Feminism

Fierce or farce? Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay

Welcome to the first of many, many, many artist collaborations this holiday season!  I'm kicking them off with an unexpected collaboration between Urban Decay and artist Patrick Nagel.  If you were an '80s child and/or had an older sibling who was into Duran Duran, Nagel's work might look familiar.  

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay

Here they are individually with their original artwork and open, in case you're not a crazy collector like me and want to actually use the palettes.  :)

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Rio palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Rio palette

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Sunglasses palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Sunglasses palette

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Untitled palette

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel for Urban Decay - Untitled palette

Patrick Nagel (1945-1984) was born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in Orange County, California. I'll just let his official website provide the rest of his bio:  "After returning from his tour in Viet Nam, he studied fine art at Chouinard Art Institute and California State University, Fullerton where he received his BA in 1969 in painting and graphic design. He then taught at Art Center College of Design while simultaneously establishing himself as a freelance designer and illustrator with memorable ads for Ballantine Scotch, IBM and covers for Harper’s magazine.  In the mid-70’s he began illustrating stories for Playboy magazine, bringing instant exposure and a large appreciative audience to his work. His years working with Playboy established him as the heir apparent to 50’s pin-up artist Alberto Vargas and gave Nagel the subject matter that he would continue to use to illustrate the newly liberated woman." And this is where I start rambling about Nagel's depictions of women so you're in a for a long, possibly boring ride. I simply don't think I can look at his work without debating some critics' premise that Nagel loved women.

To get better informed on the matter, I purchased The Artist Who Loved Women by Rob Frankel, in which he uses Nagel's personal life to come to the conclusion that the women he painted were strong, fierce, powerful ladies in their own right.  However, there are A LOT of details from Nagel's biography that lead to me to believe otherwise.1 The sticky notes in the photo below demonstrate all the instances where I found Nagel to be less than the champion of women he's perceived as in this book, along with where I take issue with Frankel's stance. 

Nagel-book

Why are Nagel's images of women so striking?  Well, according to the author, their beauty is only important as it relates to the male gaze; their power comes from whether they're perceived as attractive by men.  "There is one special moment in every man's life...it's that heart-stopping moment when he first beholds an incredibly special woman...her hair flows, her eyes sparkle, and she moves with liquid grace.  She is everything he imagined his perfect woman to be...it wasn't the woman in the piece [of Nagel's art that the author purchased.]  It was Patrick Nagel's ability to convey that special moment every man experiences - or hopes to experience - about the woman of his dreams.  The Nagel Woman has no distractions; she is fully and completely dedicated to fulfilling her role as Nagel's ideal woman." (p. 15-16; 101).  I mean, really?  So apparently Nagel's depictions of women aren't actually about them at all, only (heterosexual) men's reaction to them.  With this stance, it seems Nagel believed that women weren't worth painting unless they were able to capture his and other men's imagination - a female viewer doesn't fit into the equation at all, making it seem as though his images are merely eye candy for straight men rather than a representation of women who are beautiful and interesting in their own right.

Secondly, I question whether anyone who contributes to Playboy in any capacity - Hugh Hefner (who, incidentally, held the largest private collection of Nagel's art and who also claimed to "love women") can rot in hell as far as I'm concerned - truly believes women are human beings and not objects whose value is determined by their ability to attract men.2  Insists Nagel's friend and assistant Barry Haun, "Often he would get out and buy the models outfits, usually bringing in makeup and hair stylists, too. The sessions were always very professional. You could tell that he loved women, being drawn more to their sensual qualities rather than to their overt sexuality."  Uh-huh.  I'll just leave these Playboy images here. 

Patrick Nagel

Patrick-nagel-playboy

Patrick Nagel

I don't see any "overt sexuality".  Nope, not at all.  *eyeroll*

Patrick Nagel
(images from pinterest)

Based on another quote shared by Nagel's rather unscrupulous manager, Karl Bornstein3, I'm inclined to think the artist may even have been a bit judgmental of the women he drew. "The mystery of women was very important to him, and he held women in the highest esteem. But he said once, 'I don't think I want to know these women too well. They never come out in the sunlight. They just stay up late and smoke and drink a lot.'"  This is rich coming from a man for whom cigarettes, candy, coffee, Pepsi, aversion to exercise and staying up all night summed up his lifestyle.4 

Having said all this, while Nagel's images for Playboy aren't screaming feminism to me, others from the '80s do seem to be more positive in the depiction of women.  Perhaps the above quote could be construed as Nagel almost being intimidated by these fierce and fashionable ladies.  And if we can separate the Playboy pieces along with Nagel's personal relationships and perception of women from the rest of his oeuvre, perhaps these women can be viewed in a very different light.   Elena G. Millie, former curator of the poster collection at the Library of Congress, has this to say about Nagel's women: "She is elegant and sophisticated, exuding an air of mysterious enticement. She is capable, alluring and graceful, but also aloof and distant. You will never know this woman, though she stares out of the Nagel frame straight at you, compelling you to become involved, challenging you to an intense confrontation...His women of the seventies are shown as softer, more pliable, and more innocent than his stronger, harsher, more self-assured women of the eighties."  Adds the author of the blog '80s Autopsy, "They didn’t need your approval — you needed theirs. Regardless of how long you stared at them, they remained unknowable – and unattainable." I'm inclined to side more with these interpretations than Frankel's.5

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel

No matter what side you take regarding Nagel's women, it's undeniable that his work both captured and defined '80s style. While Nagel's work is totally different visually from that of his contemporary Antonio Lopez, both artists contributed enormously to the overall look we associate with the decade.  As for Nagel's own artistic style, two distinct elements came into play: Japanese woodblock prints and posters from the late 1800s/early 1900s.  (Remember that Nagel studied both art history and graphic design, and also did commercial posters for clients more PG than Playboy.)  Millie explains, "Like some of the old print masters (Toulouse-Lautrec and Bonnard, for example), Nagel was influenced by the Japanese woodblock print, with figures silhouetted against a neutral background, with strong areas of black and white, and with bold line and unusual angels of view. He handled colors with rare originality and freedom; he forced perspective from flat, two-dimensional images; and he kept simplifying, working to get more across with fewer elements. His simple and precise imagery is also reminiscent of the art-deco style of the 1920s and 1930s- its sharp linear treatment, geometric simplicity, and stylization of form yield images that are formal yet decorative."  I've chosen a couple images where I think the ukiyo-e, poster and Art Deco influences are strongest.

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel

Patrick Nagel(images from patricknagel.com)

In terms of process, Nagel first made drawings from photos he selected, then created paintings from those.  "His preliminary drawings for these designs are the exact antithesis of the final paintings. They are light, airy, ragged, and free. They are composed by line, but not confined by line. He would submit images for the client to choose from, subtly suggesting the product in the artwork. After the choice had been made, Nagel would then work up the finished painting, choosing the colors and lettering himself. He sometimes used as many as twenty-two colors per image...He felt that his drawings took him as far as he had to go with a design, yet his finished paintings are amazingly powerful images, rich with color and artfully imaginative. Finally, he would give the finished painting, along with a black line drawing, to the silk-screen printer for execution."

Now that I've done my due diligence in examining the content, style and process behind Nagel's work, let's get back to the Urban Decay collab.  I really have no idea why the company decided to put this artist on their lipstick palettes.  Obviously the licensing wasn't difficult to come by, as using Nagel's work for commercial purposes was, I'm guessing, another side effect of the mismanagement of his estate.6  This leads to the age-old question of whether a deceased artist would approve of their work being used to sell everything from makeup to t-shirts.  Even though it's a question that can never be answered, I always like to explore this issue.  It's hard to say in Nagel's case.  On the one hand I think he would have been flattered to collaborate with Urban Decay, a brand which always prided itself on catering to badass women everywhere.  If we interpret Nagel's art as being depictions of strong, powerful, DGAF women, the Urban Decay brand is a perfect fit.  But based on what I read in his biography, I'm wondering whether Nagel might have been opposed to his art appearing on items marketed mostly to women - I get the sense that he would have approved his images for more traditionally masculine pursuits, like beer packaging or car advertising, since, as his biographer claims, the beauty of the women Nagel painted were solely for men's enjoyment.  Along those lines, I bet Nagel wouldn't have been happy to see unlicensed prints and knock-offs being used at many a cheesy '80s beauty salon.

Anyway, while we can't answer that question or why Urban Decay chose to partner with Nagel, it's still an interesting collaboration.  My enthusiasm was a little deflated upon reading Nagel's biography, but I'm choosing to go with my gut reaction upon first laying eyes on these palettes (i.e. before I knew anything about Nagel) which was that they represent some of the most quintessentially '80s art and were simply a celebration of fashionable women.  Ignorance is bliss. 

What do you think? 

 

1 Other salient points to consider: 

  • Early in his career, Nagel abandoned his wife of 10 years and their infant daughter to pursue a more "glamorous" lifestyle in L.A., where he then married a fashion model several years younger.  As she grew up, Nagel allowed his daughter a 2 week-long visit to his home in L.A. every summer, but never permitted her to call him "dad".  Sounds like a real peach.  There's nothing wrong with not wanting a traditional lifestyle with kids, but maybe you should figure that out before you marry someone you're not happy with and, you know, have kids with that person.
  • There's one particular anecdote about Nagel, that, if true, made my skin crawl - apparently he was chatting up a young lady at a party and proceeded to balance 2 full martini glasses on her cleavage.  The author, of course, thinks this is both funny and charming - heck, the Nagel quote that Frankel chose for the book's introduction was "Martinis are like breasts.  More than two is too many." Like, you couldn't have found a quote about Nagel's thoughts on art?  Ugh.
  • Frankel notes that Nagel would never accept anything less than what he perceived to be the "ideal" woman (and actually defends the artist):  "To his few confidantes, Nagel related that he had no desire, no personal capability to be with anyone other than a 'perfect woman'.  He openly - some would say cruelly - admitted that he could never stay with a woman who suffered any kind of debilitating disease, such as breast cancer.  Like all men, Nagel had an idealized notion of what women meant to him which some might casually dismiss as objectification.  In Nagel's case, however, it would be more accurately described as deification.  To Patrick, women were divine and divinity tolerated no imperfection" (p.100).  LOL, nope.
  • Frankel also notes that there are "no women, living or dead" who mentioned Nagel sexually harassed them (p. 96).  Throughout the book Frankel relentlessly points out that Nagel was, by all accounts, very courteous and professional.  So great.  Just because no one has come forward doesn't mean Nagel didn't harass them, and even if he really wasn't a creep, why does the author insist on giving him a cookie for it? 

2 Just to be clear, I have no issue with female nudity or expressions of women's sexuality...but I do take issue when rampant exploitation of women is involved, which is the case with Playboy.

3 Bornstein was painted in a particularly negative light in Nagel's biography.  I'm not sure how much of it is true, but apparently he was quite the "womanizer" (read: sexual predator) and exceptionally money-hungry, the latter of which caused him to colossally mis-manage Nagel's work after his untimely death. 

4 At the age of 38, Nagel died suddenly of a massive heart attack after participating in an "aerobics-thon" at a charity event for one of his models. The autopsy showed that Nagel had a congenital heart defect which was the official cause, but I'm guessing his attempt at exercise after shunning it for his entire life may have been a trigger.

5 Frankel peppered Nagel's biography with remarks that were not exactly women-friendly, so I'm really trying not to agree with his point of view on Nagel's women.  Frankly, both he and Nagel come off as tremendous douches.  Among Frankel's greatest hits: "Party girls are not known for their financial acumen" (p. 108) - um, ever hear of Paris Hilton or the Kardashians? These "party girls" know exactly what they're doing when it comes to business; people who don't approve of Playboy are "prudes and shut-ins" (p. 244); and the last straw was Frankel's "where are they now" conclusion in which he gives a one-sentence follow up on those who figured prominently in Nagel's life.  Surprise surprise, he saved what I'm assuming he thinks is the best for last:  "Hugh Hefner is, was, and will forever be Hugh Hefner" (p. 279). Barf.

6  About the only useful thing in the biography were the last few chapters, which describe in detail the unraveling of Nagel's legacy due to both the greed of his manager and the fact that he did not have a will.  There was a lot of legal and business jargon, but the gist is that Bornstein was chiefly responsible for the eventual devaluing and unlicensed reproductions of Nagel's work.  This was aggravated by the lack of a will for Nagel, which most likely would have stipulated trademark and copyright guidelines - without those, it was essentially a free-for-all for anyone wanting to make money off his work.  Things didn't go through the proper channels, and most of Nagel's art ended up being illegally reproduced.

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Spotlight on vintage lipstick tissues

The life of a makeup museum curator is insanely glamorous.  For example, a lot of people go out on Friday nights, but not me - I have way more thrilling plans.  I usually browse for vintage makeup at Ebay and Etsy on my phone while in bed and am completely passed out by 8pm.  EXCITING.  It was during one of these Friday night escapades that I came across a fabulous box of vintage lipstick pads and naturally, that sent me down quite the rabbit hole.  Today I'm discussing a cosmetics accessory that has gone the way of the dodo:  lipstick tissues.  This is by no means a comprehensive history, but I've put together a few interesting findings.  I just wish I had access to more than my local library (which doesn't have much), a free trial subscription to newspapers.com and the general interwebz, as anyone could do that meager level of "research".  I would love to be able to dig deeper and have more specific information, but in lieu of that, I do hope you enjoy what I was able to throw together.

The earliest mention of lipstick tissues that I found was January 1932.  It makes sense, as several patents were filed for the same design that year. 

Lipstick tissue compact patent

Lipstick tissue patent
(images from google)

While they might have existed in the 1920s, I'm guessing lipstick tissues didn't become mainstream until the early 30s, as this December 1932 clipping refers to them as new, while another columnist in December 1932 says she just recently discovered them (and they are so mind-blowing they were clearly invented by a woman, since "no mere man could be so ingenious".)

December 1932 newspapers referring to lipstick tissues

In addition to the tear-off, matchbook-like packages, lipstick tissues also came rolled in a slim case.

October 1933 ad for Rolay lipstick tissues

This lovely Art Deco design by Richard Hudnut debuted in 1932 and was in production at least up until 1934.  I couldn't resist buying it.

Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

February 1934 ad for Richard Hudnut lipstick tissues

By 1935, restaurants and hotels had gotten wind of lipstick tissues' practicality for their businesses, while beauty and etiquette columnists sang their praises.  Indeed, using linens or towels to remove one's lipstick was quickly becoming quite the social blunder by the late 30s.

Restaurants offering lipstick tissues, 1935 and 1939

May 1936 beauty column - lipstick tissues

Kleenex was invented in 1924, but it wasn't until 1937, when the company had the grand idea to insert tissues specifically for lipstick removal into a matchbook like package, that these little wonders really took off.  You might remember these from my post on the Smithsonian's collection of beauty and hygiene items.  The warrior/huntress design was used throughout 1937 and 1938.

Kleenex lipstick tissues, ca. 1937(image from americanhistory.si.edu)

Kleenex started upping the ante by 1938, selling special cases for their lipstick tissues and launching campaigns like these "true confessions", which appeared in Life magazine (and which I'm sure were neither true nor confessions.)  With these ads, Kleenex built upon the existing notion that using towels/linens to remove lipstick was the ultimate etiquette faux pas, and one that could only be avoided by using their lipstick tissues. 

Kleenex lipstick tissue ad, April 1938

These ads really gave the hard sell, making it seem as though one was clearly raised by wolves if they didn't use lipstick tissues.  Or any tissues, for that matter.  Heaven forbid - you'll be a social pariah!

Kleenex True Confessions, February 1938

Kleenex True Confessions, October 1939

Look, you can even use these tissues to cheat on your girlfriend!  (insert eyeroll here)

Kleenex True Confessions, September 1939
(images from books.google.com)  

Not only that, Kleenex saw the opportunity to collaborate with a range of companies as a way to advertise both the companies' own goods/services and the tissues themselves.  By the early '40s it was difficult to find a business that didn't offer these gratis with purchase, or at least, according to this 1945 article, "national manufacturers of goods women buy." And by 1946, it was predicted that women would be expecting free tissue packets to accompany most of their purchases.

Diamond Match Company lipstick tissues - Dec. 1945

Needless to say, most of them consisted of food (lots of baked goods, since apparently women were tethered to their ovens), and other domestic-related items and services, like hosiery, hangers and dry cleaning.

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Curtiss Candy company lipstick tissues(images from ebay and etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues(images from ebay.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from ebay.com)

Naturally I had to buy a few of these examples for the Museum's collection.  Generally speaking, they're pretty inexpensive and plentiful.  The only one I shelled out more than $5 for was the Hudnut package since that one was a little more rare and in such excellent condition.  Interestingly, these have a very different texture than what we know today as tissues.  Using contemporary Kleenex to blot lipstick only results in getting little fuzzy bits stuck to your lips, but these vintage tissues have more of a blotting paper feel, perhaps just a touch thicker and ever so slightly less papery.  It could be due to old age - paper's texture definitely changes over time - but I think these were designed differently than regular tissues you'd use for a cold.

Lipstick tissues

Anyway, Museum staff encouraged me to buy the cookie one.  ;)

Lipstick tissues

I took this picture so you could get a sense of the size.  It seems the official Kleenex ones were a little bigger than their predecessors.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Wouldn't it be cool to go to a restaurant and see one of these at the table?  It would definitely make the experience seem more luxurious.  I certainly wouldn't feel pressure to use them for fear of committing a social sin, I just think it would be fun.

Lipstick tissues
(image from etsy.com)

Lipstick tissues
(image from mshhistoc.org)

I figured having a restaurant/hotel tissue packet would be a worthy addition to the Museum's collection, since it's another good representation of the types of businesses that offered them.  I'd love to see a hotel offer these as free souvenirs.

Vintage lipstick tissues

Here's an example that doesn't fit neatly into the baked goods/cleaning/hotel categories.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

This one is also interesting.  Encouraging women to be fiscally responsible is obviously more progressive than advertising dry cleaning and corn nut muffins, but it's important to remember that at the time these were being offered by Bank of America (ca. 1963), a woman could have checking and savings accounts yet still was unable to take out a loan or credit card in her own name.  One step forward, 5 steps back.

Lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Of course, cosmetics companies also made their own lipstick tissues.

Tangee lipstick tissues(image from etsy.com)

I was very close to buying these given how cute the graphics are, but didn't want to spend $20.  (I think they're now reduced to $12.99, if you'd like to treat yourself.)

Dubarry lipstick tissues(image from ebay.com)

Plus, I already have these DuBarry tissues in the collection.

Dubarry lipstick tissues

Funny side note:  I actually found a newspaper ad for these very same tissues!  It was dated July 27, 1948, which means the approximate dates I included in my DuBarry post were accurate.

DuBarry lipstick tissues ad, 1948

By the late '40s, lipstick tissues had transcended handbags and became popular favors for various social occasions, appearing at country club dinner tables to weddings and everything in between.  I'm guessing this is due to the fact that custom colors and monogramming were now available to individual customers rather than being limited to businesses.

Lipstick tissue ads - 1946, 1950

Lipstick tissue gift suggestion, 1946

Lipstick tissue favors, 1950 and 1944

"Bride-elect"?  Seriously?

Lipstick tissue wedding favors, April 1951

While the matchbook-sized lipstick tissues are certainly quaint, if you wanted something even fancier to remove your lipstick, lipstick pads were the way to go.  These are much larger and thicker than Kleenex and came imprinted with lovely designs and sturdy outer box.  This was the item that made me investigate lipstick tissues.  I mean, look at those letters!  I was powerless against their charm.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I couldn't find anything on House of Dickinson, but boy did they make some luxe lipstick pads.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

This design is so wonderful, I'd almost feel bad using these.  If I were alive back then I'd probably go digging through my purse to find the standard Kleenex ones.

House of Dickinson lipstick pads

I also couldn't really date these too well.  There's a nearly identical box by House of Dickinson on Ebay and the description for that dates them to the '60s, which makes sense given the illustration of the woman's face and the rounded lipstick bullet - both look early '60s to my eye.  

House of Dickinson lipstick pads
 
However, the use of "Milady" and the beveled shape of the lipstick bullet, both of which were more common in the '30s and '40s, make me think the ones I have are earlier.  

By the mid-late '60s, it seems lipstick tissues had gone out of favor.  The latest reference I found in newspapers dates to November 1963, and incidentally, in cartoon form.

Nov

I'm not sure what caused lipstick tissues to fall by the wayside.  It could be that there were more lightweight lipstick formulas on the market at that point, which may not have stained linens and towels as easily as their "indelible" predecessors - these lipsticks managed to easily transfer from the lips but still remained difficult to remove from cloth.  Along those lines, the downfall of lipstick tissues could also be attributed to the rise of sheer, shiny lip glosses that didn't leave much pigment behind. 

While these make the most sense, some deeper, more political and economic reasons may be considered as well.  Perhaps lipstick tissues came to be viewed as too stuffy and hoity-toity for most and started to lose their appeal.  My mother pointed out that lipstick tissues seemed to be a rich people's (or at least, an upper-middle class) thing - the type of woman who needed to carry these in her handbag on the reg was clearly attending a lot of fancy soirees, posh restaurants and country club dinners.  This priceless clipping from 1940 also hints at the idea of lipstick tissues as a sort of wealth indicator, what with the mention of antique table tops and maids.

March 20, 1940 - etiquette

Lipstick tissues were possibly directed mostly at older, well-to-do "ladies who lunch", and a younger generation couldn't afford to or simply wasn't interested in engaging in such formal social practices as removing one's lipstick on special tissues.  Plus, I'm guessing the companies that used lipstick tissues to advertise labored under the impression that most women were able to stay home and not work.  With a husband to provide financially, women could devote their full attention to the household so advertising bread recipes and dry cleaning made sense.  This train of thought leads me, naturally, to feminism: as with the waning popularity of ornate lipstick holders, perhaps the liberated woman perceived lipstick tissues as too fussy - a working woman needed to pare down her beauty routine and maybe didn't even wear lipstick at all.  Lipstick tissues are objectively superfluous no matter what brainwashing Kleenex was attempting to achieve through their marketing, so streamlining one's makeup regimen meant skipping items like lipstick tissues.  Similarly, after reading Betty Friedan's 1963 landmark feminist screed The Feminine Mystique, perhaps many women stopped buying lipstick tissues when they realized they had bigger fish to fry than worrying about ruining their linens.  Then again, one could be concerned about women's role in society AND be mindful of lipstick stains; the two aren't mutually exclusive.  And the beauty industry continued to flourish throughout feminism's second wave and is still thriving today, lipstick tissues or not, so I guess feminism was not a key reason behind the end of the tissues' reign.  I really don't have a good answer as to why lipstick tissues disappeared while equally needless beauty items stuck around or continue to be invented (looking at you, brush cleansers).  And I'm not sure how extra lipstick tissues really are, as many makeup artists still recommend blotting one's lipstick to remove any excess to help it last longer and prevent feathering or transferring to your teeth.

In any case, I kind of wish lipstick tissue booklets were still produced, especially if they came in pretty designs.  Sure, makeup remover wipes get the job done, but they're so...inelegant compared to what we've seen.  One hack is to use regular facial blotting sheets, since texture-wise they're better for blotting than tissues and some even have nice packaging, so they're sort of comparable to old-school lipstick tissues.  Still, there's something very appealing about using a highly specific, if unnecessary cosmetics accessory.  I'm not saying we should bring back advertising tie-ins to domestic chores or the social stigma attached to not "properly" removing one's lipstick on tissues, but I do like the idea of sheets made just for blotting lipstick, solely for the enjoyment of it.  I view it like I do scented setting sprays - while I don't think they do much for my makeup's longevity, there's something very pleasing about something, like, say, MAC Fruity Juicy spray, which is coconut scented and comes in a bottle decorated with a cheerful tropical fruit arrangement.  As I always say, it's the little things.  They might be frivolous and short-lived, but any makeup-related item that gives me even a little bit of joy is worth it.  I could see a company like Lipstick Queen or Bite Beauty partnering with an artist to create interesting lipstick tissue packets.  Indeed, this post has left me wondering why no companies are seizing on this opportunity for profit.

Should lipstick tissues be revived or should they stay in the past?  Why do you think they're not made anymore?  Would you use them?  I mean just for fun, of course - completely ignore the outdated notion that one is a boorish degenerate with no manners if they choose to wipe their lips on a towel, as those Kleenex ads would have you believe.  ;)

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Friday fun (or flop?) with Felicia

As soon as I saw this adorable lip balm at various blogs I ordered it immediately from Sephora.  It doesn't really get any cuter than this - a sparkly pink strawberry-scented lip balm in the shape of a flamingo pool float, plus a reference to one of the greatest films of the '90s?!  Yes please. 

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Another precious detail is the flamingo-shaped "F" in Felicia. 

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Our mini Babo loved it and asked if I could fill the bathtub so he could take it for a proper spin.

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Taste Beauty Felicia the Flamingo lip balm

Totally harmless, right?  Alas, this seemingly innocuous lip balm has stirred up controversy: looks like it's another case of cultural appropriation.  If you've spent any time online over the past few years you know that "Bye Felicia" has become a popular meme used to dismiss other interwebz users.  And you may remember how pleased I was to see this phrase take off in numerous other ways, given my love of '90s pop culture and the 1995 film Friday that gave us these two simple words.  The meme was the inspiration for the lip balm, according to Taste Beauty's managing partner Alex Fogelson, who told Women's Wear Daily that Sephora approached them to "collaborate in a really fun, pop-culture-inspired fun and young item."  (Taste Beauty is a relatively new company, having been founded in 2016 by three executives who used to work at Lotta Luv, the brand behind some bizarrely flavored lip balms.)

That seems okay, until you realize that the "Bye Felicia" meme Taste Beauty is referencing with their lip balm may actually be a form of cultural appropriation in and of itself. Let's take a look at the original clip, which, if I'm being honest, still makes me laugh.  (I also love Smokey's "remember it, write it down, take a picture, I don't give a fuck!"  Classic.)

Impeccably delivered, it's a funny line that wasn't even in the script (apparently Ice Cube's son came up with it)...but as it turns out, Felisha is a crackhead.  To a clueless white person such as myself, I thought she was simply an annoying, mooching neighbor.  For "bye Felisha" to take off as a meme, I guess there were other people who accidentally (or perhaps intentionally) overlooked that aspect of Felisha's character.  Or worse, many people using the meme were totally oblivious to the original source.  As this article on white people's inappropriate use of black slang notes, "What’s amazing though is that over the last year [2015] or so, so many white people and non-black people have used [Bye Felicia] (as a sassy dismissal) without actually knowing where it’s from."  Also, the spelling of Felisha's name morphed into "Felicia", I'm assuming to make it more palatable to white people.  As Fayola Perry writes in XPress Magazine, "Cultural appropriation sanitizes and spreads lies about people's culture. It takes away the story of Felisha, the addict who represents and symbolizes so many black and brown women's struggle with drug addiction in that era and makes her a passing internet trend.  This lack of attention to detail can perpetuate racist stereotypes. Someone may think they are paying homage to someone's culture and the person whose culture they're paying homage to is completely offended at the misrepresentation.  Fear not, you can enjoy a great burrito if you are not Latino and do yoga if you're not Indian, but be thoughtful, check your privilege and be considerate of context and history. Everyone has some type of privilege, people of colour appropriate each other's cultures as well. We must all be mindful of our lens, other people's perspectives, the legacy of oppression and try our best to make sure that we are not continuing it. At the very least, know where the appropriated element came from and at the very, very least, spell her name right. It's Felisha, not Felicia."

So while I was overjoyed to see the phrase take off as a meme given how much I love Friday, turns out I should have been aware that it was a form of whitewashing, since it seems that the vast majority of people using it don't know where it originated.  Or in my case, had no clue about the more serious implications of Felisha's character and her dismissal.  In reading more about the history of the film and that scene in particular, I don't think anyone involved with Friday intended the phrase to be perceived as anything other than comic relief, but now I can see how it can be viewed as a microcosm of the bigger issue of black women's needs continually being ignored. 

In turn, if we're arguing that the meme itself is a form of cultural appropriation, then the lip balm is as well, since it's directly referencing the meme and obviously not the original source.  I mean, Felisha didn't wear makeup1, and flamingo-shaped pool floats didn't make an appearance in the film as far as I know - this lip balm really has nothing to do with FridayA succinct reaction comes from this Twitter user:  "It's time for black brands to start monetizing our shit. But we're not corny enough to slap bye Felicia on some lip balm all outta context."  Blogger Aprill Coleman explains further: "Felisha was an accurate representation of black culture in the early 90s on the heels of the crack epidemic. Taste Beauty’s use is completely out of context. Felisha is an African American, crack-addicted character that did not wear makeup, whereas Felicia is a brightly colored flamingo shaped like a pool float. A tiny part of my black American culture was appropriated, reinvented, and packaged into a strawberry scented balm for profit."  Coleman also astutely points out that two of the three Taste Beauty founders are white men, so it's possible that the company, like so many others, wasn't fully aware of the phrase's origins; they just saw the meme and thought an alliterative novelty lip balm with the same name would be marketable.   And if Taste Beauty did know where it came from and still wanted to go ahead with the product despite the potential for offensiveness, perhaps they could have donated a portion of the sales to Angie's Kids. This is a nonprofit founded by Angela Means, the actress who played Felisha, that focuses on health and early childhood development. (Side note:  I would seriously love to get her thoughts on this.  She seems okay with the phrase's popularity but I'm not sure about the lip balm.)

So where does that leave us?  Well, on a personal level I feel like a jerk for buying it and also for not understanding, quite literally for the past 3 years, that the "Bye Felicia" meme was actually white people appropriating yet another piece of black culture - I honestly thought it was a widespread, '90s-nostalgia-fueled, long-overdue tribute to Ice Cube's legendary diss.  As someone who sees herself as a feminist, which means being aware of the struggles of WOC, my ignorance is rather troubling.2  As for the item's inclusion in the Museum's collection, I will likely not display it unless I'm doing a more educational exhibition on cultural appropriation in cosmetics.  In addition to the ads explored in my 2013 post on the topic, sadly there are tons more examples since then that could be provided.

What do you think about all this?  Have you seen Friday and if so, do you find the "bye Felisha" scene funny?

1 Interestingly, the actress who played Felisha cites the makeup artist on set as the one responsible for helping her fully inhabit Felisha's character.  The somewhat haggard look was entirely intentional.  She notes in an interview:  "What was funny was when I got on set the makeup artist looked at me and she was like, ‘O.K.,’ and she kind of went with my look and when we got to the set (“Friday” director) F. Gary Gray looked at me and was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, wait, wait. She’s not a beauty queen.’ I give the makeup artist so much credit for helping me create Felisha...So when I got in the makeup artist’s chair, once Gary said, 'No, she’s a hoodrat,' we went back to the drawing board and I fell asleep. But when I woke up and saw myself, it clicked. It helped me go there."

2 Equally problematic is that I've been rewatching the clip and still think it's hilarious - proof that white privilege is real. I'm able to ignore the broader issue of dismissing black women and perceive "bye Felisha" as comedy.
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Executing makeup on the astral plane: Addiction x Hilma af Klint

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

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

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

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

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

Addiction Hilma af Klint compacts

Addiction Hilma af Klint compacts

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

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

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

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

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

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

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

Addiction Hilma af Klint compact

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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 temptalia.com)

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?

 

 


Friday flop: Steven Klein for NARS

Welp. This is what I get for not thoroughly researching an artist before purchasing things from a makeup collection they worked on.  I was initially excited for Nars' collaboration with fashion photographer Steven Klein, thinking that it would be a significant improvement over 2013's reprehensible Guy Bourdin collection.  The crazy launch party in particular definitely piqued my interest - this guy sounded out there!  And once I saw the images on the Nars collection packaging, I thought, this is great.  Klein's photos immediately grab your attention and stay with you long after you've turned away, and the makeup in some of them is truly dazzling.  They're incredibly strange and some are fairly scary, but I wasn't seeing anything downright offensive - if any of them are disturbing, it's more in a surreal, horror-movie sort of way.  Totally bizarre imagery on the packaging and fantastic new colors?  Sounds like a perfect collab to the Curator.

NARS Steven Klein Despair palette

NARS Steven Klein A Woman's Face set

NARS Steven Klein Tearjerker set

NARS Steven Klein Full Service set

NARS Steven Klein Humoresque set

NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer palette(images from narscosmetics.com)

There was also the Abnormal Female set, which consists of several lip pencils in a bullet/lipstick hybrid shaped package.  I thought it would make a great display piece, plus I love the idea of lipstick as weapon - it's like a secret, albeit imaginary, way of feeling protected.  I was a little dismayed by Klein's description of the packaging, however: "It's inspired by a lighter I have, which is based on a bullet...I turned it over to François's team and said, 'Do this.' I use bullets and guns in lots of my pictures. And there’s such an interesting parallel between bullets and lipsticks—they have so many similar aspects but are so different. I thought it was interesting—the idea of violence meeting lipstick."  I prefer my interpretation - lipstick bullet as a sort of protective armor rather than a possible glorification of violence - and bought the set regardless.  But Klein's ideas should have tipped me off that something was askew, and I should have started my research way sooner...because in early December this happened. 

Steven-Klein-Interview-Kylie Jenner(image from instagram.com)

I had been reading about the backlash surrounding this photo on the many feminist blogs I follow and was pretty angry.  And as you can imagine, my heart sank when I realized this was the same photographer that Nars had collaborated with.  There are a lot of reasons why this is a truly offensive photo, and others have expressed why more eloquently than I ever could (click here and here for some great responses) so I will leave it at that.  At first I thought, well, maybe this is the first time Klein has done something like this and will apologize for an incredible lapse in judgement.  I mean, that doesn't make it right, but at least he'll acknowledge that he made a big mistake and won't do it again.  (He didn't, of course...and naturally Interview defended the photo and claimed that Klein was referencing British artist Allen Jones. Check out this piece as to why that's a problem in and of itself.) While I bought the Nars items well before the Interview cover was released, I still feel crappy for supporting Klein's work.  If I had just done my due diligence way back in October, I would have known that posing able-bodied models in wheelchairs is nothing new for Klein, and wouldn't have purchased anything. 

Steven-Klein-Vogue-Paris-2007(image from wolfandwillow.com)

Plus, if Klein is doing this to make a stir, I can tell you that the shock value goes down considerably if you repeat the same setup.  So it's not even groundbreaking - just a tired old trope that's still insulting any way you slice it.  (As a side note, the first photo in the blog post where I found the image below also depicts a model in a wheelchair, and it was photographed by a designer whose makeup line I like - et tu, Tom Ford?)

Vogue Paris, 2010(image from meoublier.wordpress.com

I also came across this little gem for another issue of Interview magazine, this time in 2012.  Way to fetishize mental illness!  There is still a huge stigma against people with mental health disorders, and to use their suffering as inspiration for fashion shoots is in such poor taste I can't believe anyone allowed it. Additionally, I wonder if Klein is aware of the haunting histories of certain mental health facilities, some of which abused/neglected patients and gave unscrupulous doctors free reign to torture them by using them as guinea pigs for painful experimental treatments.  Why you'd glamorize those histories is beyond me.

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012(image from interviewmagazine.com)

I also don't appreciate Interview's glossed-over description of the theme: "Strict institutional white is the new order this season. Clinically reserved and precisely tailored with maniacal attention to detail. Inspired by the legend of an actress who refused to conform through her descent into madness, Steven Klein conjures an imaginary tale of discipline, betrayal, will, and obsession."  Between this drivel and the wheelchair non-apology, I'm pretty sure I hate this publication even though I've never read a single article.

Getting back to the Nars collection, I can't for the life of me figure out why he went with such a vile photographer for a second time.  Nars told Allure that it was his "pure love and pure admiration for [Klein's] work," adding, "I love his dark side. I love his sophistication. I love his strength. His pictures definitely don’t leave you—they make you react. I love people who have extremely strong imaginations and don’t compromise. And Steven’s photographs are loaded with makeup. And looks. He’s not a photographer who shoots women with nothing on their face."  That's all well and good, but, newsflash, Francois:  you can collaborate with an artist who has a strong imagination and doesn't compromise and makes people react without being insulting, something I can prove in the new year when I unveil another series for the Museum.

This whole thing got me dreading a 2016 holiday collection.  Who's the next asshole photographer Nars is going to team up with next, Terry Richardson?  Unfortunately I think it's a possibility, based on what else Nars had to say to Allure:  “It’ll be for holiday 2016 and it will be with another photographer. Someone alive and really, really famous and iconic. That’s all I can say."  Fingers crossed it's not Richardson.  On the plus side, Nars added, "That will probably be the last photographer for a while, though. Then I want to move on to other artists.”  Hopefully he'll get back to the likes of Warhol.

TL;DR: I feel bad for buying stuff from this collection. To Steven Klein: fuck your ableist bullshit.  To Nars: shame on you for admiring this douchecanoe, let alone putting his images on your products.  It was highly disappointing that for 2 holiday collections Nars went with a photographer who believes that such derogatory imagery is edgy and cool.

What do you think?


Spotlight on vintage lipstick holders, part 2

Now that we've covered porcelain lipstick holders, let's take a peek at the other main type of vintage holders:  metal.  Nearly all of the metal lipstick holders produced in the 20th century had filigree work or equally ornate details like rhinestones and faux pearls.  And many were fashioned out of ormolu (if you don't know what that is, no worries - I had no idea what it was either.)  According to the good old Merriam-Webster dictionary, ormolu is a "gold-coloured alloy made up of copper, zinc, and sometimes tin in various proportions but usually at least 50% copper. It is used in mounts (ornaments on borders, edges, and as angle guards) for furniture and for other decorative purposes. After the molten alloy has been poured into a mold and allowed to cool, it is gilded with powdered gold mixed with mercury. It is then fired at a temperature that evaporates the mercury, leaving a gold surface.  Ormolu was first produced in France in the mid-17th century, and France remained its main centre of production."  

Some of the heavy hitters in terms of brands included Sam Fink, Matson, and Florenza.

There's very little information on Sam Fink, but if you see a goldtone lipstick holder with a cherub on it, chances are it's a Sam Fink.  The company was active from the 1950s through the '70s.  I'm not sure whether the company's signature design was an angel or if there just happens to be a large proportion of them for sale currently, but quite a few Sam Fink pieces have this figure.

Sam-fink-holder-1
(image from ebay.com)

Sam-fink-holder-2
(image from etsy.com)

Sam-fink-holder-3
(image from ebay.com)

As with Sam Fink, there's hardly any information on Matson.  However, the dogwood flower and roses were common in their designs. 

Matson-dogwood-bird
(image from rubylane.com)

Matson-rose-holder
(image from rubylane.com)

Florenza was a jewelry company founded in 1949.  Lest you think their pieces have some kind of Italian flair, the company name had nothing to do with the city of Florence but was a riff on the founder's mother's name.  Florenza manufactured slightly higher-end pieces that were sold in department stores like Bloomingdale's and Lord & Taylor.  Unlike their competitors, Florenza offered a multitude of finishes for their lipstick holders beyond plain gold.  These are two of their "French white" items, which were actually enamel that sometimes had a metallic finish.

Florenza
(image from ebay.com)

Florenza-2
(image from ebay.com)

Picking up from where I left off in part 1 of this post, I am curious to know why these types of holders are unpopular now.  Or at least, not liked enough that any company would manufacture any in these styles.  Perhaps it's just a matter of trends and popular opinion - the taste for ornate display pieces has simply disappeared in favor of more practical, space-saving options.  Or could it be that as women gained more freedom in the latter part of the 20th century, unabashedly feminine items were considered a liability to the feminist movement.  I'm not claiming that feminism killed the lipstick holder, but maybe it helped shift the original aesthetic to something that would appeal more to the "liberated" woman.  As more women entered the workforce, a sensible lipstick organizer would make sense in helping them get out the door on time rather than fussing with an overly-designed holder.  It seems very likely that in reaching for a lipstick one would knock over a figurine or one with a large element in the middle, like the third Sam Fink and the Matson holders shown in this post.  And maybe women wanted to shift away from wearing makeup to look pretty or viewing it as a luxury - toned-down makeup became the norm for working women who wanted to appear nothing but professional, and they wanted something equally plain to contain their products.  (I can't back any of this up, of course...just speculating here.)  Fortunately, nowadays we've moved beyond the functionally sound but dully designed acrylic holders.  I think Anthropologie strikes a nice balance between elegant and utilitarian in their lipstick holders.

Anthro-holders
(images from anthropologie.com)

What's your preference?  Do you enjoy the gaudiness of the gold filigree holders, the super girly porcelain figurines, or a basic acrylic lipstick organizer?  Or a combination of modern design and retro style, as represented by the Anthropologie lipstick holders?  To be honest, porcelain figurines creep me out, I find clear plastic holders extremely uninspired, and the more modern ones just don't have the same appeal as true vintage holders.  So I'm partial to the old-school filigree metal lipstick holders - I love how over-the-top they are!


Vintage ad round-up: not quite all there

Oftentimes I'll be researching a topic for a blog post and stumble across something else entirely that leads me to concoct a new blog post.  This was the case with today's round-up of vintage ads which feature some form of disembodiment.  (In case you're wondering, this idea came up as I was scouring ads for my previous post on cultural appropriation in cosmetics ads.) 

It's common nowadays to see close-ups of models' faces or heads or any other body part by itself to advertise a new beauty product.  However, these images never strike me as odd or somehow detached from the rest of their bodies, whereas with some vintage ads I got a decidedly eerie, surreal impression. 

Let's take a look at these ads, starting with lips. 

Pond's lipstick, 1941:

Ponds-lipstick-1941
(image from grafficalmuse.com)

Max Factor, 1942:

Max-Factor-1942
(image from jezebel.com)

Lentheric, 1947:

Lentheric-1947
(image from tias.com)

Du Barry "Glissando" lipsticks, 1964:

Glissando-1964
(image from flickr.com)

In the case of Max Factor and Du Barry, I can sort of see the use of lips by themselves in order to showcase the various shades that the lipsticks come in, but they're still markedly different than what we see today.  The other two ads for Pond's and Letheric are downright strange - in the case of Pond's, a pair of lips is just floating on the right side, while in Letheric multiple pairs of lips are patterned diagnonally across the ad, almost like wallpaper. 

Next up we have hands - or rather, ads for nail polish.

Some of these by the better, more skilled fashion illustrators aren't so creepy, like these Dior and Elizabeth Arden ads from 1957.

Dior-nails-EA-1957

But in most other vintage nail polish ads, the hands seem to be severed at the wrist.

Chen Yu, 1942:

Chen-yu-1942-nail-polish
(image from hprints.com)

Or in the case of the Peggy Sage ad on the right, emerging from a mysterious opening within the ad:

Peggy-sage-1938-1948
(images from ebay.com and hprints.com)

In the case of Guerlain, an assortment of white, ghostly hands float against a charcoal background, almost like they're made of smoke.  Interestingly, the company is using disembodied hands rather than lips for a lipstick ad (although they did go that route as well for their original Rouge Automatique circa 1936.)

Guerlain-1948-le-nouveau-rouge-a-levres-lipstick

Here's where things get really weird.  Dura-Gloss depicts not only bodiless hands but ones growing out of the center of a flower (1945 and 1951):

Duragloss-hands-1945-1951
(images from pinterest.com and Found in Mom's Basement)

Then we have the ATTACK OF THE GIANT HANDS!  They're coming after planes and puppeteering women from above.  Not only are the hands/fingers coming out of nowhere, they're in a clearly disproportionate scale to everything else in the ad.  I understand the need to highlight the product that's being sold, but why do it in such a strange way?

Peggy-sage-cutex
(images from ebay.com and hellcat-vintage.com)

And sometimes we a get twofer:  an ad that has both disembodied hands and lips, as in these ads by Mary Dunhill (1946) and Lancome (1955):

Mary-dunhill-1946-lancome-1955
(images from hprints.com)

Finally, we have some decapitation.  A single head drifts in an undefined space or several smaller heads are scattered across the ad.

Coty Tan, 1920s:

Coty-tan-1920s
(image from vintage-makeup.blogspot.com)

Maybelline, 1936:

1936-Maybelline-ad
(image from maybellinebook.com)

Tangee, circa 1930s:

Tangee-1930s-heads
(image from sarapaynemcfarland.wordpress.com)

Richard Hudnut, 1936:

Richard-Hudnut-heads
(image from pinterest.com)

And as we saw with lips and hands, we have twofers here as well, except in this case it's disembodied heads and hands.  The ad for Naylon nail polish (1948) on the right is one I find to be especially disturbing - given the pin on the lower right and the envelope on the lower left, is this supposed to be a bulletin board with the woman's head trapped in some sort of sheet that's pinned to it?

Lanolin-head-hands-Naylon
(images from vintageadbrowser.com and etsy.com)

This 1943 photo by John Rawlings for Vogue is fairly unnerving as well.

John-Rawlings-1943-vogue
(image from partnouveau.com)

So what does all this mean?  We see disembodiment in contemporary ads, and many argue that it objectifies and dehumanizes women.  So are these vintage ads relentlessly sexist as well?  Many of them appear long before feminism's second wave, and thus also before most women were able to hold a position of authority in many fields, including advertising, so the argument could be made that male ad executives simply reduced women to their parts to sell beauty products. 

However, I do think there's a big difference between today's images and these vintage ads.  I think the impact of surrealism was more far-reaching than we recognize.  For example, here we have a 1931 Guerlain lipstick ad showing a floating, upside-down woman's head.  This would seem creepy...if we didn't consider that the illustrator, Jacques Darcy, was most likely referencing Surrealist artist Man Ray.

Guerlain-1931-surreal
(image from vintagepowderroom.com)

As the author of Vintage Powder Room points out, the image is strikingly similar to Man Ray's photograph of Elizabeth "Lee" Miller from 1930.

Lee-miller-by-man-ray
(image from pedestrian.tv)

Coupled with the tag line, "The lipstick of your dreams", this image shows a strong surrealist bend, as the surrealists were fascinated with the subconcious mind and dreams especially.  And could Man Ray's Observatory Time:  The Lovers (c. 1931) be partially responsible for all the floating pairs of lips we see in advertising over the next 2 decades

Observatory-time-the-lovers
(image from wikipaintings.org)

Or what about Horst P. Horst's Hands (1941) and Dali's Portrait of a Passionate Woman (The Hands) (1945)?

Horst-p-horst-hand

Dali-portrait-of-a-passionate-woman
(images from pleasurephotoroom.wordpress.com and pinterest.com)

As for heads, there is a parallel between the floating, antiquity-inspired busts of some surrealists and the ones used in some Lancôme ads...perhaps this connection is the inspiration for the other disembodied heads we've seen.

Take, for example, De Chirico's Song of Love (1914) and Magritte's Memory (1945):

De-chirico-song-of-love
(image from moma.org)

Magritte-memory
(image from en.wahooart.com)

And these Lancôme ads from 1950 and 1957:

Lancome-1950-1957
(images from hprints.com)

Or this Man Ray photo and a 1945 Lancôme ad:

Man-Ray-bust-lancome
(images from pinterest.com and paperpursuits.com)

I'm pondering whether the surrealist interest in antiquity carried over into using comparable images in makeup ads.  Of course, there are differences - Lancôme's ads obviously center on Venus, goddess of beauty, while the surrealists generally didn't specify which god/goddess they were referencing. But it's still an interesting theory. 

In conclusion, it's my opinion that these vintage ads aren't actually misogynist, but came about as a result of a heavy surrealist influence, a movement that was rooted in the early 20th century, but still pervasive through the early '60s.  And even today we see uncannily similar ads, ads that don't necessarily sexualize and objectify women through disembodiment but rather give off a surrealist energy.  This 2012 video for Lancôme's Rouge in Love was described as "a surrealist take on a typical cosmetics ad — disembodied lips sing along to the words of the song and apply the new lipsticks to their floating pouts while the Eiffel Tower and Times Square loom in the background."

 

We also saw it earlier today in Stila's holiday palettes - lips and eyes looming across the front of the "canvas" the Stila girl is painting.

What do you think about these vintage ads?  Were they at least partially feeling the effects of surrealism?  Or was it that these types of illustrations just happened to be the most popular stylistically for cosmetic ads at the time?


Guy Bourdin and NARS

Um, wow.  I was pretty excited for the latest NARS collaboration with fashion photographer Guy Bourdin...until I actually started looking at his portfolio.  As a feminist I found it troubling, to say the least.  As someone who enjoys art and fashion, I can appreciate how groundbreaking Bourdin was in terms of fashion photography.  And I understand why Francois Nars chose him as inspiration for this collection, as it was Bourdin's work that inspired Nars to become a makeup artist - the way he captured the rich, saturated hues in many of his photos was truly genius. I recognize that the collection isn't meant to glamourize violence against women but rather to celebrate the bold colors in Bourdin's work.

HOWEVER. 

I'd say about half of the Bourdin photos I've seen portray violence against women, and another sizeable portion seem to signify that women are nothing more than blow-up dolls to be used and discarded.  I could even consider overlooking these disturbing images if they were part of a larger body of work that didn't glorify dead/objectified women, but I found nearly all of his photos to be fairly repugnant.  I could also perhaps consider separating the images from Bourdin himself - just because his photos dehumanize women doesn't necessarily mean he is a misogynist.  Unfortunately, that's not the case on that front either.  He was just as anti-woman as you would suspect from his photos.  Maybe it's because I'm from a different generation.  In the '70s these images would have been considered "daring" and "pushing the envelope".  In 2013, using offensive pictures to sell something isn't a novel idea.  The "edginess" of showing a woman stuffed headfirst into a trashcan has long worn off; this image and others like it are solely abhorrent.

In my cursory research on the matter I found that I'm not alone in my dismissal of this collaboration.  These bloggers said it better than I could, so rather than write any more about this I encourage you to read their thoughts on the topic:  Temptalia and InTruBeauty.

What do you think?  Will you be passing on this collection?


Cultural appropriation in cosmetics ads

This recent post by Jonathan Walford, founding curator of the newly opened Fashion History Museum, briefly discusses some fashion collaborations that caused a stir due to their cultural insensitivity.  It also spurred me to write about how the same issues exist in beauty marketing.  (The many other instances of cultural appropriation in fashion and the "We're a culture, not a costume" campaign launched a few Halloweens ago were also caught in my mind.)   Normally I like to avoid anything remotely controversial, but to fully explore cosmetics history sometimes it's necessary to take a look at the industry's dark side.  I'll be using the fashion industry as a guide for this post, since cultural appropriation is conducted similarly in the beauty industry.

First, what is cultural appropriation?  Entire books have been written on the subject, but in the context of fashion or makeup, it's when companies take a culturally important symbol or idea (usually of a non-dominant or marginalized group) and use it for profit rather than true cultural appreciation.  In short, "when designers take cultural styles and put them out of context, market them in a disrespectful manner, or simply act without permission, this is cultural appropriation."  (You can read this excellent primer on the subject for more information).  Cultural appropriation is marked by a failure to acknowledge the significance behind a cultural artifact or the reduction of a group to a harmful stereotype.  It may not be quite as overt as out-and-out racism (like this sadly unforgettable 2012 Illamasqua ad or these Cibu hair products) which makes it hard to recognize at times.

Why is cultural appropriation a problem?  Because it not only erases important cultural meanings and histories, it also directly ties into the larger issue of racism.  As one fashion blogger writes, "I don't think the issue of institutional racism and discrimination can be completely divorced from the question of cultural appropriation.  They feed into one another. One would not exist (at least not in the same way) without the other...reducing an entire culture to a simple 'inspiration' for your outfit, art project, fashion collection, or photoshoot is disrespectful and unhelpful, especially when we look at the bigger picture."  I also think it speaks to the cluelessness and/or indifference of some beauty/fashion industry leaders, which, given that it's 2013, I find ridiculous - that lack of cultural unawareness is inexcusable, and given that they're clearly not doing their research on the culture they're appropriating, extremely lazy. 

Now let's take a look at some examples of cultural appropriation in beauty ads from the past.  I'm going to keep my comments on each one brief, since unfortunately there are a lot.

A 1940 ad for Coty's latest shade Tamale references "dark-hued" skintones - not necessarily in a perjorative sense, but it's problematic since not all "Latin-American" women have the skintone Coty describes. 

Coty Tamale
(image from vintageadbrowser.com)

As for this Harriet Hubbard Ayer ad for "Mexican Rose" lipstick, I dislike that merely slapping a sombrero on the model's head signifies Mexico.

Harriet-hubbard-ayer-1962-mexican-rose
(image from hprints.com)

In 1963 the film Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor debuted.  Prior to the film's release, in 1962 Revlon created an entire Egyptian-themed collection that included Sphinx Pink lipstick and a Sphinx Eyes eye shadow and liner set.

Revlon-sphinx-collection
(image from flickr.com)

And even before that, other companies romanticized ancient Egypt to sell products, including Angel Face (1958) and Harriet Hubbard Ayer (1960).  

Angel-face-bewitching
(image from flickr.com)

Harriet-hubbard-ayer-rose d'egypte
(image from hprints.com)

These strike me as problematic due to their fetishisation of women in ancient Egyptian history, the watering-down of a culture to highly glamorized images, and the exoticising of non-Western cultures.  Multiple companies participated in this last tactic as well.  These ads for Revlon Persian Melon (1957), Dorothy Gray Jewel of India (1960), and Elizabeth Arden Sheik lipstick (1963) present a strong othering through the depiction of a variety of Middle Eastern cultures while at the same time using Western-looking models - I suppose to make these faraway places to seem, as one of the ads suggests, "mystic" rather than threatening.

Revlon-persian-melon
(image from weheartvintage.co)

Dorothy-Gray-Jewel-of-India
(image from etsy.com)

Elizabeth-arden-1963-sheik-lipstick
(image from hprints.com)

This idea of non-Western cultures as "exotic" curiosities is persists today, although perhaps it's not quite as blatant. Take, for example, this ad for Catrice's summer 2013 collection. The first part of the ad copy reads,  "African appeal: colourful, traditional, exotic."    

Catrice-Fall-2013-LAfrique-Cest-Chic

Catrice-Fall-2013-LAfrique-Cest-Chic-Collection-nails
(images from chicprofile.com)

Another feature of cultural appropriation, or at least, insensitivity, is the lumping together of distinct groups without recognizing their unique characteristics.  I'm a bit embarrassed to say I own a lipstick from MAC's 2008 Style Warrior collection and have actually used it in an exhibition.  Not only does the ad copy mention stereotypes ("Amazonian Princess, African Queen, Crouching Tigress"), it combines all the discrete cultures from whence they came.  I frankly don't care that they tried to justify this with the word "cross-cultural".

Mac-style-warrior-promo
(image from kingsrowe.com)

Mac-style-warrior-lipstick
(image from hotbeautyhealth.com)

There's a similar issue with this Art Deco ad for their summer 2013 collection.  The ad copy says that it's inspired by the "amazing colors and warmth of Africa".  One could argue that this isn't really cultural appropriation because the inspiration is so vague and doesn't reference a specific people within the continent, but at the same time that very fact is troubling - does the model accurately represent how all African women dress?  I guess it's not supposed to and simply be evocative of Africa as a whole, but it looks like a costume some marketing director dreamed up.

ArtDeco-Cosmetics-Tribal-Sunset-Summer-2013
(image from makeup4all.com)

The Art Deco ad brings me to my next point.  One of the biggest offenders in cultural appropriation within beauty advertising is the use of exclusively white models to represent a non-white culture, like this ad for indie brand Lime Crime's Chinadoll collection from 2012.

Lime-crime-chinadoll
(image from beautyandbrainsblogger.wordpress.com)

Two beauty bloggers have expressed quite well all the things wrong with this ad, so I won't rehash it here.  I will say that, as the others have pointed out, it basically reinforces some very negative stereotypes.

And sometimes, the company is so lazy it doesn't even point to which culture it's ripping off.  This was my frustration with Pupa's China Doll collection (which, as I revisit it, seems to align with Lime Crime's offenses), and Marcelle's Riviera Maya collection.  Then there's also Essence's "Tribal Summer" collection this year, which confuses Aztec culture with Native Americans. 

Essence-Summer-2013-Tribal

Essence-Summer-2013-Tribal-Summer
(image from chicprofile.com)

The ad copy:  "Tribal dance! The new essence trend edition “tribal summer” ensures a stylish mix of patterns, trendy Aztec prints and cool tribal designs in warm colors like orange, pink, red, purple, lilac, copper and gold to spread the pure feeling of summer. This trend edition offers lots of must-haves for all urban squaws. These include our popular pigments in bright colors, longlasting lipsticks and a bronzing powder with a tribal embossment. The absolute highlight is the tip painter set so you can create THE nail trend of the summer – Aztec nails – on your nails. And there are also cool nail feathers and a feather hair extension for the ultimate tribal look!"  I'm not really sure how you get from tribal to Aztec to "squaws" back to Aztec and finally back to feathers.  

In 2010 there was a collection that was considered so offensive it was pulled even before it could hit the shelves (good job, beauty bloggers!)  The fashion label Rodarte collaborated with MAC for a collection inspired by the city of Juarez, Mexico:  specifically, the bloodshed from the city's drug wars and the innumerable women who have disappeared served as a point of departure for Rodarte's fall 2010 collection, and was the foundation for the MAC collaboration.  The product names included Ghost Town and Factory, while the promo image...well, it speaks for itself.

Rodarte-mac
(image from blog-3-2-1.blogspot.com)

Long story short, after a huge public outcry the collection was not distributed for sale to MAC stores.  (The Awl has a great piece describing the whole debacle.)  I think what bothered me most wasn't that the Mulleavy sisters were ignorant to the situation in Juarez; rather, they had actually visited the town and decided to romanticize the women workers waiting in lines for their factory jobs in the middle of the night.  Essentially, they directly used the suffering of the people of Juarez to sell clothes and makeup.

Now that we've seen some obvious examples of cultural appropriation in beauty ads, let's talk about how one can determine cultural appropriation.  Looking at the Makeup Museum's collection, there are some pieces that walk the very fine line between appreciation and appropriation.  What makes some okay and some not?  As one author points out, "The former is acceptable when designers or companies create completely unique items that are only inspired by cultures, not direct imitations...it’s important for companies to understand the importance of a certain object, pattern, design, or idea to a culture before using it."  More guidelines are offered by Fordham law professor Susan Scafidi:  "Consider the 3 S's: source, significance (or sacredness), and similarity. Has the source community either tacitly or directly invited you to share this particular bit of its culture, and does the community as a whole have a history of harmful exploitation? What's the cultural significance of the item — is it just an everyday object or image, or is it a religious artifact that requires greater respect? And how similar is the appropriated element to the original — a literal knockoff, or just a nod to a color scheme or silhouette?"  These are important things for me to consider moving forward. 

I do think there's a benefit to cosmetics companies borrowing from various cultures or groups - it brings that culture a little closer to those who might not be able to experience it firsthand in a way that's different from other means.  As scholar Johanna Blakeley writes, "Like other art forms, fashion is a powerful conduit for cultural diplomacy, translating the aesthetics of one nation or culture to people in far-away places who wouldn’t necessarily have had the occasion to think about that other world. What’s unique about fashion as an aesthetic object is that it’s something you wear: it provides the opportunity for an extremely intimate connection with a foreign perspective and it gives people the opportunity to literally walk in the shoes of another culture. The fact that fashion design elements can be sampled quite freely makes it even more likely that cross-cultural communication can occur…at the very least, in the form of fashion trends."  I think the same can be said for makeup.

As long as companies put some thought into these types of collections and not be insensitive to the cultures they're celebrating, that they can successfully launch a collection inspired by a particular group.  (One of the best examples of cultural appreciation, rather than appropriation, that immediately came to mind was NARS's 2011 Modern Kabuki collection.)  And while some companies may remain indifferent or unaware of how their next collection may be perceived, others recognize their previous missteps, demonstrating that redemption is possible.

That was long!  If you made it this far, thank you.  And I'd love to hear your thoughts.