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June 2013

Couture Monday: Alber Elbaz for Lancôme

The much-hyped Lancôme collection dreamed up by Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz has finally arrived!  Fortunately, much has been written about the collaboration and Elbaz's vision for it.  Here's the scoop:  Elbaz was approached by his close friend and Lancôme president Yousef S. Nabi to design a limited-edition collection.  Since the company's mascaras are best-sellers, Elbaz and Nabi chose to focus on those.  Additionally, said Elbaz, "Eyes are so important to me...when I think of cosmetics, I think of eyes. For Lancôme, I wanted to do something funny and a little handmade."  He added that he hoped customers "will collect all four" designs (blue stars, pink polka dots, doe eyes and red hearts).  While the article states that the designer is "hesitant about expanding and diluting his brand" and that " partnerships are also a rare affair; he never collaborates unless it makes creative sense", Elbaz actually has done a few collaborations before (see his line for H&M and limited-edition packaging for Ladurée). 

As for the story behind the packaging, watch this animated short (drawn by Elbaz) below.


In the June 2013 issue of Elle magazine, Elbaz states that the story was inspired by the makeup looks for his fall 2013 show.  "The project is accompanied by an animated short drawn by Elbaz, featuring a fashion show in which the spectators' faces are dominated by colorfully made-up eyes.  This is apt, he says, as cosmetics played a key role on Lanvin's fall 2013 runway, where models sported four different makeup looks...'I asked myself, Why is it I have to decide whether or not I want mashed potatoes or french fries?' Elbaz says. 'Why can't I have both?'...'There's something almost naive and childish about the packaging,' he says, 'but I thought, Maybe if it's like a fairy tale, we'll all have a happy ending!'  The experience of using the products, he believes, should be a 'joyful' one.  'It's about light-hearted luxury,' Elbaz says.  'I wanted to do something personal and kind of funny - but also totally serious.  Which is exactly what makeup is.'"

Now that we've got the development of the collection out of the way, let's take a look at the goods.  I picked up two of the mascaras and two of the eye shadow palettes.  Lancôme also threw in a free mirror, which, as we've seen with previous gifts-with-purchase, is almost better than the makeup itself.  These sorts of freebies are collecting gold!


Hypnôse Drama and Hypnôse Star mascaras:


Doll Lashes Color Design Palette in Rose Croquette:



Définicils Color Design Palette in Mint Jolie:




And the mirror, so cute.





My first thought on the illustrations is that they are similar to those Elbaz did for Ladurée, a playful take on his streamlined, sophisticated aesthetic.  And they're not literal - the prints and silhouettes of the dresses seen on the runway models in the animation aren't directly from Elbaz's recent collections - but they still hint at his work through the use of color.  Elbaz utilized lots of black and white in his spring 2013 collection, with some red, blue, green and pink thrown in for his resort 2014 collection.

(images from vogue.com)

(images from vogue.com)

Also, the women in the front row of the fashion show in the video are all wearing some very chic LBDs, similar to the looks he sent down the runway for spring 2013. 

(images from vogue.com)

Elbaz is known for a slightly more down-to-earth fashion philosophy.  "Unlike most fashion designers who operate on a global scale, Elbaz is a kind of hands-on artisan who specializes in women. He has never been interested in trends or whether his creations—which are almost always beautifully constructed classic shapes with a twist—fit a particular age or demographic. Elbaz is committed to the idea that his clothes be timeless and, in a way, helpful:  He wants to make it easier for women to dress for their complicated lives. “I am not interested in perfection, and neither are the women who wear my clothes...it is very hard to be a woman today. The media says you have to be really great in your work, you have to be a wonderful mother, you have to be a great wife, and you have to be skinny! Women try to be the best everywhere, and it’s impossible. I want my clothes to give women the freedom to just be—I want them to put on my dresses and shine.'” (source)  

Empathy for women's struggle to "have it all" and whimsical illustrations aside, the video Elbaz came up with depicts a world many women don't have access to.  Being in the front row of a high-end fashion show feels unrelatable unless you are actually a fashion editor, and even a little intimidating (I was not fond of the catty eye-rolling behavior of some of the women).  Nevertheless I appreciated that Elbaz was having some fun with the collection, even if it's more of a representation of his experiences in the high-fashion world rather than the lives of the vast majority of women who don't work in fashion (which would be too mundane, I guess, for collection coming from such a renowned designer).

What do you think of the collaboration? 

Curator's Corner, 6/23/2013

CC logoLinks from the very busy past few weeks. 

- Proctor and Gamble created a beauty "time capsule" of the products and trends from the last 100 years. 

- So this is exciting - Jill Tomandl, the woman behind the design and packaging of some of Stila's recent creations, is following me on Twitter!  Maybe now I can talk to her about writing a book together on the brand's famous Stila girls.  ;)

- The summer solstice was just this past Friday, but we're already getting glimpses of more fall collections.  Two that have caught my eye are Dior's Mystic Metallics and Lancome's L'Absolu Desir.

- Bellasugar had a nice roundup of summery vintage beauty ads.

- Desperately want to read this article on the fashion and beauty collaborations so popular nowadays...unfortunately I lack a subscription to WWD.  Sigh.

The random:

- Finally, a dose of honesty in Disney movies.

- Two conflicting articles on sleep:  one saying what I've been saying for years - you really DO need 7-8 hours a night for optimal functioning, and another saying that the occasional all-nighter is actually great for creativity and problem-solving.  Eh.  While I would like to be more creative, I'll stick with my 8 (okay, 9-12) hours of sleep a night.

- Speaking of sleep, did you stay up to see the "supermoon"?  So cool.

Hope everyone enjoyed the solstice!!

Simply splendorous: Clarins summer 2013 bronzer

We have another pretty bronzer for summer 2013.  Clarins Splendours Summer Bronzing Compact features a translucent red case that holds a bronzing powder with an exquisitely intricate design.

I had a lot of trouble getting a picture of the case without getting a ton of reflections.


So then I tried putting the flash on, which worked a lot better.  The way it went off in this picture makes it look like there's a candle inside the palette, spreading a warm glow and softly illuminating the pattern.








Here's the collection description:  "Sunshine into gold. Travel to far away lands, to the heart of an ancient people…and discover the splendours of a pre-Columbian civilization that worshiped the sun. Gold, a rich cultural symbol, is the highlight of this summer make-up collection. Sprinkle it on the eyes, neck and lips. Jade, sapphire, ruby and tourmaline appear as crystalline gemstones and illuminate this elegant sun-kissed collection." 

Of course, they don't mention specifically which Pre-Columbian civilization.  As we saw with the Guerlain Terra Inca collection, I'm in over my head in trying to decipher what specifically this palette is based on - I'm no archaeologist or Pre-Columbian scholar.  But after a brief search on Google I think it most resembles this Aztec sun stone:

(image from nationalgeographic.com)

Looking closely at the palette, I'm more inclined to think this particular stone was the inspiration for the design.  The circle in the center surrounded by four square shapes is found in each, along with the concentric triangle at the top of the center circle and the four dots placed around the squares and one at the bottom of the inner circle.  The tiny horseshoe-like pattern appears throughout both as well.   The triangles with the scrolled edges in the stone find themselves in the outer case of the palette and are also present in the powder, albeit slightly deconstructed there (the triangle is broken up into its base shape with two scrolls on each side).  Additionally, this stone (weighing in a whopping 24 tons - wow!) is actually believed to be an altar or ceremonial container for the sun god Tonatiuh rather than a calendar.  So it would make sense that the Clarins collection, based on people that worshipped a sun god, would choose an item used in worship instead of a calendar for their inspiration. 

I think this is a beautiful palette and for once, Clarins provided at least a glimmer of explanation as to their vision for the collection.  What do you think?

Couture Monday: Matthew Williamson for Benefit

Designer collaborations are rare for Benefit, so natually I was pleased to see them team up with British fashion designer Matthew Williamson for a makeup kit called "The Rich Is Back".  I had heard of Williamson but wasn't familiar with his work.  However, the Rich Is Back serves as a crash course of sorts in his designs.

Let's see, we've got peacock feathers, a honeycomb pattern, a floral print, some sort of geometric print and what appears to be multi-colored leopard.



I went hunting for these motifs in Williamson's most recent collections.  Finding none in any of the 2013 collections, I realized that maybe my best bet was to search for them all separately.  This is what makes this palette so interesting visually - instead of choosing one print or motif, Williamson and Benefit did the whole kit and kaboodle.  This makeup set boasts a mishmash of some of his oft-repeated prints from seasons past. 

First, the peacock feathers.  Starting all the way back in 2004 Williamson established himself as a master of this print.

(images from style.com)

It has since appeared in his pre-fall 2009 collection...

(images from style.com)

...along with his spring and resort 2011 collections:

(images from style.com)

But perhaps the most famous instance of his use of the colorful bird feathers hit in 2009 in a collaboration with H&M. 



(images from fashionisima.es and nitrolicious.com)

Celebrities couldn't seem to get enough of this dress!

(image from shinystyle.tv)

While peacocks didn't strut their stuff in any of the 2013 clothing, they are still plentiful in accessories.

(images from matthewwilliamson.com)

Next up is the floral print, which, to my eye looks almost tie-dyed.  As far as I know this print appeared only in the spring 2009 collection. 


Williamson has also taken on leopard, which you can see a little better on the inside of the Benefit makeup set.  Some examples from spring and fall 2011:

(images from style.com)

And pre-fall 2009:

(images from style.com)

But the most colorful instance of leopard print and the one that most resembles that found on the Rich Is Back set comes from the fall 2007 collection:

(images from style.com)

Then we have the honeycomb print, which Williamson used in his spring 2006 collection.

(images from style.com)

Lastly, there's the odd, pastel-hued harlequin-style geometric print, which was coupled with touches of black in the fall 2007 collection.

(images from style.com)

I'm curious to know whose decision it was to use all these prints on the Rich Is Back set.  It could have been Williamson who selected his personal favorites, or perhaps Benefit chose ones they thought would look best on a makeup kit.  Most likely it was a combination of the two.  

While I passed on buying this set for the Museum, I do think it's a thorough representation of Williamson's designs to date.  What do you think, both of the Rich Is Back and Williamson's work?

Walk on golden earth with the Guerlain Terra Ora collection

Guerlain served up a heaping helping of bronze goodness this season.  Here's the Terra Ora collection description from the press release:  "The Terra Ora collection draws its essence from an era of magnificence. The elegance of antiquity stands the test of time with its splendour and aura intact. An ode to gold. With dazzling radiance, Terra Ora bronzing powder and the precious Météorites Perles primer adorn the skin in a warm, divine-like light, giving women the appearance of a modern vestal goddess. Skin kissed by the summer sun is beautifully enhanced." 

The star of the collection is the Terra Ora bronzing powder, outfitted in a substantial wooden case with gold lettering and a magnetic closure.


I was strangely fascinated with the pattern in the wood.


The bronzing powder is embossed with a chain pattern radiating out from the center, with the Guerlain "G" positioned just off to the right and swirled about on top of the chains.





A nice little detail was the chain pattern repeating on the inside of the box.


So what about those chains?  The Terra Ora bronzer design "revisits the jewelled chains worn by vestal goddesses."  I think Guerlain did a nice job tying in the compact's pattern to the imagery in the promo ad.  Not only is the model wearing a chained bracelet and fastenings, she looks quite goddess-y between her golden headband, white dress, and the halo decoration in the back, and of course the gorgeous (albeit photoshopped) glowing skin. 

(image from armocromia.com)

While I couldn't find any examples of any sort of jewelry worn by either ancient Roman vestal virgins or the goddess Vesta, whose temple the virgins were charged with protecting, I did find this 19th century drawing of a chain necklace found at Pompeii.

(image from gutenberg.org)

Here are some other examples of ancient Roman gold chains.  Necklaces from the 4th century AD (click to enlarge so you can see the chainwork, particularly on the one in the middle with the green glass):

(image from rubens.anu.edu.au)

This one with emerald from the 2nd century AD:

(image from flickr.com)

And this one from the 3rd century A.D.:

(image from metmuseum.org)

Guerlain's description might have benefited from being more vague than it is currently.  I think referring to ancient Roman jewelry in general might have been more appropriate than suggesting a specific Roman goddess or her worshippers (let me tell you, I spent a good chunk of time searching for vestal virgin/goddess jewelry, and there is none!)  Having said that, there are many more examples of ancient Roman gold chained jewelry where these came from, so Guerlain wasn't totally off  base. 

I still think this piece, with its chain detailing and wooden case, is slightly more special than the other compact in the Terra Ora collection: 

(image from nordstrom.com)

I didn't buy it but I am tempted because it's so summery - a sun motif that's reminiscent of ancient Roman mosaics, perhaps? 

While it's not my favorite offering from Guerlain, I thought they did a good job linking (haha) the chain design to the press release description and promo image they cooked up.  It's certainly evocative of ancient cultures and the goddesses that starred in them.  Now I'm seized with the urge to book a trip to Rome and spend a sunny day walking amongst the ruins. 

What do you think?

Curator's Corner, 6/8/2013

CC logoLinks from this week and last...so busy lately!

Beauty and art:

- Wild Beauty gives an excellent overview of the history of the hair dryer.

- Shu Uemura creates red and black custom false eyelashes for a Christian Louboutin exhibition.

- Pleasureflush provides an exciting glimpse of what Chantecaille has up their sleeve for fall 2013

- I'm a Perrier guzzler and Warhol fan, so this is a very intriguing collaboration.  Some might argue it's not right to use Warhol's images to sell fancy bubbly water, but it's very meta, and I actually think Warhol would have gotten a kick out of it...even more so had it been Coke

- Createquity asks, what is a museum?  As you'll see, this seemingly simple question actually has quite diverse and complex answers.


- Oooh, new pizza place opening in Hampden.  Can't wait to try it.

- Speaking of Hampden, HonFest is this weekend.  I missed it once again.  D'oh.

- The Daily Beast ran a piece on the stars of The Wire - where are they now?

The random:

- I mentioned in the last edition of Curator's Corner that there is a new Animal Planet/Discovery Channel special on mermaids.  This year people seem even crankier about the fake "evidence" than they were last year when the first special aired, and I'm baffled as to why.  Chill out, everyone!  Mermaids are freakin' awesome and you should appreciate this show even though it's not real. 

- In other mermaid news, a double amputee receives some very special prosthetics.

- On the Riot Grrrl front, I received my copy of the Riot Grrrl Collection book.  And now I may just indulge in some Chapstick or a replica of Kathleen Hanna's dress courtesy of the VFILES.  Additionally, Bratmobile's seminal album Pottymouth turned 20!

- I see another addition to the Makeup Museum family in the future!!  That's right, make way for Superman Babo!!


I just hope Power Babo doesn't get too jealous - after all, he's also a superhero of sorts.

What have you been up to?

OB for Shu Uemura

 "To me, reality lies in the world of ambiguity.  In between the innocent, beautiful dream world and the physical world.  That is what I want to express in my collection."  - OB

Shu Uemura has once again selected a very captivating artist to collaborate with on a second spring 2013 collection.  Known simply as OB, this young lady (born in 1992 - I feel so ancient!) attended the Kyoto City Dohda Senior High School of Arts.  Almost immediately after graduating she was signed to the prestigious gallery Kaikai Kiki.  This gallery represents such notable artists as Takashi Murakami and Anselm Reyle (who you might remember from a Dior collaboration in early 2012).  Murakami also serves as her mentor.

In honor of the collaboration, OB and Shu held an exclusive exhibition entitled "Heavenly Creatures" from March 21 through April 17 at the Kaikai Kiki gallery.  From Art in Asia:  "Centered around 'Four Princesses,' a motif born from her collaboration with the cosmetic brand shu uemura, the paintings feature a new range of characters, emotions, and vivid colors that evidence ob’s growth as an artist over the past two years.  Emerging now from her tightly closed inner world, her narratives and images unfold freely and are imbued with youthful energy.  The artist describes the collaboration and her new work as follows:  'They are ordinary girls but after using the Shu Uemura cleansing oil before going to sleep, they become princesses in their dreams and each must fulfill their own task.  Whether summoning flower petals through dance or battling ominouse storms, the princesses pray for the tranquility of our beautiful world. At the same time, however, they are still young girls who use makeup on occasion and become absorbed in their own flights of fancy. I hope people will find something that touches with their own experience.'"

The princesses appear in the main work for the exhibition, In Between Reality and Dream:

(image from gallery-kaikaikiki.com)

Installation view:

(image from ob0o0.tumblr.com)

For the Shu collection, the princesses each get their own cleansing oil bottles and UV Under-Base Mousse.  Naturally I got all four oils.  As with the Unmask collection, the green one wasn't available in the U.S. so I had to go through E-bay.  Grrr.




The main Shu Uemura website (of course, not the U.S. one - they never feel the need to provide full artist or collection info, which drives me insane) has descriptions of each princess.  Here we go!

"The Sakura [cherry blossom] princess slumbers peacefully through the seasons until spring.  she works her magic on flowers that are still buds and enchants them into full bloom.  When she slumbers, flowers wilt and are easily scattered by rain. This is why she dances without rest or sleep. (of course, she feels no fatigue.)  As spring draws to a close, she allows herself a bit of time to frolic in the human world before retiring into slumber until the following spring."  I love the little bunny immediately to her right.



Next, we have the Moon Princess.  "One day, the moon is destroyed by a missile, a weapon in which humans take much pride.  Although bewildered and overwhelmed at the loss of her home, she feels sorry for the humans, who seem devastated at being plunged into darkness each night.  For their sake, the kind princess vows to gather every piece of the moon and put it back together again.  Since that day she has traveled to countless stars in search of moon fragments."




The green cleansing oil is represented, fittingly, by the Forest Princess.  "She romps through the trees on the fluff of the dandelion she holds in one hand.  This gentle princess nurses wounded insects and animals back to health.  Should a human find himself lost in the woods, she kindly escorts him out again. (The human, however, loses all memory of the encounter.)  She and the ocean princess are very close."




Finally, there's the Ocean Princess.  "Dedicated to protecting all precious marine life, the Ocean Princess is a guardian of the sea.  She is gentle by nature, but when faced with storms, she fights with courage and strength. In recent years, the sea has been beset with storms, troubling her greatly.  She has begun making pearls and selling them to humans, using the money she has earned to clean her beloved ocean."





Be sure to watch this adorable video that captures the princesses in action.


While the Shu collection seems rather playful and sweet on the surface, lurking beneath there are some darker themes.  OB is young, but all of her work to date explores the sadness and anxiety brought about by contemporary society.  Her work in a previous show in Berlin suggests some of the more serious aspects expressed in the four princesses' stories.  In an interview with Art Slant, she states, "When I paint I am not particularly focused on the paint itself but how it can provide a feeling of comfort when looking at it as a viewer. However, the concepts for the paintings themselves are not really comforting in theme. They are personal and somewhat dark. People are usually surprised once they see them and learn the concepts and thoughts behind them. With this work I am aiming at some type of transcendence and my wish would be that people could find, through them, some type of release. Maybe people will view the paintings and they too can be freed from their darker feelings if they share similar thoughts. What I am painting is, yes, dark, but making people sad is not my intention...My work addresses all those bad things that happen in life, stemming from environmental pressures and events. For a lot of people my age in Japan there are a lot of societal pressures and I often don’t know how to respond in and to this type of environment. A lot of work in this show in Berlin ended up being heavily related to the earthquake that happened in Japan [referring to the series of devastating disasters on March 11, 2011]. I didn’t intend on painting something on the earthquake, but I feel as if has probably influenced my thinking somewhat." 

Indeed, the 2012 Berlin show focused on the challenges faced by Japanese youth and the emotions brought about by these challenges.  From the gallery: "Culled from the chaos of Japan’s internet illustration scene, where thousands of anonymous artists submit works on a daily basis to social networking sites like pixiv.com, ob, JNTHED, and Haruka Makita are primary representatives of the faceless generation who have inherited a nation in the full throes of a political and social crisis. Though there are few direct references in their works to the disasters of March 2011, the nuclear accident at Fukushima, or the nation’s well documented institutional breakdown, each artist addresses a keenly felt social anxiety and disassociation from reality that come to define their era.  OB captures the turbulent emotions of today’s youth as felt in real time. With her delicate color palette and soft, feminine touch, her paintings evoke a gauze covered world of near suffocating uncertainty where innocence is protected only by insecurity. Despite this dark mood, there is also an air of defiance, reflected in the artist’s own struggle for independence and hope for the future."

There is definitely some of this angst and gravity in the Shu collection, princesses and flowers aside.  Imaginary disasters like the moon exploding, along with real environmental issues like ocean pollution and the desire to keep forests intact and free of human intrusion, build on OB's previous themes.  The efforts on the parts of the princesses to rebuild their worlds and reclaim natural resources also hint at Japan's ongoing attempts to alleviate the devastation caused by the 2011 tsunami.

Stylistically, her current paintings are also more or less the same than her earlier work.  She says, "I like and have always liked Western style painting, as opposed to the traditional Japanese work. I believe that the inspiration for my colors, in particular, comes from this type of Westernized style."  Some examples:

Fragments of Snow, 2011:

(image from en.hidarizingaroberlin.de)

Reincarnation, 2010:


Blanket, 2010:

(images from ob0o0.tumblr.com)

What surprised me a bit is how well the delicacy of the rubbed pastel chalk and other pigments she uses translated to the cleansing oil boxes.  Here's a closeup from the Sakura box:


In another interview, she states the most important part of her work is "the initial visual impact" and that she "strive[s] to create paintings that will catch people's attention on first look...for instance, the large eyes."  The gallery in Berlin that hosted the 2012 show adds,  "Ob’s female characters seem at times to have evaporated, with form and features melding with swirling psychologically charged landscapes, leaving only their large, round, opaquely black eyes and tiny open mouths discernible."  Hence this motif appearing on the upper right corner of all products in the Shu collection. 

As with the Mamechiyo collection, Shu went all out in terms of launching the collection's release.  In addition to a live painting event at the flagship boutique in Tokyo, there was an amazing press party in the Phillipines.  Look at this beautifully designed display.


I really hope whoever is in possession of this snow globe treasures it the way I would.  Or, heaven forbid, hasn't thrown it away.


There was even a station with notepads where people could write down their aspirations and post them to the "Dream Board". 

(images from lushangel.com)

Overall I adored this collection.  Shu has such a great track record for allowing talented artists to share their work with an audience that might not see it otherwise, and the selected artist's oeuvre always has tremendous visual appeal that also happens to work well on beauty packaging.  I was really impressed this time not just with the artwork but with the artist herself.  In the few interviews I've seen/read she seems to be quite mature for being so young, and very genuine, which is a rarity in the art world.  Living so close to MICA (the Maryland Institute College of Art, for those of you outside of B'more), I see A LOT of pretty obnoxious-looking, phony poser art students regularly.  I can't see OB traveling in their circles.  I do worry that she'll get taken advantage of because she appears to be very down-to-earth and honest, and the art world can be brutal to nice people like that.  But I think she'll ultimately be okay due to both Murakami's guidance and her own intelligence.

So what do you think of this collection?  Which princess is your favorite?  Obviously mine is the Ocean Princess since she is very close to a mermaid.  :)