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Executing makeup on the astral plane: Addiction x Hilma af Klint

Hilma-af-klint-studio
image from anothermag.com

I thought for sure Addiction's spring 2017 compacts featuring the work of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) would be unattainable, as they were only available as a gift with purchase in Japan.  Fortunately a seller I frequent was able to get both for me!  I had heard of af Klint before and was intrigued by her work since I have a soft spot for colorful abstraction, but this collection made me admire it even more.  I really have no idea how the collaboration came about as the description at Addiction's website is pretty vague:  "We learned that a woman had painted these magnificent paintings at the beginning of the 20th century and wanted to know more about her." In any case I really enjoyed learning about af Klint and I hope you do too.

Much has been written about the artist, although that's a recent development due partially to the fact that af Klint stipulated that a group of her most significant paintings not be revealed to the public until 20 years after her death, fearing that they wouldn't be understood.  In fact, it took even longer for her work to be recognized; it wasn't until a major exhibition in 1986 that her name was on the art history map, so to speak, and I'm guessing this was also due to the patriarchy at work.  I don't want to spend much time reviewing her entire oeuvre, since I am not an expert and also because af Klint was a prolific artist, producing over 1,000 works (!) in her lifetime.  I'll provide a brief bio and then focus on the paintings reproduced on the Addiction compacts.  (Sources are linked throughout.)

Af Klint was born in 1862 and entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm in 1882.  This was a rarity for the time, as the art schools in most European countries allowed only men.  While producing the usual landscapes, botanical and animal drawings - af Klint was a vegetarian and animal-lover who worked as a draughtswoman at a local veterinary school - she had started experimenting with abstract designs before she graduated in 1887.  Af Klint, along with her contemporary Edward Munch (who, incidentally, once had a show in a gallery in the same building as her studio) were inspired by recent scientific developments involving phenomena unable to be perceived with the naked eye.  Hettie Judah at The Independent explains: "This was a period in which the 'unseen' world exerted a growing fascination – not only the emotional, experiential world of the human spirit explored by Munch, but the discovery of physical forces and elementary particles that formed the known world on a microscopic level.  In the late 1880s Heinrich Hertz proved the existence of electromagnetic waves: in 1895 Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X-rays. A vision of the world pulsing with forces and transmissions invisible to the naked eye was emerging."  Af Klint's interest in abstraction was also influenced by her spirituality - having attended seances since the age of 17, she was greatly intrigued by the spiritual realm, and the death of her 10-year-old sister in 1880 only intensified her interest in the occult.   In 1896 she formed a group with 4 other like-minded women artists and together called themselves The Five.  Roughly 30 years before the Surrealists, these women tried their hand at automatic drawing and writing.  Talk about being ahead of the times!  During one session in either 1904 1905 af Klint was "commissioned" by Amaliel, one of several spirits she claimed communicated with her, to create an extensive collection that would become known as The Paintings for the Temple.  In af Klint's words, the spirit guided her to "execute paintings on the astral plane" to represent the "immortal aspects of man." Completed between 1906 and 1915, the collection of 193 large-scale paintings were divided into several thematic series that "convey[ed] the unity of all existence beyond the fractured duality of the modern world. Different series within The Paintings for the Temple relate to the creation, man’s progress through life, evolution, and the human soul as divided into masculine and feminine halves striving for unity."  It was this collection that af Klint stipulated could not be shown until 20 years after her death, a decision influenced by the opinion of a prominent Swiss philosopher who visited af Klint in 1908 and speculated it would be at least another 50 years until people understood her art.

Anyway, The Ten Largest is the second series in the collection and was completed between August and December of 1907, quite a feat given their enormous size (10 feet tall) and af Klint's petite stature (5 feet).  The Ten Largest traces the human life cycle in 4 stages - childhood, youth, adulthood, old age - and the two paintings chosen for the compacts are No. 1, Childhood, Group IV and No. 5, Adulthood, Group IV.  Why Addiction selected these two in particular I don't know, but they do look lovely on the compacts. 

Addiction Hilma af Klint compacts

Addiction Hilma af Klint compacts

Interestingly, af Klint noted that she wasn't all that aware of what she was painting, taking on the role of a receiver or medium.  She explained, "The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless, I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brushstroke." 

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

There's something so beautifully organic about these - they appear to be idealized representations of cells, flowers and other natural elements.  I'll let the Royal Academy Magazine give a much better description:  "Snail-shell spirals, concentric circles and zygote-like forms nestle amongst coiled fronds and splayed petals (she also produced intricate botanical drawings), all dancing against radiant tempera backgrounds from terracotta orange to faded lilac. Forms bulge, overlap, conjoin in what an eye informed by contemporary science might liken to celestial bodies or cell mitosis; they are extraordinary pictures, immense and ecstatic." The 26,000 pages (holy crap) of notebooks af Klint kept provide some clues as to the meaning of various colors and motifs.  Blue and lilies symbolized femininity, yellow and roses stood for masculinity, and green was a universal color.  The letter "U" designated the spiritual realm, while "W" denoted physical matter, and spirals symbolized evolution.  This underscores that there was nothing passive about her process; in fact, she essentially studied her own work over the years, an example of which is a 1,200 page notebook that further analyzed the meaning of the images she had painted.  

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

Here's the original so you can see how it's actually oriented - Addiction re-situated the paintings horizontally to better fit on the compacts.

The Ten Largest, No. 1, Childhood, Group IV - by Hilma af Klint (1907)(image from anothermag.com)

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

The Ten Largest, No. 5, Adulthood, Group IV - by Hilma af Klint (1907)(image from arteidolia.com)

Here are some of the eyeshadows.  I have 4 of them but couldn't bear to take the plastic off, so I hope you'll forgive me for the tiny stock photos.  I can absolutely see how the colors are inspired by af Klint. I guess they couldn't use the real names of the paintings, so some of them, like Flower Evolution, are merely reminiscent of af Klint's themes.

Addiction Hilma af Klint eyeshadow
(images from addiction-beauty.com)

I'm really glad Addiction is helping to bring af Klint to a wider audience because for so long she didn't get the recognition she deserved.  Five years before Kandinsky declared to have painted the first abstract work, af Klint was completing Primordial Chaos, the first collection in her monumental series.  Some art critics claim that af Klint's paintings were merely diagrams of the spiritual world or depictions of scientific concepts we can't see, not true abstraction (or at least, a different form of the genre).  That sounds plausible, but given that in 1970 the then-Director of Sweden's Moderna Museet turned down the offer of af Klint's entire estate because of her relationship to spiritualism and a more recent incident at MoMA in which af Klint's work was left out of an exhibition on early abstraction per the argument that it wasn't actually art, I'd say there's definitely sexism at work here.  When you consider that Kandinsky, Mondrian, Malevich, etc. all drew inspiration from spiritualism and are heralded as the pioneers of abstraction, leaving af Klint out of the conversation seems blatantly sexist.  When male artists borrowed spiritualist principles they were geniuses but when a woman did she was written off as a kook - not a real artist, just some crazy lady who happened to draw and paint a lot.  Perhaps there's also an unconscious bias over the fact that af Klint subscribed to theosophy, an area of spiritualist belief that was founded by a woman and is notable for being the first European religious organization that actively welcomed women and allowed them to have senior positions.  Additionally, the lack of renown could be the result of societal conditioning; women simply weren't encouraged to be at the forefront of art.  Af Klint was no exception - as noted earlier, she worked largely in isolation and didn't participate in the avant-garde discussions going on in the rest of Europe.  As Jennifer Higgie writes in Hilma af Klint:  Painting the Unseen (p.16): "[...It's] irrefutable that although women artists were tolerated, they were rarely, if ever, encouraged to express the kind of radical ideas that marked their male contemporaries as innovators...even though af Klint was one of the earliest Western artists to wholeheartedly engage with abstraction, the most visible discussions of it as a viable new artistic language were conducted by men, all of whom were proficient at self-promotion."  (Kandinsky was particularly known for puffing himself up.)  In any case, I think these issues make it all the more important to acknowledge her work.  Even if they're not "truly" abstract, af Klint's paintings are still vital to understanding the evolution of modern Western art.  And when you consider the fact that she was  producing these pieces in an atmosphere not exactly hospitable to women artists, it makes her accomplishments even more mind-boggling.  Adrian Searle at The Guardian agrees: "Too often for it to be an accident, Af Klint had an innate sense of how to make a painting, often with no artistic models to turn to. Her best paintings are airy, their forms and geometries delivered with an evident pleasure and openness...The scale and frontality and freshness of her work still stand up, in a way that many Kandinskys don't. Yet looking at photographic portraits of the artist, we see a stern woman who was far from cosmopolitan, and in whom there are few outward signs of emancipation. For a woman to be an artist at all in Sweden in the early 20th century was difficult enough. To be an artist who believed as she did must have made matters even more difficult."

Anyway, I'm still trying to figure out how Addiction got the rights to use af Klint's work on the compacts.  Having a collection inspired by an artist's work is one thing, but actual reproductions are trickier legally.  There is a Hilma af Klint Foundation governed by her family members, so possibly they granted the rights to Addiction, but that would be a huge feat for the company to pull off since the guardians of af Klint's estate protect the use of her work rather fiercely.  And of course there's the age-old question of whether a deceased artist would approve of their work being used this way.  I really can't say in the case of Klint.  On the one hand she seems like someone who wouldn't be interested in makeup - given that her life's work consisted of representing tremendously complex philosophical and spiritual ideas, she may have perceived cosmetics as frivolous.  On the other hand, this may also mean she'd be okay with people enjoying her art in whatever format it appeared.  Says Iris Müller-Westermann, Director of Moderna Museet Malmö, "This was really an artist who dared to think beyond her time, to step out of what was commonly accepted...she had visions about bigger contexts where it was not about making money or being very famous, but about doing something much more humble: trying to understand the world and who we are in it." Af Klint also seemed to believe that women should be equal, and part and parcel of equality is being able to express ourselves however we choose.  I'm not able to paint on a canvas but I can get creative with makeup.  I think af Klint would have appreciated that. 

Overall I'm delighted with this collaboration.  I am possibly the least spiritual person I know, but looking at af Klint's work I feel simultaneously curious about our place in the universe and incredibly at peace.  I can only imagine how I'd react if I saw these in person; an anecdote from the blockbuster 2013 af Klint exhibition notes that many visitors cried when faced with af Klint's monumental works but couldn't explain why, something that's happened to me when standing in front of certain works of art.  As for the Addiction collection, the colors and textures make me want to try to "paint the unseen" - just like af Klint but using my eyelids as a canvas!

What do you think?  Had you heard of af Klint before now?


Hey dollface: celebrating LM Ladurée's 5th anniversary

It was love at first sight with this precious doll-shaped powder box that Les Merveilleuses Ladurée released in honor of their 5th anniversary.  I mean, even the outer packaging is gorgeous.  As a collector, I was also overjoyed to receive a free tote bag from the seller, which I used as a background for these photos - isn't it pretty?  There is also a beautiful rose shaped blush with the same outer packaging that I have on its way to me, but the star of the show is clearly the powder.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

Both whimsical and sophisticated, this delicate doll figurine is outfitted in a sumptuous blue velvet dress with a purple satin ribbon.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

It looks like it might be heavy in the photos, but it's actually very lightweight and seems quite fragile - I was so afraid it would shatter if I dropped it.

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

I wonder how many people bought this to actually use it and not collect.  While the velvet dress is lovely, you'd have to be really careful to make sure the powder doesn't get all over it. 

LM Ladurée 5th anniversary powder box

When I first laid eyes on this my makeup historian sense was immediately tingling; somehow I just knew this design wasn't new.  Upon searching for vintage doll powder boxes I came across many different kinds, most made of porcelain or ceramic, but the ones made of papier mache stood out to me.  That particular material jogged something in my brain and I suddenly remembered where I had seen them before. 

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Yup, at the 2014 Makeup in New York exhibition!  How could I forget?  I guess I wasn't paying attention to the labels on these even though I took photos of them, LOL.

Terre de Retz powder box label

Terre de Retz powder box label

Terre de Retz was a line of doll-shaped powder boxes introduced by famed French department store Galeries Lafayette sometime around 1920.  This blog post had the full scoop on them and led me to buy this book.  Yes, I bought an entire book on perfumes just to get the tiny morsel of additional information it had on these powder boxes, and also because I had totally forgotten they were in this book as well.  Anyway, they were designed by Georges Duchesne (most of them are signed G. Duchesne) and came in a wide variety of styles ranging from Marie Antoinette-era fashions to 1920s flappers.  I suspect Terre de Retz was the inspiration for Ladurée's anniversary item, as both are constructed from a paper-based material and the general design for some of the Terre de Retz figurines is the same (i.e. the way in which the powder box is hidden and fits into the top part of the doll).

Terre de Retz ad, 1927
(image from cleopatrasboudoir.blogspot.com)

Masterpieces of Perfume book

The ones that appear to be the most common are these masked figurines and ones dressed in a mid-19th century style (at least, they resemble that period to my eye).

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Some other ones I liked:

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

Terre de Retz powder box

My favorites though were the ones that most resembled the Ladurée figurine.  While these ladies flaunt a more French Revolution-era style in terms of hair and makeup, they have voluminous blue skirts, fans and necklaces.

Terre de Retz powder box

This one also has a bow.  I really wanted to buy it but it's missing the bottom part of the box, plus, as I sadly discovered, Terre de Retz figurines are not cheap.  This one is going for $695 on ebay and the lowest price I've seen for one so far is $299.  Maybe someday I will have one for my very own but not right now!

Terre de Retz powder box
(images from rubylane, ebay and pinterest)

While I have no proof that Ladurée drew on Terre de Retz for their 5th anniversary powder box, it would be quite a nice nod to their French heritage.  In terms of a more modern, artsy take on figural powder boxes, I'd dearly love for a company to collaborate with this contemporary artist - while she doesn't make powder boxes to my knowledge (only figurines), I think she'd come up with some amazingly imaginative designs given her style.

Thoughts? 

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It's 5 o'clock somewhere: boozy makeup packaging

I remember thinking how cute and novel these wine bottle-shaped lipsticks were when they were making a sensation back in the fall.  (I do have one on the way but the package somehow keeps getting delayed so here's a stock photo for now.)  I'm not a wine person - gives me a horrible headache - but I do appreciate adorable makeup packaging so this gets a thumbs-up from me.  I mean on the one hand I'm not fond of wine once again being associated with a clichéd feminine stereotype (all ladies love wine, shopping, chocolate and shoes, amirite?), but on the other hand, this lipstick is just too cute.

Chateau Labiotte wine lipstick
(image from beautyboxkorea.com)

Turns out, this isn't the first time lipstick has been designed to resemble booze.  I was positively tickled when, during one of my customary Friday night vintage makeup searches on Etsy (I lead a very exciting life, I know), I came across this miniature lipstick cleverly packaged as a whiskey bottle.

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

It really is mini!

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick

I'd never heard of Carstairs before, but apparently from roughly the '40s through the '60s they did a good amount of advertising for their White Seal whiskey, which is still sold today.  In addition to the lipsticks, they offered mini screwdrivers and toothpicks, along with seal clock figurines and the usual print advertising.  According to one (no longer active) ebay listing, the lipstick bottles started being produced around 1944 and other listings say they're from the '50s, so I guess they were used as promotional items for a few decades.  Here's a photo of one in Madeleine Marsh's excellent book, which also dates it to the '50s. 

Carstairs miniature whiskey bottle lipstick in Compacts and Cosmetics by Madeleine Marsh

I'm guessing that for the most part, the lipsticks were provided to bars and liquor stores and given away as a small gift-with-purchase, as there are quite a few full boxes of them floating around. I would have bought this one in a heartbeat because how cute would it have been to display it alongside a whole Chateau Labiotte set?

Vintage Carstairs whiskey lipstick set

Chateau Labiotte set(images from etsy.com and labiotte.us)

But the individual lipsticks are obviously a lot cheaper and I have many things I want to purchase for the summer exhibition, so I had to pass for now. ;)  As for the lipstick itself, a company called Christy Cosmetics, Inc. was responsible for producing it.  I couldn't find much information about it online, other than it was a New York-based company and was also the manufacturer of a line called Diana Deering (who was an entirely fictional character, or, as the patent puts it, "fanciful".)

Christy Cosmetics ad, 1944(image from what-i-found.blogspot.com)

Diana Deering ad, 1944

Diana Deering/Christy Cosmetics patent(image from tsdrapi.uspto.gov)

I'm sure there's information about Christy out there somewhere, but as usual I lack the time and other resources to do proper research, i.e., looking beyond Google.  If anyone knows anything about their relationship with Carstairs and how they were chosen to produce their promo items I'd love to hear it.

Uh-oh, we have a situation here.  Once again a certain little Sailor is up to no good.  "It's just my size!" 

Bottoms up!

I better go get this wrapped up and into storage before he smears it all over his face in attempt to "drink" the non-existent whiskey.  In any case, Happy St. Patrick's Day and I hope these lipsticks have inspired you to let your hair down and enjoy some adult beverages tonight!


Cock a doodle doo!

Consider this part 1 of a 2-part celebration of the Chinese New Year.  Later this week I'll be discussing some really cool vintage Chinese New Year-related finds, but today I'm looking at some contemporary rooster-themed items since 2017 is the Year of the Rooster. 

We'll start with Armani's lovely palette.  The design is similar to last year's, with a striking red outer case and a subtle engraving of the animal on the powder inside.  The characters on the 2017 case, however, apparently mean happiness and luck, whereas last year the character was "fu", which symbolizes fortune or good luck.  Alas, since I'm not familiar with a single Chinese character I can't say for sure what these are and have to rely on other blogs and press releases.

Armani Chinese New Year palette 2017

At first I was a little disappointed that the rooster was rendered in the exact same style as last year's monkey.  But then it occurred to me that if Armani continues releasing these palettes and maintains the same style of illustration, they will look utterly fabulous displayed together.  ;)

Armani Chinese New Year palette 2017

The rooster is the 10th sign of the Chinese zodiac.  Roosters are known to be "honest, energetic, intelligent, flamboyant, flexible, diverse, and confident."  They also tend to be incredibly punctual, since for centuries roosters served as alarm clocks.  And this is interesting:  I didn't know this previously, but all the Chinese zodiac signs also correspond to the Chinese elements of fire, wood, earth, metal and water.  While the zodiac animal sign changes each year, the elements change only every 12 years, so each animal/element combination will only be repeated every 60 years.  Currently we're in a fire cycle, so this year it's a fire rooster. 

Armani Chinese New Year palette 2017

Next up is a handful of items from Etude House.  I was browsing their site to order some of their holiday collection, which I found out about quite late in the season, and spotted their adorable Chinese New Year lineup.  Completely different feel from Armani, but super cute and worthy of the Museum.

Etude House Chinese New Year 2017

Other beauty brands were eager to jump on the Chinese New Year bandwagon this year, so in case Armani and Etude House didn't do it for you, here are some more goodies.

Chinese New Year 2017 beauty products
 

  1. Givenchy Prisme Libre Loose Powder
  2. A'Pieu Full of Color Eyes palette
  3. LUSH Little Dragon bubble bar (this actually isn't new, but I'm so glad it's still around!)
  4. Guerlain Rouge G lipstick
  5. YSL Chinese New Year Blush Palette
  6. Laneige Water Bank set
  7. MAC Eyeshadow x 9

So that's the start of the Museum's 2017 Chinese New Year celebration!  Stay tuned for another (rather mysterious, I might add) Chinese zodiac festivity later this week.  ;)

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Natural beauty: Suqqu holiday 2016

Christmas is over, but I'm determined to try to catch up on some holiday collections!  Estée Lauder wasn't the only company who teamed up with a jewelry designer this holiday season.  Japanese brand Suqqu collaborated with Ayaka Nishi for two makeup sets featuring two of Nishi's best-known motifs.  I wish I could have found some information about how the collaboration came about and why these two designs were chosen, but didn't turn up anything. 

I picked up the set with the honeycomb pattern.

Suqqu holiday 2016

Suqqu holiday 2016

Suqqu holiday 2016

Suqqu holiday 2016

Suqqu holiday 2016

According to her website, Nishi has been fascinated with shapes found in nature since she was a child.  "Having grown up on the Japanese archipelago, Ms. Nishi’s work is rooted in the rich flora and fauna with which she interacted in her youth. Born and raised in Kagoshima, a medium-size metropolis in a mostly rural prefecture on Kyushuu island, she was influenced not only by the sophistication of city life but also by the bucolic countryside and pristine wilderness beyond. Thus, as a child she might spend one day admiring the fashionable denizens that paraded downtown, and another catching insects, discovering fossils, and gazing at the stars."  Natural, organic forms normally aren't my thing - they're usually a little too earthy/hippie for my taste - but Nishi combines them with a sophisticated, urban sensibility to make them incredibly chic and high-fashion.  (I also think it doesn't hurt that she studied art history as an undergrad. Ahem.) Nishi covers many different concepts so there really is something for everyone:  coral, feathers, fossils, spider webs, insect wings, leaves and branches are beautifully rendered in addition to honeycombs and fish scales.

Here's a peek at some of the honeycomb designs.  Stylistically they span a wide range from minimal, simple shapes to bold statement pieces.

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

This is the one that appeared on the Suqqu set box.

Ayaka Nishi

Just for fun, here's the Suqqu set featuring the fish scale motif and some examples of Nishi's fish scale designs. 

Suqqu holiday 2016 makeup kit - B

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

While the honeycomb is pretty and the fish scales have a little mermaid quality to them (irresistible to me, of course), I was more drawn to these bone/spine designs.  Understandably these probably wouldn't be the best selection for a makeup collaboration, since no doubt some would find them creepy, but they're my favorite out of all of Nishi's collections.  I'm not getting a macabre/goth vibe from them; to my eye, they're more straightforward and scientific, like an illustration you'd find in a biology textbook.  Again, they're pretty chic - bone jewelry can go a little Pebbles if it's not executed properly, but done right it can look really cool.

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

Plus, spines in particular represent strength to me. The term "spineless" is a synonym for weak, while "backbone" is used to convey a strong foundation or courage.  So I think they're also a little bad-ass.  :)  I'd proudly wear this spine cuff bracelet or choker.

Ayaka Nishi

Ayaka Nishi

On the more delicate side, I'm also kind of obsessed with these beautiful grain rings.

Ayaka Nishi
(images from ayakanishi.com)

Overall, I would have liked to see a design on the outer case of the palette rather than just the box and a more detailed pattern or jewelry replica on the makeup itself, but the minimal look of this set was nice enough to warrant a space in the Museum's collection.  Plus I love the work of this designer so it's good to have a makeup representation of her work on hand.  Because I am a collector I'm still wondering if I should try to get my hands on the fish scale set.  Oh, and today all jewelry at the website is 20% off so I'm seriously tempted to splurge on something.  ;)

What do you think?


Friday fun: This egg is not sunny side up

Back in the early fall I saw some beauty items with a very strange-looking character pop up on Instagram.  He looked kind of cute though and I was immediately intrigued.  I made a mental note to show the husband later because, well, I just had a gut feeling he'd like him too.  But later that very same morning the husband sent me an interview with the designer for this Japanese character and asked if I had heard of it.  It's proof of how well we know each other - we just had a feeling we'd both be smitten with this little egg, who has taken the world by storm since his introduction in 2013 by Sanrio (the company responsible for Hello Kitty).   Without further ado, please watch the very short video below for an introduction to Gudetama, a.k.a. the lazy egg!

I don't know if Gudetama is entirely lazy; there seems to be some depression, apathy, slight existential (eggsistential?) angst and general malaise mixed in with the laziness.  In other words, this egg is me.

Gudetama

Gudetama

Gudetama

Gudetama

Gudetama
Gudetama was the runner-up in a contest at Sanrio to devise a food-themed character.1  The designer who created him2, Eimi "Amy" Nagashima, had joined Sanrio just a year prior.  In an interview with AIGA (the very same interview the husband sent me that fateful morning), she tells the story of how Gudetama came into existence. "I was eating a raw egg on rice at home one morning and thought to myself that the egg was kind of cute, but entirely unmotivated and indifferent as well.  Eggs are phenomenal! The taste, lustre, nutritional value, and countless ways they can be prepared make eggs great, but for me, eggs that are relegated to the fate of being eaten also seemed despairing.  They seem entirely absent from any effort or energy, almost as if they were sick of the competitive world around them.  The personality I was imagining seemed to me to parallel people in modern society who despair amid economic hard times and who are talented but don’t feel like throwing themselves into anything...I try to reflect images of the people of modern society that I see in the news. I also draw on the so-called “Yutori” generation of people that have graduated from a good university but in economically challenging times, so feel hopeless and just cannot be bothered to make an effort...I never dreamed that Gudetama would become so loved and pervasive. When it debuted, I wondered if it might end up a flash in the pan."

Indeed, the winner of the in-house Sanrio contest, a slice of salmon named Kirimi-chan, is not nearly as popular as Gudetama in terms of social media following or the number of products he's appeared on:  Gudetama has made his way onto 1,700 items, including two very extensive collections with Korean beauty brand Holika Holika.  Before we dive into the massive amount of items I purchased from these collections, let's continue to egg-splore (sorry, can't help it) Gudetama's appeal.

Gudetama-sleepy

To Westerners, the idea of an anthropomorphic egg seems entirely bizarre, but in Japan, it's rather normal. Explains Manami Okazaki, a journalist who published a book on kawaii culture, “Japan has a long history of making food aesthetic, and merging food presentation and art...given that kawaii is one of the most prominent contemporary movements and resonates with most youth in Japan, it isn’t much of a surprise that food merged with kawaii design."  As for the sad personality, it's also not unexpected. Matt Alt, co-founder of pop culture translation company Alt-Japan says, "Many Japanese mascots will express emotions that Western mascots would not. In the West, mascots are used almost exclusively to cheer people up. In Japan, they’re often used to get a point across or act as mediators in situations where you wouldn’t want to express yourself directly...Mascots serve as blameless mediators and tension breakers of conflict in Japan. So a mascot that isn’t happy? That’s very familiar to the Japanese."  And while some argue that Gudetama represents the somewhat repressed nature of Japanese society, Alt disagrees:  "It’s true that Japanese society values considering the needs and thoughts of others. Especially in public. But that doesn’t mean Japanese people are incapable of articulating themselves.  I would say using mascots such as Gudetama is a more nuanced way of expressing oneself than simply verbalizing an emotion or typing it out. This is exactly the reason Japan is the country that invented emoji — those little blips and icons used to spice up a conversation by injecting an emotional quotient.  I don’t think you can look at Gudetama — or any mascot or emoji — and say they’re the product of an emotionally stunted civilization. They’re the product of a society that has found alternate and interesting methods to express itself."  Finally, while Gudetama's popularity in the West may seem odd at first, it's also not that big of a surprise, according to this article:  "Gudetama is also considered part of a new kawaii subculture called kimo-kawaii, or gross-cute, which is resonating more with underground youth culture than the sweetie-pie characters of yore...In the West, where weird for the sake of weird is a well-established marketing technique, kimo-kawaii characters are a natural fit. The U.S., especially, has a longstanding love of characters with bad attitudes..."  I also think Gudetama particularly resonates with depressed people, of which there are over 15 million in the U.S. (including yours truly).  For example, I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to go home before I've even left the house.  My eyes almost popped out of my head with recognition when I saw this clip.  (Side note: I love the fact that he uses bacon as a blanket!!  Or mushrooms/tofu as pillows, unsuccessfully.)

Anyway, after watching nearly every Gudetama video I could find I picked out some (okay, too many) things from the Holika Holika collections.  The first collection, called Lazy & Easy, debuted in May, and the second was a holiday one called Lazy & Joy.  There was just so much variety - Gudetama appeared in so many different permutations that I simply couldn't narrow it down much.

Gudetama x Holika Holika

Gudetama x Holika Holika Lazy Joy collection

I love the outer packaging...look at the bacon tape!!

Gudetama x Holika Holika

The inserts were also ridiculously adorable.

Gudetama x Holika Holika

Gudetama x Holika Holika BB cushion cases

Gudetama x Holika Holika BB cushion cases

Gudetama x Holika Holika lip tints

Gudetama x Holika Holika skincare

Gudetama x Holika Holika

Gudetama x Holika Holika

Gudetama x Holika Holika

Gudetama x Holika Holika Tiramisu eyeshadow

Gudetama x Holika Holika blush

Gudetama x Holika Holika nail stickers

Gudetama x Holika Holika nail stickers

I must admit that I have a bit of an obsession with Gudetama's butt (and I'm not the only one).  Seriously, how cute is that little tuchus? 

Gudetama x Holika Holika

This is not accidental, either.  Gudetama's creator says of the animations, "Mostly we want [them] to be something easily relatable, and also place importance on Gudetama’s jiggly bottom...I get really obsessed with making the lines for its bottom."

Gudetama

Ouch! You added too much spice!

Gudetama

My favorite Gudetama butt moment, LOL.

Gudetama-little-red-riding-hood

While I did get so much that Museum storage is overflowing, I'm still hunting for the dry shampoo...the hair just cracks me up!

So, a very simple summary: I love Gudetama and am very happy he appeared on beauty products.  The husband adores him too and so we added a Gudetama plushie to join our menagerie - he's settling in rather well, since our plushies are definitely on the lazy side. 

What do you think?  Had you heard of Gudetama prior to the Holika Holika collection?

 

1While I love Gudetama with all my heart, I am dismayed that Soygeisha, a block of tofu that wears makeup, wasn't closer to winning.
2Nagashima says that the character is "devoid of gender", but for an easier time with pronouns I'm referring to Gudetama as a "he", which is the usual way he's described.


MM Smackdown: Brush holder bloodshed!

Mum.11-2016.smackdown.poster

In the spirit of Black Friday, which we celebrate in the U.S. by trampling each other to score cheap TVs and the latest must-have children's toy, I thought I'd put these ladies in the ole MM boxing ring to duke it out.  I found it pretty interesting that two companies decided to release vintage-inspired brush holders for the holiday season.  At first glance, they don't seem so different - both are from similarly sized brands, blonde with perfect cherry-red pouts and dainty pearl necklaces, but as we'll see each have their own unique secret weapons.

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

It's gonna be intense, so...let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllllle!  *ding ding*

"Step off, bitch!"  "Make me, whore!"

In one corner of the ring we have the Bésame brush holder.  With her bouncy ponytail that also acts as a handle and makeup straight from the 1940s, this girl packs a strong punch. Bésame is also available at Sephora, which could be seen as an advantage over her opponent.

Bésame brush holder

Bésame brush holder

But LM Ladurée won't be pushed around so easily.  She boasts an equally jaunty hair style with a striped bow, but her thick black eyeliner proves she's not playing around.  Her eyes seem to be closed, making her face (in my opinion) less creepy than Bésame's somewhat lifeless stare.  LM Ladurée is only available in the U.S. through international sellers, making it more difficult to track down.  However, this could be also be an asset in that hard-to-find items can be seen as more special than readily available ones.

LM Ladurée brush holder

While both appear to be made from ceramic, there are significant differences:  Bésame's shine and heftier weight pits her directly against LM Ladurée's featherweight feel and matte finish.  Bésame may be bigger and stronger, but what LM Ladurée lacks in brawn she makes up for in agility.  

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

And while the size disparity doesn't seem that big at first, adding brushes is the true size test.  As you can see, Bésame edges out LM Ladurée in terms of storage space.

Bésame and LM Ladurée brush holders

I predicted this was going to be a particularly intense smackdown, and I was right.  Things are getting ugly!  LM Ladurée has seized Bésame's ponytail and is ferociously yanking her head around.  Bésame swiftly retaliated by tearing off LM Ladurée's hair tie.  Well, as long as they're not going for their jewelry I guess it's fair game.  Oh, I take that back!  They have now ripped off each other's necklaces...I just hope LM Ladurée doesn't reach for Bésame's earrings.  Hoooooo boy!  Someone's gonna get KO'ed soon, so in these final moments, tell me who you think wins.  Will Bésame's larger size and ergonomic shape take down LM Ladurée?  Or will LM Ladurée's international status, more subtle matte finish and lightweight feel allow her to cleverly maneuver past Bésame's blows?


Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

I loved Maquillage's Snow Beauty compact from last year so much that getting my hands on the 2016 version was a top priority.  Even the outer box is gorgeous.

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

The theme for each year's design is inspired by images of snow in a particular city.  Last year's took its cue from Helsinki, and this year's inspiration comes from the Big Apple.  From the Maquillage website:  "The concept for 2016 version is 'Diamond Dust' dancing in New York.  It keeps flying freely being fluttered by breath of the energetic city.  Only shining snow from the skyscraper's window that confines the sky began to dance, and the moment the shining snow runs about in a big city was cut to the compact design." 

At first glance the etching didn't really remind me of buildings - it had kind of an abstract, almost Art Deco feel - but once I saw the rest of the design it was a little more recognizable.  The snowflakes are also cut off in places to look as though they're falling in between and behind the "buildings".  This touch, coupled with the smaller dots of snow, produces an excellent likeness of a snowy cityscape.  It's an elegant, if idealized, recreation of one's perspective if they looked up at skyscrapers during a snowstorm.  Nothing in particular about the design really screams New York to me, but it's just so darn pretty I'm willing to overlook that.

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016 design

I like that they changed the design on the powder itself ever so slightly from last year's.

Maquillage Snow Beauty 2016

I also love that the company put together a short film to further enhance the compact's theme.  And fortunately this year it was subtitled so I was able to follow along (well, sort of.)

Despite the subtitles I'm still not 100% sure what was going on, but it seems that the architecture student experiences a renaissance of sorts through the encouragement she receives from the train conductor.  In a dream, he quite literally turns her world upside down and presents her with the compact as a keepsake to remind her of what she can achieve.  At least, that's how I interpreted it.

Overall, Maquillage's 2016 Snow Beauty compact is a lovely little addition to the Museum's collection and will be one of the star pieces in the holiday exhibition.  It would have been nice to see a slightly more literal New York-inspired design, but I still think it's better thought out than last year's.

What do you think?


The owls are not what they seem: Laneige x Lucky Chouette

As soon as I laid eyes on this collection a while back I knew I had to procure it for the Museum.  For the 3rd iteration of their Laneige Meets Fashion project, this fall Laneige teamed up with fellow Korean brand Lucky Chouette (chouette = owl in French.)  Lucky Chouette is actually a sister line to Jardin de Chouette, a higher-end line founded in 2005 by Jae-Hyun Kim.  Since I'm feeling too lazy to describe the aesthetics of each, I'll direct you to this great profile of both over at Style Bubble.

And now for the makeup!  How freakin' cute are these owls?!

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

I learned that they have names and personalities.  Bella is the pink owl and Vely is the blue one.  Laneige describes them thusly:  "Chouette, which means 'owl' in French, is a symbol of good fortune. An encounter between Laneige and Lucky Chouette gave birth to a lovely pair of owls that promise to bring good luck to all.  We have two muses: Confident, outgoing, and outspoken, Bella Chouette is especially charming with her full lips. Shy Vely Chouette is prudish and prone to blush."

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Bella's eyes are actually part of a plastic overlay on top of the blush, but she's still pretty adorable without it.

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

Laneige x Lucky Chouette

I figured that obviously Lucky Chouette clothing would be chock full of owls, and my hunch was correct.  While there are plenty of pieces without the owl motif, the bird does figure prominently and comes in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes.

Lucky Chouette

Lucky Chouette

Lucky Chouette
(images from luckychouette.com)

In poking around the Lucky Chouette site, I learned that besides Bella and Vely, the owls from past seasons also have their own names and personalities.  Too bad I don't know Korean, because I'd love to understand the creation story.

I would also be able to read about each owl's style and character traits based on these little bios that pop up when you click on one of the owls.  I always like to see a designer that really thinks about their work.  In the case of Jae-Hyun Kim, these profiles show that she genuinely thought about each creation and their style inspiration - it's not simply "I think owls are cool so I'll just slap a bunch on my clothes", there's actually a story behind each one. 

Marine Bebe Chouette - Lucky Chouette

Icy Chouette - Lucky Chouette

My favorite, obviously, was the punk-inspired Rebel Chouette...at least, her spiky crown looks to be pretty punk.  She's particularly lucky too!

Rebel Chouette - Lucky Chouette(images from luckychouette.com)

Now let's take a quick peek at the original Jardin de Chouette line, which, you guessed it, also works in several owl designs each season.  The photos below are from shows spanning 2006 through 2014.

Jardin de Chouette

Jardin de Chouette

Jardin de Chouette(images from jdchouette.com)

Overall, I enjoy the styles of both Jardin de Chouette and Lucky Chouette - I'd wear one of those owl sweaters from the latter in a heartbeat.  Perhaps it's the extensive use of a beloved critter, or the fact that there's a higher-end line and a diffusion line, but this is reminding me quite a bit of Paul & Joe and Paul & Joe Sister.  Of course, the silhouettes and general aesthetic/feel are different, but both Jae-Hyun Kim and Sophie Mechaly express their allegiance to their favorite animals by working them into their collections in new and exciting ways each season.  I also think Lucky Chouette was a great choice for a collaboration with a makeup line.

What do you think?  And are you more of a Bella or Vely?  I'm more of the shy Vely type, although I like to think I have Bella's lashes.  :)

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Vroom vroom! Makeup and cars

Buckle up and start your engines, 'cause you're in for a wild ride!  Well, as wild as this boring old curator can be.  ;)  I almost feel like I need a flow chart or diagram to explain the myriad and complex ways cosmetics can be related to cars, and by extension, women. I can't go into much detail since that would be an entire book, but I can provide a basic summary.  The first thing that comes up when I searched for "women and cars" is images of "hot" (read: young, thin, usually white) women standing next to, or perched on top, a car.  Traditionally these women have been used to sell cars to men; but instead of the opposite (i.e. showing hunky male models), makeup can be used to persuade women consumers into buying a car, and sometimes vice versa (a car is used to sell makeup).  Makeup and car collaborations are fascinating, I think, because they're so obviously an attempt to coax a population that's usually not associated with cars into taking an interest in automobiles, and what better way to do that than to appeal to a woman's supposed vanity?  Obviously, I love makeup and don't believe many aspects of it are un-feminist, but I do find trying to reach a female customer almost solely through the use of makeup to be remarkably sexist.  These tie-ins are also interesting when we think of the admittedly shady strategies used by Mary Kay.  Instead of being a passive consumer of cars and cosmetics, a woman could sell makeup to earn a pink car - the reverse of some of the ads and collaborations we're going to look at today. 

Starting in the 1950s makeup became a way to get women on board with the idea of car ownership.  As this site devoted to the Dodge LaFemme, the first car marketed specifically to women, explains, "Shortly after World War II (and the Korean War) America entered a new era of prosperity and success. The days of one car families were fast becoming obsolete and families were now buying second cars to accommodate their new lifestyles. Suburbs were springing up outside urban areas and super highways were the wave of the future...Living in the suburbs meant the breadwinner had to drive to work downtown each day, leaving the housewife without a car. With the current prosperity being experienced in America, it seemed natural to go out and buy a second car for 'the wife'. But what car to buy?...Gone were the days of 'the wife' simply staying at home. If 'the wife' was getting a new car, then Dodge needed to produce a car that 'the wife' would want to be seen in."  

In addition to the cars' overall design that was meant to entice women, an exclusive makeup kit was included to emphasize that this was a vehicle made especially for the ladies.  The 1955-56 Dodge LaFemme was a pink (naturally) car that boasted not only a matching raincoat and umbrella - if, heaven forbid, you got a flat tire in the rain - but also a special compartment hidden in the armrest supplied with an Evans compact and other items. 

Dodge La Femme

1956 Dodge La Femme

1956 Dodge La Femme interior

1956 Dodge La Femme makeup

From the photo below it looks like Elizabeth Arden's Ardena was also included, which seems odd - why go with two cosmetics brands?

1956 Dodge La Femme makeup kit(images from historydaily.org)

Apparently La Femme failed to be a popular seller.  Despite the alluring inclusion of cosmetics, the rest of the marketing was not on the same level as that for other automobiles.  "Some suggest that the flop of the La Femme model was due to its lack of marketing exposure. It was only displayed on single-sheet pamphlets; there were no shiny demonstration models and no evidence of magazine, radio and television advertisement. It was likely most American women never even knew it existed at the time."  Well, color me surprised - promoting a car geared towards women was not treated with the same importance as other (men's) cars?  Shocking!  Sarcasm aside, it is interesting that Dodge didn't see the need to spend the same amount of advertising dollars.  If anything, I would think a car company would have to work doubly hard and put more funds towards marketing for a segment of the population that typically did not own cars.  Guess they thought the makeup kit alone would hook women in without having to do a ton of additional advertising.

Despite this failure, Elizabeth Arden followed suit in 1959 with a tie-in to the Chrysler Imperial.  The makeup and skincare kit was stashed in the glove compartment.  The advertising also highlighted women's ability to be totally in control while still, of course, retaining a ladylike manner:  "The Imperial 1959 is powerful but well-tamed...does what you ask, instantly, serenely...you sit head-high, imperially straight, as becomes a woman whose car is so much hers that even the interior fabrics are an obedient and tasteful foil for her ensemble."  In a world where women couldn't even have a credit card in their own name, I could see how the prospect of independence and power through owning a car solely for her use would definitely be appealing.  Still, if we're to follow the aforementioned '50s narrative of suburban families with the husband as primary breadwinner, how empowered could his wife really be?  Even if she drives a car designed for women, the man still paid for it. 

Elizabeth Arden Chrysler Imperial ad, 1959

Elizabeth Arden Chrysler Imperial ad, 1959(images from imperialclub.org)

While Chrysler made a bigger marketing attempt than Dodge by placing ads in Vogue, I'm not sure if the sales of this car in "Arden Pink" fared any better than LaFemme.  Nevertheless, automobile companies had alternatives for getting cars on women's radar via other sorts of collaborations with makeup companies.  Take, for example, this 1955 Cutex ad for a red shade inspired by Ford's Scarlet Thunderbird that "separates the sirens from the sissies!"  If you're woman enough to wear this color, you're woman enough to own a Ford.

Cutex Slightly Scarlet ad, 1955(image from flickr.com)

Yet another tactic was the giveaway.  In 1967, Dorothy Gray and its sister brand Tussy (owned by the same company) advertised sweepstakes to win cars in the same shades as their lipsticks, which naturally had car-themed names like Defroster. 

Dorothy Gray Honda ad, 1967(image from ebay.com)

Tussy Mustang ad, 1967(images from przservices.typepad.com)

More recently, in May Givenchy revived the idea of a car designed just for women in the launch of the Givenchy Le MakeUp, produced by French manufacturer DS.  Le MakeUp borrows Dodge's concept of esconcing an exclusive makeup kit in the armrest.  The car is also "fitted with a special LED lighting system on the two sun visor mirrors in the front seats, for ease of make-up application before or after driving. Floor mats feature the limited edition Givenchy logo, while the dashboard is rose pink." While the exterior isn't pink, I can't help but be amused by the fact that they retained at least some inclusion of the color. 

Givenchy-Le MakeUp-car

DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp car

DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp car

DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp car(images from forbes.com)

Not only that, but "Whisper Purple" is used for the roof, mirrors, a hubcap accent and finally, to fully tie the car to the makeup, as a nail polish in the cosmetics kit.  There's also a video of Ruth Crilly, founder of the popular beauty site A Model Recommends, highlighting the car's various features while wearing the makeup.

Givenchy whisper purple nail polish(image from dsautomobiles.co.uk)

While the promotional copy claims that the car was designed to "meet to meet the expectations of many modern-day women who are always on the go," Givenchy's Artistic Director for Makeup Nicolas Degennes says, "I dreamt of a car that would enhance the beauty of women. They would be beautiful because they would be at the helm of the new DS3, a vehicle that characterizes this era. Beautiful because of colour, the reflections on the face. Beautiful because of the liveliness of the pink interior.”  Indeed, even the style of the tires, one the company calls "Aphrodite," reference beauty ideals for women.  All of this further bolsters my opinion that the notion of gendered cars is astonishingly dated and sexist.  Givenchy may have come up with a modernized version of the "Arden Pink" Chrysler or Dodge LaFemme, and while many more women today are making their own car payments, the cosmetic aspects of the DS's design remain firmly in the '50s.  Especially since the inclusion of makeup in a car meant for women completely ignores the fact that this is the 21st century, and there are men who wear makeup as well as non-cis genders.  Finally, there are still folks out there who think all women do before/during/after taking a spin in their car is applying makeup. The remarks at this website regarding the Givenchy car take the cake:  "Girls don’t have such a great reputation as drivers, and a car with a makeup kit? Well. Let us only hope and pray that some 20-year-old doesn’t stop in the middle of a highway to dab a fresh layer of paint on her lips." Oof.

Along these lines, even in the art world women can't escape the traditional link between cars and makeup.  For International Women's Day in 2012, Indian car artist Sudhakar Yadav created several cars in the shape of a shoe, purse, lipstick and eye shadow as a tribute to women.  Stereotype much? 

Lipstick car

Eyeshadow car(images from huffingtonpost.com)

I mean, don't get me wrong, these look like a lot of fun and I give the guy credit for acknowledging there even IS an International Women's Day.  I'm sure his intentions were good and these were made as art, not to sell cars.  But it still rubs me the wrong way.  Obviously all women care about is makeup and shoes and bags, and they would appreciate the artist's offering of wacky cars only if they were in the shape of girly things.* 

As a seemingly harmless response to all of this, I'll leave you with Italian brand Collistar's summer 2016 lineup.  The company teamed up with, fittingly enough, Fiat to create a collection celebrating the 500 model. 

Collistar spring/summer 2016 collection

Collistar Ti Amo spring/summer 2016 collection

How adorable are these blushes?! 

Collistar Ti Amo spring/summer 2016 collection(images from chicprofile.com)

Personally, I generally hate cars (their design and history bores me, not to mention that they're dangerous...I have a terrible fear of driving), and no amount of cool makeup is going to make me more accepting of them.  And I sure as hell wouldn't buy a car designed just for women - I dislike the fact that in 2016 some companies are 1. still thinking in terms of binary genders for products that should so obviously be gender-less, such as cars, and 2. still thinking that a car's key selling points to reach women need to involve makeup.  The Collistar collection, however, is something I'd gladly snap up if I had access to it.  ;)

What do you think? 

*The art cars remind me of the time my sister attended a conference on women business leaders, and the swag was all Clinique products.  Not like, a tech gadget or a nice business card holder or something.  (Ironically, my sister doesn't wear a stitch of makeup.  I believe her exact words were, "I don't even use this shit!")