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February 2015

Bradley Theodore for RMK

Bradley TheodoreRMK has borrowed a page from the playbooks of MAC, Smashbox and Addiction by bringing us a collaboration with NYC-based street artist/painter Bradley Theodore.  Alas, the stand-out piece in the RMK Street Essence collection is only sold at Japanese department store Isetan, and they do not ship to the States so I'm totally out of luck in getting my hands on it.  Nevertheless the collection is definitely worth posting about.

The super-exclusive palette features one of Theodore's signature portraits of a colorful, skeletal figure in profile.  This particular one, appropriately enough, is shown applying lipstick.   I'm still not sure who it's supposed to be.  At first glance I thought it was simply a random woman, but as I read more about Theodore's work I realized it might actually be a fashion or art icon.


(images from chicprofile.com)

There were other pieces in the collection with the same image, but I believe these are also Isetan-exclusives.

RMK-Bradley-Theodore-bags(images from rmkrmk.com)

Apparently there was even a live painting event with the artist (!) last week at Isetan, which I would have given my right arm to attend.  Some photos via his Instagram:

Bradley Theodore at Isetan

Bradley Theodore signing autographs

Now that we've looked at the collection, let's take a peek at Theodore's work.  Weaving together fashion and art in large-scale murals throughout Manhattan, Theodore honors various icons in these fields by portraying them in a never-before-seen light.  I don't think the skeletal representations are meant to signify death; rather, I believe he's trying to get to the essence of each person he paints by stripping them down to the bones, leaving only certain identifying features intact. 

Diana Vreeland:


Andy Warhol:

Bradley Theodore - Warhol
(images from thestyleclock.com)

Karl Lagerfeld with his cat Choupette:

(images from instagram.com/bradleytheodore)

Theodore also creates some interesting pairings based on real or imagined relationships between his subjects.  Take, for example, his mural of Anna Wintour and Lagerfeld.  He explains how the idea came to him: “I’ve always wanted to paint Karl, people say bad or strange things about him, but for me and my friends we believe you can always judge a man by his parties. A friend invited me to one of his fashion week parties when I was living in Paris, the vibes in the room were amazing, people were dancing, having fun, all was smiles on their faces. Karl was just cool as hell in the middle of this Great Gatsby style party...New Yorkers don’t really care about wealthy persons, the fact is we all live together in this crazy city, and it’s almost impossible to have a close friendship with someone more than 3 years. Anna Wintour and Karl Lagerfeld, for them, it’s been over 20 years, there's something to be said for that. One day, I ran out of paint and made a quick trip to the art store and Anna walked near to me and jumped in to a car...then I knew I had to paint them together. I wanted to paint their friendship and I let my mind go and just paint."

Bradley Theodore - Anna and Karl

Especially fascinating is his portrayal of Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel.  "[The pairings] are all about the conversation, just imagining what would a real candid and uncensored dialogue between these icons consist of, if I were a fly on the wall," he says.

Bradley Theodore - Frida and Coco

But why fashion and art as the main themes?  For Theodore, as fashion enables one to take on a persona, it's essentially a form of performance art.  "Fashion allows people to become art...it’s the only time in our society that’s truly accepted for you to be a form of art. The average person on the street is trying to convey an image. That image could be an identity, he or she could be building himself as a painting: it might be the most super-glossed up glam queen, or they could be portraying this stupendous image of Madonna.”  

So there you have it.  Generally speaking I like his work, but I do find it troubling that he chose to paint Terry Richardson, who has been accused on multiple occasions of sexual assault. But Theodore also painted a member of Pussy Riot, so maybe one cancels the other out?

Getting back to the RMK collection, I'm still trying to figure out who the woman on the palette is supposed to be.  Red hair, pink bow...is it someone totally obvious and I'm just oblivious?!  My first thought was Lana Del Rey but she's not nearly on the level of Theodore's other subjects, i.e. I wouldn't consider her iconic either for her style or her music.  If anyone has any theories or could provide solid info on who is represented I would appreciate it. 

Anyway, I'm impressed at RMK's choice for this collaboration and I hope we see more of them with other artists in the future - although I do hope that RMK would make it available to those living in the States!  I also have a hunch that the next time I'm in NYC I'm going to have to take a little Bradley Theodore tour as I wander about.  :)

What do you think of the collection and of Bradley Theodore's work?  

Curator's Corner, 2/22/2015

CC logoThis week's links.

- Did you know there's an entire museum dedicated to miniature perfume bottles?  I had no idea until the Mini Museum contacted me on Twitter.  Now to find out how they made the leap from a virtual museum to a brick-and-mortar one. 

  - In bizarre beauty news, Pizza Hut launched a line of pizza-inspired polishes.  I love pizza and I love nail polish but this is just weird.  (Sidenote:  I misread the headline and thought the word "scented" was in there, so I was like, pizza-scented nail polishes? So. Gross.  Fortunately there was no attempt to make them smell like pizza.) 

- The new hair trend for fall 2015 is apparently "naked hair", i.e. the equivalent of no-makeup makeup.  I really wish this silly idea would die already - so boring.  Who wants to look like they just woke up?

- All the best makeup looks from the Oscars here.

- A photographer travels the world on a quest to find beauty in 37 countries (and counting) for a project she calls the Atlas of Beauty.

The random:

- Here's an intriguing new exhibition on the rituals of cleanliness and bathing.

- Mood lipstick is nothing new, but what about color-changing jackets?

- This week's dose of '90s nostalgia:  20 things you might not know about Office Space and 18 things you might not know about Wayne's World.

- Here's an informative interview with the ladies of Broad City.

- I saved the best for last.  As a Bob's Burgers fan and the biggest Sleater-Kinney fan ever I greatly enjoyed this video.  (Oh, and...I'M SEEING S-K WEDNESDAY NIGHT OMG OMG OMG!!!!!) 

What have you been up to this week?

MM Mailbag: vintage compact identification

As you may know I occasionally receive emails from folks needing help identifying vintage makeup items.  Today's post highlights several lovely vintage compacts, pictures of which were sent to me by a woman whose grandmother had passed away and left the compacts to her.   As she would like to hold on to the compacts as keepsakes, she was curious to know more about them. 


Fortunately this inquirer also sent pictures of the compacts open and their reverse side, so for two of the three I was able to identify the company that made them based on the puff that was included.  On the left is a compact by Elmo (no, not the Sesame Street character), the middle one I wasn't sure about, and the compact on the right is by Evans.



At the time I received the inquiry, there was virtually no information available on Elmo Sales Corp., a Philadelphia-based company founded in the early 1900s, and I really had no idea what decade the compact might be from.  So you can imagine I was overjoyed to see that a comprehensive history of the company surfaced at the ever-thorough Collecting Vintage Compacts blog back in May of 2014.  The blog author included a picture of an identical compact in ivory enamel that was dated to 1941, so I'm guessing the black enameled compact is from around the same time. 

Vintage oval Elmo compact
(image from flickr.com)

The middle one was a bit trickier.  By sheer luck I stumbled across a similar-looking compact for sale at One King's Lane by a company called Cara Mia.  The site listed it as being from the '30s.

Cara Mia heart-shaped compact

Based on the interior of the compact, with its two compartments and diamond pattern, I have reason to believe the one in the pictures I was sent is also a Cara Mia.  However, I think it might be a little bit later, circa 1940s.

Vintage Cara Mia heart-shaped compact
(images from onekingslane.com)

As for the remaining compact, there's a wealth of information on Evans thanks again to Collecting Vintage Compacts.  However, I couldn't find any that looked identical to the one in the picture I was sent, so I had a difficult time dating it.  I found one that was sort of similar in that it had a combination of rosy copper and gold metal tones, and that one, according to the seller, is from the 1940s. 

Evans vintage compact
(image from etsy.com)

The person who emailed me with her inquiry, bless her, was quite grateful to get the meager information I had provided.  I wish I could have given exact dates for all and been able to say with 100% certainty that the heart-shaped compact was by Cara Mia, but even after over 6 years of running the Makeup Museum I'm still getting my feet wet in terms of vintage makeup.  :)

What do you think of these?  And do you agree with my assessments?


Shu Uemura highlights Qiang embroidery

This was quite a delightful Chinese New Year surprise from Shu.  In honor of the holiday, the company chose to feature the work of the Qiang people of the Sichuan province of China.  Consisting of a population numbering around 310,000, this group has been producing complex, brightly colored embroidered patterns for over 1,000 years.  Efforts to uphold the Qiang embroidery tradition were strengthened in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that devastated the area in May 2008.  Today, Shu continues this effort by collaborating with Yang Huazhen, a fourth-generation Qiang embroiderer and official country representative of Qiang embroidery, to design two patterns related to Shu's Anti/Oxi and Ultime8 cleansing oils.  The company is also working with Chinese nonprofit Xihan Action to start a fund that will allow Qiang women to take an advanced, 6 months-long embroidery class to ensure that Qiang cultural traditions will be promoted and sustained for future generations.

So let's get to it, shall we?  I loved the way the pattern extends all the way around on both the boxes and bottles.

Shu Uemura - Qiang Anti/Oxi cleansing oil box

Shu Uemura - Qiang Ultime8 cleansing oil box

Shu Uemura - Qiang cleansing oils

Shu had a code to get a free embroidered bag with purchase.  Obviously it's mass-produced, but it would have been to cool for them to offer an embroidered bag for sale that was actually made by the Qiang, in addition to the oils.  Then the proceeds could go to the nonprofit they're working with.

The design on the Anti/Oxi oil "represents eternal youth" since it contains green tea extract.  At least that's what I gathered from Shu's unintelligible product description: "The traditional embroidery patterns are reinterpreted and meet the symbol of youth green tea."  Mmmkay.

Shu Uemura - Qiang Anti/Oxi cleansing oil

Shu Uemura - Qiang Anti/Oxi cleansing oil

Shu Uemura - Qiang Anti/Oxi cleansing oil

As for the Ultime8 oil, the meaning behind the pattern was equally befuddling.  "A combination of ultimate motives into one embroidery. Vajra - a mystical symbol for power associated with ultime8 botanicals - promises vitality for life."  Well, that at least allowed me to look up the word "Vajra", a Buddhist symbol.

Shu Uemura - Qiang Ultime8 cleansing oil

Shu Uemura - Qiang Ultime8 cleansing oil

I did a little investigating to come up with examples of Qiang embroidery to see if the ones from the cleansing oils resembled them at all.  The Smithsonian had images of some wonderful textiles created by Qiang women at the 2014 Folklife Festival.  They show that the patterns on the oils really are quite authentic both in color and design. 

Qiang embroidery - Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Qiang embroidery - Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Qiang embroidery - Smithsonian Folklife Festival
(images from festival.si.edu)

Here is the embroidery in dress form.  I love how bright it is.  This picture is from a showcase of Qiang embroidery at the Jinsha Relics Museum in July 2008.  The event was the official start of the effort to promote and protect the Qiang embroidery tradition following the earthquake that took place a few months prior.

Qiang embroidery - dresses
(images from news.xinhuanet.com)

Once again, Shu has brought attention to art/culture I never would have known about otherwise.  And it's gorgeous!  The colors are the perfect antidote to the winter blues.  I just wish the description of the patterns and the meaning behind them were made a little more clear, and I'd like to hear more about Shu's involvement in helping the Qiang people - any kind of charitable action on the part of a cosmetics company should be emphasized. 

What do you think?

Couture Monday: with love from Yves Saint Laurent

Ah, Yves Saint Laurent.  I had high hopes that last year's Chinese New Year palette would be the start of a renaissance for the brand in terms of collectible items, but unfortunately they continued their trend of bland, fairly nondescript releases through the end of 2014.  But at least YSL managed to pull it together again for the 2015 Chinese New Year (which is this Thursday) with this eye shadow palette whose case is decorated with an explosion of hearts outlined in gold against a red background.

YSL Chinese New Year palette 2015

YSL Chinese New Year palette 2015

YSL Chinese New Year palette 2015

So...the questions on my mind were why hearts and why now?  Well, YSL has a history of using hearts in their designs, most notably in accessories, but also occasionally on the clothing.  Take a peek at this heart-printed maxi skirt, jacket and "le smoking" suit from the '80s:

Vintage YSL maxi skirt
(images from pinterest.com and etsy.com)

Vintage YSL heart-print jacket
(image from lyst.com)

YSL Le Smoking heart suit, spring 1987
(image from 1stdibs.com)

More recently, YSL Creative Director (or should I say Saint Laurent, since the "Yves" was dropped) Hedi Slimane resurrected the original designer's love of hearts in an extensive collection containing a slew of heart-printed items, from dresses and shoes to bags and sweaters.  I'm not sure when this came out, as none of these pieces appeared in any of Slimane's ready-to-wear shows to date, but my best guess is around summer 2014.  

Saint Laurent heart print(images from barneys.com and lyst.com)

Saint Laurent heart print sweaters
(images from polyvore.com and lyst.com)

While the cosmetics arm of the famed fashion house has also worked hearts into recent releases, including the Love collection, some matte face powders from 2010 and a powder compact from the holiday 2013 collection, I was surprised to see that the use of hearts in YSL's makeup range goes as far back as the '80s, as evidenced by these bejeweled compacts.

Vintage YSL heart compacts
(images from rubylane.com)

Vintage YSL heart compacts
(images from etsy.com and onekingslane.com)

So hearts appearing on YSL's makeup is nothing unusual.  But why now, for a palette celebrating the Chinese New Year?  Well, each year from 1970 until 2000, the designer illustrated a love-themed card to ring in the new year and sent them to his friends and family.  (Perhaps you remember the spring 2008 Palette Pop, which was based on a card from 1992.)  Thus, a New Year's palette decorated with hearts is the perfect homage to this tradition.  Additionally, as of last Friday the book detailing all of these "love cards" has been reissued in France and the U.S., a sneak peek of which you can see here.  While I would have liked to see another palette centered on the design of one of these cards, or maybe a design that had more to do specifically with the Chinese new year, the hearts were a good choice and appropriate given the aforementioned 2014 heart-printed fashion collection.

What do you think?

Curator's Corner, 2/15/2015

CC logoSigh. As you might have guessed I'm not still not feeling great.  I'm hoping come spring both of the health issues I've been dealing with since last summer will be solved and I'll be posting more regularly, but for now I'm still just trying to keep my head above water.  Anyway, here are some links.

- Some very big and sad beauty news:  Bonne Bell is closing its doors.  It has been bought by another company so it's not completely disappearing, but I'd guess that their legendary Lip Smackers formula will never be the same. 

- There are so many effective, affordable acne treatments available that don't involve bodily waste, so why someone would put urine on their face to clear up pimples is beyond me.  

- The no-makeup look started as a charity campaign, so I'm wondering if a new trend of smeared lipstick will be taking over as a result of this "smear for smear" effort.  

- Christian Louboutin opens his first nail polish boutique in Paris and it is every bit as gorgeous as you'd imagine.

- It's nice that some airlines are trying to make flights as soothing as possible for their passengers by infusing the cabin with a custom lavender-chamomile scent, but I must say that no amount of air freshener is going to make the truly plane-phobic among us calm - Ativan is the way to go. 

- Valentine's Day is over, I know, but I had to mention these adorable makeup-shaped chocolates.

- No reviews this week - on top of everything else I'm dealing with I came down with a cold yesterday and have zero interest in trying to write coherent reviews while on cold medicine.  Meh.

The random:

- I got chills reading the setlists for Sleater-Kinney's recent shows...t-minus 10 days till I get to experience them live!!

- Speaking of women I worship, here's a great interview with another one of my idols.  And look!  Paper dolls of Abbi and Ilana.

- In art/fashion news, I enjoyed Viktor & Rolf's Van Gogh-inspired collection at Paris fashion week, along with a history of the ruff in paintings (via Art History News).

- In '90s nostalgia, here's a review of a new '90s art exhibition at the Montclair Museum of Art in NJ, an ode to Office Space, and a list of 20 movies turning 20 in 2015.

How are you doing?  Is it as cold where you are as it is here?  We're looking at single-digit temps for most of this week and I'm not happy about it! 

Couture Monday: MAC x Toledo

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

(image from style.com)

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

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

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

MAC-x-Toledo spring 2015


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



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

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom illustration

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom illustration

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom ad

Ruben Toledo - Nordstrom ad
(images from dcwdesign.wordpress.com)

And of course Vogue:

Ruben Toledo - Vogue illustration

He's even done classic book covers:

Ruben-Toledo - book cover for Wuthering Heights

Ruben Toledo - Pride and Prejudic book cover
(images from pbcstyle.blogspot.it)

Ruben also did illustrations for many fashion books, including one for Nina Garcia.

Ruben-Toledo - Nina Garcia's Look Book

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

Ruben Toledo - illustration for Nina Garcia book
(image from fatsistersguidetolife.blogspot.com)

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

Ruben Toledo holiday illustration
(image from bonappetit.com)

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

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition

Isabel Toledo - FIT exhibition
(images from fitnyc.edu)

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

Isabel Toledo - Michelle Obama

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

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

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