could find more comprehensive information on the designers' love of roses.  My theory is that the particular character and significance of the rose changes each season to accommodate whatever theme they've created.  For example, the fall 2015 collection was inspired by maternal love and the roses presented as gifts to mothers, while during the previous season, the flower took on a different meaning to fit the Spanish flair of the collection:  "Carnations and roses are the flowers most symbolic of love that were also thrown into the arena to show admiration and love for the toreador in traditional bullfights," explained Gabbana.  I'm not exactly sure what message they were trying to get across with the rose for spring 2018 (other than general theme of love in the case of the clothing and this rather bland description of the makeup collection: "inspired by a springtime garden in Sicily"), but this is one of those instances where I can let it slide due to the beautiful design of the blush.

What do you think of this palette?  Do you like rose-hued makeup?

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Magical mermaid makeup brushes!

I've been waiting for literally over a year to blog about these amazing mermaid brushes by, funnily enough, a UK-based brand named Unicorn Cosmetics.  I finally got them in hand back in December, but wanted to wait until the warm weather was imminent to blog about them.  The brushes themselves are incredible, but the packaging was also breathtaking. 

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

Each brush came individually wrapped with a little charm in the shape of that particular mermaid tail.  What a great little detail!

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush

All of artwork was done by American artist Kurtis Rykovich, who created four mermaids to correspond to the brushes.  Save for this interview, information about the inspiration behind his work and his partnership with Unicorn Cosmetics was non-existent, so I gathered all my courage and reached out to this artist for an exclusive Makeup Museum interview.  Initially he seemed very enthusiastic and agreed to provide answers within a week, but after not hearing anything, followed by several gentle reminders via both email and IG over the course of a month, I gave up.  This is why my blogging schedule got completely off track recently, as I was patiently trying to give plenty of time to accommodate him.  In the end I just couldn't wait any longer.  I'm incredibly disappointed, to say the least, because I'm so interested in hearing his perspective and there wasn't any other in-depth info about this collection.  Guess it's just another item to add to the long list of Museum failures. And it will most likely be the last time I contact an artist.  :(

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set postcard - artwork by Kurtis Rykovich

In an effort to not be too salty about the lack of communication on his part - us Scorpios are known to hold a grudge - I'm sharing some of Rykovich's other work, which consists of (mostly female) otherworldly beings.  Everything from Disney princesses and fairy tale heroines to creatures of ancient myths are represented.  I also find it interesting that they all have such long lashes - you might be aware that Unicorn Cosmetics was formerly known as Unicorn Lashes and specialized in uniquely shaped, fairly elaborate false eyelash sets that resemble the ones in Rykovich's paintings.  I can only wonder if the company saw Rykovich's long-lashed beauties and reached out to him.

Kurtis Rykovich, Sleeping Beauty

Kurtis Rykovich, Medusa

Kurtis Rykovich, Goldilocks

Kurtis Rykovich, Mushroom Fae

Kurtis Rykovich, Our Madness

Kurtis Rykovich, Hammerhead Abyss

Kurtis Rykovich, Moondust

Kurtis Rykovich, Flurry

This magical unicorn princess was used for another Unicorn Cosmetics brush set.


Unicorn brushes box

This one was especially created for a new Unicorn Cosmetics palette.

Kurtis Rykovich, Glimmer

Unicorn Brushes palette
(images from rykovich.com and instagram)

As for the mermaid brushes, the purpose of each one is described on the back of the postcard with Rykovich's image. 

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

We'll start with the highlighting brush that corresponds to Bubbles.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Bubbles

Next up is Korali (all-over powder brush).

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Korali

Delphie is for blush.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Delphie

Finally, there's LiLu, used for foundation and contouring.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush - Lilu

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

The brush set also came with a clamshell stand for display - how cool is that?!

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set

I also really loved seeing the evolution of the design.  These images are from January 2017 through their release at the end of the year.

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brush set prototype

Unicorn Cosmetics mermaid brushes

Overall, I'm positively in love with these brushes.  We've seen mermaid tail brushes before and they're very cute, but they lack the level of detail of the Unicorn Cosmetics set.  I also think Rykovich is a perfect match for Unicorn Cosmetics, given the mutual love of magical, feminine creatures that only exist in our imagination. 

What do you think?  Do you have a favorite?

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