As soon as I got wind of this collection over at A Touch of Blusher I started coveting it. According to PJ, this was the first time Pola's BA line ventured into color cosmetics. The collection was also created in collaboration with Japanese flower artist Makoto Azuma. I figured this item was out of my grasp, then it miraculously popped up on Adambeauty so I pounced.
The outer box is so pretty! I'm assuming the photo was taken by Azuma's photographer partner-in-crime (more about that later). It reminds me a little of Mika Ninagawa's images for her third collaboration with Shu.
The palette comes in a zippered pouch.
I'm still not sure how I feel about the design. Online it looked pretty neat, as you don't often see any sort of design in cream products. But in person I was a bit underwhelmed. The thick black borders separating the colors are reminiscent of stained-glass crafts I used to do as a kid. And I don't understand why they had to make the lip base a sickly, mucus-green color. I guess they wanted it to look like leaves, but they really should have just left it clear or even white - it's an extremely off-putting hue.
To be honest, I was more interested in the traveling flower stall that Makoto Azuma created for Pola. Azuma (b. 1976) has quite a fascinating career trajectory. In 2002 he joined forces with photographer Shunsuke Shiinoki to open Jardin des Fleurs, a haute couture flower shop offering custom bouquets in Tokyo. In 2005 he began exploring the idea of flowers as art, inventing the genre of "botanical sculpture", and in 2009 he launched his own experimental "botanical lab". His work has since been shown in exhibitions across Europe, China, Mexico and New York City. I love this story - a florist turned avant-garde artist! In addition to his private works, prior to his collaboration with Pola Azuma was hired by many big fashion names to create installations for new stores or exhibitions, like Dries Van Noten:
A "fur tree" for a Fendi pop-up store in Ginza:
Hermès store display:
Grand opening of Isetan department store in Shinjuku:
An amazing take on the Lady Dior bag for Dior's "Lady Dior As Seen By" series, which features artists interpreting the bag in their individual style (you might remember Vincent Beaurin's version and subsequent palette for Dior):
Some fun things: collaborations with Hello Kitty and macaron magnate Pierre Hermé:
Finally, I don't think this piece was for any particular company but it blew me away. I wonder how long it took to get all those flowers into jars and then arrange them into that huge square.
As for the Pola stall, I'm not sure exactly what the purpose of the structure is, like what those dials and pipes are for, but it's eye-catching nonetheless. The overall shape of the metal frame for the cart looks rather steampunk to my eye, and is unique from Azuma's other work. (But it may be a reincarnation of the vintage "paludarium" he dreamed up for Hermes, which you can see in the photos above).
You would think that the website devoted solely to the stall would be chock full of information on it, like the inspiration behind its design, its purpose, etc. Unfortunately all I found was this meager description. "On the night of the new moon, the flower stall appears. Its location - a surprise. In the woods? By the sea? Or in a tiny alley. If you're lucky you will witness its magic. Pull the lever and watch the buds burst into blossom. The spark is ignited. The flower stall brings new life." (Azuma's own website did not have any description either.)
Maybe I've been watching too many horror movies, but photos of the stall by itself, isolated from humans and in odd places, kind of creeped me out. These three pictures in particular reminded me of the image on the poster for Rosemary's Baby. It just looks so unnatural and menacing on a beach, like an evil object someone abandoned there, hoping the tide will take it out to sea.
Only slightly less unsettling was its being situated in a forest because it's at least surrounded by other plant life, but really, if I came across this while hiking in the woods I'd run the other way.
As I discovered, the unnatural placement was totally deliberate, according to the artist's website. "In recent years, Azuma has been focusing on his project arranging flowers in all kinds of mundane situations that don’t occur in the realm of nature, and continues to pursue the beauty of plants from a unique point of view." It's a great concept, but I think for the Pola stall it didn't quite work. However, Azuma's other experiments with putting flowers where they're not normally found turned out beautifully. Some examples include this stunning installation in the middle of the Hinoba-an Sea near the Philippines.
And he's even sent flowers into space! I thought maybe these pictures were Photoshopped, but apparently Azuma hired a space engineer help launch the flowers from the Nevada desert and used a Go Pro for the images. "Plants on the earth rooted in the soil, under the command of gravity. Roots, soil and gravity – by giving up the links to life, what kind of 'beauty' shall be born? Within the harsh 'nature,' at an attitude of 30,000 meters and minus 50 degrees Celsius, the plants evolve into EXBIOTA (extraterrestrial life). A pine tree confronting the ridge line of the Earth. A bouquet of flowers marching towards the sun hit by the intense wind. Freed from everything, the plants shall head to the space." I adore the idea of "freeing" flowers from their natural habitat and transforming them into alien life forms.
Getting back to the Pola stall, I liked it so much better in Tokyo. It was much less scary in an environment bustling with activity, and it allowed for human interaction.
(images from azumamakoto.com)
Again, while there was no concrete information about the flower stall, there was at least a short video of it making its way through the city, which was pretty cool. People were stopping to look at and photograph the stall, and it looks like you could even buy a flower from it.
I'm assuming Pola does not have its own storefront, which is why Azuma went the mobile route rather than creating an amazing installation. Yet, I think perhaps he could have done an installation for one of Pola's department store counters or the salon in Japan. I also wish I could definitively figure out why he went with an industrial-looking design for the stall as well as his role in the palette's design. I understand why Pola chose Azuma to collaborate, however; the company has a rich history of dedication to both the arts in general and preserving and exhibiting beauty culture, so it's no surprise they wanted to team up with an artist to create a collector's piece. Additionally, Pola's cutting-edge BA line is derived from a variety of plant extracts (hence the "Bio Active" name) so it's quite fitting that Pola selected Azuma, who also thinks outside the box when it comes to botanicals. In much the same way the flower stall "brings new life" to its environment, Pola's BA line will (allegedly) invigorate and refresh one's skin.
What do you think of the palette and Azuma's work?