Ms. Min for MAC

Before I delve into the summer collections, I thought I'd look at one last release from the spring.  MAC teamed up with Chinese fashion designer Min Liu (a.k.a. Ms. Min) for a small collection featuring Min's signature modern twist on traditional Chinese style.  I picked up the standout from the collection, a blush/highlighter palette embossed with a truly gorgeous wave pattern.

Min Liu for MAC palette

Min Liu for MAC palette

I didn't have to search very hard to find the inspiration behind the colors Min chose, along with the wave design.  In an interview with online magazine Buro 24/7, she explains, "There are actually four main colors in this collection which are China red, lush peony pink, shimmering platinum, and bold ink black. Each colour is rich in meaning and contains a distinct energy in traditional colour theory. Red promises loyalty and bravery. Pink is a metaphor of beauty. Silver introduces the gods and spirits. Black brings honesty and integrity...The philosophy behind my collaboration with MAC is that everything is about how energy flows, casting a distinct aura, vitalising all forms of life — humans, water, mountains, earth, oceans, clouds. That no matter how it shifts and changes over time, the world maintains an eternal rhythm. It's also inspired by the ancient masterpiece Shang Hai Jing (The Guideways through Mountains and Seas), which is about Chinese mythology culture, spirituality, and folklore...[It's] an allegory for the energy that flows between mountains and oceans and across vast landscapes, spanning time and space. To open this compact is like feeling the universe in your hand. Somehow it reminds me that there is a universe out there." 

Min Liu for MAC palette

Min Liu for MAC palette

I personally think the design resembles the waves from this 1597 illustration of the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas.  (It also reminds me of Hokusai's The Great Wave, but that's a completely different cultural reference.)

Classic of Mountains and Seas illustration, 1597(image from

So it's pretty, but what does the makeup have to do with Min's fashion?  Well, the designer created a beautiful capsule collection to coordinate with the makeup, which was unveiled at Shanghai's fashion week in a rather dramatic runway show.  (There's probably a lot more information in this WWD article, but of course it's behind a paywall and my library doesn't have the April issue available yet.  Sigh.) 

MAC Min Liu display


The clothing was simply stunning and the makeup was spot-on.  I can't imagine a more harmonious collection.  I can also definitely see the traditional-meets-contemporary vibe of the clothing, which is better described by Min:  "The style of Ms MIN has always been inspired a lot by tradition, culture and spirituality. There's been this conversation between modernity and tradition, Yin and Yang, contrary and balance and ultimately, discovering the harmony of all elements together. Anything relative to beauty reminds us and inspires us: beauty of life, beauty of energy, beauty of this world, and beauty inside of ourselves."  And as for her general perspective on makeup, Min emphasizes owning your look. "I'm wearing the makeup, the makeup is not wearing me," she says.  It's a good reminder not to wear anything that makes you uncomfortable; otherwise it will indeed look like the makeup is wearing you and not the other way around.

MAC Min Liu show

MAC Min Liu fashion collection
(images from

Obviously the clothing was also used in the MAC campaign ads - here's a slightly better glimpse of it. 

MAC Min Liu ad

Overall, I can't say I'd wear any of Min's clothing, but I appreciate her aesthetic.  And I think the MAC palette totally captures it by updating a motif inspired by an ancient Chinese text, along with the color scheme - the shades chosen have certain traditional meanings in Chinese culture, but combining them into one palette, along with how they were used on the runway and campaign, gives them a modern feel. 

What do you think?

MAC Liptensity: Groundbreaking or gimmick?

MAC Liptensity lipsticks

As soon as I saw the word "tetrachromat" in the various descriptions of MAC's  Liptensity lipsticks, I knew I'd have to investigate.  MAC's new range was created in partnership with a tetrachromat, someone with the very unique genetic ability to see up to 100 million different colors (us boring old trichromats can only see 1 million, boo).  Working with a tetrachromat allowed the company to produce "the most technologically advanced lip product to date" using "high-frequency tetrachromatic pigments technology" or at least, that's what MAC's telling us.  The bigwigs weigh in:  “It’s a tech story; it’s not a fun, frivolous collection were doing,” James Gager, senior vice president and group creative director of M.A.C., said. “It is super, super saturated, undeniable color load in this lipstick.” Adds Jennifer Balbier, senior vice president, global product development at MAC Cosmetics, “Liptensity contains pre-saturated pigment combined with a clear base — unlike most lipstick bases that are more opaque or 'muddier' — to give a 'true' color. When people say that the ‘color stays true,’ it’s not always true because it acts with your own chemistry.”  Sounds impressive, but is it for real?  Let's look into this a little further to see whether the world's first makeup based on tetrachromacy is really all that superior to what's currently out there or if it's just the emperor's new clothes.

First though, what causes tetrachromacy and how exactly does it work?  According to this article, a tetrachromat has 4 different types of cone cells, i.e., the receptor cells that recognize color. The 3 usual cones that most humans have are attuned to wavelengths of red, green and blue (almost like a TV), while the special 4th cone detects yellow.  Not only that, scientists have discovered that to be a true tetrachromat, one not only requires the extra 4th cone, but their brains must also be able to distinguish it from the other cones.  In other words, some people have 4 types of cones but since their brains are wired like trichromats, it doesn't register any additional colors.  It's possible that by retraining the neural pathways to detect more colors, people with 4 cones may eventually achieve true tetrachromacy.  As vision scientist Jay Nietz told Discover Magazine, 'Most of the things that we see as colored are manufactured by people who are trying to make colors that work for trichromats...It could be that our whole world is tuned to the world of the trichromat.'  Furthermore, "[Nietz] also suspects the natural world may not have enough variation in color for the brain to learn to use a fourth cone. Tetrachromats might never need to draw on their full capacity. They may be trapped in a world tailored to creatures with lesser powers. Perhaps if these women regularly visited a lab where they had to learn—really learn—to tell extremely subtle shades apart, they would awaken in themselves the latent abilities of their fourth cone. Then they could begin to see things they had never tried to see before, a kaleidoscope of colors beyond our imagining."  Anyway, in addition to genetic testing,  in 2012 a reliable color test was developed to determine if someone was a true tetrachromat.

Another incredibly interesting tidbit:  to date, only people with 2 X chromosomes have been found to have this unique genetic trait.  As Popular Science  explains:  "For years, researchers weren’t sure tetrachromacy existed. If it did, they stipulated, it could only be found in people with two X chromosomes. This is because of the genes behind color vision. People who have regular color vision have three cones, tuned to the wavelengths of red, green, and blue. These are connected to the X chromosome— most men have only one, but most women have two. Mutations in the X chromosome cause a person to perceive more or less color, which is why men more commonly have congenital colorblindness than women (if their one X chromosome has a mutation). But the theory stood that if a person received two mutated X chromosomes, she could have four cones instead of the usual three." 

Now that we've got the medical explanation for tetrachromatic ability, let's think about what this means in terms of perception.  How do they see colors as compared to us boring old trichromats?  As expected, it's exceedingly difficult for a tetrachromat to explain what they see.  Fortunately, tetrachromats who have artistic ability in addition to their super human vision can help us understand it a little.  Take, for example, Concetta Amico (already smitten with her since she has the same first name as my mom!) whose paintings reflect a range of color nuances.  In this interview (which you should really read in its entirety - SO fascinating), she explains it this way: "I see colors in other colors. For example, I’m looking at some light right now that’s peeking through the door in my house. Other people might just see white light, but I see orange and yellow and pink and green and some magenta and a little bit of blue. So white is not white; white is all varieties of white. You know when you look at a pantone and you see all the whites separated out? It’s like that for me, but they are more intense. I see all those whites in white but I resolve all these colors in the white, so it’s almost like a mosaic. They are all next to each other but connected. As I look at it, I can differentiate different colors. I could never say that’s just a white door, instead I see blue, white, yellow-blue, gray."  Another intriguing snippet is her view on makeup: "I’ve leaned toward makeup as a way of leveling out all that color in my skin that other people wouldn’t worry about. I feel like I have to put concealer and powder on my face because every vein and blemish is so visible. I guess the fact that I see more color in skin is why I’ve never liked going out without makeup on. People ask why I always wear makeup.  They say I look good without it, but I can see in all the veins the red and the blue. I see too much."

This seems like a radically different approach to makeup and color than that of the MAC collection, so it could explain why the company chose to partner with another tetrachromat, Maureen Seaberg.  In 2013, Seaberg recognized the similarities between her experience and another tetrachromat who was being interviewed on Radiolab.  Via a DNA test doctors were able to confirm that she is a tetrachromat.*  No stranger to makeup (she'd mix colors herself if she couldn't find the perfect shade), Seaberg pitched a collaboration to MAC.  "The company I most admired for its diversity, philanthropy and having the most expertise with color was M.A.C. I composed an email to legendary creative director James Gager, who has said that all of his collaborators 'are like strange aunts and uncles coming home.' I hoped I was strange enough."

What did Seaberg actually bring to the table, though?  As some bloggers worried, a tetrachromat's shades might have nuances that would be completely lost on the rest of us.  No worries though, for Seaberg wasn't trying to make trichromats struggle to see something only she can.  "I see colors that other people cannot, but I was not trying to skew the products in invisible directions," she tells Buro 24/7.  She explains further, "It wouldn’t serve the consumer if I were sitting there playing with color in a way that would skew it in a way that people couldn’t really discern or enjoy it. So, we used my eyesight instead to spot these undertones and overtones and send them back to the canvas to say that a Bordeaux had too much orange... or if a pink had too much yellow in it and needed to cool off, we might remove the yellow and add blue to the mix… I was more trying to center the colors and make them as true to themselves as I possibly could."  For Seaberg, collaborating with MAC wasn't about creating colors that only made sense to her; in fact, she was doing a huge service for making them as pure and true as possible, and in doing so, made them work for a wider number of people.  She tells The Cut, "I had 24 shades that I started with. It was my job to tweak them and make them the most beautiful. I used my vision to look very closely at them and see if there were undertones or overtones that could be cleared up. We wanted to make them as pure and clear as possible...I had a feeling that if we could take out the things not true to the color we were going for, it would be more beautiful on more faces. They would behave more like neutrals. Doe in M.A.C Liptensity was used in every model on the Balmain autumn/winter 2016 runway, on models of every skin tone. It worked on every one. Whereas if there were orange tones, for example, it wouldn’t look right on some girls."  While the average person might not be able to appreciate how true the colors are since they're not a tetrachromat, it's really cool to know that someone with super human ability to detect color was behind them.

My photos don't really reflect the pigmentation and purity of the colors, but so far so good:  I'm wearing Dionysus today (the aptly named wine/plum color) and it looks exactly the same on my lips as it does in the tube, and has stayed the same color all day without fading.  I have yet to try Blue Beat and Stallion but when I swatched them at the store I was impressed.

MAC Liptensity lipsticks

MAC Liptensity lipsticks

MAC Liptensity lipsticks

However, I'm not totally convinced by the hype.  Yes, these lipsticks are highly pigmented with a great texture (not heavy, with a satin finish that's neither matte nor glossy), but I do wonder whether I'd be able to tell them apart from other lipsticks - I'm not sure if consulting with a tetrachromat was truly necessary to create these shades, beautiful though they are.  Then again, I lack that pesky 4th cone so maybe I'm really just not seeing it.  I also want to know more about the particular technology that aided in the development of the formula - is there really a such thing as "high-frequency tetrachromatic pigment technology" and if so, how exactly does it work?  I couldn't find any information about patenting, and MAC didn't give many details besides divulging that the pigment was mixed into a clear base.  All this aside, Liptensity has opened my eyes to a color phenomenon I had no idea about previously, and a rather intriguing one at that.  And it was genius of MAC to harness the power of a tetrachromat to come up with these colors, even if it does turn out to be just marketing; the idea of a color Superwoman creating makeup is simply irresistible to me.  I'm curious to see if MAC will expand the "high-frequency pigment technology" to other products, like eye shadow, nail polish, etc.  Or if a company will work with a tetrachromat to program some sort of machine that could automatically calibrate 100% color-accurate pigments.  The implications for cosmetics are positively huge.

As for me, well, I'm pretty sad I'm not a tetrachromat given my love of color and comparing shades - I would be beyond delighted to enjoy that many more unique hues - but makeup can help refine my color detecting skills even if it's not anywhere near the level of a tetrachromat.  As Seaberg points out, "One of the leading researchers in this field says that one of the necessary components in 'functional' tetrachromacy is a lifelong exposure to color. Conceivably, paying close attention to your lipstick shades could train you as a super-seer! I urge everyone to do just that. As someone once said — color is a mystery we all swim in, yet it is so ubiquitous it becomes invisible. Don't let color be invisible to you. Stop. Look. Enjoy."  I know I will!

What do you think?  Is this just all a bunch of hullabaloo or do you think there's something genuinely groundbreaking here?

*The only accurate test for tetrachromacy is DNA, combined with other color tests administered by professionals - those online ones are complete crap.  Also, I was really struck by how Seaberg's perception of color is nearly identical to Amico's.  Both prefer colors found in nature, and yellow can be quite the visual onslaught. "The grocery store and the mall are a color assault, there’s too much of everything and too much that is not naturally beautiful. Too many harsh colors and candy-colored marketing style 'plastics' for my liking. I find red and yellow too much. Yellow stresses me out," says Amico, while Seaberg states, "I do notice a difference in the number of colors in the natural world versus those in manufactured, human-made things....yellow is overstimulating — it’s a little too much for my eyes. Like, an NYC taxicab is too much. It’s almost like when you look at bright sunlight for a little bit and you recoil."  Additionally, both agreed with scientists' claim that one must be immersed in color for most of their lives to be a true tetrochromat.  Seaberg notes that "the perfect storm for tetrachromacy is having it in your genetics and a lifelong exposure to color," and Amico states, "The reason they say I am a functioning tetrachromat is because I’m a practicing artist. If I hadn’t been immersed in art and if I hadn’t been an art teacher for the last 30 years I wouldn’t necessarily have the level of color definition that they are finding. So while I have this genetic gift of a fourth receptor in my eyes the fact that I apply it on a daily basis improves my color recognition. Think of someone who has superior muscles but never learned to run. You can have the potential but it’s only realized if you use it." 
























Friday Fun: MAC's trolling us all

Initially I was confused as to why MAC chose troll dolls as a collection theme.  Yes, a resurgence of all things '90s is upon us, but it still seemed strange to resurrect the troll doll fad.  It only made sense when I got wind of the new Trolls movie, which releases this November.

Naturally I love how obnoxiously bright the packaging is.

MAC Good Luck Trolls collection

The image on the boxes is the signature crazy troll hair.

MAC Good Luck Trolls box

I don't think I've ever seen makeup with a troll silhouette imprinted!

MAC Good Luck Trolls powder

Glitter caps!

MAC Good Luck Trolls collection

Now for a little history.  The original troll doll was created by a Danish woodcutter named Thomas Dam in 1959.  Too poor to afford a Christmas gift for his daughter, he carved her a troll figure out of wood instead.  Pretty soon the doll was the talk of the town, and the Dam Things company began producing trolls made of plastic in the early '60s under the name Good Luck Trolls.  In the U.S. the troll doll craze hit peak popularity from 1963-65 and came around again in the '90s.  Being the '90s buff that I am, I felt the need to do a little more research on the renewed interest in trolls.  I found a very useful entry on the topic here - while no longer active, this blog is great for anyone needing a dose of '90s nostalgia.  While regular trolls were popular, there were also dolls known as Treasure Trolls that sported jewels in their bellybuttons, and you would rub the belly gem for good luck.  You might remember the billikens I looked at earlier this year - one would rub their bellies for good luck, and one of the compacts I included showed a billiken with a jewel in his navel.  So maybe the Treasure Trolls were drawing on this tradition?  In any case, I just had to include these early '90s commercials for the Treasure Trolls. 



I was hoping to find more about why trolls experienced such a renaissance in the '90s.  Alas, I didn't turn up much.  This article seems to think it was the general '90s obsession with anything retro, but that's about all I found.

Anyway, as a collector I was also curious to see if there were any folks out there who had amazing troll stashes, or even museums. Behold, the Troll Hole Museum in Alliance, Ohio!  Run by Sherry Groom, the museum boasts a Guinness World Record collection consisting of over 10,000 troll dolls, figurines and other troll memorabilia. It's the largest troll collection in the whole world.

The Troll Hole(image from

Troll Hole Museum(image from

And up until recently, there was a Troll Museum in New York City's Lower East Side.  The collection is considerably smaller; however, it was home to possibly the most diverse collection of trolls, including a very rare two-headed troll from the '60s.  Unfortunately proprietor/artist Jen Miller, better known as Reverend Jen, was evicted earlier this summer.  Due to health issues she was unable to work and pay the rent.  It breaks my heart to think of her collection, so lovingly amassed over 20 years, to be sold or given away.  Not only that, since the museum was actually her apartment (tours were given by appointment only) she has nowhere to live now.

Troll museum, NYC(image from

Troll Museum - two-headed troll

While the Troll Hole may be much bigger, I definitely gravitate more towards Reverend Jen's collection.  We seem to be kindred spirits in our approach to having museums in our homes, and also our "Board of Directors" - she clearly has a sense of humor about it the way I do with my museum staff.

Troll Museum Board of Directors(images from

I do hope Reverend Jen is able to get back on her feet.  If nothing else, I wish I had known she was getting thrown out of her apartment - maybe I could have at least stored part of her collection somewhere until she was able to find another home.

Getting back to MAC, I thought it was well done.  If I was going to design a troll doll-themed collection this is what I would have come up with.  Yes, it's a little juvenile but still loads of fun for those of us who remember the troll fad. 

What do you think of the collection?  And do you own any troll dolls?


Chris Chang for MAC

With this post I'm attempting to forget about MAC's previous misstep.  Fortunately, their collaboration with quirky designer Chris Chang is doing the trick.  After earning her degree at Parsons and an 8-year stint for Prada Taiwan, Chang launched her own line called Poesia.  Reflecting the designer's "fascination with the symbols and icons of her childhood dreams," the line seeks to embody the idea that "clothes should be easy and wearable without burdening women with unnecessary discomfort in structure and silhouette."  It seems fairly straightforward, but when you actually look at Chang's creations, there's a lot more going on than that description implies.  So let's take a peek at some of the MAC collection. 

Naturally I adore the bold shades chosen for both the packaging and the products themselves.  In a press release for the collection, Chang notes, "Color is the integral fuel of my imagination and the spirit MAC and I share. This collaboration is a dream come true for the maximalists of the world."  I would definitely agree that this is the polar opposite of minimal makeup!

Chris Chang for MAC

MAC/Chris Chang box

MAC/Chris Chang lipsticks

The packaging features a silk screen print Chang designed specifically for MAC, containing a mishmash of motifs from her previous collections.

MAC/Chris Chang powder

Unfortunately I couldn't place every detail, but here's an attempt anyway (plus it gives me an opportunity to present some of Chang's fashion).  The vase on the left of the powder case may be inspired by those seen on some pieces from the spring 2016 collection.

Chris Chang/Poesia spring 2016

The butterflies are borrowed from the spring 2015 collection.

Chris Chang/Poesia spring 2015

The birds and goldfish appear on the wallpaper at Chang's website...

Chris Chang website wallpaper

Chris Chang website wallpaper

...but could also be nods to the spring 2015 and 2016 collections.

Chris Chang/Poesia spring 2015

Chris Chang Poesia spring 2016

Overall I think the print on the powder most closely resembles one from the spring 2012 collection.

Chris Chang Poesia spring 2012

Chris Chang Poesia spring 2012(images from

The images on the outer boxes reference Chang's original concept for the MAC collaboration, which was "Kunqu madness".  She explains to Allure:  "The theme is Kunqu Madness. Kunqu is one of the oldest performance arts from China that combines singing, poetry, acrobatics, and dance—and a lot of hand gestures. And Kunqu has a very specific, avant-garde look. The makeup and costumes are exaggerated, so when I was asked to collaborate it took me five minutes to decide that this is going to be around Kunqu. In the collection there are all of the colors you see in the costumes."  For Chang, I'm guessing a big part of the appeal of modernizing Kunqu is the "maximal" nature of it.  She tells Pop Sugar, "When I was going to [Parsons School of Design] in the '80s, people were always talking about minimalism: 'when you’re done with your design, take that one last thing away.' I felt so awkward in this whole teaching method. I thought, 'minimalism?... I’m definitely maxi.' There’s something about Kunqu that’s also very maximalistic and extreme — the makeup, the singing — and also, it’s very poetic."

Chris Chang/Poesia for MAC

Here are some photos of Kunqu performances - I think Chang's idea of "Kunqu madness" is perfectly executed.

Kunqu(image from

(image from

This picture is particularly fascinating, as I think the butterflies and birds resemble those found on Chang's pieces.


The MAC collaboration is not the first time Chang has referenced Kunqu:  check out the headpieces worn by the models for the spring 2012 collection.

Chris Chang spring 2012 runway(image from

As a follow up on Chang's views on color, she also told Allure, "[T]here's no color that you can't wear—it's only a matter of how you wear it and how you apply it. It's 2016, and a woman is about to become the president. All of those rules are so outdated, but that's actually a big part of the Asian mentality. Thinking things like 'I can't wear green' or 'I can't wear orange' because it's not becoming against sallow, Asian skin. I say throw that out the door. It's a different time now, you know?...These colors should be used as war paint. Even if it's something just on the lid, it should be worn as paint, really. And I think that's where the direction for makeup is going. It should be worn like abstract art."  Indeed, at a special fashion show held in Shanghai just for the MAC collection, models had the collection's colors applied in a rather avant-garde style.

MAC/Chris Chang fashion show

MAC/Chris Chang fashion show

Chang herself also got in on the war paint action.  She looks pretty fierce!

Chris Chang(images from

This aligns with the designer's outlook on makeup and fashion:  "I've never dressed or designed thinking, Is this appealing to men? Would men find this sexy? That mentality opens a lot of doors for me, for both how I can dress and how makeup should be worn. It's so satisfying for women to enjoy fashion and makeup. Who cares about men?"  She then elaborates, "Women are strong. We’re equal, if not even better. Makeup and clothes are definitely to please a woman and not to please a man. I hate that [phrase], 'man repellent', so we should dress for ourselves.  Love and relationships are such a small part of what a woman can do." 

Chang definitely has it all for me - an appreciation for cultural practices that are thousands of years old, the ability to honor those practices through giving them a thoroughly unique, futuristic take, and a love of crazy bold colors that are worn without giving a damn as to what people find flattering or attractive.  I've never been afraid to wear color, especially on my eyes, but Chang's perspective makes me want to flaunt it in a less traditional fashion (like trying out blue or green lipstick instead of hot pink or grey, which is about as colorful as I get for lips).  I have purchased some pretty out-there lip shades but have yet to find the courage to wear them.

What do you think?  Did you pick up anything from this collection?  And are you a "maximalist" when it comes to makeup shades?

Quick rant, er post: MAC Vibe Tribe collection

MAC Vibe Tribe promo

I hate to open this can of worms, especially since I can't add much original thought to the controversy surrounding MAC's new Vibe Tribe collection, but I thought it was at least worth summarizing the points and counterpoints.  MAC's latest lineup urges us to "join the tribe" and "feel the vibe."  Which tribe, exactly?  Who are these women in the promo with feathers in their hair and derivative amalgams of vaguely Native American prints?  I don't think they belong to any particular tribe, at least not any that MAC is willing to admit to.  The company maintains that "the collection, including the visuals, product lineup, and naming, is inspired by art, outdoor music festivals, and the colors of the desert...[it] has absolutely no connection to nor was it inspired by the Native American cultures."

I have issues with this defense for several reasons.  One is that in both the promo and the pattern on the packaging there is an undeniable Native American influence, what with product names like "Arrowhead" and "Adobe Brick", but MAC refuses to acknowledge this.  As Nylon magazine explains, "It’s hard to believe the company could be this naive when the very patterns used on the product packaging appear to be Chinle and Ganado designs—traditional Navajo weaving patterns—rooted in generations of history.The word 'tribe' is also closely linked to Native American culture, making the collection seem iffy even by first glance, never mind when MAC’s refute is taken into equation. Additionally, the names of some of the products themselves also raise eyebrows—naming a lipstick shade 'Arrowhead,' for instance, is cringeworthy at best, especially when you deny there being any link."

Some more pics:

MAC Vibe Tribe lipsticks

MAC Vibe Tribe blush

MAC Vibe Tribe bags(images from

Two, even if the collection is solely inspired by "outdoor music festivals", that's problematic since such festivals have historically been ground zero for cultural appropriation, with several festivals going so far as to ban headdresses.  As one Reddit user says, "[The] problem with that is the patterns and textiles and designs they're referencing from Coachella, Burning Man, and other festivals are the same patterns/textiles/designs that were appropriated from indigenous peoples. Just because it festivals and festival-goers did it first doesn't mean it's not appropriation. If anything, that makes it worse, because they're attributing our designs and patterns to Coachella and Burning Man and other festivals - as though they were not ours for thousands of years before these festivals."

Third, this isn't the first time MAC has done this - check out my post on cultural appropriation in cosmetics for proof.  One Twitter user also noticed this and took a screen shot of my post (didn't include a link to my post in his tweet, which I would have appreciated but what can you do.)  You think MAC would have learned.

But is it really so bad?  Many have argued that MAC is simply celebrating Native American culture and the pattern is merely a Southwestern motif, nothing more.  Another argument is that "it's only makeup" and that there are more pressing things to take issue with, a.k.a. the old it's-just-uppity-people-looking-for-things-to-be-offended-by argument.  I'm going to go ahead and counter their counter-arguments.  First, when you proceed to lump distinct Native American tribes together, that's not appreciating them, it's appropriating.  And Southwestern motifs aren't in and of themselves bad, but when you add words like "tribe" and show images of women with feathers in their hair and "tribal" tattoos, it's clearly referencing a Native American stereotype rather than "Santa Fe style". Second, just because there are bigger injustices doesn't diminish the topic at hand.  We can be concerned about, say, the higher-than-average rate of sexual assault among Native American women and this MAC collection simultaneously - they're not mutually exclusive.  Finally, the "it's only makeup" thing really gets under my skin.  Obviously I'm biased since I think makeup important enough to belong in a museum and in academia, but when you also realize that color cosmetics is projected to be a nearly $8 billion industry by 2020, you can't deny the significant impact it has on culture. 

As a final thought, as Christine at Temptalia so astutely points out, MAC had a great opportunity to partner with an actual Native American artist to create a one-of-a-kind design and use the proceeds to go to their specific tribe.  A similar example would be Shu's 2016 Chinese New Year cleansing oils, where they collaborated with one of China's leading kite artists to bring attention to the dying craft of traditional kite making.  They didn't just slap on some generic Chinese kites that you can find anywhere; rather, they partnered with an artist who created a unique pattern for the packaging.  In this way they honored Chinese kite-making heritage instead of appropriating it.  What MAC did with Vibe Tribe was quite different.  At worst, it was cultural appropriation; at best, it was incredibly thoughtless and uninspired.  As one Instagram user pleads, "Release me from this 80's Tucson gas station hell." 

MAC vibe tribe comment

I can't say I've ever been to a gas station in Tucson but that comparison seems pretty apt.

What do you think?  And to those of you who don't find the collection problematic, do you see any difference between what MAC did and the example by Shu Uemura I provided?



Couture Monday: Guo Pei for MAC

I'll get to the fall exhibition in a hot second, but first I thought I'd kick off this week with the beautiful Guo Pei/MAC collaboration.  I had been salivating over this collection since we got a sneak peek back in May and was very pleased I was able to get my hands on it since I was so afraid of it selling out.  Like most people, I hadn't heard of Chinese couturier Guo Pei until Rihanna wore one of her dresses to the Met Gala earlier this year (which was, incidentally, when the MAC collaboration was announced). 

Rihanna in Guo Pei, Met Gala 2015
(image from

But Guo Pei has been designing elaborate, painstakingly detailed couture gowns for over 15 years and is well-known in her home country, outfitting every A-list Chinese star as well as the ceremony dresses for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  And when I say "elaborate" I mean it.  Some of her creations can take up to 50,000 hours to construct and require assistance on the runway due to their weight.  (The dress Rihanna wore weighed in a relatively manageable 55lbs).  But why make such ornate pieces?  The designer says, "The impression China gives to the world today is a rapidly developing economy, cheap labor, and fast production. But China has 5,000 years of history and is very diverse...I don't do this for profit.  It is my responsibility to let the world know China’s tradition and past, and to give the splendor of China a new expression. I hope that people do know China in this way."  While literally years of work go into her clothing, Guo Pei shuns the usual Chinese perspective of luxury, aiming to create pieces for her customers that they will love for years to come rather than appealing to those who simply want to flaunt the label.  "I don't like the concept of luxury. In China, luxuries are seen as things you don’t really need and it conveys a negative feeling. In my opinion, luxury is products that are beautiful, elegant, and represent the culture. It’s born of love. Luxurious products should have an ability to grasp peoples’ hearts, and it is love that makes those products survive. I hope that people are buying my dresses because they love them and not because they want to show off." 

Some of my favorites from 2012 and 2013.  I love how skillfully she blends traditional Chinese motifs with avant-garde silhouettes.

Guo Pei, 2012

Guo Pei, 2012

Guo Pei - 2013
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As with some of MAC's other designer collaborations (such as Toledo), the collection came about as a result of MAC creating the makeup looks for Guo Pei's runway shows. "MAC has been doing the backstage for every one of my fashion shows," she told Refinery29. "In China, we pay attention to feelings — when you've got common feelings with somebody and there's something between you. With MAC, it was a happy collaboration."

What I liked about this collection is not only the gorgeous, unique pattern - it was sketched by the designer herself specifically for MAC - but that it also had a distinct theme.  "The theme of the story is about happiness and the soul garden...the soul garden is full of fresh flowers, and it's up to you to tend to it and take care of that private space. A lot of people are very negative about life, and they don't pay that much attention to their inner soul garden."

MAC Guo Pei

MAC Guo Pei

I so wish I could have purchased the Night Sky quad, but it was the one piece that I wasn't fast enough for despite camping out in front of my computer and refreshing the MAC website every two seconds for the collection to appear.  The reason I wanted that quad instead of this one is the significance of blue for Guo Pei in this collection.  "In the garden of van Gogh near Paris, I saw the blue flowers. This flower, to me, is what's in my inner garden. They're the flowers of happiness...I don't like being with the seasons and [paying attention] to what's trendy or not trendy — I don't want to be constrained by the time frame. To me, blue is a color I like and the color of the soul. I think a touch of blue in the eyes is a smart color."  She also told New York Magazine's The Cut, "The choice of the colors gives me a sense of power. I was inspired by the colors of the universe. Blue is a very important color because it is a color of the soul. It’s also the base color of the universe and our world. I chose pink and coral for the lip colors because I think they are colors of happiness. I want to affect the people around me with happiness."

MAC Guo Pei Morning Light quad

MAC Guo Pei - Lotus Blossom blush

MAC Guo Pei - Brave Red lipstick

Not only did she sketch the pattern herself, Guo Pei also made 8 dresses (!) as a sort of springboard for the collection's inspiration.  She explains, "There is a Chinese saying, 'There is a kingdom in a flower; a wisdom in a leaf.'  I always find the power of nature fascinating, especially when the flowers are blossoming. The idea inspired the creative process of the dresses for MAC. I finished my preliminary sketch in my study on one quiet afternoon without a break. However, while the drawings were beautiful, they lacked completeness. Then one day, my daughter showed me a set of extraordinarily beautiful pictures of the Milky Way. The intoxicating colors of the universe sparked a power of life in my soul... I captured the energy and created eight dresses for MAC - 'Garden of Soul.' Based upon the eight dresses, we developed this beautiful makeup collection."  I was able to gather images of the sketches and dresses, which were revealed at a very fancy dinner on May 5, the day after the Met Gala.

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress

Guo Pei/MAC dress
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The colors in both the dresses and the models' makeup are definitely well-represented in the MAC collection, while the heavy use of gold in each dress corresponds to the MAC packaging.  I also really like that actual fabric was used in the packaging - being able to manipulate fabric in unusual ways is an essential skill for haute couture, so I liked the nod to fabric's importance in Guo Pei's work.  Overall I think this is one of the prettiest collections MAC has done in the past few years, and unlike some designer collabs (ahem, Philip Treacy), the designer's work is reflected quite nicely.

What do you think of this collection and of Guo Pei's work? 

Couture Monday: Philip Treacy for MAC

For their latest fashion collaboration MAC teamed up with British milliner Philip Treacy to create a small collection based on the designer's renowned hats, a natural choice as MAC has worked with Treacy for over 20 years on his runway shows.  The collection is divided into three parts to reflect the three chosen designs, with each one focused on a different part of the face (lips, eyes and cheeks):  "A kind of futuristic Hollywood, one is all about color and the other is a kind of Gothic, modern future," Treacy notes.

This feathery number inspired the bright lipsticks in red and pink, while the black lace one served as a muse for the bold blue eye liners.



I think the most interesting one is this silvery arched hat, which I'm assuming is the "futuristic Hollywood" Treacy mentioned.  He explains, "It comes from an image of Greta Garbo in a movie called Mata Hari, so I just ordered it to be made up a bit more 21st-century."  

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The modified version of the design appears on two highlighting powders.  I picked up Blush Pink.

MAC Philip Treacy powder

MAC Philip Treacy powder

Treacy's outlandish designs are probably best recognized on celebrities, most notably British royalty:

Philip Treacy - Kate Middleton
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Princess Beatrice - Philip-Treacy (image from

And let's not forget Lady Gaga.  I believe she is the only pop star who can truly pull off his creations.  Seriously, is this not a fashion-music match made in heaven?

Philip Treacy - Lady Gaga
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Just for fun I decided to take a peek at Treacy's spring 2015 collection.  These were my favorites - I imagine putting one of these on would be like wearing a garden on your head.

Philip Treacy spring 2015

Philip Treacy spring 2015
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Getting back to the MAC collection, Treacy says the colors are a direct representation of his aesthetic.  He also recognizes the joy a shiny new makeup bauble can bring.  "It’s what Phillip Treacy make-up could look like - it’s about color, exuberance and can transform yourself with beautiful make-up. It is an enhancer; people buy a lipstick to cheer themselves up. It’s about having fun with what you’ve got."  

While I do think this was a well-edited and thought-out collection in terms of colors, I would have liked to see more design-wise.  There was a huge opportunity here to recreate some of Treacy's designs in powder form, and I feel it was squandered.  The highlight powder is nice but it doesn't necessarily scream "couture millinery" - unless you saw the accompanying promo image, it looks like just another pattern.  And while I don't think copying a design exactly as it appears in fashion is always the solution, I think it would have been ideal in this case.  (See Dior's Lady Dior palette as a good example of a literal representation of one of their most iconic pieces.)  So I was a little let down by this collection, as I don't think it fully captured the range of Treacy's work from a design perspective.  

What do you think?

Couture Monday: MAC x Toledo

Ruben and Isabel Toledo for MAC promo
How cute are these two?

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I must say that upon first glance this collection didn't do much for me, or at least the packaging didn't.  Then I started reading up on the fashion super duo behind MAC's latest collaboration and was so impressed with their work I had no choice but to purchase several pieces.  Husband and wife team Ruben and Isabel Toledo are a force to be reckoned with and frankly I'm ashamed that I didn't know who they were until now. 

Both Cuban-born, Isabel is a clothing designer while Ruben works as a fashion illustrator, producing delightful drawings not only for his wife's work but for a plethora of other projects.  While I admire their work (I'll get to that in a sec) it was their long-term romance and partnership that made me connect to them, which you can read about here and here.  As for the MAC collection, both were very excited for the opportunity, explaining that they had worked with the brand on other projects for several decades.  "We were thrilled when M∙A∙C approached us to work on a collection together; it was a dream-come-true. We share a long history of 30 years with M∙A∙C, collaborating on many of the same charity projects. The opportunity to create objects of art and desire came together like a family affair, especially since M∙A∙C works brilliantly with artists and they have a global following of fans. James Gager [M·A·C creative director] and Jennifer Balbier [M·A·C VP of product development] gave us complete creative freedom and helped bring our vision to life."

I chose what I thought were the most iconic pieces in the collection.  The illustrations on the packaging, of course, are Ruben's portraits of Isabel with her signature red lips.  He says, "When creating the different illustrations for the collection I was inspired by the fluidity of the lines and the spur-of-the-moment feel of it. If I'm doing a portrait I start with the eyes. If the eyes don't speak to me, then I just start over again. I need to capture that one thing in the eyes where the mystery and the soul are. I love painting, the drawing of the lines and the graphics of it all. It is my passion on paper."  Isabel is always his primary muse, however:  “It’s the face I draw again and again and always. It’s just in the flow of my hand, Isabel’s face.”  Awwww!!

MAC-x-Toledo spring 2015


As for the shades themselves, they might seem rather discordant, with no connection to each other at all.  However, the variances express Isabel's early experimentation with color and also serve as a nod to her party nights at Studio 54.  She says, "I love poetic colors, unusual combos, and nameless hues, all unexpectedly mixed in with the everyday. For me, it's much more about the tones than the actual colors. For instance, I love nudes with neon or a smoky mysterious eye with a bright and happy futuristic red lip. I love to see denim worn with just a t-shirt accompanied by deep operatic lips. Studio 54, disco, punk, and new wave allowed for a lot of freedom of expression in the way I dressed, danced, and presented myself. It was a great way for me to find my look as a young lady of 14 and 15! I went from wearing jeans and a tube top with smoky film noir makeup one night, to futuristic yellow brows paired with a nude mouth the next. Makeup moves faster than fashion, that's what makes it so fresh."  Her take on unrestrained use of color definitely speaks to me, and I also was intrigued that she likens makeup to painting:  "I see Ruben's watercolor paintings, and I wanted the freedom to do that on my face. I wanted to all of a sudden do my eyelashes in yellow or green with a matching eyeliner, something that's not natural. It's like having the ability to paint. And I mean, if you think about it, women paint every day standing in front of the mirror."  Our philosophies on makeup are perfectly aligned!



I wanted to see what some of Ruben's other illustrations involve.  Once again, I'm embarrassed I didn't recognize his name or previous work as he's landed some pretty huge projects, including Nordstrom catalogs:

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom illustration

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom illustration

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom ad

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom ad
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And of course Vogue:

Ruben Toledo - Vogue illustration

He's even done classic book covers:

Ruben-Toledo - book cover for Wuthering Heights

Ruben Toledo - Pride and Prejudic book cover
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Ruben also did illustrations for many fashion books, including one for Nina Garcia.

Ruben-Toledo - Nina Garcia's Look Book

I included this picture from the book since the lipstick I purchased from the collection is named Opera, and Isabel references "deep operatic lips" as one of her inspirations.

Ruben Toledo - illustration for Nina Garcia book
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I also wanted to see if he's drawn Isabel for other projects, and indeed he has.  This illustration for the 2012 holiday issue of Bon Appetit looks very similar to the ones on the packaging for the MAC collection.

Ruben Toledo holiday illustration
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I also wanted to see whether there was any correlation between Isabel's fashions and the MAC collection.  The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) offered a 2009 exhibition devoted to Isabel's work, and from there I got a better sense of her aesthetic.  Much like her taste in makeup, it's all over the place - lots of bold color, unusual but not unwearable silhouettes, and there's definitely a penchant for experimentation.

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition
(images from

More notably, how could I forget Isabel's pale chartreuse number that she designed for Michelle Obama to wear to her husband's inauguration?  It's fashion-forward but still appropriate for a First Lady.

Isabel Toledo - Michelle Obama

Overall I was glad I read a little more about the collection and eventually decided to bring some pieces home.  It captures the essence of this husband and wife team in that they each contribute something different but the end result is even greater than the sum of its parts.  As Ruben remarked, "We're so meshed, it's impossible to separate what we do." 

I also feel like Isabel and Ruben are very creative and interesting people but have none of the pretentiousness that plagues most of the fashion world.  From interviews with them as well as the MAC promo, they seem like fun-loving, down-to-earth people who don't really care about what's cool or popular - they just want to make their art.  I could totally see me and the husband having dinner with them...he and Ruben could discuss illustration, while Isabel and I would play in my makeup stash and talk about shoes.  :)

What do you think of the collection and of the Toledos' work?

Now it's Marge's time to shine!

Like many longtime Simpsons fans, I was extremely pleased to see this collection from MAC.  I've been watching the Simpsons since I was 11 (even titling a previous blog post with a Simpsons quote), and while I've been disappointed in the more recent seasons, those first few were comedy gold.  MAC's collection pays homage to Marge Simpson (née Bouvier), the long-suffering and very sweet wife of lovable buffoon Homer Simpson. 

I'm amazed at the sheer volume of characters they were able to cram in on the outer packaging.  However, I don't see my favorite bit character - can anyone spot Ralph Wiggum?  He has to be on there somewhere, I just can't find him.




I picked up Pink Sprinkles blush, Nacho Cheese Explosion lip gloss (couldn't resist a shade in the signature Simpsons yellow!) and Itchy & Scratchy & Sexy lip gloss, along with Marge's Extra Ingredients eye shadow palette and the nail stickers.



While I liked the outer packaging, I was less enthralled with the plastic cases.  Something about yellow plastic read very kindergarten to me - the rounded, raised corners of the eye shadow palette in particular made it look like a pencil case my 5 year-old niece would carry.  Granted, it's difficult to execute sophisticated packaging for a cartoon-based collection, but it's not impossible (see MAC's sexed up Hello Kitty collection and these Simpsons/Mondrian-inspired wine bottles).  It might have been better to do a black background for the plastic cases.  I could be totally wrong though, as package design site The Dieline loved the concept.



I'm glad there was also an imprint of Marge's visage on the blush and eye shadows.



I can't bear to use these nail stickers but I'm certainly tempted.


(If you want to see swatches of all products and some great Simpsons quotes, check out this epic post at XO Vain.)

And now, I thought I'd share my top 5 favorite beauty and makeup moments from the Simpsons.

5.  From "The Girly Edition", season 9.  Bart has just wrapped up a super schmaltzy segment for the children's news show, Kidz Newz.

Lindsey Naegle:  "Bart, look up here.  This is where the tears would be if I could cry.  But I can't.  Botched face-lift."

(image from

4.  From "Homer vs. Patty and Selma", season 6.  Marge tells Homer her sisters are there for dinner.

Homer:  "Marge, we had a deal.  Your sisters don't come here after six and I stop eating your lipstick."

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3.  From "Lisa the Beauty Queen", season 4. Lisa and Marge are getting makeovers at Turn Your Head and Coif, one of Springfield's leading beauty salons.

Lisa, as a stylist breaks out a blowtorch: "Isn't this dangerous?" 

Stylist, donning a welder's mask:  "Don't worry, I am well protected."

(image from

2.  Same episode as above.  Lisa and another contestant are at a rehearsal for the Little Miss Springfield pageant, looking at previous winner Amber Dempsey.

Pageant contestant:  "She's about to bring out the big guns...eyelash implants." 

Lisa:  "I thought those were illegal." 

Pageant contestant:  "Not in Paraguay."

(image from

1.  My all-time favorite beauty moment is, obviously, Homer's makeup gun ("The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace", season 10). 

Marge:  "Homer, you've got it set on 'whore'!"

Lisa:  "Dad, women won't like being shot in the face."

Homer:  "Women will like what I tell them to like!"

Simpsons makeup gun
(image from

What do you think of this collection?  Are you a Simpsons fan?  Overall, I thought it was nicely done, and the colors were spot-on.

Couture Monday: Antonio Lopez for MAC

Lopez at work while Juan Ramos looks on (image from

Like the stars of previous cosmetics collaborations (Warhol, Basquiat), the work of fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez (1943-1987) has been particularly popular of late. With an exhibition at SCAD this summer, along with a beautifully detailed monograph and accompanying exhibition last year, Lopez's art is enjoying a robust resurgence.  The MAC collaboration honors this extremely influential artist and uses images that represent perhaps his best-known style from the early '80s for the packaging.

Born in Puerto Rico in 1943 and raised in Harlem, Lopez attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and landed a short-lived job at Women's Wear Daily in 1962.  Within a year he left to become a freelance illustrator, and by 1965 he was earning $1,000 per illustration.  Lopez spent most of the 1970s in Paris, where he befriended the likes of Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.   In the early '80s he returned to New York, continuing his work for magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Interview and Vanity.  (You can read a brief bio here.)

Onto my purchases. 


I picked up one of the eye shadow palettes:



Cheek palette:



Lip palette:



And the makeup bag - I love the velvet backing:



The image is a 1983 portrait of Maria Snyder:

(image from

And the mirror:


I'm not sure who the model is, but here's the original image:

(image from

Let's take a look at Lopez's work and how it captured the essence of the heady times in which he lived.

Some psychedelic work for Intro Magazine, 1967:


(images from

A similar style for Elle Magazine, May 1967:

(image from

In 1970, we can see his style changing with the dawn of a new decade.

(image from

As early as 1972, we can see a bolder, more graphic style that serves as the foundation for some of his most notable illustrations in the '80s.  


Mr. Chow's Drawing, Paris III, 1973:

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An illustration of Brigitte Bardot for Interview magazine, 1975:

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The following images most closely resemble those on the MAC products. 

Vanity Magazine, 1981:

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(image from

Yves Saint Laurent ad, 1984:

(image from

So what made Lopez stand out from other fashion illustrators?  For one, in the early '60s most fashion illustrations resembled very basic, catalog-like depictions of clothing.  Lopez galvanized the medium, infusing representations of designer garments with an energy and movement they previously lacked.  Secondly, Lopez understood how to both capture and evoke a particular era.  André Leon Talley, Vogue editor and a former colleague of Lopez, remarks that Lopez "knew how to suggest the mood of the time."  Adds East of Mayfair Director Janina Joffe, "The greatest fashion artists create desirable images that capture the entire spirit of an era and still remain timeless. Antonio Lopez was a definitive master of this skill."

Finally, Lopez's work disguinshes itself from from that of other illustrators in that it heavily influenced the designers - they took their cue from his work rather than the other way around.  In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Mauricio Padilha, one of the authors of Antonio Lopez:  Fashion, Art, Sex & Disco, had this to say:  "Some of the models, he wouldn’t even put clothing on them. He would have the model standing next to the clothing in a leotard or whatever and he would illustrate how he saw the clothing onto the model’s body. It became something different and a lot of times designers would go back and then rework their outfits so it looked more like his illustrations."  Indeed, Lopez's influence is still rippling through the psyche of various designers today.  "[A] fresh crop of fashion designers, stylists and photographers seem to have been thumbing through Antonio's back-catalogue – the December 2012 issue of Vogue Italia featured a Steven Meisel covershoot titled 'High Gloss' that paid homage to the heady world of hedonism captured in Lopez's polaroids, eye-obscuring Jerry Hall mane and all. The same imagery – and that lop-sided hairdo – roamed Jonathan Saunders' spring catwalk in London...Antonio, of course, wasn't only about girls – his eroticised drawings of male models populated campaigns for Versace and Missoni in the eighties.  Those exaggerated images – man as hunter-gatherer in buttery-leather and luxury knits, respectively – were fodder for Kim Jones' sophomore menswear collection for Louis Vuitton, where the emphatic shoulders, artfully wrapped capes and chiselled jawlines whispered of Antonio heroes past.  Their feminine counterparts, the sketches of Jerry, Pat et al, inspired the disco diva bugle-beaded gowns of New York designer Jason Wu's 2013 pre-Fall collection, translating Antonio's pen marks into cashmere and chiffon," writes Alexander Fury at The Independent.

Getting back to the MAC collaboration, MAC Creative Director James Gager states that it was Lopez's "tremendous zest for living" that was the catalyst for the collection.  He adds, “When you see the pictures and the drawings, you want to re-meet these people at a party or on the street. You want to stop them and say, 'You look incredible!'”  I suppose if any company is going to launch a collection inspired by Lopez's hedonistic vibe expressed in bold colors and strong lines, MAC is appropriate.  However, I would have liked if they could have indicated which models were in the illustrations that appeared on the packaging.  The promo ad reunites three of "Antonio's Girls" (Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland and Marisa Berenson), but it's unclear if any of them are in the illustrations that were selected.  Plus, I stumbled across this image and thought it would have been perfect for a makeup collection:

(image from

Anyway, I prefer Lopez's earlier work of the late '60s to the flashier designs he created in the late  '70s and '80s.  The colors appear garish and incongruous, the lines harsh and severe.  Of course, it could just be that I simply don't care for '80s fashion, and Lopez amplified the excess of the decade.  If I find the '80s aesthetic to be unappealing, Lopez's work certainly heightened it (i.e., made it seem uglier than it actually was.)  Conversely, if you love '80s fashion then Lopez's work sublimely elevates it.

What do you think, both of Lopez as an illustrator and of the MAC collection?