Estee Lauder

The art of juxtaposition: Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder

Duro-Olowu_I was compiling trivia focused on the topic of makeup-fashion collabs to put on Instagram a little while ago, and as with artist collabs, I quickly saw just how few were with Black designers.  Even worse is that I realized the Museum was missing one of the two official collabs with Black designers there have been (which, again, like artist collabs is unacceptable and needs to change.)  Estée Lauder teamed up with Nigerian-born, London-based designer Duro Olowu in the summer 2019, which coincided with the tremendous grief I was experiencing as a result of my dad's stroke earlier that year and the loss of my parents' home that August.  Needless to say the collection slipped by my radar. Fortunately I was able to track down 2 of the 4 pieces and I hope I find the rest eventually. 

The collection consisted of two palettes (one for more casual daytime wear and the other for evening), and two lipsticks in neutral and red shades.  Two makeup looks were modeled by Anok Yai, a Cairo-born model of Sudanese descent.  She became the face of Estée Lauder in 2018 and is, in her own words, "obsessed with makeup".

Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder - daytime palette

Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder - night palette

Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder

Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder lipstick

Anok Wai modeling the Duro Olowu collection for Estée Lauder

Anok Wai modeling the Duro Olowu collection for Estée Lauder

The packaging borrows prints from Olowu's fall 2016 and 2017 collections.  Anok also modeled a dress made by Olowu for the collab.

Duro Olowu, fall 2016

Duro Olowu, fall 2016(images from 

According to Essence, Olowu had always been a fan of Estée Lauder and was thrilled when they approached him to collaborate. Originally he was responsible only for the packaging, but that quickly shifted to choosing the makeup shades as well.  Olowu wanted to create something for everyone. "If you’re a man, you really can’t quite imagine what it takes to decide on the right shade for your skin, especially in this world we live in with women of different ages, ethnicities and skin shades. I really thought long and hard about that and tried to bring that into the mix. It was a really great learning experience for me," he says.  Olowu infused the collection with his signature ability to harmonize seemingly disparate themes.  "My aesthetic is about mixing things that wouldn't normally be mixed together," he told British Vogue. "The idea is that the woman who wears this makeup looks like herself, but also who she wants to be.  She's worldly, cosmopolitan and international.  The collection is representative of all types of beauty - it's a global approach.  That's what we wanted to create."

Duro Olowu for Estée Lauder - day palette

So who is Duro Olowu?  Born in Lagos to a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father who had met and lived in England previously, Olowu was used to spending the summers there to see his mother's family and visiting Geneva for his father's business trips.  Olowu attended school in England as a teenager and earned a law degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury before making the switch to fashion design.  With this background, it's no wonder a he arrived at his trademark cosmopolitan aesthetic.  The designer explains: "I would spend my time browsing in the Kings Road, Kensington Market and Hyper Hyper and going to clubs like the Wag, the Mud Club and warehouse parties. I managed to do very creative things in an important period of style and music in London, and I wanted to experience  all the aspects of that time. From New Romantics to  Leigh Bowery, punk and reggae, all mixed in. I read up on fashion from Vionnet and Saint Laurent to Fiorucci and knew all about that...I was particularly inspired by certain designers when I was young. Yves Saint Laurent, Stephen Burrows, Azzedine Alaïa, Madame Grès, and Walter Albini and Issey Miyake. My mother wore Rive Gauche when I was growing up, often mixing it with pieces of traditional Nigerian clothing and other pieces picked up on holidays abroad. I felt that these designers bought so many very different elements of culture and style into the realm of their work. The beauty of women was very inspiring to me, as were my parents, who loved clothes."

Duro Olowu, spring 2021
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In 2004 Olowu launched his own label with a single dress that mixed pieces of vintage couture fabrics and new ones with his own prints on a loose-fitting, Empire-waisted silhouette.  The "Duro dress," as it came to be known, was an instant hit among both fashionistas and critics and put Olowu on the international fashion map.  Soon the designer was dressing the likes of powerful women such as Michelle Obama.  "I'm just amazed by how women can do so much regardless of natural or imposed obstacles, and I feel that it's my duty to make sure they look good and feel comfortable doing it...whether I'm initially inspired by Eileen Gray, Miriam Makeba, Pauline Black, or Amrita Sher-Gil, I always end up designing for women of all ages and ethnicities, women whose way of life and work I respect. Then I hope that the clothes I've come to, with them as inspiration, would be of interest to them...I want to make women feel confident in an effortless way," he says.

The "Duro dress", 2005
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Says fashion writer Chioma Nnadi, Olowu's art history knowledge is "astonishing", and it informs his designs along with his personal background. "My prints are inspired by my Nigerian, Jamaican, and British backgrounds, as well as my love of art. Over the years, I have developed a curatorial and enthusiastic knowledge of historic and contemporary fabrics and textiles from all over the world. The mixing and draping of printed fabrics and textiles is something I have been exposed to all my life in the places I have lived or on my travels. It has been a signature of my womenswear collections from the very beginning and remains an integral part of my work. Fabrics always tell a story, and, when mixed well, exude the kind of joie de vivre and allure I am constantly inspired by...The color palettes of my prints are often by inspired art and artists, including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Henri Matisse, Alma Thomas, Robert Rauschenberg, Alice Neel, Chris Ofili, Édouard Vuillard, El Anatsui, Lee Krasner and Toyin Ojih Odutola."  I can absolutely see these influences in his color schemes, but what's even more impressive is how Olowu imbues his collections with the spirits of his current muses without directly referencing them and creates a whole new aesthetic in the process.  For example, for his spring 2020 collection he was inspired by photographer Beth Lesser's images of Jamaican dancehalls in the '80s as well as sketches by Picasso's lover Francoise Gilot.  As Nnadi points out, the former can be seen in the wide leg pants and some of the dresses' ruffled hems, while Gilot's are embodied by the drapey, flowing silhouettes and softer floral prints.  I'm blown away by how Olowu combines and reinterprets the vibes of these two totally different bodies of work while also adding his own style to the mix.

Duro Olowu, spring 2020(images from

Images from Dance Hall: The Rise of Dance Hall Culture by Beth Lesser(images from and

Joe Lickshot with Prince Jazzbo and his son on Olympic Way, photo by Beth Lesser
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Duro Olowu, spring 2020(images from

Francoise Gilot sketchbook
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Francoise Gilot sketchbook(image from

While his clothing is wonderful, it's Olowu's curatorial experience I find most extraordinary. In 2008 Olowu married Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, which further intensified his appreciation of art across all mediums. He curated his first exhibition in 2012 at New York's Salon 94 Freemans, followed by two more in 2014 and 2016.  All were so well-received by the public and critics alike that the exhibition catalogs had to be reprinted after repeatedly selling out.  Olowu's most recent exhibition, Seeing Chicago, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) is one of the most innovative and unique curatorial endeavors I have ever laid eyes on.  Comprised of 367 (!) works from all different eras ranging from painting and photography to crafts and books, the pieces are arranged salon-style to enhance the dialogue between them. Olowu's love for Chicago grew out of his long-term partnership with the boutique Ikram.  "I first came here because I've been working with Ikram, a fantastic store, for about 16 years...I was just amazed at the unique nature of the Chicago mindset. They're not followers; they do their own thing, and they're very proud of what is within their city, without showing off. And in that way I felt that sometimes you overlook actually what is there and how amazing it is." From there he  gathered objects he felt best represented the diversity and character of the city.  "I wanted to show old school, curious collecting from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, along with community and philanthropic collecting, in a forward-thinking way," Olowu tells CR Fashion Book.  "It was intuitive how it came together—the variety of having Matisse, Louise Bourgeois, and Glenn Ligon in the same space with Rashid Johnson, Martin Puryear, and Lorna Simpson. I did not purposefully seek any of the art—the artwork itself called me." I love the idea of art or objects "calling" - it happens to me when organizing the Museum's exhibitions, although sometimes I'm driven by certain words or phrases that just keep sticking in my head.

Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, 2020

Instead of arranging artwork into neat categories, Olowu takes an unexpected and refreshing approach that still makes sense thematically. Explains MCA (soon to be Guggenheim) curator Naomi Beckwith, "I don't think we realize that when we go to museums, oftentimes the work that we see in one specific gallery or in one show is usually like for like. That is to say that all the works in African sculpture are in the African galleries. All the works by French painters of the late 19th century are in another gallery by themselves. All the pottery from Asia is either in the Asian gallery or in the decorative arts gallery. We began to separate things out in ways that feel logical, but what it doesn't often allow is for things across cultures to speak to each other, or things across time periods to live with each other. Duro kind of ignored those basic art historical claims and just asked us to realize the affinities that art may have, across the country, across the world, across time." 

The colors of the walls and pedestals reflect the color palette used by Amanda Williams in her iconic Color(ed) Theory series, in which she painted structures slated for demolition in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and named each to represent an aspect of Black consumer culture.  By using these colors for the exhibition decor, Olowu connects the objects both to each other and to Chicago's history.

Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, 2020

"Both as a fashion designer and as a curator, [Duro is] interested in bringing cultures and cultural objects together in an exchange and in a conversation that allows things to speak to each other in an equal plain, without hierarchy, without a sense that one thing is superior to another, or better than another, or that one culture, one geography, one place or one history should supersede another," continues Beckwith. "And really the question for his practice is, how do we allow all this to live together, in a kind of egalitarian beauty? And you'll see that happening in the exhibition."  This is a far less elitist approach to curation that we typically don't see in major art museums. Underscoring this more democratic methodology was the display of outsider art alongside canonical names like Kerry James Marshall and Jean Arp.  "He’s not making big distinctions between self-taught and academically trained artists. He’s looking at furniture as much as sculpture, at craft as much as painting.  We're at a moment in art history when we're seeing deep dissatisfaction with the standard narratives," notes Beckwith.

Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, 2020

The last room presents a group of mannequins observing the art, meant as stand-ins of fellow museum visitors.  While they're dressed in Olowu's designs, they're intended to emphasize his community-minded approach towards art and curation.  "They are looking at the art, and at you...there is a relationship between the eye and the heart, outside of genres and contexts. One of the joys of art is that it can bring people together—through diversity and unification, all divisions are gone," he says.

Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago, 2020(images from

In short, Duro Olowu was meant to be a curator, more so than a fashion designer, and I hope he pursues curation full-time. I love his clothes, but I find his exhibitions even more inspiring. My spirits are also buoyed up by the fact that his shows have been generally well-received without him having any formal curatorial training. I would dearly love to have him curate an exhibition for the Museum, although since he doesn't consider fashion to be art, he probably wouldn't consider makeup worthy of curation either. Plus, his style may be very difficult to translate to cosmetics.  As Jessica Baran points out in Art Forum, Olowu's aesthetic can veer into commercial territory. "[At] its worst the display method mirrored the style of luxe domestic decor and retail store design (in fact, Olowu’s first curatorial endeavors were seen as extensions of his London boutique, which is organized similarly). Full of surface seductions 'Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago' masked with its immersive pleasure its myriad contradictions, many of which are mirrored by fashion itself: a global industry blinkered by its own excesses, situated somewhere between haute merch and popular necessity, expressive art and practical consumability."  You know I despise any museums in which makeup is presented as something to buy rather than appreciate - it's something I've been even more mindful of since I interviewed an exhibition designer so many years ago - but I think I could channel Olowu's vision and put together a broadly focused show in his style that celebrates the diversity of makeup and its history without it seeming like retail. The ideas are flying fast and furious now so I better go so I can jot them down. ;)

What do you think of the Estée Lauder collection and Olowu's fashion/curation?

Estée Lauder Holiday 2016 compact collection

Poor neglected Museum!  I don't really have any excuse for not posting anything in over a week other than the usual holiday craziness, a big work meeting and coming down with a cold a couple days ago, all of which made me too tired to even think about blogging.  But I'm determined to continue sharing holiday prettiness, so in keeping with that goal today I'm bringing you one of the compacts from Estée Lauder's holiday collection.  The Wish Upon a Star compact, along with 16 others, were created by jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann.

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Wish Upon a Star compact

Kosann started her career as a black and white portrait photographer.  Her love of early photography, as well as the trinkets displayed in 1900s photos, spurred her to start her own jewelry line.  In an interview with Estée Lauder, she explains, "I have always been influenced and inspired by the photographers of the early 1900s...they were the first photographers who weren’t just documenting, they were photographing to make beautiful pictures. All of a sudden people were looking at photography as art. And at the same time, the accessories of the women in these pictures were very timeless and personal. The powder compacts, cigarette cases, lockets. They were all pieces of art, and they were personal and special."  The collaboration with Estée Lauder was a natural fit, given Kosann's commitment to telling stories through jewelry, and in this case, compacts.  "I’m a storyteller, bottom line.  I always loved charm bracelets and pendants, everything that tells a woman’s story.  I had more fun doing the Estée Lauder collection than I can even begin to tell you. I had so much fun with the storytelling with these compacts that women covet. You’ve got collectors who adore this stuff, so I wanted to stay true to my brand. Everything has a meaning, everything tells a story. I wanted women to buy these pieces and be able, just like with my jewelry, to tell their stories." 

In terms of design, all 17 pieces in the Estée Lauder collection are true to Kosann's aesthetic.  I'm not going to present them all since it would be way too long, but I'll share a few examples.  Compare the Wish Upon a Star compact (there was also a pendant with the same star) to Kosann's lockets.

Monica Kosann locket

Monica Kosann locket
(images from

While I love the star compact, I was also intrigued by Kosann's animal designs, some of which appeared on the compacts.  Given that Estée has a long history of animal-themed compacts, the fact that Kosann has an entire category devoted to animals at her website also made her an excellent choice to collaborate with the brand.  If they weren't so pricey and if there weren't so many other amazing items this holiday season, I would have snatched up these seahorse and octopus compacts, because, you know, I'm really a mermaid and those are my companions.  I like that Kosann assigns her own meaning to each animal - elephants stand for luck, while fish symbolize perseverance. According to her website, "The seahorse, a mild-mannered creature, has become symbolic of patience. They are happy to roam the seas endlessly at a gentle speed, knowing they will achieve their goals."

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Graceful Seahorses compact
(image from

Monica Kosann seahorse charms
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"The octopus is a magical creature in constant motion.  A symbol of intuition, it senses everything in its surroundings as it glides about the ocean."

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - Intuitive Octopus compact
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Monica Kosann octopus pendants

Monica Kosann octopus cuff bracelet
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The animal designs also allowed Kosann to show a more playful side of her work.  "This is an expression that I always used to say to [my daughters]—'you have to kiss a lot of frogs till you get your prince.' I made this frog sitting on a pillow, with a little crown, and it’s a lip gloss. I wanted it to be fun for women." There were 2 frog designs for the Estée collection and the one Kosann is referring to (with the pillow) is actually a solid perfume compact - I think she got confused with the charm bracelet, which contains a lip gloss. Either way, the inclusion of a lip product in a compact is a concept Kosann lobbied for.  "I pushed [Estée Lauder] to do lipstick...Traditionally they have always done powder and perfume, and I thought that if you can wear this and it has lipstick in it — how fun is that?”

Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - frog solid perfume compact
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Monica Kosann for Estée Lauder - frog charm bracelet
(image from

Overall, I liked this collection and thought Kosann was a great choice to collaborate with Estée.  While some of pieces were a little too traditional for my taste, most of them were fairly modern-looking, and naturally I loved the sea creatures. ;)  I also think I liked the star compact even more than the one I bought in 2014.


Estée Lauder iconic print bags: more unanswered questions

Estée Lauder has stepped up its gift-with-purchase game tremendously lately.  I'm an unrepentant sample tramp but I don't even want the beauty items in these GWPs - I only want the bags!  Throughout the spring the company has released four bags adorned with Harper's Bazaar covers from the late '20s and early '30s.

Gwp_sp16_rollover_harpers_bazaar_type(image from

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag
(images from

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag(images from

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag

Estée Lauder Harper's Bazaar GWP bag(image from

How the collaboration with the publication came about I don't know, but at least the images are straightforward reproductions of the covers.  The other set of GWP bags that Estée has come up with this spring, however, are much trickier to decipher.  Apparently these  illustrations are taken from their spring 1969 campaign.

Estée Lauder GWP bag(image from

Estée Lauder GWP bag(image from

Estée Lauder GWP bag(image from

Estée Lauder GWP bag

While the bags were available at department stores in the U.S., Debenham's in the UK also offered them and provided this description: "Taking inspiration from Estée Lauder's brand heritage, this iconic-print bag has been inspired by Estée Lauder's 1969 luxury makeup collection and book 'a taste for Apricot'."  Obviously I went searching for this "Taste of Apricot" and couldn't find anything beyond a copyright record, a newspaper ad and an ad in New York Magazine, none of which had any of the same illustrations from the bags.  And these aren't new illustrations by a contemporary artist inspired by the 1969 collection either - I gathered these were actually from the 1969 campaign, since Estée advertised these as being from their archives.  Too bad they refuse to let anyone see the original drawings!  I would have emailed them as I did to get further information on their traveling compact museum, but I have no hope of them providing an answer, seeing as how I just received a rather useless reply this past week (a mere month after I had contacted them originally):

"Thank you for your interest in Estée Lauder.  I suggest that you visit our corporate website where there is information about all of our brands, and you can also click on 'Site Map' and select a topic that would be informative or of interest to you. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your question, and sincerely hope I was able to be of assistance. You are valued as our consumer and we hope you will continue to use and enjoy our products with confidence and satisfaction."

LOL.  So, yeah, not going to waste my time trying to get answers from Estée on these bags. 

Anyway, what do you think of these?  Do these "iconic" prints make you more likely to buy something in order to get the GWP? 


Quick post: An Estée Lauder compact museum: It DOES exist!

Or at least, it did.  In June 2014 the Northpark Neiman Marcus in Dallas opened an in-store Estée Lauder shop, and to celebrate the occasion, showcased nearly 60 of the company's limited-edition compacts.  I'm not too keen on the idea of having a compact exhibition in a retail setting, as it's simply an attempt to get people to buy things rather than appreciating the pieces on display and the history of the company.  I also didn't think too much of the cases and clear cylindrical mounts, which came across like those you'd find in a run-of-the-mill jewelry store. *cough tacky cough cough*

Estée Lauder compact museum, Dallas(image from

Estée Lauder Texas compacts
(image from 

Having said that, at least these items got out of storage for a bit - most of them had probably never been seen by the public since they were originally released.  (In 2001 Estée had an exhibition of their solid perfume compacts at another Neiman Marcus in Florida, but not their powder ones.)  Also, this lucky lifestyle blogger who attended the event got exclusive access to ads and photos from the Estée Lauder archive, so go check them out. 

I had high hopes for these items to keep traveling, so after not finding any additional information I emailed Estée Lauder regarding the current whereabouts of this alleged museum.  I received no response, which is pretty obnoxious.  If customer service reps don't know about it they could try to find out from the higher-ups, or if the company is no longer maintaining this little project they could have at least replied with that.  I mean, someone there must know what happened to it!  I guess I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled to see if it ever pops up in other stores at some point.

Have you spotted this museum near you?  What do you think of the displays' aesthetics?

More zodiac compact fun with Estée Lauder and Erté

This is the third and final installment of my unofficial series on zodiac/calendar themed beauty items.  Today I'm sharing Estée Lauder's epic collaboration with Art Deco artist Erté (1892-1990).  Erté completed a series of illustrations for the 12 zodiac signs, and in 2004 Estée rendered them in enamel to appear on their Lucidity powder compacts.  Why they added clear rhinestones on the sides is beyond me, as I feel the illustrations are beautiful enough to stand on their own.  Another thing I'm not clear on is when Erté illustrated these. I know the serigraphs were produced in 1982, but I don't know if that means Erté actually created them that year as well or if they existed as paintings prior to that.

Anyway, let's have a look.  Here are the compacts and the artist's original illustration below.  Capricorn:

Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Capricorn

Erté - Capricorn
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Aquarius

Erté Aquarius
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Pisces

Erté - Pisces
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Aries

Erté - Aries
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Taurus

Erté - Taurus
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Gemini

Erté - Gemini
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Cancer

Erté - Cancer
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Leo

Erté - Leo
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Virgo

Erté - Virgo
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Libra

Erté - Libra
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Scorpio

Erté - Scorpio
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Erté Estée Lauder zodiac compact, Sagittarius

Erté - Sagittarius
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Erté was born Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg and moved to Paris at the age of 20.  Adopting the French pronunciation of his initials as his artist's name, he initially worked as a costume designer for the opera and theater.  Erté was a talented illustrator in his own right, but it was his work for Harper's Bazaar that catapulted him to fame among fashion and theater insiders.  His cover art for the publication, 240 covers in all between 1915 and 1937, had an immediate and long-lasting (albeit cyclical) impact on the fashion industry.  He was somewhat ignored by the art world until the late 1960s when they was a resurgence of interest in his work.  That faded again until his death in 1990, then resurfaced full-force in 2004 when a gallery in London held the most comprehensive exhibition of his work since 1967.  Consisting of 75 of Erté's best pieces, the show included his famous alphabet series, which had never been exhibited in its entirety (the artist had began working on it in 1927 and did not complete it until 1967). The series was to be sold as one piece, with an asking price of £2 million.  The 2004 exhibition and ensuing craze for Erté's work also explains why Estée Lauder chose to release their Erté compacts then. Erté's work is still quite popular today, as a recent exhibition at the Met and upcoming exhibition at the Hermitage demonstrate. 

The Financial Times has an excellent summary of Erté's life and influence, which you can check out here.  There's also this informative article from the New York Times and some general articles on Art Deco design (Erté is known as the father of this style)1.  Right now though I want to show you some of Erté's other work, as it's truly dazzling.  The man loved taking on series - in addition to the alphabet, he covered everything from card decks to the 4 seasons to the 7 deadly sins. 

Here is one illustration from the Alphabet.  I think it's pretty obvious why I chose the letter G to highlight.  #mermaidsrule

Erté - Letter G

Number 3:

Erté - Number 3

He also illustrated each birthstone - here's Sapphire.  Both the Numerals series and the Precious Stones were originally produced as lithographs in 1968 and 1969, respectively.

Erté - Sapphire

And another mermaid for good measure.  I think this is my favorite Erté mermaid.  Between the shell and coral headdress, multiple fins and the fact that she's astride a seahorse and wielding a pearl-strung coral branch as a spear, she is possibly the fiercest yet chicest mermaid I've come across.  All hail warrior glam mermaid!  She represents water from Erté's The Four Elements series.

Erté - Water
(images from

I felt as though I needed to include some examples of Harper's covers as well.  Some faves:

Erté - Harper's Bazaar cover, May 1919
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Erté - Harper's Bazaar cover, March 1926
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Erté - Harper's Bazaar cover, March 1934
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Finally, two makeup-related illustrations.

Erté - Compact Vanities

Erté - Makeup

Erté explains his work in a 1986 interview:  "It is different from everyone's...Art Deco is considered as the style of the 20th century.  I was always by myself. I was influenced only in my childhood, by the on Greek vases and by a book on Persian and Indian miniatures, because of the colors. At the age of 6 or 7, I found a book in my father's library of these miniatures, and every night after dinner, I wanted to look at it."  These miniatures in turn influenced his process.  He never used pencil or pen; instead, he painted with gouache using a tiny brush, sometimes with a single hair.  Equally impressive was his work ethic.  He worked right up until a few weeks before his death at the age of 97.  In one interview from 2 years before, when he was 95, he stated, "If I don't keep working, I would be bored to death."

Getting back to Estée Lauder, I seriously love these compacts.  From what I can tell in photos, the illustrations transferred nicely to a compact format (except I'm not crazy about the rhinestones...while I love me some bling I don't think they added anything to the design.)  Like Elgin's zodiac compacts, I feel a compulsive urge to collect them all!  I also think "warrior glam" could be the latest fashion trend. Let's try to make it a thing, shall we?

What are your thoughts on Erté's work and the Estée collab? 

1 There has been so much written about Erté I couldn't possibly fit it all into this post.  For further reading and eye candy check out the huge selection as Amazon.


Cute and creepy packaging finds, round 2

Today's post highlights two recent collections that once again show the enormous range in makeup packaging design.  As I did last time, I'll start with the cute.  

Both Adrienne at The Sunday Girl and Karen at Makeup and Beauty Blog reviewed these Clinique travel bags that are currently being sold exclusively at duty-free stores, so that means I will not be getting my greedy little paws on them (which sucks as I really need two of them for the fall exhibition.)  Each bag is not only adorably illustrated with motifs of a given city - New York, Paris, Hong Kong, and London - but are also filled with the best-selling products from each city.  That's a pretty genius concept and one that also yields a truly useful makeup set.  I so rarely buy sets or even palettes because I know I won't use everything in them, but when a company offers its top-selling products in a variety of colorways in amazingly cute packaging, it's a home run.  I'd use every product in these bags (well, maybe not the Chubby Sticks as I have...issues with their name) and of course the bags are purchase-worthy on their own given the illustrations.

Clinique travel box - New York

Clinique travel box - Hong Kong

Clinique travel box - London

Clinique travel box - Paris(images from

I doubt Clinique hired an outside artist to create the illustrations, but whoever made them did a fantastic job.  I could also see these working on stationery - wouldn't they make great wrapping paper? 

Now on to some creepy (to me, anyway) packaging.  Chic Profile posted this Estée Lauder gift with purchase for edgy store Opening Ceremony.  You know I love quirky, weird fashion and makeup and I actually enjoy browsing Opening Ceremony on occasion, but this was decidedly off-putting to me.  Not to mention the fact that you'd have to spend $500 to get the gift.  Then again, given Opening Ceremony's inventory that wouldn't be difficult to do.

Estée Lauder Opening Ceremony gift with purchase(image from

Something about those disembodied hands grasping each other into infinity just creeps me out.  Sort of reminds me of a more fashion-forward version of a horror movie where zombie hands rise up from graves grabbing at the living.  A rather ugly shade of orange is used for the flesh of the arms, making them look burned, while the nails are blue, further heightening the dead hand effect.  I love blue nail polish but here I think it looks corpse-like given the overall design.  I mean I realize the blue is the same shade as the background, but they should have chosen a different color scheme.  I still don't like the pattern in black and white, but it's not as bad.  It's also worth pointing out that the disembodied hand is par for the course for Opening Ceremony, so it's not completely out of left field.  It was even the star motif for their fall 2014 collection, inspired by Belgian folklore. I guess I just don't like it in any context.  I especially don't like it in these colors, and I don't think it's a suitable print for a makeup tie-in.

Thoughts on these pieces from Clinique and Estée?  Are they as disparate as they seem to me?

Couture Monday: Courrèges for Estée Lauder

I'm still on the fence as to whether to purchase any pieces from the collaboration between Estée Lauder and fashion designer André Courrèges, but in the meantime I thought I'd at least take a look at the collection, as the packaging represents a significant departure from the usual.  I also don't know why Estée Lauder chose to release this collection now (I'm not aware of any Courrèges milestone) but the press release explains some of the intent behind the collection.

"Cosmonauts, satellites, missiles to the moon. Unprecedented advancement and achievement underwrote the inaugural period of intergalactic exploration that came to be known as the Space Age of the early-1960s. When a culture of futurism subsequently consumed the era, there were two names firmly in the vanguard: Estée Lauder and André Courrèges. She, a beauty industry innovator whose 'every woman can be beautiful' mantra was ahead of its time; he, a fashion force whose avant-garde aesthetic broke all the style rules by injecting an air of playfulness, movement, and egalitarianism into every one of his haute couture collections. Visionaries both, their brands have now joined together to pioneer a new interpretation of color. Introducing Courrèges Estée Lauder Collection: a limited edition collection of zero-gravity shades that draws on a shared point of view on color, beauty and the resolution to never stop moving forward.

Courrèges Estée Lauder Collection is a 13-piece limited edition line that marries the floating-on-air feeling of an embellished Courrèges mini dress, and the punched-up precision of Estée Lauder’s progressive product design, seen through the Courrèges lens. The formulations were designed to be surprising in their lightness, in their sensorial delivery, their translucency, reflectivity, and in their pop-y palette. They are an invitation to have fun with color, texture and special effects while defying the confines of nostalgia by creating a look that is wholly of today."

André Courrèges (b. 1923), along with Paco Rabanne and Pierre Cardin, defined the concept of "space age" couture.  Inspired by the notion of space exploration, in the early '60s Courrèges put himself on the fashion map with a collection of futuristic garments featuring streamlined yet avant-garde silhouettes.  Using a lunar palette primarily consisting of white and silver with touches of bold pink, orange and green, Courrèges was said to "build" his pieces rather than merely design them.  His vision demonstrated a new way of thinking about fit, execution and materials.  (This is the nutshell description of his work - for more eloquent, thorough analyses, check out the articles at Fashion Lifestyle Magazine, House of Retro and Fashion Bank.)

André Courreges early '60s collection

André Courrèges, early 60s fashion

André Courrèges "space age" collection
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The packaging for the Estée Lauder Courrèges collection is immediately eye-catching, but upon closer inspection you can see just how thoroughly it also captures Courrèges' aesthetic.  Take, for example, the silver ball used to house a lip and cheek product.

Estée Lauder Courrèges silver ball packaging
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Courrèges, 1967
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Or the round container for clear lip balm, reminiscent of this dress with circles and see-through paneling around the waist.

Estée Lauder Courrèges lip balm
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Courrèges dress, 1968
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The collection would not have been complete without a highlighter of some kind.  In addition to extensive use of silver and plastic, Courrèges utilized a variety of other materials to ensure that his clothes had an other-worldly, highly reflective sheen.  "I want to let the light into my clothes," he explained.

Estée Lauder Courrèges highlighter
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André Courrèges collection
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Courrèges dress, 1967
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 Even the colors in the Estée Lauder collection are similar to the ones Courrèges used, like this pale green:

Courrèges dress, 1967
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Estée Lauder Courrèges green eye shadow
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Bright tangerine:

Courrèges dresses, 1967
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Estée Lauder Courrèges lip balm
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Shiny black:

Courrèges black dress, 1967
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Estée Lauder Courrèges black eye shadow
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And, of course, the ever present silver and white:

Courrèges boots
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Estée Lauder Courrèges silver eye shadow andd white eye liner
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Overall I'm impressed with the collection.  Again, I don't know whether it's museum-worthy, but I do think it was well-designed and a great change of pace for Estée Lauder. 

What do you think of both the collection and Courrèges's fashion?

Holiday sneak peek!

I realized that all the posts I had lined up for this week were about older beauty products, so I figured I'd throw in just one new item.  This beautiful Glittering Stars powder compact from Estée Lauder will be one of the items in the holiday exhibition.  :)

For $55 you get a lot of luxury.  It comes in a gold box (which I failed to take a picture of, oops) and a blue velvet case with accompanying pouch.

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact with box

The pattern is a scattering of stars in varying sizes.  I like that only some have rhinestones in the center.  Even with Swarovski crystals, which many consider to be fancier than generic rhinestones, a design can get really tacky really quick.  Estée Lauder kept the bling to a minimum, letting the star pattern and gold case take the spotlight but still maintaining just the right amount of sparkle.  Along those lines, Estée Lauder was wise to keep the color scheme and star shapes simple as well.  The monochromatic gold case and clear rhinestones instead of multicolored ones, along with the vaguely retro outlines of the stars, prevent the pattern from being something you'd see on a pair of children's pajamas.

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact

As with the Zodiac compacts, I adore the rhinestone clasp.

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact clasp

A shiny gilded puff is the perfect complement to the rest of the compact.

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact puff

And so you know it's a true collector's piece, the company's name and compact release date are inscribed on the side. 

Estée Lauder Glittering Stars compact detail

I've always been interested in collecting Estée Lauder compacts but my money seems to end up elsewhere.  This one, however, was too perfect for the holiday exhibition theme for me to pass up. ;)  Plus, like the compact that resulted from Bobbi Brown's collaboration with jewelry designer Lulu Frost last year, this one is a nice mix of modern elegance and vintage-esque luxury. 

Are you as enthralled with this compact as I am?

Aerin Floral Illuminating Powder

AERIN Cosmetics is the new kid on the high-end makeup block.  Launched last fall by the granddaughter of Estée Lauder, the line features "a unique floral infusion in each product that adds a special touch of luxury to the entire AERIN experience."  For spring, Aerin took her love of flowers to new heights with the Floral Illuminating Powder.  Encased in a square compact that resembles finely woven gold thread, the palette contains a trio of wavy-edged petals with touches of green and yellow billowing out from the flower's center.










Maybe I'm just under the influence of the vaguely Indian patterned dress Aerin is wearing in the promo image for her spring collection, but something about the petals in the palette reminds me a little of Indian textiles - specifically, the ones made for the Western market starting around the 17th century.

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I'm nowhere near knowledgeable enough to go into even a brief history of Indian textiles*, but I did manage to pull together some images that I thought somewhat resembled the floral design on the palette.

The colors and shapes of the flowers on this Kashmir shawl are pretty close.  This one comes from the world-renowned TAPI collection (Textiles & Art of the People of India).

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The outlines on the petals are similar to this fabric (known as kalamkari).

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The somewhat amorphous green shapes on the petals (are they more flowers?  stars?) reminded me of those in this design, found in a book of traditional Indian textile patterns.

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The way the petals overlap slightly and fan out from the rest of the flower look like this gorgeous red palampore (bed cover) from the 18th century.  This one comes from the V & A Museum.


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Lastly, the overall pattern on this piece, with its slightly drooping flowers budding from delicate branches, is also close to the one on the outer case of the AERIN Garden Dusk palette.

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I may be reaching in these comparisons, especially since the "World of Aerin" mentions no Indian inspiration at all, but to my eye the palette's design approximates exported Indian textiles.  In any case, it's at least pretty and will make an excellent addition to the spring exhibition - a very strong start from AERIN.

What do you think?

*If you want to learn more about Indian textiles that were made for the West, some books to check out are Masters of the Cloth:  Indian Textiles Traded to Distant Shores and Chintz:  Indian Textiles from the West

Quick post: Mad Men for Estee Lauder, continued

I was a tad underwhelmed by Estée Lauder's collection in collaboration with the TV hit Mad Men last year.  I had high hopes for the second installment of this collaboration this year.  While it's a bit improved design-wise and includes 3 pieces instead of two, I still feel it's fairly unimaginative.

The collection consists of a lipstick in Pinkadelic, nail polish in Pink Paisley, and blush in Light Show, which comes in an enameled compact that is a "replica of actual designs from Estee Lauder's '60s era collections."

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I think the pattern evokes late '60s psychedelia and I love the retro shape of the nail polish bottle.  However, it's maddening (haha) that nowhere in the advertising campaign does Estée Lauder show the original design.  I can't be the only person who would like to see it, and I'm sure Estée has it in their archives somewhere if this really is a replica.  Since they're not revealing it, I question their claim that the pattern is an authentic vintage Estée print.  Seeing the original would definitely make me want to purchase the compact.  Without it though, this seems to be a weak attempt to make what's possibly a brand new design appear to have a connection to the company's history - it's just smoke and mirrors.

As I said last year, the company could have done more with the Mad Men tie-in.  It's a shame Estée squandered the opportunity. 

What do you think?