Shu Uemura

Murakami for Shu Uemura, round 2

I thought I'd get the holiday ball rolling with Shu's latest collection, their second collaboration with world-renowned artist Takashi Murakami.  The video above brings the collection story to life: "One late night in Tokyo, a young woman gazes up at the sky, dreaming of adventure and discovery.  Suddenly the infinite darkness is animated, a myriad of vividly colored flower-stars dance across the sky.  The wide-eyed, beaming flower-stars sweep her away on a cosmic journey, illuminating a new universe of beauty, and a galaxy of hope beyond her imagination."  As charming as the video is, I have to admit that the story, along with the packaging, didn't wow me at first glance.  And to tell the truth I'm still on the fence as to whether I really like this collection.  Let's see why.

I picked up two items, the Cosmicool palette and the cleansing oil.

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami palette, holiday 2016

Shu Uemura x Murakami cleansing oil, holiday 2016

These crazily grinning flowers are probably Murakami's most famous motif (they even had the privilege of taking over an entire room at Versailles), so it makes sense that they would end up on the Shu packaging.  Still, their use left me feeling a little underwhelmed.  Off I went in search of some deeper significance for Murakami's flowers in the hopes of finding the Shu collection to be more inspired than it first appears.

According to a 2002 interview, Murakami spent much of his early days drawing flowers: “When I was preparing for the entrance exams for the University of Fine Arts, I spent two years drawing flowers. I drew some every day. And the entrance exam in the Nihon-ga section also involved flower drawing. Afterwards, to earn a living, I spent nine years working in a preparatory school, where I taught the students to draw flowers. Once every two days, I would buy flowers for my lesson and make compositions for the students to work on. At the beginning, to be frank, I didn’t like flowers, but as I continued teaching in the school, my feelings changed: their smell, their shape – it all made me feel almost physically sick, and at the same time I found them very ‘cute’. Each one seems to have its own feelings, its own personality.”  I found that last sentence to be quite intriguing, since all of his flowers seem to have the same personality, yes?  It would seem that they're all happy and smiling, as in these examples.

Takashi Murakami, Such Cute Flowers, 2010

Takashi Murakami, If I Could Reach That Field of Flowers I Would Die Happy, 2010(images from

Takashi Murakami, Future Will Be Full of Smile! For Sure! 2013(image from

Takashi Murakami, Flower Ball(image from

However, Murakami's ambivalence towards flowers - simultaneously finding them both "cute" and unappealing - is actually expressed in many of his flower works.  In this article from 2011, Murakami explains how the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a key influence in the formation of his style, along with American and Japanese cartoon characters:  "There is brightness. But my real story has a kind of darkness...I expanded it to include some of the characters that you see in my work...Mickey Mouse and the characters from Japanese games. There is the contrast between the cuteness and the cruelty. And the sadness and the cruelty and the cuteness are symbolized by the characters. So this is how my early work began. As an expression of sadness and cruelty.”  If you look closely at some of the flower paintings, some of them aren't smiling; on the contrary, they're crying.

A weeping flower can be found towards the upper right in this one. 

Takashi Murakami, Flowers in Heaven, 2010

I zoomed in and cropped the image so you can see it a little better.

Flowers in Heaven - detail

And another on the right, it's a small flower with pale pink leaves and a white center.

Takashi Murakami, Field of Smiling Flowers, 2010(images from

Murakami's work went especially dark in 2012, when he interspersed skulls with flowers for an exhibition at the Gagosian.  The collection of 28 works for the exhibition continued one of Murakami's "central dichotomies of his art—between joy and terror, his optimistic magnanimity as an artist and his pessimistic perspective on postwar Japan."  But it was also a response to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  "Natural catastrophes and earthquakes are things caused by nature. Such chaos is natural, but we have to make sense of it somehow, and so we had to invent these stories. That is what I wanted to paint,” he states.

Takashi Murakami, Blue Flowers and Skulls, 2012

More recent works also have the sad flowers, even the ones with seemingly cheerful titles. 

Takashi Murakami - Flowers Blooming in This World and the Land of Nirvana, 2013

Detail (look below the blue flower on the bottom right):

Takashi Murakami, Flowers Blooming in This World and the Land of Nirvana - detail
(images from

Takashi Murakami, Flowers with Smiley Faces, 2013

Takashi Murakami, Flowers with Smiley Faces, 2013 - detail
(image from 

Even though sometimes the flowers aren't as bright and positive as they seem, I was pleased to see at least some explanation of their meaning for Murakami and the deeper ideas he's trying to express through them.  And there aren't any sad flowers in the Shu collection, so I think it was intended to be magical and optimistic, which is more appropriate for the holiday season.  Having said that, I would have liked to see an original flower piece for the Shu collection.  There are so many flower paintings I simply couldn't tell whether these particular flowers were borrowed from another work or if they were something new created just for the Shu collection, but it would have been nice to know.  Even though my cursory investigation yielded some answers, I'm still a little perplexed by the selection of flowers for this collection, especially after seeing the making of the video.

It's so elaborate - hiring dancers to "wrap" the city, a carefully thought-out nod to Murakami's background (he makes a cameo as a taxi driver, which was his father's occupation), and music selection - it seems like more work went into making the collection video than the packaging.  And going back to my previous statement that Murakami's flowers are his best-known motif, they really do appear everywhere, from cushions to key chains to sneakers.   There was even a pop-up cafe in Tokyo devoted to Murakami's flowers last year.

Murakami Cafe

Murakami cafe - food(images from

This year Murakami introduced his own line of flower-adorned sake, which will be served in the bar he owns in Tokyo.  

Takashi Murakami - sake

Takashi Murakami - sake(images from

All of this is to say nothing of his long-time collaboration with Louis Vuitton, which, incidentally, featured a collection with the same name as the Shu palettes!  Cosmic Blossom debuted in 2010; both of this year's Shu palettes are also titled Cosmic Blossom.  My hunch about the packaging being somewhat uninspired seems correct in light of all this.  It seems like the company just decided to slap Murakami's most iconic symbol on there and call it a day, without protest from the artist.

I also can't help but wonder whether I agree with this 2007 take on the artist's business endeavors: "Unfortunately, since around 2001 Murakami has been so set on merging fine art with commercial product that by now all he’s doing is moving merch. The best that can be said about Murakami’s new work is that he’s making pretty money. Or pretty empty money. The main attractions of this exhibition are 50 little happy-faced flower paintings and six large portraits of a haggard-looking Zen patriarch. The flowers are insipid. So are the portraits, although at least with them Murakami is up to his old extreme stylization. But the real content of Murakami’s art is money and marketability. Hence, each of the 50 silly flowers reportedly goes for $90,000; the portraits, about $1.5 mil per unit. Four better larger flower paintings run about $450,000; two boring pictures of severed hands, about $400,000. Needless to say, the gallery reports everything is sold."  Ouch.  While I don't want to appear nearly as harsh, on the one hand, I'm sort of in agreement that Murakami just might be a bit of a sell-out at this point.  Having your key motif on commercial items is fine, but when it appears on so many things, it loses a little something - it just doesn't seem as special.  On the other hand, I admire any artist who also possesses this level of business acumen; in this day and age, it's basically expected that artists will embark on these sorts of partnerships.  I mean, I have an entire category of posts on makeup/artist collaborations!  And while I do think at times it's something of a cash grab, putting one's most recognizable work on merchandise isn't an entirely terrible or tasteless thing, as it ensures accessibility for those who can't afford the original.  I wouldn't mind having those little flower faces smiling at me from an original painting, but since I can't afford those, having them on makeup (or key chain, or whatever you prefer) is the next best thing.  It's the same concept as couture house makeup:  A tweed Chanel jacket is out of my financial reach, but I can buy a Chanel blush with a tweed pattern on it.  It's also a way to introduce one's work to an audience that might not necessarily be familiar with it otherwise. For the vast majority of artist collabs that I've covered, I can't say I've heard of the artist prior to their working with a makeup company and I really enjoy finding out about them this way.

So where does that leave me in terms of the Shu collection?  I guess the bottom line is that I think it's worthy of the Museum's collection since it does incorporate the artist's best-known work, but it's not the most inspired we've seen.  Especially not when compared to the previous Murakami collection, which, though it borrowed one of the artist's animated works, at least had a more original theme.  Perhaps if Murakami had created a unique flower design specifically for Shu I'd be more enthusiastic.


Shu Uemura Art of Hair cleansing oils

It's kind of a moot point that these beautiful Shu cleansing oils slipped through my radar last year, as 1. they were Australia-exclusive and I had no way of purchasing them; and 2. they're technically hair products, so it's a bit outside the Museum's purview.  Still, they're pretty awesome looking so I wanted to share them anyway.  

As the first installment of their Art Series, in May of 2015 Shu teamed up with 3 Australian artists to design 3 bottles for the brand's Cleansing Oil Shampoo.  The collection was released at a VIP event at Sydney's China Heights Gallery.  

Shu Uemura Art of Hair cleansing oils(image from

First up we have fashion designer Emma Mulholland, whose quirky, surf culture-inspired pieces are making her a favorite among the likes of Kanye West, Azealia Banks and Grimes.  Photos of her spring/summer 2015 collection, entitled "Risqué Business", adorned the walls of the gallery where the oils were being displayed.

Emma Mulholland - Risque Business collection

Emma Mulholland - installation view

Mulholland, a graduate of Sydney's TAFE, made her solo debut at Australian Fashion Week in 2013 and cites '80s and '90s pop culture as her main sources of inspiration.  "I love pop culture and watching movies is one of my favourite ways to relax. I like movies from the 80s and 90s mainly so I’m always inspired by them, also a lot of bands and musicians from those times too," she says.  I can definitely see these  influences in her work, from the '80s pops of neon and geometric shapes to the '90s-esque platform sneakers and overall silhouettes.

Emma Mulholland - Spring Break collection

I'm particularly fond of her "Spaced Out" collection - it's an incredibly fun riff on the conspiracy theory that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids.

Emma Mulholland - Spaced Out collection, fall/winter 2013

As for the Shu collab, Mulholland explains, "Shu Uemura got in contact with me about the Art Series and it sounded like a really exciting project so I jumped at the opportunity to work with them. It was great because I got to look back through my archive prints and work with them on choosing one that would work for the bottle. [It's] a print from one of my very first collections ‘Bad as I Guana Be’. The theme was the Mexican desert but mixed with basketball—so that’s how it came about."  It's totally bizarre, so naturally I love it.

Emma Mulholland - iguana print

Emma Mulholland - Bad as I Guana Be collection, spring 2012/13(images from, , and

Next up we have tattoo artist Dean Carlyle.  I was unable to find any information on how the collaboration with Shu came about, or any other biographical information about him, but I think we get a good sense of his aesthetic just by looking at his tattoos.  Big, bold, traditional-style tattoos are his jam - none of the delicate, single-needle stuff we see so much of these days (although I must say I prefer the latter!)  These are definitely not for the faint of heart.

Dean Carlyle tattoos

Dean Carlyle tattoo

As for the Shu oil, you can see the rest of the illustration as it was installed in the gallery.  The stock photo of the bottle at the beginning of this post only gives a partial view of the fierce woman that wraps around the side and back of the bottle.

Shu Uemura Art Series installation view

I think the design on the Shu oil is most reminiscent of these drawings by Carlyle.

Dean Carlyle tattoo artwork

Dean Carlyle tattoo artwork

Dean Carlyle tattoo artwork

You can catch a peek of more of his work at the gallery.

Dean Carlyle tattoo artwork(images from,, and

Finally, we have New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based illustrator Andrew Archer.  Originally trained as a graphic designer, Archer is influenced by woodblock prints and his stints living in Asia, which is readily apparent in his work.  Archer created a Japanese warrior-inspired design for the Shu collab.  I think this one best represents the product given its emphasis on the hairstyle.

Andrew Archer - Shu Uemura

The Shu collab caught Archer a little off guard, but he was pleased with the end result.  He says, "I was initially curious as to why [Shu was] wanting my work specifically for the collaboration, most beauty brands play it pretty safe with their imagery and in contrast Shu Uemura wasn't at all shy about wanting to get something different, stylistic and contrasting incorporated into their brand. This was almost entirely what made me want to work with Shu Uemura - the chance to create something unique, and present something to a new audience who could join in the visual journey Shu Uemura and I created together."

Andrew Archer - Shu Uemura print

Archer describes his style as "free flowing, confident but quirky coloring and surreal," which we can see in these prints for the FIA Formula E racing championship series.  I also like how sharply Archer captured not only the cities in which the championships took place but also the speed and motion of the cars -  you can practically hear the "whoosh!" as they zoom by.

Andrew Archer - FE series

Andrew Archer - FE series

Andrew Archer - FE series

Of course, I'm partial to sea creatures.  I think you can especially see the influence of woodblock prints in these two.

Andrew Archer

Andrew Archer - California magazine cover

Some more of his work at the China Heights Gallery:

Andrew Archer - gallery installation(images from and

Overall, I'm dismayed that this collection was exclusive to Australia, and I find it odd that it didn't even make it to the Asian markets - if they had, I may have had a chance of acquiring these.  I know technically they're hair products but I still would love to have gotten my hands on them.  What's even sadder is that there is another artist series that Shu did earlier this summer and it's the same Australia-exclusive shtick, so I can't get those either.  (I'm still going to cover the series anyway though so stay tuned!)  Finally, I really admire whoever curated/installed the gallery show.  If I had a physical museum, artist collabs would look a lot like this.

Which is your favorite?  I liked all of them but I think Emma Mulholland's is my pick.  While she didn't create an original design specifically for the collaboration, the sheer absurdity of the lizards and basketball print, plus the fact that it had absolutely nothing to do with hair care, made an excellent choice for the bottle in my opinion.


Kye for Shu Uemura

I have to admit that the packaging for this collection didn't immediately set off my curadar (curating radar), but given the frenzy over K-beauty over the past 2 or so years, coupled with the fact that Kye is an important up-and-coming fashion designer, I figured it would be a worthy addition to the Museum.  And you know I can't resist Shu's limited-edition cleansing oils. ;)

Kathleen Kye was born in the U.S., raised in Seoul and attended London's Central Saint Martins.  Her clothing line, which was launched in 2011, is notable not just for its edgy, high-fashion streetwear aesthetic, but also for its focus on unisex design.

Kye for Shu Uemura

The pattern on the Shu collection incorporates a seemingly random group of motifs along with Kye's signature.  Uh-oh, I thought - is this just a bunch of stuff Kye slapped on there without any thought?

Kye for Shu Uemura

Kye for Shu Uemura cleansing oil

Kye for Shu Uemura cleansing oil

Nope! I was thrilled to see that the pattern wasn't just an arbitrary scattering of icons that the designer happened to throw on there.  Shu featured this handy dandy little chart explaining the meaning behind most of them. 

"I try to take some serious themes and issues to something light and beautiful." - See more at:

Kye-shu-uemura-icons(image from

Some of the symbols were also borrowed from previous fashion collections, such as the band-aid (from spring 2014):

Kye spring 2014

And the tattoo-inspired (to my eye anyway), spring 2013 print, where I'm assuming the bird, skulls and roses came from.

Kye spring 2013(images from

Kye tells Vogue, "I try to take some serious themes and issues to something light and beautiful."  I'd also add fun and modern to that description.  The symbols pay homage to Korea's history but also demonstrate a playful twist.  I particularly love the representation of the country's national animal in gummy form.  Kye also shows her understanding not just of Korea's heritage but also the present cultural climate for the country's bustling youth through the "24" and the alarm clock symbols.

Overall, while this isn't my favorite Shu collab, I think Kye is the perfect designer to team up with to celebrate Korea's youth culture and the influence it's having on the rest of the world.  And I always appreciate when the artist puts some actual thought into what they're making for the cosmetic brand they're collaborating with rather than either blindly copying old designs or slapping on whatever is appealing to them at the moment.

What do you think?




Happy hydrangeas from Shu (and some traveling penguins)

Shu Uemura's spring 2016 collection, Pastel Fantasy, is largely gone from their website to make room for the summer collaboration with Korean fashion designer Kye, but I thought I'd cover the cheerful little palette from the collection anyway. 


As soon as I saw it I suspected there was an artist behind the floral illustration, but figured the U.S. website was once again hiding information about him/her.  I was right - a quick search on the Japanese Shu site yielded the name Satoko Wada.  The charming purple flowers are her take on Japanese hydrangeas.

Shu-Uemura-Spring-2016(images from

Wada is a Tokyo-based artist who specializes in a particular type of illustration known as line drawing.  While I couldn't find much information on her background, it seems she's a relative newcomer to the art scene, having only started drawing in 2009 and becoming a successful independent artist by 2012.  I also couldn't find any information on how the collaboration with Shu came about, but Wada's work is a perfect fit for a pastel-themed spring makeup collection.  Some of her other drawings:





My favorite:


In just a few years Wada managed to collaborate with other companies to create everything from textiles to posters and stationery.




Satoko-Wada-postcards(images from

I also found this video, showing Wada leading an informal wall painting session at furniture store Bo Concept in Yokohama, Japan. 

What I am most curious about though are these oversize penguin cut-outs Wada made.  Google Translate was, as usual, completely useless. 




I love that for their beach adventure they're wearing leis.


From what I can piece together these two characters visit various locales throughout Japan and are the mascots for either a town called Shirahama or something for trains...but I really have no idea.  I did check out, but still couldn't get any concrete information.  Near as I can figure, it's some sort of collaborative art project where various artists decorate train stations, and I think Wada was the artist selected for 2015.  But I still have no clue as to where Shirahama fits in.  Maybe because there's a zoo/amusement park there called Adventure World that has penguins?  Apparently it's the only place in Japan that successfully hatched an emperor penguin.



And I guess these little fellas have names, based on this photo.

Satoko-Wada-with-penguins(images from

It still doesn't explain how they ended up in forests and beaches, but it looks like an incredibly fun project nonetheless.

Overall, I can't say I know much about line drawing, but I do enjoy Wada's style.  It seems to have a bit of a traditional, folk-art vibe but somehow appears modern at the same time.  And I love that she works extensively with color rather than black and grey.  Obviously, the "strolling penguins" show that she also has a great imagination (plus they remind me of my beloved Sailor Babo.)  As for the Shu collection, in looking at Wada's online gallery, it looks as though she created a new design specifically for the collection rather than slapping on one of her older works, which I also appreciate.  I somewhat regret not getting around to buying the palette for the Museum's collection now!  I also think Shu could have done a much bigger collection and commissioned some other designs for cleansing oils, etc. rather than just one little palette.

Thoughts?  And if anyone can explain the penguin mystery I'm all ears!

More Chinese New Year collectibles from Shu Uemura

Just when I thought there were no new cleansing oils in sight from Shu, they surprised us with these two to celebrate the Chinese New Year.  If I had known these were coming I would have held off on my group portrait, but c'est la vie.  Anyway, like the Qiang embroidery patterns from 2015's cleansing oils, this year Shu honored another traditional Chinese art: kites.  The company collaborated with expert kite maker Zhang Xiaodong to create two custom patterns for the oils.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oils, 2016

The first is a traditional "swallow" shaped kite that in this case represents rebirth.  Magpies are symbols of happiness and good luck in Chinese culture, while the goldfish signify an abundance of wealth.  I actually think the boxes for both of the oils are prettier than the bottles themselves, as they have more detail and color.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil, 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Here is the kite made by Zhang Xiaodong. 

Zhang Xiaodong kite for Shu Uemura
(image from

The theme of the other cleansing oil is metamorphosis, symbolized by the butterfly.  Additionally, Cranes signify longevity, while camellias represent long-lasting devotion in marriage.

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Shu Uemura Chinese New Year cleansing oil 2016

Here's the original kite.

Zhang Xiaodong kite for Shu Uemura
(image from

Zhang Xiaodong is one of China's leading kite artists.  He is one of a handful of aging craftsmen in China struggling to save the dying art of kite-making.  Between budget cuts for cultural heritage programs that fund kite-making and a younger generation disinterested in the practice, kite artists are challenged in keeping the tradition alive.  Zhang does his part by spending his spare time teaching children and teenagers in Weifang, the world's "kite capital", how to make kites.  Unfortunately I couldn't find any information (in English, anyway) about what inspired him to create the designs he did for the Shu collab, just some pictures showing him at work.  But both of the oils' themes - rebirth and metamorphosis - stem from the central idea of a renaissance of sorts, so I'm interpreting the designs as an expression of the artist's hope of breathing new life into an art form that's fading away. 

Traditional kites are made by hand-painting pieces of silk and attaching them to bamboo frames, which you can see a bit of below. 

Zhang Xiaodong for Shu Uemura(image from

From I was able to piece together here, Shu also collaborated with 19 year-old Chinese singer Dou Jing Tong  (a.k.a. Leah Dou) to help bridge the gap between youth culture and the historic art of kite-making.  Dou was interviewed in this video and some background information on Zhang was provided.  (Alas, it's all in Chinese.)  Additionally, Dou released her second single as part of the Shu campaign, the video for which features the kites made by Zhang.


I thought using his kites in the video for a young pop star's song and also animating the designs was an interesting approach to mixing the old and the new.  Some people might see it as nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to expose a younger generation to traditional Chinese kites with the hopes of gaining some appreciation for them, but the I think the marketing people tried their best.  I think if maybe young people didn't know that the designs were done by an old-school craftsman, they might think it's neat.  Or perhaps the long-standing history of kites and their non-mass-produced, handmade nature are the very things to spark interest among Chinese hipster youth, equivalent to things like taxidermy or any food promoted as "artisanal" here in the States.

Anyway, I applaud Shu for trying to bring attention to yet another cultural institution that's slipping away, and I liked the bright colors and patterns on these oils.  I just wish Shu would make this information readily available on their U.S. website.  If they're going to sell the oils here then they need to provide the backstory too.  I'm sure a lot of American buyers would be curious.

What do you think?



Group portrait: Shu Uemura cleansing oils

Click to enlarge.

Shu Uemura cleansing oils collection

Shu Uemura cleansing oils collection

Top row, left to right:  Ai Yamaguchi (2005), Ai Yamaguchi (2004), Lisa Kohno, Aya Takano

Second row, left to right:  Genius Party, Tokyo Kamon Girls, Ai Yamaguchi (2005), Mon Shu

Third row, left to right:  Mamechiyo, John Tremblay, Advanced Formula, Wong Kar Wai, Jiro Konami

Shu Uemura cleansing oils collection

4th row, left to right:  OB, Maison Kitsuné, Murakami, Tsuyoshi Hirano, Shupette, Qiang

Bottom row, left to right: Unmask, Yazbukey, Mika Ninagawa

Shu Uemura cleansing oils collection


Couture Monday: Foxy lady

For their holiday 2015 collection, Shu collaborated with hip French fashion label Maison Kitsuné for an "East meets West" theme.  I had heard of the line before but it wasn't really on my radar.  However, as with all makeup collabs, I get more interested in the artist or designer once I see their work on the packaging.

I picked up the Indigo palette, Plum Glitz nail polish and the cleansing oil.  The packaging is adorned with an equal mix of Parisian and Japanese motifs to represent the East/West concept - a beret vs. a straw hat, coffee vs. green tea, a flouncy dress vs. a kimono, etc.  And of course the brand's little fox logo makes an appearance too (kitsuné means fox). 

I tried to up my photography game by using this very soft faux fur blanket as a backdrop...not sure how successful that was but I can tell you that blanket is ridiculously comfortable!  I encourage everyone to buy one.

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura cleansing oil

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura palette

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura palette

You know I love when the patterns continue on the inside of the boxes!

Shu Uemura - Maison Kitsune

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura

Because I'm such a good customer I got both a free key chain and tote bag - too cute!

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura tote

Maison Kitsune for Shu Uemura tote

Let's take a quick peek at some of Maison Kitsuné's fashion, shall we? The line was founded in 2002 by Gildas Loaëc and Masaya Kuroki, who seek to blend contemporary Parisian and Tokyo style. From the website: "Maison Kitsuné men and women recognize this perfect balance between tradition and modernity, comfort and simplicity, chic and laid-back. While the 'classics' are constantly reinvented, giving the collections a sense of timelessness, the daring mix of colours, prints and materials anchor them firmly in the zeitgeist. 
With a passion for all things beautiful and a keen eye for detail and finish, the house has a unique savoir-faire."

Their work reminds me of Paul & Joe, only a little less twee and shot through with a slight Tokyo vibe. 

Maison Kitsune dresses

Maison Kitsune shirts
(images from

Getting back to the Shu collection, I believe the designs on the packaging were made specifically for the collection, as I couldn't find any reference to them in Maison Kitsuné's fashion pieces.  I like that they didn't just recycle something they've done a lot in the past but rather developed an original creation that also clearly represented what Maison Kitsuné is about:  a playful yet sophisticated combination of Paris and Tokyo fashion. From a purely aesthetic perspective, I enjoyed the variety of motifs against the colorful geometric background, and that different items had different patterns.  For example, the Indigo palette and the cleansing oil have a different set of emblems, while the nail polish stayed simple by featuring only the fox logo. Overall, I thought Maison Kitsuné did a great job in adjusting their fashion concept to fit cosmetic packaging - you know it's theirs but not because they slapped on a bunch of prints from previous collections.  I think they perfectly answered the question of how one would depict a marriage of Parisian and Japanese styles.

What do you think?





Shu Uemura fall 2015

Shu's impressive holiday collection is already out, but I still wanted to cover their fall collection.  I smell a graffiti-themed makeup exhibition brewing.  ;)  Between this collaboration and Urban Decay's France-exclusive collection back in the summer, not to mention previous collaborations with street artists/muralists (see here, here, here, here and here) it seems cosmetic companies have gone crazy for graffiti art.

For the Vision of Beauty: Haute Street collection, Shu teamed up with New York City-based artist Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter (that's a mouthful!), whose work adorns two palettes and a lip tint.  I liked that his signature graffiti was reproduced in both his usual color scheme of black and white as well as purple and pink.

Shu Uemura fall 2015 collection

Shu Uemura fall 2015 collection
(images from

This video shows Oyama at work, and also explains Shu International Artistic Director Kakuyasu Uchiide's inspiration for the collection.  He notes, "In street art, location plays a really important role.  In makeup it is the same:  makeup and face working together to make a statement."  I agree that makeup application and graffiti present an interesting parallel that goes beyond the usual face-as-canvas narrative.


Born and raised in Tokyo, in the early 2000's Oyama developed a signature motif he calls Quick Turn Structure.  He explains in his artist's statement:  "Graffiti is an act of writing a name in the streets. In graffiti culture, this name composed of stylized letters represents writer’s alter ego. I remove letter shapes and decorative elements to extract only the sharp fluid line, which I consider otherwise can’t fully realize its dynamism. The line is called Quick Turn and I repeat it to generate an abstract motif. Instead of inventing a name for my own alter ego, I gave the motif a name, Quick Turn Structure.  QTS is an interpretation of the visual language of graffiti culture in the context of contemporary art. What was previously a name that represents one's alter ego is transformed into plain yet tight visual objects. Lines slash back, spin and interlock. Facet-like surfaces contrasted in black and white produce three-dimensional depth. Those visual objects create a complex shape through their minimal yet spontaneous expansion. Its tightly knit structure multiplies by intrinsic order and keeps growing without hardening up. The way QTS generates is based not on a mathematical algorithm, nor a random improvisation, but on a methodology that was somatically gained through the experience of numerous practices performed on various media with different scales and materials. As it generates, the stoical process of drawing Quick Turn lines emerges as the motif, and it is built up into a piece of art. Then, soon afterwards, it starts to generate towards another, as if a piece were just a trace of a move that QTS left behind."

In reading this and looking at the Shu packaging I can definitely see the process.  I'm not sure I necessarily agree that he's "removing" letter shapes so much as bending, straightening and interlocking them to create an abstract design, but I do like the combination of sharpness and fluidity - his designs remind me of bent nails.  I think it would be pretty bad-ass to have one of his motifs in necklace form (like this), as I'm always fond of accessories that resemble hardware/weapons, i.e., safety pins, razor blades, barbed wire, etc. 

Anyway, one of the things I love about graffiti artist collabs is that it's always interesting to see their work in the original environment, and then determining whether it works on the smaller scale of makeup packaging.  Here are some of Oyama's work on and inside various buildings and stores in Japan, along with a 2012 drawing.

Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter

Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter

Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter - Isetan

Oyama Enrico Isamu Letter
(images from

I think Oyama's style works well on the Shu packaging, but to my eye it sort of looks like this restaurant's logo, which I see nearly every day since it's right near my work building.  Obviously the design on the Shu collection is much more imaginative, complex and high-art, but it does bear a slight resemblance.

XS logo
(image from

So I'm not sure whether I want it for the Museum's collection.  On the other hand, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it might make a nice addition to a graffiti-themed exhibition.

What do you think of this collection? 

Friday Flop: Yazbukey for Shu Uemura

Normally on Fridays I liked to post about fun, playful makeup collections.  While at first glance Yazbukey's collection for Shu Uemura is just that, upon further investigation I am underwhelmed.  It's a shame as I spent a lot of the Museum's budget on a collection that doesn't seem to be worthy of it. 

Yazbukey is the namesake brand of a Paris-based, Turkish-born accessories designer who launched the line in 2000.  Bukey's personal history is quite fascinating - she comes from a royal family and speaks 5 languages - and her experiences growing up in many different cities, along with playing in her uncle's Plexiglas factory, is directly expressed in her colorful, tongue-in-cheek bags and jewelry.  Unfortunately, I found her unique perspective sadly lacking in the Shu collection.

So what spurred me to buy it?  First, as a collector I'm always afraid of not getting my hands on a limited-edition item before it sells out, so there was definitely an element of rushing to buy without doing any research.  A corollary to the collecting aspect is that I have some sort of compulsive urge to acquire every single limited edition Shu cleansing oil - they're just one of those types of items I have to have.  Second, Yazbukey's work seemed pretty strange to me, and I tend to gravitate towards any weird fashion (as long as it's not the "creepy" type of weird.)  Finally, I found the candy-colored cleansing oil boxes, each with a different eye shadow design and phrase, to be quite appealing. 

Yazbukey for Shu Uemura cleansing oils

According to a Yahoo! Beauty article, each of the four oils represent a distinct personality:  Daring Tina (blue Blanc: Chroma), Romantic Betty (yellow Ultime8), Smart Lola (green Anti/Oxi), and and Sexy Yaz (pink Pore-finist).  Bukey describes her vision:  “I wanted to do something on girl power, and by playing with makeup, I think you can become the woman you want to be, if only for a moment. Maybe at some point you want to be very sexy like Marilyn Monroe, but the next day you want to be an intellectualized beauty like Lauren Bacall...that’s why I chose four girls that are like Wonder Woman—they put their makeup on, twirl, and suddenly they’re someone else."  Additionally, these girls are all in love with "Shu Shu", which is meant to be a playful twist on the French phrase "mon chouchou".  As the article says, "Mon chouchou is also a French term of endearment that describes your 'favorite person' and the phrase that loyal client Frank Sinatra inscribed on a makeup case that he gave to 'shu shu baby' (aka the late Mr. Shu Uemura, for his birthday.)"  So that explains the text in each word bubble.

Yazbukey for Shu Uemura cleansing oils

Yazbukey for Shu Uemura palette

Yazbukey for Shu Uemura palette

I got this makeup bag as a gift with purchase.

Yazbukey for Shu Uemura makeup bag

But when I started really researching Yazbukey I was disheartened to see that all of the designs on the Shu collection were more or less carelessly slapped on to the packaging.  The above makeup bag, for example, is a copy of this phone case from the spring 2015 collection except that the word bubble is moved to the other side and contains text.

Yazbukey iphone case
(image from

Meanwhile, the eye shapes that I thought were unique to the Shu cleansing oil packaging were also from the spring 2015 collection.  As mentioned above, supposedly each one embodies a different personality but looking at pictures of other work I have a really hard time believing that.

Yazbukey spring 2015 collection

But why would this bother me, you ask.  After all, Paul & Joe consistently transfers patterns from their fashion collections onto their makeup, while countless other fashion houses (Dior, Chanel, YSL) have created perfect replicas of their signature items in powder form.  So why am I disappointed that Yazbukey followed suit?  For starters, Paul & Joe might use prints from their fashion pieces in makeup, but they're always careful to also include totally new and different prints.  As for all the couture items, embossing a powder with a classic design rather than placing it on the outer packaging greatly elevates it - there's a certain art in ensuring that a motif will translate well to powder.  I also think my disappointment stems from looking at Yazbukey's collections, which demonstrate a far greater range of creativity than we're seeing in the Shu collection. 

Take, for example, the "Fabulous Market" spring 2014 collection, which includes seashell-shaped bags and a cheeky seashell t-shirt.

Yazbukey Fabulous Market collection

Yazbukey Fabulous Market collection

Yazbukey also has a talent for creating several variations on a collection's theme - no one-trick ponies here.  The spring 2015 "My Heart Belongs to Paris" lineup offers a plethora of French iconography, from baguettes to striped shirts and berets to a traditional artist's palette.  There's even an homage to can-can dancers (I'm assuming that's what those leg earrings, necklace and brooches represent.)

Yazbukey My Heart Belongs to Paris collection 2015

Yazbukey My Heart Belongs to Paris collection 2015

Yazbukey My Heart Belongs to Paris collection 2015

Yazbukey My Heart Belongs to Paris collection 2015

(Just as an aside, how awesome is this lipstick necklace?!  I would totally wear that.)

Yazbukey My Heart Belongs to Paris collection 2015
(images from

After looking at these and previous collections I could see how whimsical and quirky Yazbukey is.  She weaves together various cultural references and skillfully combines non-traditional (Plexiglas, shoelace fabric) with traditional (metal, macrame) materials to make accessories that are both fun and oddly luxurious.  I just wish this came through in the Shu collection.  I'm not sure how it happened, either, as the Yahoo! article insists that the designer oversaw the creation of the line, which allegedly took a total of 20 months to complete. "[Bukey] wasn’t going to let a team of marketers make decisions and slap her name on a lipstick and call it a day—she wanted to play an integral role, deciding on everything from packaging design to eyeshadow colors. 'I needed to try everything, see it on different people, and ask around to see if they were happy with it—I needed to be 100 percent into it,' she explained. “'I’m also a control freak!'”  Again, I'm having difficulty reconciling this claim with the Shu collection.  I imagined something different, items that better captured the nuances in her work.  How about compacts that are actually in the shape of her trademark lips and eyes?  Or a highlighting powder embossed with one of her signature mouse bags?  I just felt like so much more could have been done, and it was a missed opportunity (much like MAC's Philip Treacy collection).  

What do you think of Yazbukey and the Shu collection?

On my radar: cute and creepy packaging finds

Today I wanted to share two relatively noteworthy finds I've recently come across, one extremely adorable and the other...not so much.  The first is Korean brand Too Cool for School's Dinoplatz range.  Too Cool for School is a trendy, youth-oriented brand (intended for 16-25 year-olds), and their Dinoplatz collection features a broad variety of products for their target demographic, all outfitted in quirky illustrations of dinosaurs that occasionally appear to be running amok in New York City.  The range has been around for a while so why I'm only finding out about it now is a mystery, especially since the packaging won a Dieline award in 2013 and I've been following The Dieline for years.  Anyway, let's get to the goods. 

Too Cool for School Dinoplatz pop up packaging
(image from

The illustration style is intentionally somewhat crude, which I think is perfect for teenagers - the drawings remind me of the doodles you'd make in the margins of your notebook when you were bored during class.

Too Cool for School Dinoplatz mascara

Too Cool for School Dinoplatz eye shadow

Dinoplatz cotton swabs

Too Cool for School Dinoplatz

Too Cool for School Dinoplatz
(images from

There are tons of Dinoplatz items available from reliable sellers on E-bay, so if you simply must own a CC cream with an illustration of a dinosaur scaling the Empire State Building, you still have a chance!  I think I see some of these items ending up in the Museum's collection in the near future.  ;)

The second, considerably less cute item I wanted to highlight today is Shu Uemura's Tokyo Doll palette, which I discovered at Chic Profile.  According to the information there, the Tokyo Doll palette is a highly exclusive item which will most likely be available for sale only at Asian travel retailers, i.e. duty-free shops, later this summer.  I think I'm okay with not getting my hands on it.  If I know Shu, I bet there was an outside artist involved in the design which sort of makes me want to go after it, but honestly, I'm a little freaked out by this.

Shu Uemura Tokyo Doll Palette
(image from

Maybe it's just because I find dolls to be creepy in general so the name of the palette is throwing me off, but I'm finding this to be rather strange.  The oversize eyes would actually look cute (or harmless at the very least), but combined with the egg-shaped head and the slits for nostrils, the face as a whole is a little disconcerting.  She looks quite alien-like, and her little grin doesn't help matters. I also don't like how her fingers curl around her face.  The proportions look off - that pinky finger seems way longer than it should be and reminds me of a tentacle.

What do you think of these two?  And which is scarier in your opinion, Shu's Mon Shu girl or this new Tokyo Doll?