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July 2020

Exhibition spotlight: ancient Egyptian cosmetics at Johns Hopkins

Here's another short post since my schedule got completely screwed up...I've been working on some more in-depth things and once again I've completely underestimated how long they were going to take.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share a great piece of makeup history that's right here in Baltimore!  For now, anyway.  I knew about Johns Hopkins University's Homewood Museum, but had no idea they also had an extensive archaeological museum.  In 2010 they were the fortunate recipients of a long-term loan of the Myers Collection from Eton College.  The collection consists of nearly 2,000 ancient Egyptian objects, including cosmetic artifacts. A special exhibition, Providing for the Afterlife:  Ancient Egyptian Works from Eton College, highlighted some of these magnificent specimens. 

Faience kohl pot, ca. 1550-1295
Faience kohl pot, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

While it's not clear whether these items were intended for this life or the next, it's entirely possible they were entombed with their owners to prepare them in the afterlife.  The next time someone tells you makeup is frivolous, kindly direct them to this exhibition.  Egyptians thought cosmetics were such a necessity that they went out of their way to ensure the deceased would still be able to access them, right alongside representations of food and water production.  As Hopkins graduate Dr. Ashley Fiutko Arico points out, "Items associated with personal adornment, such as the cosmetic items displayed here, were particularly favored. Many of these examples were expertly crafted luxury goods of intrinsic beauty. Although it is unknown whether or not the specific examples on display here were buried with their owners, numerous examples like them have been found in funerary contexts, suggesting that this was likely the case. A selection of cosmetic vessels in a variety of shapes and materials evokes the importance attached to makeup, scented oils, and ointments."

This is a pretty nifty wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid.  As we know, kohl was used for both cosmetic and medicinal purposes, helping to shield one's eyes from insects and the sun's glare.

Wood and ivory kohl tube with a swivel lid
Wood and ivory kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

How elegant is this palm column-shaped kohl tube?

Wood kohl tube in the shape of a palm column
Wood kohl tube, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, ca. 1550-1295 BCE

Not quite the most ergonomic design for application, but I bet this metal stick did scrape every last bit out of the kohl tube.

Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE
Metal kohl stick, New Kingdom, ca. 1550-1069 BCE

I wonder what this cosmetics box held!  The really great thing about the exhibition is that x-rays and other technical studies were performed by the students for each object.  So while we can't say for sure what this box contained, we know both the interior and exterior were painted, plus the students got to have some serious hands-on technical experience.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

Based on "visible infrared luminescence imaging", the students were able to determine that the outer part of the box was painted with Egyptian blue, the first synthetic pigment.  All of the white areas in the photo below were painted with this vibrant blue, while it is speculated that the interior was painted with yellow.  I can only imagine how amazing this box must have looked in its original state.

Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE
Wood cosmetics box, New Kingdom, Late 18th-19th Dynasty, ca. 1336-1186 BCE

(all images from archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu)

While these are wonderful objects, it's unclear if the Eton collection was ethically formed.  All I could find online was that Major William Joseph Myers "gathered" the items while stationed in Egypt and bequeathed them to Eton upon his untimely death in 1899.  Is "gathering" another word for stealing or looting, or otherwise exploiting Egyptians in some way?  Everything I've seen presents Myers as a collector who was interested in Egyptian art, so it's very likely he simply purchased the objects from local dealers - I doubt any sort of blatant tomb-raiding was taking place.  But who knows for sure?  In trying to find more information about the collection and whether these objects ended up in Myers' possession in an ethical manner*, I was also reminded of the vast Egyptian collection at Manchester, which makes me second guess purchasing the book detailing all the Egyptian palettes from the University of Manchester Museum's collection.  I want to learn more about ancient Egyptian cosmetics, or if hell freezes over be in a financial position to actually purchase an artifact, but I'm questioning how it can be done responsibly when the provenance of most of these objects is unclear or worse, definitely stolen or otherwise obtained at the expense of the original owner or native country.  This of course opens a huge can of worms about where any and all museum objects come from, which is a conversation for another time (although I have mentioned it briefly before.)

Thorny moral questions aside, these objects are fantastic and should it ever be safe to visit a museum again - hopefully sometime within the next 5 years, as the loan from Eton expires in 2025 - I may have to swing by Hopkins and see if there are any other cosmetic items on display.  What's your favorite item here?  Would you want to be buried with some makeup? I'm getting cremated so it's a non-issue for me, but I might entertain the notion of having a few pieces incinerated with my carcass. Ha!


*The only article I found related to the ethics of the Myers collection/museum indicated that 454 objects were returned to Egypt in 2009, but these were not objects collected by Myers himself; they were the gift of another donor in 2006.  

Story time: Memories of Kevyn

I am so pleased to be posting a wonderful, albeit bittersweet story about the legendary Kevyn Aucoin today, as it commemorates the 21st anniversary of the date he filed for the trademark of his beauty line.  A few months ago I received a very kind email from a makeup artist who actually had the opportunity to work with Kevyn and had an integral role in the launch of his brand.  Amelia Durazzo-Cintron, an Emmy-nominated artist who currently works for PBS, generously agreed to allow me to share the impact Kevyn made on her career as well as her experience with helping to get his makeup line off the ground shortly before his untimely death.  She also permitted me to use some her photos with the man himself and an incredibly special and Museum-worthy brush set that he bestowed upon her.  Here is Amelia's story in her own words.

Amelia Durazzo-Cintron at work, Februrary 2020
Amelia Durazzo-Cintron at work, Februrary 2020

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

"I was obsessed with makeup for as long as I can remember.  My mother was born in Italy.  She went to school for fashion design.  I was always in awe of the way she put herself together.  I don’t even think she owns a pair of jeans.  She’s always impeccably dressed.  Her hair and makeup is always on point.  When I was a little girl, I used to watch her put on this cream eye shadow that came in a tube like lipstick.  Once, when she was almost down to the end, she gave it to me to use for when I played dress up...and the rest is history.  I used to study her Italian Vogue. I think that is where I first may have seen Kevyn’s work.  He had a 'style' or look that was hard to imitate but immediately recognizable.   A lot of the makeup back then was pretty garish, blush that looked like stripes, colors that didn’t seem to go well together, nothing was blended. Then there was Kevyn.  Everyone he touched looked absolutely radiant. Although he was amazing at editorial looks his ability to bring out the natural beauty in women was unsurpassed.  It was around that time that he collaborated on a collection for Ultima 2 called the Nakeds.  He literally changed the industry with that launch.  I think I bought every palette.  Then came the Making Faces book.  There is no better makeup book than that! He appeared as a guest on the Oprah Winfrey show to promote the book.  They showed these amazing transformations he had done on several women.

Kevyn Aucoin Making Faces - back cover

"I became obsessed.  I had to meet this guy.  At that time, I had just started my career in the medical field.  I wasn’t particularly happy but it was decent pay and good hours.  Kevyn Aucoin changed my entire career path.  I was always interested in makeup but I didn’t quite know how I would parlay that into a career. I decided to quit my job to work at Nordstrom as a part time beauty associate. I figured it was a good of a place as any to start a career in makeup artistry.  My ex husband was not amused.  But I knew I had to go with my gut.  A few months later, Kevyn launched his second book Face Forward.  The timeline is a little fuzzy but I believe it was also at this time that he started a soft launch of Kevyn Aucoin Beauty at none other than the beauty mecca at the time, Henri Bendel’s.  The counter was placed front and center in the atrium, which was their prime real estate. His product line initially consisted of his mascara, lash curler and brush set.

"They also launched a new website. It had this amazing beauty chat room where fans, aspiring makeup artists, etc. could 'meet up' and discuss product faves, dupes, and anything Kevyn related.   Every once in a while, Kevyn himself would pop in to interact with his fans.  We would go nuts!  We were actually chatting with Kevyn himself!  I also met up with other fans from the beauty community (some of which I am still friends with). One day, Kevyn posted about a meet and greet at Bendel’s to coincide with the launch of his product line. [My friend] and I called one another and immediately made arrangements to meet up.  As I recall there may have been a day’s notice.  I  remember having to change my schedule at work so that I could attend.  There was no way I missing it!  If the event was due to start at, let’s say 5PM, we arrived at 3. They hadn’t even started setting up yet.  We were number one and two in line.  You’ve probably heard of Troy Surratt of Surratt beauty.  Well, Troy was Kevyn’s assistant at the time.  He smiled at us as we watched him merchandise the products very carefully placed in a case at the front of the line. Everyone would have to pass through and have a look on their way to meet Kevyn.  We fell into conversation (seeing as we were two hours early and staring at him) and he couldn’t have been kinder.  

Kevyn Aucoin and Troy Surratt
Kevyn Aucoin and Troy Surratt

(image from racked.com)

"Meanwhile as we were waiting for Kevyn to arrive, some celebs were being escorted into a separate entrance for what I assume to be a launch party. Mary Tyler Moore walked right past me and said hello. Her smile lit up the entire room.  Then Gwyneth Paltrow...she literally had just won the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. She brushed past me on her way into a roped off area, she came in looking pissed off and like she had smelled something bad. Her demeanor completely changed when she caught a glimpse of Kevyn and I saw them hug.  I guess he had that effect on everyone.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevyn Aucoin
Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevyn Aucoin

(image from allure.com)

"When Kevyn arrived he came right to the front of the line and said hello. He thanked us for coming and told us he had heard we waited for him for two hours.  He seemed shocked by this.  I would have waited two days! I’m telling you that the guy had an indescribable energy.  I’ve met many celebs throughout my career but no one impressed me as much as Kevyn.  He was warm and genuine and was so incredibly humble.  I had brought a copy of his book for him to sign. While I had his attention, I told him it was my dream to work for him someday.  I gave him a brief synopsis of my career path and how he had inspired me to become a makeup artist.  Tears welled up in his eyes.  He was truly touched.  He told me that his plan was for him to launch at other department stores.  I believe he may have mentioned Bergdorf Goodman or Barney's as possible contenders.  He would need motivated, knowledgeable and talented artists to work for his line.  At  that time, I was working for Prescriptives, a line owned by Estée Lauder. He said he loved Prescriptives artists because they were well trained in color theory.  At the time, they were one of the most popular makeup brands.  They were [one of] the first cosmetics line to offer custom blending for foundation and always offered exact foundation shade matching.  I was elated hearing that Kevyn gave the brand his seal of approval! He then grabbed a piece of paper and handed me his personal email and told me to keep in touch.  I nearly passed out.  I was so ecstatic!!  We began an email friendship that lasted until the week before he died.  I wasn’t going to let this opportunity slip me by.  I offered to help out in any way I could. At that time, Kevyn’s company consisted of just a handful of employees.  Kevyn had sunk much of his life savings into the launch of his brand. A lot was riding on the success of the line.  They couldn’t afford to hire additional staff so everyone he had on board at the time was a either a close friend or family member.  Eric Sakas was the CEO and also Kevyn’s ex-boyfriend and best friend of many years.  It was also at this time that the beauty board on his website took off.  Just as YouTube is to the beauty influencer, the beauty board was for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty.  It was an important marketing tool which they used to update fans about product launches and share tips and tricks from Kevyn himself, and other fun stuff like personal photos (as he was also an amazing photographer) and his must haves for his kit, etc.  The beauty board took on a life of its own.  

Kevyn Aucoin message boards, early 2002
(image from archive.org)

"His office manager Sarah was having a tough time dealing with the product launch, behind the scenes stuff, etc. and  having to moderate the beauty boards wasn't high on her list of priorities. We had gotten to know one another as Kevyn had her send me some mascaras to try.  I also let her know of my interest in working for the company and sent her my resume for when they were ready to begin the hiring process.   I wanted to be one of the first people to work as a makeup artist for Kevyn Aucoin Beauty!  She was so kind.  She promised to keep me in the loop...and she did, sending me freebies or as we say in the industry 'gratis' to try and sometimes giving me a sneak peek of things they were working on.  She wasn’t a makeup artist so she appreciated the feedback.  Back to the boards...they went from having a few hundred members to tens of thousands.  Every once in a while, you would get your typical internet trolls  trying to start shit and taunting some of the 'regulars'...trying to get them to engage. This one particular day one of them posted the most awful statement about Kevyn being a junkie and that we were 'worshipping a f*ggot drug addict'.  I was horrified!  I immediately called Sarah in a panic.  She took the post down and thanked me profusely for helping them avert a potentially disastrous situation.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, (it was only years later that I found out the truth) Kevyn had people in the industry trying to ruin his reputation.  You may have watched his documentary.  If you did then you’d know that he was dealing with an addiction issue related to the pain meds he took for his condition called acromegaly.  As much as I love this industry, people can be very jealous and vicious.  I suspect that there were rumblings at the time about Kevyn and his issues. Someone decided to go public, most likely to try to deter any potential investors.  This only added to his stress and to that of his friends and family members.  

Kevyn Aucoin and Janet Jackson
Kevyn Aucoin and Janet Jackson

(image from itunes.apple.com)

"That’s when Sarah asked me if I would be interested in becoming an administrator for the website.  They would give me the ability to initiate posts to get engagement and to delete and or block any offensive posts or individuals.  She explained that they couldn’t afford to pay me, but that could pay me in gratis.  I jumped at the chance!!!!! A few days later, I received a package in the mail, a huge box filled with mascara’s, lip glosses and lipsticks that had just launched, both of his books...and the holy grail.. my prized possession...A full set of Kevyn’s brushes complete with a custom mahogany box with an insert that fit all of the brushes inside.  They only made a limited number. If memory serves me correctly, the set sold for $1000!  

Kevyn Aucoin brush set

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

"I cried…Kevyn was so appreciative for the help I was providing to him and Sarah.  He emailed me and said that he would continue to supply me with anything I needed.  All I had to do was ask.  I remember thinking how lucky I was.  Friends of mine in the industry were floored.  They were so excited for me.  A makeup artist friend of mine said 'you realize that your life is going to change'…and it did.  But not the way I had hoped.  Not long after I began my work with Kevyn (possibly less than two months later), I received a message from Sarah on my answering machine.  Her tone seemed somber...not like her usual bubbly self.  I immediately thought that perhaps they had another troll situation. I called her back as soon as I got the message. It was far worse than I'd imagined.  Kevyn had passed away that morning. She didn’t want me to hear it on the news or read about it online as she was sure the news would eventually and inevitably end up on the message boards.  I couldn’t even breathe from sobbing.  I felt like my dreams were completely shattered.  I was so despondent that I didn’t go to work for several days…and as predicted the beauty board was buzzing with incorrect information and downright cruel rumors from people who had no idea what they were talking about.  Kevyn’s sister had to shut it down by telling people to please respect the privacy of the Aucoin family.  I was deleting posts left and right.  It got so out of hand that a particular troll threatened several of the members at which time I had to step in and block him.  He proceeded to send me emails threatening to 'cut my throat'.   It all seemed like a bad dream.  

Keith Aucoin speaking at his brother Kevyn's memorial service, May 15, 2002
Keith Aucoin speaking at his brother Kevyn's memorial service, May 15, 2002

(image from theadvertiser.com)

"Then came the aftermath.. I don’t know a lot of what was going on but I do know that the investors they did have on board to help to expand the product line, head for the hills after Kevyn’s death.  His entire estate was tied up in the line.  Eric Sakas who I mentioned earlier was Kevyn’s former partner and closest friend.  He made it his mission to ensure that Kevyn’s line would launch and align with Kevyn’s original vision.  They were slated to launch Kevyn’s signature product which remains a cult classic to this day.  The Sensual Skin Enhancer.  It was already being sold at Bendels and now, they needed to put it up on the website. Eric and Sarah being the business minds of the company, neither of them knew how to properly describe the extensive shade range so that online customers would be able to determine which shade would match their skin tone.  I was asked to help out.  I sat there with Eric swatching prototypes (with Kevyn’s own handwriting on the boxes) coming up with proper descriptions of the shades ie warm, med, neutral, cool, etc.  It took several hours,  They were dealing with so much.  I could see the stress and the sadness in their eyes.  I just wanted to do whatever I could to help.  After having been involved for two years after Kevyn’s death, the line was ultimately sold.  Sarah had left the previous year.  The message board was shut down due to lack of engagement (it was Kevyn’s presence there that encouraged people to hop on and interact).  Things were moving fast in e-commerce and they had to update the site to give it a more streamlined look…they no longer had the need for a website administrator.  Shortly after Kevyn’s death, his family decided to have a private memorial service.  I was so touched when I had received in the mail a photograph of Kevyn that was handed out to the family and closest friends who attended the memorial service.  His mother and father both took the time to write me a note thanking me for the work I did for his website,  I was moved to tears. 

Kevyn Aucoin

"I didn’t give up pursuing my dream to become a makeup artist.  I was hired as a trainer for the NYC  Sephora market for Christian Dior. Kevyn was my motivation every step of the way.  But the retail world was rapidly changing.  The 2008 crash hit hard and my position with Dior, my dream job, was one of the first eliminated.  I was back to square one, working freelance gigs on and off for several years, uninspired and unmotivated.  Then a dear friend of mine called me one day asking if I would be interested in freelancing for a local TV station.  He was the executive producer for a PBS News show. We had met at Nordstrom several years earlier when I was managing the Stila counter and he was going to school and working in loss prevention.  I was intrigued but nervous, as I knew nothing about TV makeup.  I had done makeup at Bryant Park, stage makeup for performances, magazine shoots, but never TV.  I was scared shitless that first day I stepped into the studio. To add to my anxiety, the anchor of the news program I’d be working for was a well respected journalist with a career that spanned 40 years.  She had been a network TV anchor, she was a guest (as herself) on the Murphy Brown show with Candace Bergen, she had been on the cover of People magazine..she was kind of a big deal.  I did her makeup for the first time..my hands were shaking.  All along I thought of Kevyn.  As silly as it sounds I felt his presence that day.  It calmed my nerves and I just did what I would normally do with anyone else.  She loved it.  I was so elated, relieved, and grateful for the opportunity.  What started out as me covering for the studio’s full time artist, ended up with me landing a staff gig. Five years later...I'm still loving my job.  This current situation has been especially hard on me.  [But Kevyn] inspires me to continue honing my skills as an artist.  I'm so proud to say that I was nominated for an Emmy in the NY market last year,  I didn't win but seriously...I could not have imagined it as a possibility! I owe everything to Kevyn."

Kevyn Aucoin and Amelia Durazzo-Cintron
Kevyn and Amelia

(image from @makeupbyamelia.c)

Thank you, Amelia, for taking the time to tell this amazing history!  I am so honored that you chose the Makeup Museum to share it publicly.  I also must thank Amelia for her generous (unrelated) donation to the Museum, which I'll be covering later - so many people want to help build the Museum's collection so I'm planning a rather large post on recent donations.  Stay tuned...and in the meantime, if you want more on Kevyn, there are two documentaries available and a new book from Alcone showcasing his illustrations and face charts.

Sneaker pimps: Onitsuka Tiger for Shu Uemura

Forgive the reference to a terrible '90s band in the title of this post, but I wanted to get a quick blurb up on Shu Uemura's spring/summer 2020 collection, a collaboration with influential Japanese sneaker brand Onitsuka Tiger.  Despite being the world's least athletic woman, Tigers hold a special place in my heart.  Plus, the bold, opaque colors spoke more to an '80s aesthetic rather than the "athleisure" trend of which I'm not a fan.  As Kakuyasu Uchiide, Shu's international artistic director explained, "When this collaboration started, what came up in my mind is the healthy and active women wearing bright color makeup back in the 1980s."  I for one was relieved to see a collaboration with a sportswear company that eschewed the minimal, no-makeup look usually associated with athletic-inspired makeup in favor of a more vibrant palette. 

Shu Uemura Onitsuka Tiger collection

The lip colors were definitely my shades. 

Shu Onitsuka Tiger lipstick

Yellow is my favorite color and the color of my own pair of Tigers so naturally I had to opt for this palette over the white one.

Shu Onitsuka Tiger palette

Shu Onitsuka Tiger palette

I picked up the cleansing oil to add to the tower.  I mentioned this previously, but I'd like to reiterate my disappointment at the fact that Shu no longer prints the designs directly onto the bottles for the cleansing oil, only on a plastic perforated outer label that is meant to be removed.  It just looks so cheap.  And what's the point of buying the limited edition version if you don't even have a pretty bottle to hang onto and refill?

Shu Onitsuka Tiger cleansing oil

There were some other items in the collection including a bright yellow version of Shu's famous brow pencil - I mean, the shade itself wasn't actually yellow (although that would be fun!), just the outer casing.  I liked the eyelash curler but I sort of wish it came with the little tiger head logo rather than the sneakers.

Shu Uemura Onitsuka Tiger eyelash curler
(image from shuuemurausa.com)

But I guess Shu wanted to draw attention to the fact that a special pair of sneakers, available exclusively at Onitsuka Tiger stores in Asia, were produced in honor of the collab. The shoes, dubbed "Delegation Ex", were inspired by a model worn by the Japanese team at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.  The overall design resembles orthopedic shoes in my admittedly harsh opinion, but I do appreciate the glossy details on the sides, a nod to the high-shine finish of Shu's Rouge Unlimited Lacquer Shine lipstick.

Onitsuka Tiger x Shu Uemura
(image from onitsukatiger.com)

Onitsuka Tiger has a fascinating history.  New Zealand menswear store Barkers has a detailed profile and I encourage you to check it out in full along with this article, but here's a brief summary.  The brand was created by Kihachiro Onitsuka in 1949 as a way to unite post-war Japan, which at that point had become enamored of American sports.  The goal was to create a cutting-edge performance shoe for athletes and in the process, lift the country's morale and promote both mental and physical health through sports.  After several failed attempts, Onitsuka gained new inspiration upon eating an octopus salad, noticing that the suckers tenaciously held onto the side of the bowl.  He realized this same mechanism could be applied to shoes for basketball players, who up until that point did not have any footwear that facilitated the constant stopping, pivoting and re-starting motions. Onitsuka named the shoe the Tiger, which went on to become the number one choice for high school basketball players. (Basketball was among the most popular youth sports in Japan at the time since it required little equipment).  By 1961 marathon runners were wearing Onitsuka shoes, and 1964 marked the first time Olympic athletes competed in the footwear at the Tokyo-hosted games.  During the '70s Onitsuka merged with several other companies to become ASICS, an acronym for "Anima Sana in Corpore Sano" - Latin for "healthy body, healthy mind". Other ASICS products besides Onitsuka Tiger footwear took center stage throughout the '80s and '90s, but the early 2000s witnessed a resurgence in the line.

Kill Bill - Uma Thurman wearing Onitsuka Tigers

In 2003 Uma Thurman donned a pair of yellow Mexico 66 sneakers for her role as Beatrix Kiddo in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.  Referencing the Bruce Lee film Game of Death, the scene in Kill Bill led to a spike in demand for Tiger sneakers, particularly the Mexico 66.

Bruce Lee wearing Onitsuka Tigers
(image from spotern.com)

Originally known as the "LIMBUR", this model was designed for the 1966 pre-Olympic trials in preparation for the 1968 games in Mexico, hence the name change to the Mexico 66.  The style is also notable for being the first Onitsuka Tiger design to incorporate the now famous stripes. Between this history and not one but two legendary actors wearing them in significant movie roles, the Mexico 66 became the most recognizable model in the Onitsuka line. The shoes' popularity in the early-mid 2000s also solidified Onitsuka Tiger's place as a leading sportswear brand.

Kill Bill - Uma Thurman wearing Onitsuka Tigers
(image from sneakerbox.hu)

Now here's a personal anecdote:  Upon seeing the Kill Bill fight sequence, I knew I needed a pair of yellow Tigers in my life.  Four years after the movie's release, the husband and I took our first international trip together with London as our destination.  I was still obsessed with those sneakers so at the top of our itinerary was visiting the Onitsuka Tiger boutique where I finally purchased a pair of my very own.  Granted, I ended up with the California 78 style with blue stripes instead of black, since when I laid eyes on them in person I actually preferred the design of them over the Mexico 66, but they were yellow Tigers and that's all that mattered to me.  :)

As for collabs, previously Onitsuka Tiger partnered with high-end fashion houses like Valentino and Givenchy, and recruited both Will Smith and his daughter Willow as brand ambassadors in 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

Onitsuka Tiger x Givenchy
(image from givenchy.com)

Onitsuka Tiger x Valentino

Onitsuka Tiger x Valentino
(images from hypebeast.com)



Willow Smith for Onitsuka Tiger

Willow Smith for Onitsuka Tiger
(images from onitsukatiger.com)

It's still not clear why or how the collab with Shu came about.  They're both historic Japanese companies that boast an enormous global impact, but beyond that I'm not sure how the decision to partner was arrived at.  Both brands use the same PR firm, but that's all I was able to gather.  Overall, I thought this was a fun collab that didn't fall into a predictable athleisure trap.  The color choices were perfect for the packaging and the makeup in that they honored Onitsuka Tiger's history, reflected the energy displayed by athletes and channeled '80s makeup styles at the same time.  And while cosmetics and sneakers don't seem to be the most harmonious combination, the two came together nicely, particularly in the painterly manner in which Tiger's iconic stripes are rendered -  a direct reference the art of makeup.

What do you think of this one?  Do you own a pair of Tigers?

Curator's Corner, May/June 2020

Curator's cornerI skipped the May roundup for obvious reasons, so I'm doing a mega roundup now.  While things are slowly starting to look "normal" at the Museum, rest assured I'm diligently working on diversifying, well, everything - from the topics I write about and object acquisition to the artists/brands I use for Color Connections.  I always wanted to present a different perspective on makeup and its history, so one phrase that really resonated with me recently is "change the narrative".  I hope to unveil some kind of plan or at least the Museum's current stance in September so I'll be working away on that behind the scenes.

- Some progress on the BLM front:  the Black in Fashion council was formed, both businesses and nonprofit organizations in the industry are participating in Pull Up for Change and the 15% pledge, while also making funding opportunities available for BIPOC entrepreneurs, and Walmart, CVS and Walgreen's will finally stop locking up Black beauty products (although they shouldn't have been doing that in the first place.)  This is all a great start, but only time will tell whether companies will change at the institutional level.  This is definitely something that I was blind to. I always included links about the general lack of representation in the beauty industry, but it never occurred to me to explore WHY this was happening.  After reading and reflecting, it dawned on me that the lack of makeup suitable for the skin tones of BIPOC is just a symptom of a much larger problem. For a company to offer shades to accommodate everyone, there needs to be diversity at the executive level - who do you think is making the decisions about what products to offer and the models that appear in their advertising?  Even if a company has a diversity strategy in place, if it doesn't include hiring BIPOC and other marginalized people for leadership positions, nothing will change.  Anyway, I've made a tiny bit of progress in understanding the big picture...for a while I couldn't the see the forest for the trees, so to speak.  And I'm not giving myself a pat on the back for coming to that realization, I just wanted to point it out because it will be affecting how I run the Museum. 

- Speaking of inclusiveness, new brand 19/99 seeks to "narrow the generational beauty gap" by providing products that work for any age.  I haven't purchased anything yet but I do like seeing the over-40 crowd being well-represented at their website.

 - Let's not forget about Pride!  While I dislike the rainbow-washing some companies participate in, a new study shows that the majority (64%) actually donate the proceeds from their Pride-themed products to LGTBQIA+ charities.  You can also check out some great Pride looks here, and below I have MAC Loves Pride lipsticks illustrated by Justin Teodoro - you might remember him from his collab with Barney's on a Kevyn Aucoin set.

MAC Loves Pride 2020 lipsticks

- So happy for Christine of the legendary blog Temptalia, who landed an interview with Allure magazine.  Congrats!

- The men's cosmetics industry is picking up speed with a new line at CVS and a skincare brand specifically formulated for Black and brown guys, while new (presumably women's) lines are being launched by Kanye West and Idris Elba.

- Vogue, like many of us, is questioning whether the pandemic's effects on our beauty routines will be permanent.

- I guess quarantine is making us all hungry, judging by E.L.F.'s collab with Chipotle and Sinful Colors' Sweet and Salty scented nail polish collection.

- A moment of levity.

The random:

- Some significant personal anniversaries:  twenty years ago this May I graduated from college (summa cum laude, thank you very much) and the husband and I went on our first date.  Also, my favorite band released what would become my all-time favorite album.  I will never forget hearing it for the first time as long as I live - it was like being hit by a bolt of lightning.

- In '90s music nostalgia, Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill turned 25 and shoegaze legends Hum released their first album in 22 years (and it's good.)  Meanwhile, Kurt Cobain's guitar - the one he played on the famous 1993 MTV Unplugged performance - sold for $6 million at auction.

- I can't take care of plants, even those that require a minimum of care, but these mermaid-tail succulents are singing their siren song to me.

- Plushies continue to help out during the pandemic.

So...times are still challenging.  How are you holding up?