Found! Some vintage inspiration for Benefit

I was eagerly scrolling through Instagram (which has, incidentally, become my favorite social media platform - please join and follow me, it's so much fun!) and came across a familiar image from one of the many vintage ephemera accounts I follow. 

Vintage Flexees lingerie mannequin
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I knew it was makeup-related, but couldn't recall which company had used something that looked just like this lingerie mannequin.  Was it Too-FacedThe Balm?  Nope.  I racked my brain but just couldn't place it.  It wasn't until I started packing for a weekend at my parents' house that it dawned on me. 

Benefit Lana makeup bag

Aha!  I believe I found the original source for Benefit's Luscious Lana, especially given that Benefit refers to her as a lingerie model.  In an alternate version of the makeup bag she has the rose up by her head, but not in the original green bag.  I'm guessing Benefit used a reproduction mannequin of the Flexees one since her face is a little different.  Naturally this serindipitous find got me interested in trying to track down other vintage mannequins to see whether they figured into Benefit's packaging and advertising, and I found another lingerie mannequin that appeared on many of Benefit's old catalogs.  Apparently both this model and the one used for Lana were mannequins meant to be displayed on a store counter top, so they're pretty small - not life-size or anything, which makes them cute rather than creepy.  Both also appear to be from the 1940s or so.

As with Lana the face on this one is ever so slightly different.

Vintage lingerie mannequin
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Benefit makeup catalog

While the features on this mannequin aren't as strikingly similar to the previous two, she still may have served as inspiration for Benefit's Beautiful Bermuda Betty, who appeared in various catalogs and a bag.  The downward-looking pose, hairstyle and smoky eye with thin arched brows look alike, although not identical.

Vintage Formfit mannequin
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Benefit Bermuda Betty

I dug a little more but still couldn't find any original sources for Gabbi Glickman, who is probably Benefit's 2nd best known mannequin mascot.  I did unearth a pair of mannequin heads that are identical, but there was no information provided about them.

Benefit Gabbi bag

The one I was most interested in finding though was the mannequin used for Simone, the dark-haired beauty sporting a lavish gold dress who is probably Benefit's most recognized mascot.  Full-sized Simones reside in Benefit's headquarters in both San Francisco and Canada, and she appeared as the cover girl for most of the aforementioned catalogs.

Benefit headquarters - Simone mannequin(image from

Benefit holiday makeup catalog

I did find a mannequin that looked just like Simone, but I had no idea what company it was for or approximately when it was made.  This was displayed at a Chanel event but I don't think it was an official Chanel advertising piece.

Chanel mannequin
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It also doesn't look like a regular vintage mannequin but rather a reproduction.  Looking at both this and Benefit's other mannequins in their offices, I'm wondering if they're using a mix of authentic vintage pieces and reproductions.

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For example, the third mannequin from the right definitely resembles this reproduction...

Mary mannequin by Marge Crunkleton
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...while the blonde right in the middle is a dead ringer for this vintage 1940s jewelry mannequin.

Vintage jewelry mannequin
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Why does Benefit rely so heavily on mannequins for their marketing?  One reason is that in their early days, the company couldn't afford to pay real spokespeople and models, so the mannequins served as a stand-in (this was also the reason Stila used illustrations).  Second, Benefit founders and Jean and Jane Ford always had an affinity for vintage fashion and beauty items.*  In a 2011 interview, Jean explained: "Over the years, Jane and I have collected vintage pieces for inspiration...we have vintage mannequins, compacts, posters, handbags and lots of old magazines.  There is something very romantic about the past.  For our packaging, we use both modern and old-fashioned images and styles to create fun products that women will want to carry in their bags or display on their vanity."  Indeed, using retro designs in a modern way has proved to be a dynamite strategy for the company.  I don't really see it as nostalgia for the past, per se, but rather an appreciation for the overall style and occasionally more kitschy aspects of selling femininity, such as those countertop display lingerie mannequins.  Sometimes I look at old makeup ads and burst out laughing - to modern eyes, the cheesiness and over-the-top tone are genuinely funny.  Benefit seizes the opportunity to celebrate the sillier side of vintage beauty and fashion and infused it into their entire brand.

What do you think?   


*In addition to the mannequins, I'm wondering whether Benefit was looking at these Max Factor doll lipstick mirrors when designing their 2016 holiday collection.

Friday Fun: Benefit vending machines

I saw this last week at Musings of a Muse and thought it was the cutest thing ever!   No one does kitsch quite like Benefit.  The company will be rolling out 25 pink bus-shaped kiosks to be placed at major airport terminals across the U.S., with a few already in place now at JFK, Austin and Las Vegas airports.  According to Allure Magazine, they'll be "stocked with the brand's 30 best-selling products—including Benefit They're Real! Mascara and Benefit The PoreFessional Primer.   The display screen gives users detailed product descriptions, beauty tips, tricks for application, and even lets you watch short videos before you buy. (This one features one of our favorite post-flight picks for a pearly glow after that drying airplane air, Benefit Watt's Up! Soft Focus Highlighter."

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(You can see an in-person picture here.)  Of course, this isn't an entirely new concept.   Stila led the way back in 2002, when the company placed a vending machine in Bloomingdale's in NYC.  By 2007 a few more cosmetics companies, including Elizabeth Arden, were unveiling self-serve kiosks in malls.  In 2009, Sephora put vending machines in JC Penney's stores that were too small to have a full Sephora store within, and also put the kiosks in several major airports.

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More recently, in May Chanel introduced a temporary vending machine dedicated to selling one item - a new volumizing mascara - at Selfridge's in the UK.   This was a novel idea in that the vending machine was used not to sell a variety of the company's top items but rather to grant exclusive access to a new product before it was officially rolled out at counters.  And because it's Chanel, buyers required a special coin emblazoned with the famous interlocking Cs to access the machine. 

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Other companies, including The Body Shop, Neutrogena, Proactive and Utique are following suit and have either just launched their own kiosks or are doing so in the near future.  So while the idea having vending machines for cosmetics isn't groundbreaking, the design of Benefit's particular kiosks are.  But would we expect anything less from this brand?  As Benefit marketing director Julie Bell says, "It’s wow on wheels!  It’s sexy, fun and an innovative new way to introduce our instant beauty solutions and 'laughter is the best cosmetic' brand motto to hundreds of millions of travelers that fly each year."  I'm inclined to agree - how could you not smile when faced with a retro Pepto-pink bus-shaped kiosk that sells some great products? 

Have you seen the Benefit vending machines in person yet?  I haven't, and now I want to take a trip somewhere just so I can experience the novelty of buying something from that adorable little bus.

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.

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

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

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



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

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

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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:

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And pre-fall 2009:

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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:

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

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

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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?

Quick Friday Fun: Benefit the Perk-Up Artist palette

Oh, Benefit.  You're at it again with a cleverly-named palette with a hilarious retro image.  Say hello to the Perk-Up Artist, a kit for concealing and brightening that will refresh a tired-looking face. 



It was the video that really cracked me up though.  In just under a minute, Benefit manages to poke light-hearted fun of the slightly sleazy pick-up artist stereotype, the cheesier aspects of the '70s, AND tell you how the palette works.

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I don't think Benefit has had anything this funny since the Weather Girl palette, which for some reason beyond my comprehension I do not own. 

Anyway, have any of you picked up (har har) the Perk-Up Artist palette?

Friday Fun: Pretty by the poolside

Well, today is the last day of the Museum's On the Water week.  But I'm not sad because summer is just getting started!

Today I'm taking a peek at two pool-inspired palettes:  Benefit's Cabana Glama and Too-Faced Summer Eye.

Cabana Glama (love the name!) includes a host of summer essentials encased in a vintage postcard designed palette.

Benefit cabana1

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Too-Faced's Summer Eye palette has a mix of pink shells and flowers on the outside, and summery eye shadows set in a swimming pool background on the inside.  The water looks so refreshing!

TF summer eye

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Both of these make me want to lounge by a big pool at a fancy resort with drinks being brought to me...ah, summer dreaming.  I'm not the only one who likes the idea of cooling off poolside, though.  One of British artist David Hockney's recurring themes is the swimming pool.

A Bigger Splash, 1967 (read about it at the Tate's website):

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Portrait of Nick Wilder, 1966:


Pool With Two Figures, 1972:

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Since I'm short on time and can't discuss these as fully as I'd like, here's a description of Hockney's fascination with the Southern Californian swimming pool from Socialphy:  "He's best known for his iconic swimming pool paintings that were a key part of the pop art era. His obsession with pools stems from the time he spent living in sunny California in the 1960s. He got inspired by the blue sea, sun, sky, young men and luxury. Who wouldn't? But you wouldn't think that paintings of swimming pools would attract so much hype but looking at them, they do have a certain hedonistic charm and appeal. It's the simplicity of them, the inviting aqua-marine water, sunny LA setting and his use of bright colors."

What do you think of these palettes?  And Hockney's swimming pool paintings?   I think all capture the relaxed yet glamourous spirit of summer days by the pool.

Shine on: Gems and jewels for the holidays, part 2

For the second part of the Museum's spotlight on crystal details, I thought I'd focus on Harrod's totally blinged out exclusive Swarovski collection.  Items include:  a Bobbi Brown palette, Sisley Phyto Poudre Compacte, Benefit High Beam liquid highlighter, Givenchy eyeshadow quad, Lancôme Hypnose mascara and Estee Lauder lipsticks.

Crystals 2011 part 2
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I'm glad I visited London in September, but I sort of wish I could go back to pick up these items, particularly the Sisley palette - it's sold out online.  On the other hand, I have some crystal items from previous holiday collections, so maybe it's good I can't buy these since I don't want to blind myself.  :P

Friday fun with Annie and Maggie

This is the first time in a long time I liked Benefit packaging enough to buy the product for the Museum.  Named after the daughters of Benefit co-founder Jean Ford (who started the company with her sister Jane) the Maggie and Annie boxes feature unique psychedelic-looking designs.  

We'll start with Annie.

Annie outside

Annie inside 2

Beneath the "lesson" booklet are the eye shadows.  Here they are in natural light and with flash:

Annie shadows

Annie shadows flash


Maggie outside

Maggie inside

Here are the eye shadows in natural light and with flash:

Maggie shadows

Maggie shadows flash

I'll be frank - I have zero interest in the makeup itself.  What grabbed me about these palettes is the fact that they look like a cross between the iconic Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser and a painting by post-Impressionist Paul Signac.  Here is the Dylan poster, completed in 1966:

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And here is the 1890 Signac painting, titled Portrait of Felix Feneon Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints (quite a mouthful!)  As you can see, Paul Signac took after Pointillist Georges Seurat.

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Interestingly enough, you can see both of these at MoMA.  Now I'm curious to know who designed the Benefit palettes and what their inspiration was, and why they chose this particular style for them!

Friday fun: Benefit Bathina's new look

Benefit's Bathina, a best-selling shimmery body balm, recently got a makeover for spring.  Here's the old packaging:

 Bathina old
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And the new.  I'm not sure I like this image as much as the old one - I think part of the allure of the Bathina balm was that the product was supposed to leave your skin looking and feeling, well, sexy.  This new image depicts a more innocent woman (in my opinion she looks more like a teenage girl) and even the puff used to apply the product has been transformed to a more girly pink from the previous bombshell black.

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What do you think?  I appreciate that Benefit took the time to spruce up some old packaging, but in this case I didn't think it was warranted or an improvement. 

Friday Fun: One Hot Minute by Benefit


Benefit has a history of coming up with packaging that perfectly fits their "Who says makeup has to be serious?" motto.  I had been a bit disappointed that the company hadn't come out with anything all that interesting packaging-wise (Coralista blush and Hello Flawless foundation left me cold), but they have redeemed themselves with this adorable highlighting powder housed in a watch-themed tin, which obviously fits the name of the product.  Cute!

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Friday Fun: Benefit Roadside Attractions palettes

I've decided that a couple days a week posts will have a certain theme. This blog could use just a tiny bit of structure! Therefore, Fridays will be devoted to retro/kitschy/just plain fun packaging. Mondays will feature makeup by the big fashion houses (Chanel, Dior, YSL, etc).  The rest of the time I'll have a more freeform approach.

For the first installment of Friday Fun, I'm looking at some fall items from a few seasons ago:  Benefit's Roadside Attractions palettes.   Released in the fall of 2005, these kits feature either eye shadow or lip gloss and have retro images for the outer packaging, complete with cheeky phrases like "Exes Make Great Speed Bumps".  The interior cleverly features a mirror in the shape of a rear-view car mirror. 



Nice ride

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These palettes definitely stay true to Benefit's mantra:  "Who says makeup has to be serious to be good?"  Indeed, the concept of a road trip and visiting places ("roadside attractions") along the way is fun, and the idea was perfectly executed in these palettes.