Exhibitions and museums

Museum spotlight: Tokyo's Museum of Beni

Once again I'm in over my head on a vast topic, but I wanted to share another cosmetics museum that is on my must-see list when I go to Japan.  The Museum of Beni in Tokyo was founded in 2006 to celebrate and share the history of the hallowed Japanese red lip color known as beni.  The Museum was established by Isehan Honten, a company that has been manufacturing beni since 1825 (!) and is the only surviving beni company from the Edo period (the use of beni actually dates back several centuries prior to the Edo period).  The Museum contains precious artifacts related to beni, such as the lacquered bowls that are layered with the pigment (known as "ochoko"), brushes, and equipment used to make beni, not to mention a significant amount of memorabilia (books, prints, etc).

Beni bowls, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni brushes, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni was also portable, stored in carrying cases called itabeni starting around the middle of the Edo period (ca. 1700s).  They were made from a variety of materials, including tortoiseshell, antlers, ivory, metal, wood and even paper.  The really cool thing about them was when you finished up the beni in the case, you could go and have it re-brushed with fresh pigment.  Perhaps this is where the notion of refillable powder compacts and lipstick tubes came from.

Ita-beni, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Itabeni, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Beni brushes and compacts

Beni boxes, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Print, ca. late 1800s, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This page from a book published in 1813 called Makeup in the Culture of Kyoto shows how to apply beni.

Book page, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This sign was displayed on the storefront and indicates that it's an official supplier of beni to the Imperial Household Department...

Sign, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

...and this was a license granted only to merchants who supplied products to the Imperial Household Department to gain entry into the Imperial Household.

License, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

This drawing from 1885 shows one of Isehan's original storefronts and the beni-ba (the space where the beni is made).

Drawing, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

Not only does the Museum of Beni display all these great pieces, it also has a salon where you can try out and purchase beni. 

Isehan Honten Museum of Beni salon(images from Google Cultural Institute)

Beni gets its name from the pigment of the benibana (safflower).  While the petals of this bloom are 99% yellow/orange, the other 1% are red and are harvested to make this traditional lip color.  One Komachi beni (Komachi refers to the traditional beni that comes layered in a bowl) requires roughly 2,000 flowers and yields about 50 uses. 

Safflower
(image from feedipedia.org)

Isehan has some amazing pictures of the beni-making process, along with a video.  I'll try my best to summarize it here.  The flowers are hand-picked (usually in early-mid July), fermented, dried into cakes and then soaked overnight in water. 

Beni production process

Beni production process

An alkaline solution is added and the mixture is pressed to extract the liquid. 

Beni production process

Then, an acid solution is very carefully added to separate and crystallize the red pigment.  If the acid solution is just a little off, the red will become blue or green, which is unusable.  The pigment is then strained through a finely woven cloth.  The end result is a mud-like consistency.

Beni production process

Beni production process

The bowls are painted and set to dry.  You'll notice it turns a beautiful iridescent green when fully dry. 

Beni production process

Beni drying(images from Google Cultural Institute)

As you can see, making traditional beni is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process - although some beni is manufactured by modern machinery - but the old-fashioned methods of producing it are only way to obtain that remarkable iridescence, and only highly skilled craftsmen can coax it out of the petals.  The iridescent quality, along with the fact that the opacity can be built up by layering, or conversely, toned down by adding more water, sets traditional beni apart from other cosmetic pigments.  The video below shows how to apply it.  Texture-wise you can see it's incredibly different from Western lipsticks, which use a lot of waxes and oils to make them emollient.  Beni appears to have a thinner, non-greasy consistency like watercolor.  And the iridescence is truly stunning - it reminds me of a beetle's wing.

As Glamourdaze notes in a post on beni, an interesting piece of history regarding the iridescence was that Japanese women in the 18th and 19th centuries were fond of pairing the very subtle iridescence of the red beni on the top lip with a bold green iridescent pigment from the stem of a bamboo plant called sasa on the bottom lip.  Hence the "sasabeni" trend was born.

Sasabeni, ca. 1880s(image from flickr.com)

print depicting sasabeni

print depicting sasabeni(images from printsofjapan.com)

The Museum of Beni, however, claims the green came from applying a ton of layers of beni so that the green iridescence overpowered the red, and the sasa name simply refers to the green color, i.e., it wasn't actually made from bamboo.  They also assert that the look was in style only for a short period of time, between 1804 and 1829 (oddly specific dates, no?  I wonder what their source is.)

Print depicting Sasabeni, ca. late 1800s, Isehan Honten Museum of Beni

I'm all in favor of bringing back this look!  Honestly I might actually try to recreate it sometime by wearing Lipstick Queen Eden (which would be perfect as it's a dead ringer for what I've seen of beni and also has a very subtle "magical apple green holographic shimmer") on the top lip and MAC's Deep With Envy lipstick on the bottom, with a tiny dusting of the Emerald shade from Kat Von D's Alchemist palette layered on top.  Not the same, of course, but perhaps it could be viewed as a modern twist.

Anyway, as for the Museum of Beni, some may say that it's a weak cover for a source of additional revenue for the company, but I disagree.  While beni was still being used in the early 20th century, the traditional Komachi beni was largely dying out.  Bo-beni (crayons) and compacts became much more popular than Komachi, and by World War II Komachi was almost completely gone as Western style lipsticks became the norm. 

Bo-beni

Compact beni(images from Google Cultural Institute)

Isehan Honten wants to profit, as any business does, but I do believe their museum comes from a genuine desire to preserve the heritage of beni and introduce this historic cosmetic item to people the world over.  If I hadn't been searching for cosmetic museums I might not never have heard of beni otherwise, and I research makeup as a hobby!  Beni is still so unknown in the West that many people, myself included, were confused by NARS's attempt to bring the concept to us in 2010.  While this set is inspired by traditional Komachi beni application (i.e. using a brush to apply pigment layered in a bowl), obviously the ingredients and effect are totally different.

NARS Bento Box, holiday 2010(image from chicprofile.com)

Another point to consider: authentic, high-quality beni is expensive.  In 2008 the UK's Telegraph reported that Isehan's product cost "70,000 to 300,000 yen (£335 - £1,440) for a pot holding less than a third of an ounce, or 30 to 50 applications, so an evening's use can cost up to £50."  In U.S. dollars that would come to $618 to $2,650, and I'm using the 2008 figures - it must be even more by now.  Historic French beauty company Buly 1803 also sells beni for a mere 420 euros ($446).  That's a bargain compared to Isehan.  ;)  Seriously though, I can't imagine a museum that showcases a product with such a hefty price tag would be much of a money-maker.  It might get people in the door and tempt them to buy it, but I highly doubt many visitors are actually going to drop nearly $700 on a lip product, especially when they can get a cheap knockoff intended for tourists (they're usually made mostly with food coloring and contain only a tiny bit of actual safflower).

Beni-knockoff(image from ebay.ca)

So I really don't think the Museum of Beni is a money grab.  As a matter of fact, I think Isehan Honten's museum is among the very few concerted efforts in the entire world to protect beni's heritage.   I don't think even the Pola Museum is doing as much to prevent beni from going extinct, and while some museums certainly own beni-related artifacts, no collections that I know of are as extensive as Isehan's.  It's not in their best interest from a profit standpoint to store and display all these items (why not just have a shop?) so I think they're truly dedicated to keeping the history alive.  A spokesperson for the company explains, “When we say protecting the traditional culture, it does not really mean we create a museum and just show off our products there...to help this kind of culture grow roots and stay alive, we think it’s important that it be accepted by the customers and actually gets used.”  So the salon is a way to enhance the history of beni - I see it as a tool used by the museum rather than the other way around, i.e. museum as mere retail accessory.  Sure, seeing historic cosmetic objects in cases is great, but actually being able to touch them and apply the product definitely hammers home the cultural importance of these items for the average visitor.

I hope you enjoyed this little overview of both the Museum of Beni and the product itself.  I am by no means an expert but I think what I have here is somewhat accurate.  Anyone want to weigh in?  Would you want to visit this museum?  You can see real-life pics here, if you're so inclined.  I know I must definitely make a trip!  And yes, I'd blow some of my savings to acquire beni of my very own...it's a totally unique product you can't get anywhere else, and incredibly full of culture and history to boot.


MM Holiday 2016/Winter 2017 Exhibition

MM-poster-holiday-2016

As with last year's holiday exhibition I had difficulty trying to determine a cohesive theme.  There was a ton of great releases this holiday season but they were all over the place - the usual blingy gold was trotted out for a number of items, so I thought maybe I could go that route, but there were a number of artist collabs that and other things that didn't quite fit with that.  Plus I had included a fair amount of gold for the holiday 2013 exhibition, so I scrapped it.  I just wanted a unified way to work in every item I had purchased for the Museum's collection this season, but it was proving far too complicated for my feeble brain.  Then I came across this exhibition and figured if doing a simple "recent acquisitions" exhibition was good enough for an Ivy league school, it was good enough for the Makeup Museum.  I also did a very cursory google search and to my great relief, found that many museums usually have a "recent acquisitions" exhibition on display at any given time.  While it feels like I'm phoning it in rather than coming up with a truly creative theme, lots of museums engage in this practice so I'm trying not to feel too bad about it.  And if you look at the older exhibitions here, recent acquisitions (mixed in with a few other existing items from the collection) were basically all I did for the seasonal exhibitions, so in a way I'm returning to my humble roots.

Anyway, that's enough blather.  I hope you enjoy the exhibition!

Makeup Museum holiday exhibition 2016

Makeup Museum holiday 2016 exhibition

Makeup Museum holiday 2016 exhibition

Makeup Museum holiday exhibition 2016

Top row, left to right.

I was searching for vintage Christmas makeup ads and fell in love with the cases pictured in this ad.  Needless to say I'm working on tracking down every single one.  I have 3 so far and several more in the ad are available for sale, so hopefully eventually I will have them all.  *rubs hands gleefully in anticipation*  Since they're fairly common they're not that costly either - I think the most I paid for one was $15, and the most expensive one I've seen was about $45.  This is definitely a doable acquisition.

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick cases

Couldn't get the darn ad to stop curling up but didn't want to put even more holes in the wall to keep it flat, so curled it stays.

Max Factor Hi-Society lipstick case ad, 1959

You've seen the LM Ladurée brush holder from the Museum's Black Friday smackdown, but here are the other items.  Isn't that leg-shaped gloss totally bizarre?  I do love it though precisely because it's weird and also because it's perfect for the holidays in that it resembles the famous leg lamp from A Christmas Story.  In actuality, LM Ladurée claims the legs are "modeled after the beautiful legs of Merveilleuses."  Mmmkay.

LM Ladurée holiday 2016

I felt so bad cramming all of the items onto one shelf but I really wanted them all together and felt like I couldn't NOT display all of them.

LM Ladurée holiday 2016

The Shu Uemura x Murakami items:

Shu Uemura x Murakami holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami holiday 2016

MM label

One of Suqqu's 2 holiday sets.  I really like the work of the jewelry designer they collaborated with.  :)

Ayaka Nishi for Suqqu, holiday 2016

Ayaka Nishi for Suqqu, holiday 2016

MM label

Second row, left to right.

There were so many holiday collections I didn't get a chance to cover before I posted the exhibition, one of which was the Dior Splendor collection.  I hope to get to this collection and other ones shortly...when I do I'll add the blog links.  :)

Dior holiday 2016

Dior holiday 2016

Marcel Wanders for Cosme Decorte:

Marcel Wanders for Cosme Decorte 2016

Marcel Wanders for Cosme Decorte 2016

MM label

Guerlain Météorites Perles de Légende...didn't write about this one either.  I also just realized I completely forgot to include a print out of the gorgeous promo image that accompanied the collection.  #exhibitiondesignfail  Well, maybe I'll update it after the holidays.

Guerlain Météorites Perles de Légende

Guerlain Météorites Perles de Légende

MM label

The amazing Clé de Peau collection in collaboration with Ashley Longshore...too bad I couldn't fit everything on one shelf!  I did consider doing 2 shelves to fit the whole collection but that would mean abandoning other items I wanted to include, so ultimately I made peace with not having the whole collection on display.

Clé de Peau holiday 2016

Clé de Peau holiday 2016

MM label

Third row, left to right.

NARS Sarah Moon:

NARS x Sarah Moon

MM label

Maquillage Snow Beauty compact:

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

MM label

Estée Lauder Wish Upon a Star compact:

Estée Lauder Wish Upon a Star compact

Estée Lauder Wish Upon a Star compact

MM label

YSL Sparkle Clash edition Touche Eclat and Lancome Petit Trésor eyeshadow...I REALLY wanted the Sparkle Clash lipstick but it sold out in minutes.  I had Sephora notify me when it was restocked and missed it a second time, that's how fast it went!

YSL Sparkle Clash edition Touche Eclat and Lancome Petit Trésor eyeshadow

Bottom row, left to right.

I love this 1942 Coty Sleigh Bells compact!  I came across it last year but held off purchasing it for some unknown reason, so I made sure to snatch it up this year.  This particular one was in great condition a - a little pricey but worth it.  Unfortunately I couldn't track down the original ad so this is a printout of an image I found online.

Coty Sleigh Bells compact, 1942

Coty Sleigh Bells compact, 1942

Ah, the precious Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto lipstick cases.  I believe this is the first time I put them on display.  I added the more recent Prisme Libre loose powder since I think it was designed in collaboration with the same artist who created the lipstick cases.

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto lipstick cases

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto lipstick cases

MM label

Kanebo Milano 2017 compact...so feminine and pretty as usual.

Kanebo Milano 2017

MM label

Finally, the divine Chanel Ombres Lamées:

Chanel Ombres Lamées

Chanel Ombres Lamées

MM labels

So that concludes the holiday 2016/winter 2017 exhibition.  Shine bright and be cozy!


MM summer 2016 exhibition

Summer.2016 poster.2pp

For this summer's exhibition theme I couldn't decide between a Mediterranean vibe or bathing beauties.  There were lots of other ancient Greece/Italian-inspired ads and items, but sometimes I could only find the ad and not the corresponding object or vice versa, which was driving me crazy.  Not to mention the fact that I would have felt pressured to write something on the use of ancient Mediterranean beauty ideals in both vintage and contemporary makeup, and I simply didn't have time.   What it boils down to is that I didn't have enough items from either theme to fill up 16 shelves worth, so I ended up doing both.  It's kind of an odd combo but in the end it was too difficult to do just one.  Plus I threw in a couple of items that didn't really have anything to do with either theme.  But overall, I still think the exhibition screams summer and I hope you do too. :) 

Oh, and the husband had the brilliant idea of posting the jpegs of the labels, so while I still printed out and mounted the labels on the shelves, they're in electronic form here as they're much easier to read than my usual crappy, blurry photos of them.

Enjoy!

(click to enlarge)

MM-summer-2016-exhibition

MM summer 2016 exhibition top shelves

MM summer 2016 exhibition bottom shelves

Top row, left to right.

This ad was so bizarre/funny I had to buy it.  The "Italian Touch" campaign must have been quite large, since I found the ad in 3 different languages and also this bust used to promote the collection in store.  (It's so expensive but I may cave and buy it soon - it's very unique and I don't have any store props in the Museum's collection.)

Max Factor ad, 1957 and Leaning Tower of Pisa lipstick holder

Max Factor Italian Touch ad, 1957

You might remember I fell in love with this Leaning Tower of Pisa lipstick holder when I spotted it in Lips of Luxury.  One came up on ebay so I pounced.

Leaning Tower of Pisa lipstick holder

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian Bronzer:

Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian Bronzer

Dolce & Gabbana Sicilian Bronzer

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Charlotte Tilbury/Norman Parkinson collection:

Charlotte Tilbury Norman Parkinson collection

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

I am so grateful to Collecting Vintage Compacts for his very thorough posts on the Pompeian company (here and here). 

Pompeian Bloom ad and box

Pompeian Bloom powder box, ca. 1920-1926

Here is the ad text.  Incidentally, "Madame Jeanette", a "specialiste en beauté", was a completely fictional character dreamed up by the company.  (For you Simpsons fans, I guess it was a Tipsy McStagger sort of situation.) 

I don't even know where to start with the racism here.  Despite the inclusion of a "dark" tinted face powder, there's zero mention of dark skin tones themselves...plus there's also the use of "oriental" as a shade name.  Yikes.  As always though, I think it's important to include these types of ads to demonstrate how unacceptable this would be today.

Pompeian Bloom ad, 1926

Pompeian Bloom ad, 1926

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Second row, left to right.

This was another long-time wishlist item of mine that I was finally able to acquire.  I explored vintage lipstick holders back in 2013 and knew I positively had to have a mermaid lipstick holder of my own.  This one is from a company other than those I had seen before, but it's authentic.

Vintage Napco mermaid lipstick holder

I was going to put some fun-colored blue and green lipsticks in there but ultimately decided I didn't want to obscure the little gal!

Vintage Napco mermaid lipstick holder

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

NARS summer 2016:

Konstantin Kakanias for NARS

Konstantin Kakanias for NARS

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Anthropologie The Artist's Studio featuring Lou Taylor:

Anthropologie The Artist's Studio featuring Lou Taylor

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Third row, left to right.

Paul & Joe summer 2016 face powder:

Paul & Joe summer 2016 face powder

Paul & Joe summer 2016 face powder

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescues:

Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescues

Tarte Rainforest of the Sea Quench Lip Rescues

Guerlain Terra Ora bronzer:

Guerlain Terra Ora bronzer

Guerlain Terra Ora bronzer

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Too Faced Bathing Beauty palette and Chantecaille dolphin palette:

Too Faced Bathing Beauty palette and Chantecaille Les Dauphins palette

Too Faced Bathing Beauty palette and Chantecaille Les Dauphins palette

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Bottom row, left to right.

NARS Adult Swim promo (summer 2014) and Special Edition O blush...I could have sworn I tore out the Adult Swim ad from a magazine because I remember how much I liked the image, but went through my clippings and realized I hadn't.  Oops. 

NARS Adult Swim ad and Special Edition O blush

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

The Balm Beach blush and Stila Capri Colors trio

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Dolce & Gabbana Collector's Edition powders:

Dolce & Gabbana Collector's Edition powders

Dolce & Gabbana Collector's Edition powders

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Try as I might, I was unable to find a Woodbury ad that featured this particular box.  All of the ones I could find depicted a slightly different version of the box (the goddess figure is shown perched on a shell surrounded by flowers).  There are also other ads that have the same goddess as the powder I have, but she appears on a round box that's actually a set containing powder, blush and lipstick. 

Benefit catalog (2008) and vintage Woodbury powder box

Makeup Museum summer 2016 exhibition label

Any favorite pieces from this year's summer exhibition?

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Spotlight on the Smithsonian's cosmetics and personal care collection

Well, this is embarrassing.  The Curator is quite ashamed to be learning just now of the Smithsonian's collection of vintage cosmetic and personal care items.  Thanks to an email newsletter from Cosmetics Design a few days ago, I learned that the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has a collection of over 2,200 beauty and health items that will soon be digitized with support from Kiehl's.  (Um, hello, Kiehl's?  I know my museum isn't the Smithsonian but I'd sure appreciate some money to fund it.  Please and thank you.)  So there's an excellent selection of cosmetic objects right here in the U.S., a mere 45 minutes away from the Makeup Museum!  Since I can't get down there within the next couple of weeks I thought I'd take a peek at their collection online.  I was not disappointed - tons of good makeup, skincare and hair care items abound.  I picked out a few items I had never seen before and thought I'd share them here.

Collecting Vintage Compacts has an informative post on the Norida company.

Norida Fleur Savage powder, ca. 1924

Encharma powder, ca. 1930s

Once again, Collecting Vintage Compacts has a thorough history of the Edna Wallace Hopper company, among the first to use the name and image of an actress to sell beauty products.

Edna Wallace Hopper powder, early 1920s

I wish more companies did 3D embellishments like on this powder.  That red ornament survived remarkably well.

Piquante powder

I was so pleasantly surprised to see a little lady peering into a mirror rather than a spider in the middle of those webs!

Glebias powder, 1925

Don Juan lipstick - love the name and the cameo detail is great.

Don Juan lipstick, ca. 1946

Don Juan lipstick box, 1946

I'm really surprised most companies today haven't seized on the lipstick tissue gap in the market.  We have facial blotting sheets but not a lot for lips.  I think they're highly unnecessary but just the thing a company would invent to make money off of (and I'd buy it in a heartbeat if it had a graphic of a cool, cave-painting-esque huntress on it like this package.)

Kleenex lipstick tissues

I always think of multi-use products as a modern invention, but this eyelash and brow pomade from 1920 proves me wrong.

Lash and brow pomade, 1920

So. Pretty.

Magda Toilet Cream

Despite the box's claim of being "absolutely safe and harmless to anybody", the phrase "safe arsenic" seems like an oxymoron to me.

Safe Arsenic Complexion Wafers, ca. 1890

Totally misread the name as cocaine, but it's not.  This hair treatment is made from coconut oil.

Cocoaine hair treatment, 1906-1908

Here are the more health-related items.  I wouldn't necessarily include them in my own collection (well, maybe the bath items/soaps since I collect those too currently) but they're pretty interesting nonetheless.

Queen Beauty Toilet Soap, ca. 1908-1918

For a kid in the '60s I bet bathtime was a blast, what with all this fun packaging.

Crazy Foam monkey bottle, 1965

Crazy Bubbles bubble bath, 1966

More harmful ingredients...we think aluminum in deodorant is bad, what about formaldehyde?!

Thymoform deodorant, ca. 1940

Toothbrushes in the 1890s were usually carved from bone or wood and had pig bristles.  Thankfully most were made from nylon by the 1930s.

Toothbrush, ca. 1894

Who wants to see an old douche?  No, I'm not referring to Donald Trump.  The collection has a whole section of "feminine hygiene" products.  Apparently you were supposed to shove one of these "cones" in, um, yourself and leave it in overnight!  I can't imagine the irritation from the salicylic acid.  *shudder*

Sanite cones

The name "Dr. Shoop" cracks me up.  Also, I learned that a "chilblain" is an inflammation of the skin caused by an abnormal reaction to cold.  #themoreyouknow

Dr. Shoop's Green Salve, ca. 1920

Doesn't matter if you're a horse or a cow or a man - Taylor's Oil of Life can soothe what ails ya.

Taylor's Oil of Life Liniment, ca. 1900

They also had very early versions both Smith's Rosebud Salve and Tiger Balm, brands that are still around today and whose packaging has hardly changed.

What I really appreciated about the Smithsonian collection is that they seemed to have made an effort to ensure that beauty items for people of color were represented, especially in the hair items.  And in the brief histories of skincare, hair care and makeup, the museum included descriptions of beauty practices for women of color and resources on the topic in their bibliography - so many short beauty histories and timelines that I've seen mostly exclude non-white folks.

Walker's Glossine

Afro Sheen treatment

Mr. Puff hair oil

Pro Line Kiddie Kit Hair Relaxer, ca. 1979
(all images from americanhistory.si.edu)

I found it odd that Kiehl's did not have much in the way of vintage items.  It looked like the earliest objects were from the 1980s or so but as the Kiehl's name says, the company goes back to 1851.  I think it's rather telling that they included the 2010 Jeff Koons lotion - see, I told you current artist collaborations with beauty brands belong in a museum!  I'm happy that the Smithsonian agrees with me on that.  The only sad part is that so many of these aren't on display, which I guess is why digitization of the collection is all the more important.  But I think it also begs the question of why not put at least some of this stuff out?  Beauty items don't take up much room, after all.  Maybe Kiehl's should fund a special exhibition of collection highlights.

What do you think?  What's your favorite item I've shown here?

 


Quick post: An Estée Lauder compact museum: It DOES exist!

Or at least, it did.  In June 2014 the Northpark Neiman Marcus in Dallas opened an in-store Estée Lauder shop, and to celebrate the occasion, showcased nearly 60 of the company's limited-edition compacts.  I'm not too keen on the idea of having a compact exhibition in a retail setting, as it's simply an attempt to get people to buy things rather than appreciating the pieces on display and the history of the company.  I also didn't think too much of the cases and clear cylindrical mounts, which came across like those you'd find in a run-of-the-mill jewelry store. *cough tacky cough cough*

Estée Lauder compact museum, Dallas(image from theperennialstyle.com)

Estée Lauder Texas compacts
(image from dallas.culturemap.com) 

Having said that, at least these items got out of storage for a bit - most of them had probably never been seen by the public since they were originally released.  (In 2001 Estée had an exhibition of their solid perfume compacts at another Neiman Marcus in Florida, but not their powder ones.)  Also, this lucky lifestyle blogger who attended the event got exclusive access to ads and photos from the Estée Lauder archive, so go check them out. 

I had high hopes for these items to keep traveling, so after not finding any additional information I emailed Estée Lauder regarding the current whereabouts of this alleged museum.  I received no response, which is pretty obnoxious.  If customer service reps don't know about it they could try to find out from the higher-ups, or if the company is no longer maintaining this little project they could have at least replied with that.  I mean, someone there must know what happened to it!  I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled to see if it ever pops up in other stores at some point.

Have you spotted this museum near you?  What do you think of the displays' aesthetics?


MM spring 2016 exhibition

Spring.2016.poster.1pp
(image from flowersfortheweekend.com)

More flowers for spring.  I know, I know, it's quite predictable.  But there were so many beautiful floral palettes released last year I couldn't help but put them on display, and I figured the best time to do that was in a spring exhibition.  You may also notice my latest obsession is vintage powder boxes, one of which features a pussywillow design and sparked a childhood memory of my mother making an arrangement of forsythia and pussywillows at the start of spring each year.  Hence the image for the exhibition poster.  (I'm also wondering if this floral combination is partially responsible for my love of yellow and grey together.)

Mm-spring-2016-exhibition

Top shelves:

Makeup Museum spring 2016 exhibition

Bottom shelves:

Makeup Museum spring 2016 exhibition

Top row, left to right.

Paul & Joe spring 2016:

Paul & Joe spring 2016 makeup

Paul & Joe spring 2016 makeup

Paul & Joe spring 2016 makeup

Paul & Joe spring 2016 makeup

Tetlow's Pussywillow Powder - I forgot to take a picture of the label, but Collecting Vintage Compacts has a very informative post on the Tetlow company.

Henry Tetlow Pussywillow Powder and ad

Henry Tetlow Pussywillow Powder ad, 1920

Henry Tetlow Pussywillow Powder

Cosme Decorte/Marcel Wanders The Secret Nymph compact:

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders The Secret Nymph

I know this was a holiday release and it's not overly floral, but I thought the nymph might get along with some of the others in the exhibition. ;)

Cosme Decorte Marcel Wanders The Secret Nymph

Shu Chinese New Year 2016 cleansing oils...if I had room I would have put the boxes out as well.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year 2016 cleansing oils

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year 2016 cleansing oils

Second row, left to right.

Shiseido Festive Camellia palette:

Shiseido Festive Camellia palette

Shiseido Festive Camellia palette

Shiseido Festive Camellia palette

Shiseido Festive Camellia palette

Dior spring 2016:

Dior spring 2016 makeup

Fresh Rose Face Mask:

Fresh Rose Face Mask

Fresh Rose Face Mask

RMK Circus Face Color and First Love powder by Helen English (ca. 1920s).  I couldn't find any info on the Helen English company but I thought the little sprite on the case would play well with RMK's circus dancer and also with the Wanders nymph above.

RMK Circus Face Color and vintage First Love powder

Third row, left to right.

La Jaynees powder box...could not resist the pretty colors and butterfly!  Fortunately Collecting Vintage Compacts also had a comprehensive history of Rawleigh's, the company that produced La Jaynees.

La Jaynees vintage powder

La Jaynees vintage powder

La Jaynees vintage powder

Ladurée spring 2016 palette and Lancôme Shimmer Cube palette:

Ladurée and Lancome

Givenchy Magnolia Prisme Libre powder and Couture Edition lipstick case...I tried but couldn't find any pics of the magnolia print in action on the runway, only stock photos.  So I left those out.

Givenchy Magnolia powder and rose lipstick case

Givenchy Magnolia powder and rose lipstick case

Givenchy Magnolia powder and rose lipstick case

Chantecaille Magnolia palette...mine crumbled a bit and I didn't realize it until too late - that's what I get for not checking an object prior to exhibition installation.  Whoops.

Chantecaille magnolia palette

Chantecaille magnolia palette

Bottom row, left to right.

Pola BA Active Flower palette - the artist behind this currently has a show in NYC. 

Pola BA Active Flower collection

Pola BA Active Flower collection

Kao EST coffret:

Kao EST coffret set

Vintage Belcano powder - yet another that Collecting Vintage Compacts had the scoop on!  I thought it was going to be much bigger than it is, which is why it looks a little lonely sitting on the shelf by itself.  I might tinker with the display and add another item so it doesn't seem so lonesome.

vintage Belcano powder, ca. 1929

Vintage Belcano powder, ca. 1929

MAC Guo Pei collection:

MAC Guo Pei

MAC Guo Pei

MAC Guo Pei

So that's spring 2016!  I understand if you're a little underwhelmed, but flowers are always appropriate for spring.  I do have an actual theme for the summer 2016 exhibition, so at least you'll have that to look forward to.  :)

 


MM Holiday 2015/Winter 2016 exhibition

MMholiday-2015-poster

I was having a good amount of difficulty devising a cohesive holiday exhibition this year.  So many non-traditional holiday designs abounded - from Smashbox's brightly colored sets courtesy of Yago Hortal to Shu's Maison Kitsuné collab, it was tricky to come up with an overarching theme that made sense.  But one word kept coming to mind: cozy.  I decided that this year I'd do an exhibition that reminds one of being cuddled up in a big sweater (hence the cable knit pattern on the exhibition poster and labels) and a warm blanket (possibly faux fur - I am so in love with mine!*) on a quiet winter night, enjoying holiday sweet treats while watching the snow fall outside and seeing twinkling holiday lights from the houses nearby.  There was also a good dose of childhood nostalgia as inspiration, like fond memories of Christmas tree decorating, making cookies and coming in after a long day of sledding to have hot cocoa.  So every item I chose this year captures these ideas in one way or another.  In the interest of saving my sanity I did a smaller exhibition in the office.

Yes, as with last year's exhibition one of the items still hasn't arrived so there is an empty shelf.  When the item does get here I'll retake the pictures and update...hopefully.  Looks like I never updated the photos from last year's exhibition, whoops.  Update 12 /26/15:  Sigh. The item arrived...completely shattered. :(  So I'm not able to take new pictures still.  I have reordered it and hopefully it will arrive intact and sometime before winter is over.  Update 1/24/2016: Yay, it got here! New pics below.

MM holiday/winter exhibition

Starting with the top rows, left to right, here's a Stila paint can and the Apres Ski trio.  Doesn't the Stila girl on the trio look so content with her toasty knit hat, ski jacket and mug of steaming hot chocolate?

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

While these Victoria Swedish soaps have vintage illustrations (hello Christmas nostalgia!) I also included these since the old time-y Santas remind me of my dad's Santa collection - he has Santa figurines from all over the world and a range of time periods, and growing up I always liked to watch him arrange them on the mantel over the fireplace where we'd hang our stockings.  

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Mmm, red flannel...

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Remember how I was a little bummed I couldn't get my hands on these Nivea tins?  Well, the illustrator who was responsible for the images on them, Joelle Tourlonias, actually contacted me and thanked me for writing about her work, and she sent me 4 of them completely free!  How awesome is that?!  I seriously can't thank her enough, especially since they are so perfect for this year's theme.  There is something so comforting and sweet about these illustrations.

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Etude House Snowy Dessert set:

Etude House Snowy Dessert box

I was too lazy to get up on a ladder to take a photo of the items sitting on the shelf, so here they are on the desk.  The gingerbread man looks like the little fella from Shrek to my eye.  As you can imagine, since this both looks and smells like a gingerbread cookie, I've had considerable trouble preventing MM staff from eating it!

Etude House Snowy Dessert

Second row, left to right.

Cosme Decorte King of Sweets reminds me of all the magical baked goods and candy that only come once a year.

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Guerlain Perles de Neiges Météorites and Rouge G lipstick:

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Way back in April I used MAC's Apres Chic campaign in my roundup of strange headwear in makeup ads.  While the model does look bizarre, I imagine she's pretty warm and cozy!  Incidentally, the makeup items shown with this ad are from a totally different collection, but I think they went well together.  Oh, and the ad is just a reproduction I printed, not an actual MAC postcard, something I forgot to put in the label.

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

Maquillage Snow Beauty:

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

MM holiday 2015 exhibition

So that's the exhibition.  I wish you all a very cozy and peaceful holiday season and hope you stay toasty this winter!

*Do yourself a favor and buy this blanket. Seriously. I swear I'm not affiliated in any way with Pottery Barn, nor did I get it for free, I'm just super happy with it!  It doesn't shed, is ridiculously soft and not itchy, and is incredibly warm. Be warned, you may not be able to get up once you're under it.  :)

 


Special Exhibition: French Twist

Peace for ParisUpdate, 11/15/2015:  The Makeup Museum's fall 2015 exhibition was already devoted to Paris, but in the wake of the recent tragic attacks there, I want to dedicate the exhibition now to peace and healing in the city. Paris, your lights will never be dimmed!

 

 

 

Fall-2015-exhibition-poster

In case you hadn't already guessed, in lieu of a regular seasonal exhibition this fall I'm whisking you away (virtually) to Paris!  Much has been written about the allure of French beauty, from makeup artists giving some quick advice to entire books.  Indeed, the constant stream of how-to articles on achieving the highly coveted French girl look demonstrate that many women the world over - especially us Americans - are more or less obsessed with how French women beautify themselves.  There's even a whole skincare line to ensure one can achieve the seemingly effortless, "je ne sais quoi" French women possess.  But this exhibition isn't about French beauty per se, since, as I pointed out, there are entire books on the subject and it would be too broad of a topic to tackle currently with the Museum's rather meager resources.  Additionally, some consider the "typical" French beauty ideals to be rather offensive or completely baseless and false.  My premise is much simpler:  I wanted to focus on how Paris, the epicenter of French fashion and style, is represented in beauty product packaging and advertising.  Whatever your stance is on the notion of French beauty, the fact remains that items with scenes from Paris are still quite appealing to most beauty consumers (or at least, popular with the brand's marketing department).  So grab some croissants, macarons, or [insert French treat of choice here] and gaze upon the many lovely depictions of the City of Light. 

(I apologize in advance for the poor photos.  They're bad even for me.  I think it was a combination of it being totally overcast and the fact that I had had 3 glasses of prosecco before attempting to take pictures.)

Makeup Museum fall 2015 exhibition

Top shelves, left to right.

Coty Paris ad, 1941

Coty Paris talc box

Coty Paris exhibition label

While I adore the ad I purchased, I must say I wish I could have tracked down these:

Coty Paris ad, 1939
(image from pinterest.com)

Coty Paris ad, 1925
(image from pinterest.com)

Coty wasn't the only one trying to put Paris in a bottle. 

Bourjois Evening in Paris ad, 1945

Bourjois Evening in Paris powder box and compact

Bourjois exhibition label

 

Lancome Auda[city] palette and ad

Lancome My French palette

Max Factor ad, 1958

Physician's Formula Bronzer and Sephora Color Around the World palette

Too-Faced has just released their "Christmas in Paris" holiday line and I want every single thing in it!  Alas, I had to narrow it to just one so I chose Le Grand Palais. 

Too-Faced Le Grand Palais set

Remember how much I loved these Bourjois containers illustrated by Nathalie Leté?

Bourjois Rendez vous a Paris collection, 2009

Tokyo Milk bubble bath and soap

I found a relatively rare compact on Ebay and thought this Cutex ad would go nicely with it.

Olfa of Paris compact (ca. 1940s) and Cutex ad, 1959

Hard to tell from the photo, but this compact is actually red.  There's also a black version, which is featured on page 108 of this book.  Too bad I couldn't find any information on the company.

Olfa of Paris compact, 1940s

Third row, left to right.

Bell Deluxe compacts

Bell-deluxe-label

T. LeClerc Paris in Winter powder:

T. LeClerc Paris in Winter powder

T. LeCleric Paris in Winter powder

exhibition label

Maison Lancôme Highlighting Powder:

Maison Lancôme palette

Maison Lancôme palette

exhibition label

The "Vibrant" line from Coty deserves its own post, but you'll get the gist of it from the exhibition label (I hope). 

Coty Vibrant ad, 1946

This set is too cute!  While it's not officially named "Vibrant" (it says "Co-Ed Makeup Ensemble" on the box lid, which I didn't include in the exhibition),  I suspect it contains the colors from the Vibrant range, since the shade names are the same as in all the Vibrant ads.

Coty Vibrant makeup set, 1940s

Coty Vibrant powder, 1940s

Coty exhibition label

Bottom row, left to right.

You remember this set from the holiday 2014 exhibition, right?

Lancome Starry Eyes set

This was quite an interesting find!  Fortunately Collecting Vintage Compacts had the complete story, so I made sure to credit the author appropriately.

Dorin of Paris

Dorin of Paris powder boxes

Exhibition label

Another adorable collection from Bourjois.

Bourjois - Juliette Bure

Stila Passage to Paris and Pretty in Paris

Exhibition background

I had been wanting to do exhibitions on both New York and Paris in beauty products for roughly 4 years.  Last year I got the idea of do a joint exhibition featuring both (working title was "A Tale of Two Cities: Depictions of Paris and New York in Beauty Products").  But I realized my collection had a few gaps when it came to NY.  For example, I had missed purchasing the Makeup Forever Highline palette (despite my assertion that it would be good for a NY-themed exhibition) and this Sephora palette.  I was also having a difficult time finding vintage NY-related pieces that were also as visually appealing as the ones I was finding for Paris.  However, I did want to keep New York in the picture since I felt most of the items I had for Paris were from the same brands (Bourjois, Coty and Lancome) and I didn't want it to be repetitive.  In the end, I determined that the pieces were different enough despite being from the same brand, so I abandoned the idea of including New York-themed items and decided to just focus on Paris.  This doesn't mean, however, that the idea of a joint exhibition that includes New York will never be revisited.  ;)  

In terms of why I decided to launch this exhibition now, I was reflecting on my five-year wedding anniversary back in August and the amazing trip the husband and I took to Paris for our honeymoon, so I just had Paris on the brain.  Plus, I couldn't seem to make a cohesive fall exhibition.  Sometimes there's no particular seasonal theme that calls to me and I knew I had enough Paris items, so I thought, why not fall 2015?

Things I would have included but couldn't acquire

I made two collages of items that I'd give my eye teeth for.  The pieces I have in the current exhibition are nice, but there are some others that would really enhance it.

First, some vintage pieces.  On the left we have Bourjois Printemps de Paris powder and an ad for the fragrance beneath it.  This perfume was released in 1931 and the ad is from 1933, so I'm guessing the powder is from around then too.  On the right is a rare Dorin face powder from 1925.  Funnily enough, Dorin still makes Un Air de Paris fragrance, although I suspect it's significantly different from the original. At the bottom we have the exquisite Guerlain Poudre aux Ballons from 1918, which I've been drooling over for quite a while.

Makeup Museum Paris exhibition - vintage items(images from pinterest.com, hprints.com, liveauctioneers.com, and artfrancais.nl)

More contemporary items include the Fancl fall 2012 French chic collection (still kicking myself for not buying these when I had the chance - when I posted about them 3 years ago I was already envisioning them in a French/Paris-themed exhibition), the Clinique travel box which was only available at duty-free shops (grrr!), Catrice Big City collection from 2012 (again, another one I'm kicking myself for not buying and also one I had mentioned as being useful for a Paris or New York exhibition), and the lovely Kerrie Hess-illustrated collection for Lancôme, which unfortunately was only available in Australia.


Makeup Museum Paris exhibition - contemporary items

Something surprising

When rounding up items for this exhibition, I was shocked to see that some of the quintessential French brands - Chantecaille, L'Occitane, Givenchy, Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, etc. - did not have any items depicting Paris.  And Paul & Joe always seems to have a Parisian theme for their collections, but there are no actual illustrations of the city on their products.  I'm not saying it's the responsibility of any of these brands to have Paris-themed products, just that I found it really odd. 

And that's the exhibition!  Does it make you want to take a fabulous trip to Paris?


Makeup in NY - The Art of Beauty exhibition recap

For the third year in a row I managed to get myself up to NYC to go to the Makeup in NY show, which usually features an exhilarating exhibition of vintage beauty items (see recaps from 2013 and 2014).  I wish I could say I had a great time, but truthfully, it was not the best trip.  This year the show moved to a very convenient location right across from Penn Station, but it also switched dates - normally the show is towards the end of September, but this year it was the second week of the month, which is horrible for me work-wise as we always have a big quarterly meeting then.  Tuesday of that week was spent running around like mad trying to get 2 days of meeting prep condensed into one day due to Labor Day, then Wednesday was the meeting, so Thursday was the only day I could make it to New York.  I got to the train station only to find the train was a half hour late, then it proceeded to break down completely in NJ, so I arrived in Manhattan an hour later than expected.  I also managed to miss meeting up with the fabulous Meli of Wild Beauty, who happened to be at the show almost at the same time!  If I hadn't been so late I may have been able to meet up, but by the time I got there I basically had to make a quick pass through the show and then immediately head back to the train station to get home.  Oh, and the train also got held up in NJ on the way back, so I was an hour late coming home as well.  So after two hellish days of work and all the train issues, overall I was not pleased, but at least I got there! 

Anyway, onto the show.  Compared to the past 2 years it was very small.  There were only about 10 cases total.  I'd estimate that the amount of items was about half of what it's been for the past couple of years, which was a bit disappointing, especially given how annoyed I was by then from dealing with stupid Amtrak.  However, I did get quite the surprise which totally made up for everything - keep reading to see what it was. ;)

Art of Beauty exhibition banner

There was a neat old book listing the types of packaging for various cosmetic items (or "toilet paints").

Types of vintage cosmetic packaging

Types of vintage cosmetic packaging

Vintage compacts are great, but boy do I love the graphics on old powder boxes. 

Vintage French powder box

Powder box labels

Vintage shampoo box

Vintage tooth powder box

How ridiculously cute is this soap container?!

Vintage French soap container

Vintage French soap container

More powder boxes.

Vintage powder boxes

Vintage powder boxes

Vintage Dorin and Caron powder boxes

Vintage powder box

Intoxication dusting powder

Here's a very nice selection of vintage Guerlain items.

Vintage Guerlain

Stendhal - I don't know much about this brand but the packaging sure was fancy.

Stendhal ad

Stendhal box and lipstick

As I noted in my recap of last year's exhibition, I was a little taken aback that celebrities had their own beauty lines back then.  This Josephine Baker stuff is crazy, no?

Josephine Baker beauty items

Now for the surprise that made the annoying trip completely worth it. I MET Jean-Marie Martin Hattemberg.  Like, I actually talked to him!!  I noticed a well-groomed man wearing a pretty spiffy shirt and a tie with a print of pairs of lips sitting at a table at the entrance to the exhibition.  The table had copies of the Ode to the Complexion book that I've been trying to track down, so I asked to buy a copy.  He smiled and started writing in it.  At first I was puzzled, then it dawned on me that it was HIM!!  I couldn't believe I was meeting the man behind these exhibitions, whose exquisite collection has traveled the world and that I've been admiring for years.

Ode to the Complexion

Inscription

Not only did he write a lovely inscription in the book, he asked for my mailing address so he could send me auction catalogs containing vintage items.  And he told me I should become a member of the International Perfume Bottle Association, as they include vintage powder boxes, compacts and lipsticks - I had no idea!  He also suggested coming to their convention in Portland next April since they have tons of things available for sale.  We swapped business cards and I told him a bit about the Makeup Museum...I think he thought I was a dope.  I also really wanted to ask for a selfie with him - I felt like I was with a celebrity - but the conversation was already so awkward (thank you, crippling social anxiety) that I didn't.  Plus he was gracious enough to autograph my book and chat with me a little so I didn't want to push my luck and bother him more than I already had. 

After going through the exhibition I went upstairs to check out some of the booths.  I have to say that while the Penn Plaza Pavilion was certainly convenient if you were coming from Penn Station, it was really cramped compared to the previous location, plus the air conditioning wasn't working very well so it was fairly stuffy.  Rumor has it the show will move again next year, so I guess they received some negative feedback on the location.  Anyway, I had to move quickly so I couldn't take a lot of photos.  This creepy face chair got my attention though.

Face chair

As did these oversize mascara wands - I would totally use these as decor in the Museum!!  I almost burst out laughing when I saw them...they reminded me of something out of Pee Wee's Big Adventure (or, if you prefer, the giant underwear bit.)

Oversize mascara wands

So that was my trip to the Makeup in NY show.  Not as enjoyable as years past, but meeting Mr. Hattemberg was so worth it (although sadly, I have not heard anything from him since.) 

I wonder what the exhibition will be next year...can't wait!  Hopefully I will have an easier time getting there and back.  :)