A case of the Mondays: MAC Office Hours

Ugh.  Usually makeup ads don't send me into a blind rage, but this particular campaign for MAC's latest collection, entitled Office Hours, has hit a nerve. 

When you create a collection based on the idea of the modern-day working woman but make her appear as an over-the-top '50s secretary whose main job seems to be filing (in between doing her nails), it just doesn't sit well with me.  Why didn't they make her look powerful rather than decking her out in every shade of little-girl pink in the universe?  Plus, MAC has done ads with this this sort of creepy retro feel before (see Shop MAC, Cook MAC).



The makeup mixed in with the office supplies is one of the saddest things I've ever seen.  I don't want my love of beauty conflated with my hatred of administrative work.  And no amount of pink will ever make work utensils appealing.

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These ads remind me of a time when there were very few career options for women.  I think Edward Hopper completed one of the best representations of just how trapped women were professionally.  At least, that's how I've always read Office at Night (1940):

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The New York Times explores this idea but also proposes that the woman is more powerful than initially thought:  "In 'Office at Night' a man in his 30's or 40's sits at a heavy desk in a sparsely furnished room, a voluptuous secretary standing with her hand in a file drawer nearby. Twisted in a provocative if physically strained position — both breasts and buttocks are visible — she could be looking at him. Or maybe she's wondering how her skin-tight dress will allow her to stoop down to pick up the paper dropped on the floor, and if she does, what the outcome will be. A breeze enters an open window and rustles a blind as the man reads a document, apparently oblivious to the situation. Or is he?  Hopper leaves those impressions blurred and the relationship between the man and the woman emotional? Sexual? Or have they, like so many urbanites squashed into cramped quarters, simply become inured to each other?  At the time, the position of executive secretary was a relatively prestigious role for a woman, though inherently subservient. Still, this woman, with her fashionable attire, her makeup and her come-hither pose, could be the one with the power."  I'm not sure I'm buying that, especially if you look at how the arm of the chair and the filing cabinet are pressed right up against her figure - she is nearly physically pinned by the structure of the office, hence why I always read it as working women being trapped in a position of submissiveness and in a state of unfulfilled professional potential back then.

On a more personal level, I have endured way more than my fair share of administrative drudgery in my working life, so seeing anything resembling that special kind of hell while trying to make it seem "fun" makes me want to hit somebody.   Additionally, there's a pretty insulting jab at temps in the collection description:  "She's a glamorous go-getter with nothing temp about her! Full-time, overtime-her makeup, like her day, goes on and on. What she loves: the no-fade staying power of these M∙A∙C Pro Longwear formulas - including new M∙A∙C Pro Longwear Blush."  You know, nobody actually WANTS to temp.  Nobody says to themselves, "Someday I'll be a temp!"  Temping is a last resort for those of us who were unfortunate enough to lose permanent employment.  Temps, by and large, are good workers who just got really unlucky.  At one point, I temped for over a year before finding a permanent position, and it wasn't because I couldn't properly do a job - I just couldn't get a break.  To imply that temps are somehow not as good as other professionals (like the "go-getters") is a real slap in the face.  Plus, is MAC aware that temping is pretty horrible for most people and shouldn't be mentioned, like, ever?  It can be triggering for some of us!

So, to summarize my issues with these ads:

1.  I don't like the implication that working woman = secretary. 

2.  Unless I am getting paid to blog about beauty (at home, where I wouldn't even have to deal with office culture), I have no interest in makeup collections taking on a work theme.  These two spheres - work and my love of cosmetics - should never meet, unless, like I said, I can write about beauty for a living.

To take the edge off, I will now present you with a clip from the classic movie Office Space.  "It's not that I'm lazy, I just don't care."


An illustrious collection for fall: MAC Illustrated

For one of their many limited edition collections for fall 2012, MAC collaborated with three distinct illustrators:  Julie Verhoeven, Nikki Farquharson and François Therboud.  The collection consists mostly of makeup bags, but some palettes were released for Nordstrom's anniversary sale back in July. 

We'll start with Verhoeven.  I picked up the Smokey Eye Kit from the Nordstrom anniversary sale, as Verhoeven was the only illustrator of the three in this collection to have palettes with her work on the it (Farquarson's and Therboud's designs appeared only on makeup bags).


The outer case for the palette is made of a canvas-like material, the same that is used for the collection's makeup bags.


Inside, in case you're curious:


There is also this design, which appeared on the Petite makeup bag.  Alas, I have to watch the Museum's budget (the upcoming NARS Andy Warhol collection is much larger than I thought!) so I did not purchase this.

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UK artist Julie Verhoeven began her career in fashion illustration and gradually moved into graphic design.  She still switches back and forth between the two spheres, providing illustrations of "girls who swing between sweetheart pretty-pretty and angst-ridden and desperate" for articles in magazines such as Dazed and Confused:


And lending her work to fashion houses such as Mulberry (2007) and Versace (2009):




She also put of a few of her signature girls on a limited-edition lip gloss set for Lancome in 2007:


What's most interesting to me about her work is the stylistic shift her depictions of women have undergone.  Illustrations from 2006/2007 are softer and more feminine than her most recent work, which has taken a turn towards stronger lines and have a more abstract feel.  In a 2012 interview, she says,  "My drawings are less pretty and fey now.  More visceral and crude, but fragile and steely in a way.  Just a mush of contradictions."  Compare, for example, this illustration from 2006 with one from 2011:


Force a Smile, Flaunt Magazine, 2011:


It is this more recent style that most resembles the faces seen in the MAC collaboration, as seen in the Winter 2012 issue of Plastic Dreams magazine.



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The thick outlines of the eyes and broad swaths of color are similar to the ones on the palette, while the exaggerated lower eye lashes can be seen on the Petite makeup bag.  I actually prefer this later style, as it appears more forceful and intense than the delicate strokes of Verhoeven's earlier work.

Up next is British illustrator Nikki Farquharson, whose illustration appeared on two makeup bags for MAC (the same pattern for both bags, so I got the smaller one).



According to her bio, "her goal is to combine her love of creating work with time and care on paper with her affection for abstract shapes, colourful patterns and assorted details. Mixed-media artwork is fast becoming the predominant feature in her portfolio - a serendipitous style which she intends to continue and develop."   While I do enjoy the patterns she created for MAC, I'm most struck by the work that uses found images in conjunction with her illustrations. 


Perhaps the best examples of this type of collage are found in the work she's done for magazines and fashion shoots, where the model is placed against one of the very colorful patterns or actually becomes part of the illustration.

Here's one for Polish fashion brand Paradecka, 2009:


And New York-based Missbehave Magazine, also from 2009:


(all images from

If her work looks familiar to Benefit fans, it's because she designed the patterns for the brand's Maggie and Annie collection palettes from 2010.  I knew the illustrations had to have been done by an outside artist!  Why Benefit chose not to disclose that they used Farquharson is beyond me.  Especially since there is a great deal of work involved - each one of her patterns is drawn meticulously by hand.  Anyway, I would have liked to see some of her mixed-media style in the MAC collection bags, but I'm not sure how well it would have translated to nubby canvas. 

Finally, we have Swiss illustrator François Berthoud.


Neat little multi-colored squares on the inside of the box:


The bag itself.  Something I didn't notice at first glance was that the colors are ever so slightly different on each side.



There was also this Petite bag (I got the bigger one because it had more color combinations):

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Here's Berthoud's work in a nutshell:   "Trained at the School for Graphic Design in Lausanne, Berthoud crafted a signature style that uniquely marries new digital techniques with traditional analog methods. The artist’s expressive, aesthetically appealing linocuts, illustrations, and computer graphics complement exquisitely with one another...He says, 'Eroticism is a constant theme, also in advertising. But in comparison to photography, illustrations can offer more room for imagination and interpretation.'"

Let's take a peek at some of his other work. 

The Hen Who Wanted to Be a Rooster, 2009 (for Roger Vivier):


Tiffany ad, 2003:


Panties, (for Dior) 2004:


Like Verhoeven and Farquharson, Berthoud did illustrations for beauty products in addition to fashion. 

Le Vernis Mirobolant, 1999:


Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb fragrance, 2008:


And here a couple more, just because I like them.  :)


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I love that his work is based on photographs but the end result isn't quite photographic.  You can tell that these images are made by hand (using the aforementioned linocut technique) but that they also aren't real photos.

Overall, I thought this was a good collection.  I think Berthoud's work lent itself best to the canvas material.  I felt as though Verhoeven's bold paint strokes became somewhat diluted and Farquharson's precise lines, not as crisp.  While the canvas did prove a bit challenging for an accurate representation of these artists' works, I did appreciate that the outer packaging mimicked it.  My husband was enamored of the thick, textured paper used in the boxes for the bags.


So what do you think?  And which of these three artists is your fave? 

That's not what I heard: Beth Ditto for MAC

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I'm a big Gossip fan, so when I first heard about Beth Ditto collaborating with MAC I could hardly contain my excitment.  However, once the collection arrived I couldn't help but be a little disappointed - there is no special limited edition packaging, and just one product that is only marginally interesting from a design perspective:  the face powder in Powder to the People.




With flash:


I didn't really get the whole polka dot thing until I read the "behind the scenes" interview in which Ditto reports that her beauty icons are Grace Jones and Peggy Moffitt.  Perhaps this picture of Moffitt inspired her?

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While I liked her thoughts on beauty and color ("Makeup offers someone the unique freedom to become someone else for the day, 10 minutes or the rest of their life...I’m passionate about colour. My best friend and I sit and look at Pantone books for fun"), I was still slightly taken aback by the choice of polka dots for the promo image and the powder.  Beth Ditto, to me, is incredibly fierce and untameable and awesome, and I don't think polka dots capture these qualities.  She's such a badass, and then...clownish dots.  There just seems to be a disconnect there.  Then again, I don't know her at all - I only have my own perception of her as a really cool singer, so this might embody her personality better than I think.  Also, the collection doesn't have to represent her, necessarily, just her beauty inspiration.  Still, I maintain that overall this collection is uninteresting design-wise, and it's disappointing given the amazing person MAC worked with - so much more could have been done, I think.

What are your thoughts?  And do you like Gossip and Beth Ditto?  Actually, don't answer that unless your answer is yes.  ;)

Hey, Sailor (Babo)

For the fourth post at the Makeup Museum's On the Water week, I'm bringing you MAC's Hey Sailor collection which was released today (but appeared online last week, so that's how I got my stuff already).  The theme is pretty much identical to that of MAC's 2008 Naughty Nauticals collection:  sexy, vintage pin-up girl-inspired sailor chicks.  But this time around the collection is larger and features limited-edition packaging.

Museum Advisory Committee member Sailor Babo was so, so, SO excited for Hey Sailor and I was too. From the time we saw the first ad... when we got a mailer with the pretty sailor lady...


...we had been eagerly anticipating the release.  It's finally here and I'm loving the navy and white striped packaging just as much as I did when I first laid eyes on it.


I got the highlighter, which has the same stripe design in pastel shades embossed on the powder:




With flash:


I also got eye shadow in Jaunty because the name reminded me of Sailor Babo's oh so jaunty little hat:


Lipsticks in Red Racer (love the contrast of the red against the blue and white of the case) and To Catch a Sailor:



Riviera Life lip gloss:


And the makeup bag set:



And because I was such a good customer, MAC included 3 temporary tattoos.  Aren't they so cute? I think, honestly, the free tattoos were my favorite part of the whole collection.  They will make awesome Museum memorabilia.


However, I'm not sure I'm getting them back from you-know-who.


And like Babo with the the Museum's first giveaway, Sailor Babo confused the highlighting powder and eye shadow with cookies.  Oh dear.


To see Sailor Babo's full exploration of the collection, you can check out my post at Postcards from Sailor Babo.  :)

So what do you think, both of the packaging and the colors?  Did you buy anything or are you planning to?

MM Smackdown! Breaking the 4th wall: Sephora vs. MAC

Sephora introduced their Prisma Chrome eye shadows a couple months ago, and today MAC's In Extra Dimension collection dropped.  In honor of the fact that the deisgns on both are comparable I decided to have them square off in the ole Makeup Museum ring.


Woohoo!!!  Let's get ready to rrrrrummblllllle!!  *ding ding*

In the first corner we have Sephora's Prisma Chrome eye shadows.  Available in eight shades, these limited-edition shadows feature a wavy pattern that actually dips down in the middle.  Trippy!

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According to the website, "Prisma Chrome brings together the best features of baked, powder, and cream shadows. Its revolutionary effect captures light perfectly, delivering a prismatic effect with an unbelievably smooth and true color finish...Pure pigments deliver the truest color imaginable and a highly polished finish. Its unique mica technology provides intense luminosity and a velvety texture that glides over the skin."  That scrumptious description is a strong start for this underdog brand.

In the other corner we have heavyweight MAC's In Extra Dimension collection, which boasts not just eye shadows (10 of them) but three highlighting powders known as Skinfinishes.  The design also features a wavy pattern like Sephora's but one that ends somewhat awkwardly in a point halfway up the compact. Can the addition of the brand's logo repeating above the wave make up for that flaw?

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Also like Sephora's Prisma Chrome shadows, MAC In Extra Dimension brings a "new liquid-powder formula with prismatic reflections that sculpts, highlights and models the face" to the fore.  So not only the design but the formulas themselves are similar between these two foes.  They are truly neck-and-neck!

But someone has to win.  Ungainly wave aside, does the brute strength of MAC's larger collection and brand recognition have the upper hand?  Or does Sephora's oh-so-tantalizing product description and multi-dimensional center dip clinch the battle?   Tell me in the comments!

Vera Neumann for MAC

MAC-Vera-Neumann-promo(image from a MAC email)

In keeping with the optimistic spirit that pervades the first week of spring, I present to you the Vera Neumann collection for MAC.  "Brilliant butterflies, flashy florals and gorgeously geometric graphics…A colourful collaboration between M·A·C and the artist known worldwide as Vera, who merged fine arts with linens, murals, textiles and silk scarves in her punchy, painted patterns. Now in shades plucked straight from her most lavish prints, M·A·C Vera embraces the luxe, lighter-than-air spirit that delivers the kind of startling, look-at-me statement that defines what it means to be an instant classic."  The colors are definitely Vera-inspired, but what interested me the most were the Pearlmatte Face Powders, which feature the artist's signature ladybug perched on what appears to be the edge of one of her wildly popular scarves.  I picked up Sunday Afternoon:




With flash:


Despite being a pretty big design/art enthusiast, I have to admit I wasn't familiar with Vera Neumann's work.  An artist turned textile designer, Vera's somewhat kitschy, colorful prints were household staples from the 1950s through the '70s.1  (I imagine she was sort of like the Orla Kiely of her time.)

From what I gathered she was best known for scarves:

Vera.neumann.scarves(images from,, and curiouscrowvintage on Etsy)

And a wide range of kitchenwares: from yorkshiregalhomeshop, hotcoolvintage [both on Etsy],, and thamesandbrass on Etsy)

Note:  These aren't necessarily the best images that came up, but I was determined to show authentic, vintage work by Vera rather than the ubiquitous reproductions found nowadays!  Anyway, I think my favorite works by her are these cheerful sun prints she created for the 1964 World's Fair.

VeraSuns(image from

Getting back to the MAC palette, I thought I'd include some examples of the ladybug that accompanied her signature. 

Vera.ladybugs(images from,,,

"A ladybug means good luck in every language," she explained about  her signature motif.  While I think it's great that MAC worked it into some of their collection's pieces, I think they could have done more for the outer packaging given the enormous wealth of prints and patterns to draw from.  Maybe they just couldn't get the licensing to use her prints on the packaging, but I'm doubtful given how many companies have churned out Vera collections.  In any case, this powder is quite charming and will make a nice piece for a spring exhibition. 

What do you think, both of Vera's work and the MAC collection?

1For a great summary of her work and life, check out this post.  And if you're really into Vera, buy this book.

Quick post: Marcel Wanders for MAC, part 2

You may remember in December 2010 MAC teamed up with Dutch designer Marcel Wanders (you can read my thoughts and a funny story on it here) and it looks like they've collaborated again.  I find it a little odd given that there are so many designers MAC hasn't worked with before - why revisit Wanders?

(images from and

I was very intrigued until I saw the product photos.  These are the same designs that appeared on the 2010 collection except rendered in shiny silver rather than glossy black.  Not too exciting.  The collector in me says to buy a few pieces to have on hand, but the rational part of me says that it's the same thing in a different color and that I don't need it for the Museum.  I think (for once) the practical side is winning out - I don't think I'll be buying these. 

What do you think?

Chen Man for MAC

In honor of International Women's Day I'm looking at the collaboration between MAC and cutting-edge Chinese photographer Chen Man.  Based on the dual themes of love and water, the collection features bright pink and blue/aqua hues.

According to The Daily Glow, the Chinese symbol for love appears in Chen Man's calligraphy on the outer packaging, while the "swirls of color in the eye shadow duos represent the opposing forces of yin and yang, reflecting the Buddhist references that are often found in Man's work."  Additionally, in a video MAC produced for the collection, Chen Man asserts that water "is the beginning of the earth...just one drop represents life."  She goes on to say that "water gives birth to love".

(images from

Chen Man was born in 1980 in Beijing and studied graphic design and photography at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. What's equally impressive as her skill behind the camera is her mastery of the post-production process - she regularly uses 3-D rendering and other techniques to attain the unique vision she has for her photos. You can read more about her in this Vogue article from February 2012:

Beauty photo finish

Let's take a peek at some of her other work.  Chen Man got her start by shooting the very avant-garde covers for Chinese lifestyle magazine Vision from 2003-2007.   For me, these were shocking (and I've seen many magazine beauty spreads) and at first I couldn't tell whether I liked them.  Then I started noticing the many tiny details and use of color, and decided that Chen Man is indeed quite talented.


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Chen man sequins
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For the Chinese New Year Chen Man shot the spring covers for UK magazine I-D, celebrating the diversity of Chinese beauty"
(image from the

While Chen Man is known for her boundary-pushing images, she is just as adept at producing simpler, more traditionally "pretty" looks.



(images from

After seeing some of her other photos I wish the MAC collection had been a little more fearless.  I guess to appeal to a mass audience they couldn't go quite as avant-garde, but it would have been interesting if Chen Man had done something more along the lines of her Vision covers.  I also think the packaging could have been more interesting - while the outer boxes had some design to them, the makeup items themselves could have been more flamboyant and artsy. 

What do you think of Chen Man's work and the MAC collaboration?

A woman's work is never done: Shop MAC/Cook MAC

This is one of the strangest collections from MAC yet and I'm still not quite sure what to make of the concept behind it.  Won't you join me for a little musing?

Shop MAC/Cook MAC is a small-ish collection - not as large as previous February collections (see Hello Kitty, Barbie, Fafi), and features bright spring colors packaged in girly hues with some gingham thrown in.

Shop mac

Cook mac
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My first thought when I saw the promo image and the collection title was "WTF is this, Stepford Wives on acid?"

Main promo(image from

All I could think about was the grocery store scene in The Stepford Wives, especially after seeing this image from the invitations to the private promotional events at MAC stores.

Shop aisles(image from

Stills from The Stepford Wives (2004):

The-stepford-wives(image from

Stepfordwives shop
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It gets even weirder - apparently at the promotional events they had Shop MAC/Cook MAC rubber gloves, emblazoned with the words "Domestic Goddess!" (with a rhinestone serving as the exclamation point), along with cleaning sponges, as giveaways to the lucky invitees.  There was also a tote bag.

MAC's description didn't help me much in wrapping my head around the theme.  "Shop 'til you drop with a tongue-in-cheek collection that elevates the everyday into the extraordinary...Gourmet glamour is here. Look delicious while you whip it up! Our recipe for kitchen kouture is here in savoury shades for Eyes and Lips. Dishy Nail Lacquers, too. Bon appétit!"  Okay, yes, tongue-in-cheek for sure, but I'm still confused.  Why make the main promo image so creepy? MAC's ads are usually pretty avant-garde, and I get the idea that this was meant to be kitschy and fun, not actually a veiled insinuation that women should go back in time and stick to domestic chores while being dressed to the nines.   But having a bunch of spaced-out, unsmiling women taking on activities associated with traditional femininity is odd, especially in the current political climate (at least in the U.S.)  As for the giveaways, I think people attending MAC events would have appreciated something besides rubber gloves and sponges (the tote bag is reasonable).  It was a good theme - the idea that we've come so far that we can actually poke a little fun at the way things used to be is encouraging - but it wasn't executed as well as it could have been.  What I'm trying to say, I suppose, is that the main ad and 2 of the giveaway items didn't sit well with me for reasons I still can't clearly articulate...perhaps, because, the fun that the collection intended becomes lost in objects that represent the drudgery that women had to perform daily, as well as the humorless expressions of the models in the ad.  Then again, maybe I am the one who lacks humor.  ;)

What say you?

Couture Monday: Gareth Pugh for MAC

Following in the footsteps of previous fashion collaborations, including Alice + Olivia, Emmanuel Ungaro and Dsquared, this fall MAC teamed up with British designer Gareth Pugh to create a moody but wearable collection.

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Gp mac face
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That particular promo image comes from a strange little video for the collection:


I'd say the packaging design is very much in keeping with Pugh's style - black, geometric, a little sci-fi and futuristic.

Gp for mac
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Here's a close-up of the face powder:

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Let's take a look at some Pugh's work, shall we?  The square with 2 lines criss-crossing it to make triangles appeared in a number of his designs.

Spring 2007:

Pugh spring 2007

Fall 2008:

Pugh fall 2008 dress

Pugh fall 2008
(images from

The motif is so simple but still manages to make a big statement, even when it's on a nail polish rather than enormous, alien-looking shoulder pads.  I wasn't going to buy anything from this collection, but after seeing Pugh's work I think I might.  His earlier creations, like the above images, are definitely more theatrical instead of practical. His more recent work is more wearable but still pretty out there and very unique.  Once again a makeup company has introduced me to a designer I probably never would have discovered otherwise.  :)