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September 2008

Couture (fragrance?) Monday: Yves Saint Laurent Opium palettes

In honor of the 30th anniversary of YSL's Opium1 fragrance, the company released a limited-edition bottle and palette in the fall of 2007.  The palette features a red lacquered case with an exquisite phoenix and floral details.    

Ysl opium 07

While I'm not really sure what the reddish orange dot on the interior is supposed to represent, it could just be referring to the circle on the fragrance bottles themselves:

Ysl opium fragrance 
(photos from yslbeautyus.com)

The iconography of the phoenix is a little strange - maybe it's meant to represent the "rebirth" of the fragrance, but truthfully I can't find any concrete explanation of why the company went with a phoenix. 
In any case, I can understand why they would have released this to go with the fragrance's anniversary, but that doesn't quite explain why they came out with a limited-edition Opium fragrance bottle and a palette featuring a matching design in the fall of 2006. 
Ysl opium 06 
Both the bottle and the palette are adorned with a beautiful lotus flower, because, according to the company, the bloom represents “purity and splendour."   That's all well and good, but I think it would have been more interesting if they included a flower whose scent is one of the notes in the perfume, or if they wanted to be really adventurous, a poppy flower.1  ;)  Plus I'm not sure what "purity and splendour" have to do with the fragrance considering the Sephora description for it:
"Rarely in the history of fragrance has a creation embodied such enchantment, mystery, magic, and exoticism...Opium symbolizes Yves Saint Laurent's fascination with the Orient and his unique understanding of a woman's hidden emotions and inexplicable passions."  I think in this case though, "Orient" refers to China, since the company introduced many China-inspired fragrances in recent years. 
Over all, both of these palettes represent the designer's "fascination with the Orient"  and the spirit of the Opium fragrance - I like that the same image was used for both the perfume bottles and palettes.  And they're simply gorgeous to look at! 
1Allure reported that there was an entire museum exhibition devoted to the 30th anniversary of Opium in Paris, complete with a faux opium den.  The curator is most upset she was not able to attend! 
2 For a perfume blogger's perspective on the fragrance, click here.

Latest aquisition: Chantecaille Shadow and the Rose palette

Les rosesI had been kicking myself for not buying the lovely Chantecaille Les Roses palette released in the spring of 2007 (shown at left) so when I saw the new Shadow and the Rose palette, I decided to avenge my earlier loss and buy the new palette.   At $79 it's a bit less expensive than Les Roses (which came to $105), and it's got one more rose than the previous one. 

Chantecaille claims the rose is its signature, which isn't all that original considering Lancome has already claimed it as its icon.  Plus other brands have used a rose pattern in their products, such as Valerie Beverly Hills blush.  Nevertheless, I'm very much smitten with the Chantecaille.  At least the shape of the roses is different than other brands.


This will be a lovely piece to show off in a spring exhibition.  ;)

What's old is new again

Instead of design and art today I will be discussing a little cultural history.  I finished up Teresa Riordan's Inventing Beauty:  A History of the Innovations That Make Us Beautiful last night, (which, by the way, is a fun and easy read that I bet would appeal to a wider audience than just beauty addicts) and while I was reading I couldn't help but notice some inventions that seem novel now but actually have already been done many years ago.  In a chapter on lipstick she discusses one introduced in the 1930s called "Tangee", (still in existence today) which was bright orange in the tube.  Once applied on the lips it became a light reddish hue, depending on "how akaline the wearer's lips were."  She notes that the company claimed the lipstick worked with the user's natural coloring to create a custom shade.  This reminded me a lot of some relatively new products that have been touted for doing the same thing:  Smashbox's O-Glow gel blush and O-Gloss, which, according to the company, work with your body's chemistry to create a custom color unique to you.  

Riordan also talks about a series of lipsticks developed by the company Volupte.  They were divided into two categories:  Lady and Hussy.  Lady was for the "girls who lean towards pale-lacquered nails, quiet smart clothes and tiny strands of pearls" while Hussy was for the "girl who loves exciting clothes, pins a strass pin as big as a saucer to her dress, and likes to be just a leetle bit shocking."  Riordan further reports that Hussy outsold Lady 5 to 1.  After reading this I think Poppy King, creator of Lipstick Queen, would definitely appreciate these names since her lipsticks are divided into two similarly-named types:  Saint and Sinner.  

(photos from lipstickqueen.com)

Sinner packs a whollop at 90% pigment, while Saint features a much lighter, softer wash of color at 10% pigment.  "Sinning can be fun because it usually involves some indulgence in something taboo and delicious...It is positively naughty to get lipstick this opaque, rich and creamy with a matte yet silky finish."   The description for Saint:  "When I think of Saints I think of them as light, airy and floating above, beyond and around us...Absolutely no glitter (Saints are far too humble for such audacity)."  The names refer not only to the lipsticks' texture but also point to the mood of the wearer.  Someone feeling naughty may wear a bold color, while someone feeling sweet and saintly would wear a light, natural-looking shade. 
In any case, it's interesting to take a look back and see the roots of the latest products and how they've been modified for our time. 

Couture Monday: Viktor & Rolf false eyelashes

I decided to dedicate this installment of Couture Monday to Shu Uemura's newest in false eyelashes.  Each year the company adds a host of new pairs to their Tokyo Lash Bar collection.  These lashes are not for the faint of heart.  Featuring bright colors, rhinestones, and unusual materials, these are meant for those who want to make an impression.  Some examples:

Shu lashes 
(photos from shuuemura-usa.com)

As if these weren't elaborate enough, this year Shu significantly upped the ante by collaborating with high-end fashion duo Viktor & Rolf to create "couture" false eyelashes.  "Blink couture this fall with Viktor & Rolf's luxurious handmade false eyelashes designed for Shu Uemura," the promotional e-mail reads. At $95 per pair, these definitely have a couture price tag (although still not as expensive as Madonna's $10,000 mink lashes, but that's another story.)

From left to right: Wing Couture, Swirl Couture, and Rhombus Couture:

Shu vr

And the promo ad:


These were inspired by Viktor & Rolf's spring/summer 2008 line, which in turn was inspired by Marcel Marceau, a pioneer of pantomime1 - hence the white mask the lashes are adhered to as well as on the model.   The diamond pattern on the rhombus pair is reminiscent of a harlequin's costume and this pattern also adorns the model.  What I love about this collection and the promo ad is that they really do go along with the designers' vision for their spring collection - a conflation of traditional clowns and mimes.  Fashion reviewers pointed out the "Pierrot" collar and one of the looks is a quite literal interpretation of Pierrot, a stock "sad clown" character from French and Italian theatre.  Compare it to Antoine Watteau's 1718 painting of Pierrot:

Vr pierrot

(photos from style.com and louvre.fr)

In keeping with the harlequin theme several of the pieces featured diamond patterns as well:

I  think this is a terrifically well-executed collaboration between Shu and Vikor & Rolf - couture, art and makeup all come together in such a cohesive, meaningful way.  And the lashes are really spectacularly designed around the concept of the silent mime...when wearing these lashes, you can let your eyes do all the talking!

1 Ally Pyle, "Pantomime Flair", http://www.vogue.co.uk/beauty/news/080506-shu-uemuraviktor-rolf.aspx

Fall 2008 exhibition

You might be wondering what I do with all of the lovely makeup items I've collected over the years.  Believe it or not, I actually have a real Makeup Museum in my apartment, spread across 3 rooms, where I display some of my collection on shelves and change the items with each season.  I've just put the finishing touches on the fall installation, so here's a chance to see my fall-themed beauties and memorabilia on display.  (Note:  the other items shown are from my fiance's toy collection - I think it makes a nice contrast!)

This is the main exhibition, located in the bedroom:

Main fall 08

Here are some detailed shots.  

Armani's Fall 2008 python palette and Dior's Impression Cuir eyeshadow, along with some friends:

Python dior friends

Clinique Fall 2007 promo ad and Shu Fall 2008 palette, along with MAC Cult of Cherry postcard, Shu Qee figure, and YSL Fauve palette:

Main clinique mac shu

Here is one of the auxiliary exhibitions, located in the hallway leading to my makeup room (where I keep the entire collection and where my vanity lives):

Shelf 08

And the other auxiliary exhibition in the office:

Office fall 08

Who knows, maybe someday I'll have these installations in a real public space rather than my apartment. A curator can dream...

Stila Backstage Beauty palettes: the cult of celebrity

As a long-time Stila lover (I AM the Jeanine Lobell Senior Curator of Cosmetic Artifacts, after all!) I've noticed throughout the years that they  use a very specific marketing tactic over and over.  The company seems to believe that having some kind of celebrity/VIP connotation with their products will produce more sales - an old pitch along the lines of "If you buy and use this product, you'll be as fashionable/good-looking/fabulous as any celebrity" (or at least, be able to re-create their makeup.)  Case in point:  the recently released Backstage Beauty palettes, which are inspired by fashion shows, tell the customer to "get ready - you're about to get runway gorgeous". The palette names themselves conjure up exclusive access to high-end fashion shows.  From left to right:  The Red Carpet Look, The Runway Look, and the Backstage Beauty look. 

Red carpet look 08 copy
(photos from Sephora.com)
The names conjure up exclusive access to the world of the fashion elite typically reserved for VIP designers and critics, as well as celebrities.  Stila has employed a similar technique in the past.  Take, for example, the Look Books that were released in 2007.  Meant to look like glossy fashion magazine covers, they insinuate that by using the products contained within, you too can be just as captivating as a celebrity on the red carpet and can attain the "Hollywood look". 

2 lookbooks 
And earlier than that, there were the Stila Spotlight sets.  These sets consisted of a mini highlighting powder, shimmery lip gloss, an eye shadow duo, and a mini perfume spray.  Once again, the notion of being on the red carpet makes an appearance in the promotional postcard for these sets. 

So why does Stila repeatedly use the notion of celebrity to try to sell products?1  The latest research shows that fame matters more than beauty in terms of selling.  "An average looking celebrity elicits more of a reaction than an attractive non-celebrity...the attractiveness of a celebrity is less important than the fact that they are famous. Fame has a privileged status in the marketer’s portfolio," according to some UK scientists.   Stila has definitely picked up on this over the years.  While the company doesn't use actual celebrities in their marketing2 - they prefer to use anonymous, but still very fashionable, illustrated Stila girls - and has done some movie tie-ins to their product (Legally Blonde 1 and 2, Vanity Fair, Just My Luck), it still heavily relies on the general idea of using fame to sell products.  Is it effective?  My opinion is that is that the majority of cosmetic consumers, particularly those jaded ones (like me!) don't buy into that marketing ploy.  If a product seems to work well, we buy it, and if it doesn't, we don't, no matter how much it suggests that we can create the same look as a famous Hollywood starlet  if we use it.

1 For an in-depth look at the celebrity phenomenon, check out "Intimate Strangers:  The Culture of Celebrity in America" by Richard Schickel, and "Understanding Celebrity" by Graeme Turner.

The company did actually use celebrities for a brief period following the sale of Stila from Estee Lauder with its "IT girl" campaign, in which website members received an e-mail featuring a celebrity who described her must-have Stila products.  Apparently Stila wanted to "raise the bar and return to glory and leverage the products  in the celebrity world."  "The brand needed a new approach to engage Hollywood's leading ladies," says the case study description at BluPrint, the company that came up with the  campaign.  The company may have strayed from the approach of using actual celebrities, but retained the overall concept. 

Shu's Advanced Formula Cleansing Oil: Mystery Solved!

(The Curator is very busy/tired...Couture Monday will return next week.)

A few weeks ago I posted about Shu Uemura's latest cleansing oil, the Advanced Formula, which came with an abstract design on the bottle.  I didn't know when it would be hitting the U.S. and surmised that this wasn't an artist collaboration since there was no mention of an outside artist on the bottle or box.   This morning though I received an e-mail from the company announcing the U.S. release of this oil and they revealed what that design is - it's calligraphy from Mr. Uemura himself!  Here's my picture again:

Shu advanced oil

Silly me, it should have dawned on me that it was calligraphy, and calligraphy from Shu himself - that's very fitting.  But trained in Western art that I am, I thought it had more of an abstract expressionist feel to it.  In any case, I'm happy to find out what it was!  

Friday Fun: Cargo Plant Love lipsticks

P172734_hero The Curator still has not gotten around to purchasing one of these yet, but really should.  The 60s-inspired packaging of Cargo's PlantLove lipsticks caught my attention when they were first released over a year ago.  This sort of hippie-esque packaging isn't something you see all that much in cosmetics.  Then I discovered that the groovy design correlates to a much bigger idea - biodegradable, eco-friendly packaging.  The lipstick tube is made out of corn, while the outer box contains wildflower seeds that can actually be planted.  And that's not all:  two dollars from every lipstick sold goes to St. Jude's Research Hospital.  PlantLove lipsticks are proof that companies can create artistic, interesting packaging while being environmentally conscious.  

For more on these, check out cargoplantlove.com.  Here you can also plant a virtual flower - for every one planted at the site, Cargo makes a donation to Conservation International.  

(photo from sephora.com)

Upcoming releases!

Just wanted to share the dirt on some really cool items that are coming out soon! According to Specktra, MAC is partnering with Indian designer Manish Arora to create a limited edition collection, which will be released on October 9th.  Specktra has posted some pictures of the goods already and they look totally amazing to this collector's eye. 

And, word on the street (or rather alley, as in Makeup Alley), is that Chantecaille will be releasing two palettes for the holidays, one for eyes and one for cheeks.  They will be similar to the summer 2008 Protected Paradise palettes, but will have a "Save the Bengal Tiger" theme, and, as you might have guessed, some beautiful tigers embossed on them.  I am officially on the prowl for these and will pounce on my prey as soon as they are released.

So I will sit and try to wait patiently to add these to the collection, but it will be hard!