No shrinking violet: Erdem for NARS

Flowers get a bad rap for being predictably present in every spring collection, but I can't complain, especially when they're as gorgeous as the ones gracing the packaging for NARS's collaboration with London-based fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu. I must say I haven't seen a beauty collection in a long time that so completely and cohesively represents a designer's work.   I'll get to Erdem's line towards the end of this post so you can see for yourself just how perfectly the NARS collab encapsulates it, but I'm going to start off with the makeup.  I'll relying heavily on interviews with Erdem, since, as usual, I find that the designer/artist's own words explain their vision better than I can (and I'm also lazy).  Let's dive in!

Both the boxes and the palettes themselves are covered in Erdem's signature juxtaposition of bold and delicate blooms.  Specifically, he chose not his favorite flower (anemones) but dahlias and lilies, since "dahlias are fiery, and the lilies can be equated with beauty."

NARS Erdem

Erdem's vision for NARS stemmed partially from his love of exotic flowers, particularly this photo of actress Molly Ringwald taken by Sheila Metzner for Vanity Fair in 1984. "I was thinking about this idea of a strange flower and I wanted to create a range of makeup that had an ethereal and slightly surreal beauty to it."

Molly Ringwald by Sheila Metzner, 1984(image from

Erdem expands on the notion of a "strange flower" in several interviews. A key element was the idea of contradiction - how some flowers can be beautiful but deadly at the same time, and also the harmonization of flowers that bloom in different seasons.  "I find myself looking at nature and seeing [contradiction]. For example: the black dahlia. There’s something about it that makes it beautiful, but at the same time it can be dangerous or poisonous. I find those contradictions in nature quite interesting, so that was my starting point for the name...At first it was kind of a working title when I was trying to gather all my thoughts as to what the collection was going to be, and then as it developed it became [Strange Flowers]. I liked this idea of contrast and tension, and I think a flower [has that]. For example, a rose is a symbol [of] softness and femininity and beauty, but then things like a black dahlia [has] a strangeness for a flower. I was interested in exploring the idea of a flower being quite complex and odd and dangerous and beautiful at the same time—the spectrum of it. The softness of certain colors and the oddness and exoticness of others."  He adds that dividing flowers into the four seasons "helped guide me in terms of thinking about palette, and even thinking literally about certain plants that grow in certain times of the year and figuring out how certain colors could work with each other. Once those parameters were set in my mind I was very interested in exploring odder shades and new shades as well and that’s how all of these range of colors in the collection came about."

NARS Erdem

The packaging for the cases themselves was changed to a pale dusty blue, the same custom shade painted on the walls of the Erdem store in London.  I pictured the blue packaging sitting in my blue Mayfair store and liked that image," he says.

NARS Erdem

My photos don't show it well, but the color is very close to the store walls.

Erdem store(image from

The idea of juxtaposing opposites was fully realized in the color selection for the collection.  There are delicate pinks, such as the pale lavender Love Me Not blush, sitting along side dramatic dark blue and purple eyeshadows.  "The idea of contrast runs through all of my work – the aspect of the feminine juxtaposed with something slightly dark, which is an extension of my aesthetic. The colour palette (of Strange Flowers) combines delicate colours, which may be more associated with the feminine, such as lilacs and blush (seen in the lipsticks and slightly pearlescent blusher), but contrasts them with more unexpected hues like yellow or deep burgundies (find more of these in the eyeshadow palettes, which are highly pigmented with a velvety-matte finish)." Different textures also highlighted Erdem's desire to express the notion of contradiction; the highly pigmented lip powder palette is a stark contrast to the sheer, weightless Carnal Carnation lipstick. "Developing these colors that were so saturated and then playing with sheerness and the idea of transparency and how certain pigments are completely opaque, but if you look at the rose on the lip palette powders, there’s so much pigment in it. Even the highlighting pencil has so much pigment in it, but something like the Carnal Carnation lipstick has that kind of sheerness to it, which is really beautiful.”  In this way Erdem managed to create something for everyone. "I think my woman is a lot of different women, and she’s got a lot of different characters. I’ve worked with Nars for so many years (on my runway shows), and sometimes the makeup looks are very clean and fresh, and sometimes they are bold. It just depends on the mood of the collection."

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

The lip powder is one of the items inspired by one of Erdem's closest family members.  "My earliest memory of makeup came from my mother. She never wore any makeup on her face, but before she would leave the house she would always put on a very specific shade of red lipstick, and then she could face the world. I remember as a 5-year-old creeping towards her bedroom and looking at her lipsticks and lipstick palettes. I remember thinking her lipstick brush was so fascinating. The ritual of it all was so interesting; there’s something incredibly powerful about it. The idea that you can put something on and immediately feel different."

NARS Erdem lip powder palette

NARS Erdem lip powder

The other family-inspired item was the blotting sheet compact, which drew on fond memories of his twin sister and her friends using blotting sheets in high school.  "I loved how the paper felt and smelled - there was something so tactile about it...It was something that was particularly useful in the summer. And actually, in places like Singapore, I think blotting paper is such a practical thing. The idea of providing a matte base without any kind of makeup is really beautiful. It leaves you a lot of space to play with, such as creating a beautiful focus on the lip or eyes. I love the idea of how you can just keep it in your handbag and apply it whenever. It’s a really chic way of touching up your face without the idea of piling on any makeup...There’s something so beautiful about this idea that it wasn’t really makeup, but something you do just do to feel together. Considering this comes out in the spring, it felt like such a practical thing to include. It’s a tool to support everything else."

NARS Erdem blotting sheets

As for the rest of the packaging, it's filled with beautiful details.  I love the print on the inside of the boxes.

NARS Erdem

Even the plastic overlays are brimming with flowers.

NARS Erdem

As for how the collaboration came about, it was the usual fashion/makeup collab path: NARS has been working with Erdem on his runway shows since 2013, so it was a natural fit.  In true NARS style, Erdem was given free reign to come up with the colors and even new products - the lip powder, blotting sheets and highlighter stick are all new for NARS, and they were innovations Erdem enjoyed coming up with.  The process to develop the collection took two years and seemed to be truly a labor of love.  "The Nars aesthetic is forward-thinking; it’s chic, it’s strong. I think François is such an extraordinary visionary. Nars is known for its innovation, and people go back to it again and again, which is a testament to their quality as well. They’re so open-minded to different products. I collaborated on every aspect of it, from working closely with the product developers for the new products to the colors and formulas of the lipsticks. We were allowed to do the campaign imagery from London, and I got to work with my favorite florist and photograph it. It was wonderful...The lip powders are something I’m really proud of, because that was something that didn’t exist in the Nars range. [It was] based on a look that was created for a fashion show that was done years ago. The color is so beautiful and intense. It took a long time, and it was a lot of back-and-forth."

I don't want to spend too much time on Erdem's clothing since I want to focus on the NARS collection, but I think his personal background and aesthetic are essential to fully understand the choices he made for the makeup, so here's a brief bio and a little taste of his work.  Between growing up with a British mother and Turkish father and being raised in Montreal, Erdem was endlessly fascinated by the cultural differences in his family.  This experience was a key influence in his desire to express contrast through his clothing.  According to this article, "Holidays were spent visiting one grandmother in Birmingham and the other in Antakya in Turkey...this enthusiasm for contrast and contradiction now informs his work – the classic dresses with the futuristic prints, the overtly feminine collections with a dark underbelly."  He earned an MA from London's Royal College of Art and launched his own line within a year of graduating.  His frocks are favored by a range of A-list clients (Natalie Portman, Kate Middleton, Michelle Obama), and last fall, he created a capsule collection for H & M, for which, as with the NARS collection, memories of his mother and sister served as inspiration.

Erdem for H & M

As for his devotion to flowers, it's part of a larger interest in the myriad ways in which femininity is represented. "I’ve always been fascinated with femininity and women, even as a child. Maybe it has to do with growing up with someone who is of the opposite sex. I also grew up without any sense of 'that’s for girls, and that’s for boys.' I just had an odd fascination with flowers, and I think it’s partly because of my fascination with the language of femininity. There’s a wonderful power to that. Yes, I am interested in nature and botany, but what a flower implies is more interesting to me." And while we often think of flowers as fragile, Erdem sees feminine strength:  "They're resilient, and they regrow," he says.  This still sounds like an oddly gendered perspective - flowers don't necessary have to be feminine and I'd argue Erdem's clothing is overtly, traditionally girly for the most part - but he does seem to be shifting towards more a gender-bending outlook, at least with the H & M collection.  "I loved the idea of creating a group of clothes for men that could be absorbed by women too. It’s great to think of someone taking the fleece from the men’s collection, and wearing it over the sinuous sequinned slip dress, or a man taking the frilled collar shirt from the women’s line, and wearing it with tailored pieces. I wanted the collection to be very much an open proposal...It was also fascinating to see how flowers worked on men’s clothing.”  I'd argue that if one really wanted genderless clothing, you wouldn't design two separate women's and men's lines, but hey, it's a start.

Erdem for H&M

Erdem for H&M(images from and

Anyway, here's some of Erdem's regular line, starting with the spring 2018 collection.  I can definitely see how he plays with pairing opposites, relishing that push/pull quality that makes his designs unique.  Sometimes it's incredibly bold and vibrant blooms alongside frilly lace details, or a powerful silhouette adorned in smaller, more delicate floral patterns.  I can't say any of these are my taste, but I certainly admire the dichotomy of the various elements. 

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2017

Erdem spring 2016

Erdem spring 2015

Erdem spring 2013

His earlier prints remind me quite a bit of Paul & Joe's, but with a completely different vibe.

Erdem spring 2012

Erdem spring 2010(images from vogue)

As with most designer collabs, looking at the clothing brings the makeup full circle to me.  I bought the NARS collection because it was pretty but had no clue who Erdem was or what he was about.  Even though I had a clearer sense upon reading the interviews with Erdem about the NARS collection, I wanted to see for myself whether the clothing tells a different story than what appeared in the makeup.  I was pleased to see that it was indeed an accurate embodiment of Erdem's aesthetic.  In fact, I'd say this is one of the best designer collaborations I've seen due to how thoroughly the spirit of Erdem was represented. His approach to fashion carried over seamlessly to the makeup, and every single shade and detail seemed meticulously planned to adhere to his vision: a study in contrasts. 

What do you think about this collection and Erdem's designs?









Fly me to the moon: NARS holiday 2016

I'm cramming in one more holiday collection before 2017 arrives!  While still not as impressive (in my opinion) as 2012's Warhol collection, this year's holiday offering from NARS is a considerable improvement over previous years.  Mr. Nars teamed up with French fashion photographer Sarah Moon to create a collection that combines Moon's signature dreamlike style with Nars' edgy color schemes.

Nars, a longtime fan of Moon's, finally got up the nerve to approach her for a collaboration, and gave her free reign to come up with the collection's concept and imagery.  He explains: "I wanted to work with Sarah because I've been one of her biggest fans over the years. I remember when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I [had] already noticed her work in all the French magazines in the '70s. She had already worked and done the imagery for Cacharel, which, in the '70s, was quite big in France. She had created these incredible images, which were actually quite close to what we did for Nars. It was my dream to work with her one day, and when we started doing collaborations for Nars, I was lucky enough to say, 'I want to work with Sarah Moon.' And she agreed. The most exciting thing for me was the fact that I told Sarah she could do anything she wants. I was probably the best client she could ever dream of; I said, 'Do not limit yourself. Give me anything you want. Your requests will be orders, and we will get it done.' She decided everything from the styling — the plastic that was done with Patti Wilson, the stylist — everything was done in London, Patti did the research and had the accessories made. All this part was very fun and the fact that by the end, I knew I was going to get a pure 'Sarah Moon' image. I didn't want her to feel like she couldn’t do this or that, so it was very exciting on that part."

The collection is inspired by the 1927 German sci-fi film Metropolis, which you can see in the futurist, robot-like garments the models are wearing.  Moon was also fascinated by the notion of transparency, hence the clear plastic.

Sarah Moon for NARS

Sarah Moon for NARS

Sarah Moon for NARS

In looking at this still from the film, I can definitely see the influence.

Metropolis film(image from

As for the makeup, Moon wanted something soft but that still made an impact.   "We really collaborated to find this woman that was delicate, yet strong and always very modern,” she said.  In comparing the collection's behind-the-scenes video and more images from Metropolis, you can once again see the resemblance.  The dark eye shadow and lips from the film get a 21st-century update in the NARS campaign.

I have to say just from looking at these stills, Metropolis seems totally bizarre, not to mention terrifying.  I don't think I'll be watching it anytime soon.

Metropolis, 1927

Metropolis, 1927(images from and

I'm a little embarrassed to admit I had never heard of Moon until now, so I'm going to give a brief rundown of her work so we can situate her style within the NARS collection.  Moon's hazy, dreamy images often lead to her being described as an "impressionist" photographer.  They're notable in their own right, but Moon also has the honor of being the first woman to shoot the famous Pirelli calendar, a feat she accomplished in 1972. 

Sarah Moon, Pirelli calendar, 1972

The dark eyeshadow and red lips are similar to those from the Nars collection, no?  Obviously it's been updated - it's less harsh - but it's interesting that Moon maintained her fondness for this particular look for over 40 years.  The nod to Metropolis in the NARS collection is also unsurprising given the artist's infatuation with 1920s style, a passion shared with Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki, for whom Moon photographed campaigns:  "The two women shared a love for silent-era screen stars, like Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo, and they played off those references by setting models’ pale complexions against moody backgrounds."

Some more examples:

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon, Cacharel 1975(image from

Sarah Moon - Elle France, 1977(image from

Sarah Moon, Ling, 2001(image from

As for Moon's overall style, I find it slightly eerie but undeniably pretty. It's not quite surreal, but certainly not of this world; the women in her photos seem to occupy another realm.  The closest thing I can think of is that rare state between wakefulness and sleep, like when you're coming out of a dream and you're not sure whether you're awake or still asleep - that's what these images evoke for me.  I also think the women are portrayed as feminine yet strong, and sensual rather than overtly sexy, which is a rarity in fashion photography.

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon

Sarah Moon

You know I couldn't not include a mermaid, right?

Sarah Moon
(images from,,

In looking at Moon's work, I have to say I'm disappointed that Nars lumped her in with the other photographers he's collaborated with over the years.  "I'm always trying to work with people that have a very strong visual sense of beauty. I think Sarah Moon and [previous collaborator] Steven Klein are so extremely different, but they have the same love and same strong, edgy, sharp sense of fashion and beauty. And they love women, which is so important. They love making [women beautiful], elevating them and really beautifying them. Steven [Klein], Guy Bourdin and myself — because I love making women look beautiful when I take pictures for the campaigns — it's really the same approach. We all do it in different ways, but we all love making women look beautiful."  Right, because nothing demonstrates how much you love and respect women like taking photos of them stuffed into trashcans or insensitively portraying them as abused mental patients.  *eyeroll*  I mean, come on!  There is such a huge difference between Moon's approach to photographing women and Klein/Bourdin.  But at least Nars understands that these collections will bring the work of photographers he admires to a wider audience, which, grudgingly, I fully support.  "Doing these collaborations makes us really promote photography and great talent. It's a platform; we're putting them in focus and in the spotlight and maybe making the public discover someone like Sarah Moon, who, in America, might not be as famous as she is in Europe...I love photographers, so it's very nice that through that, I'm having so much fun creating colors and doing the packaging. And at the same time, it's great for photography and artists. The collaborations won't only be with photographers; we're going to have painters, we're going to have sculptors, who knows. We want to work with different people." 

Final thoughts:  I can appreciate the beauty of Moon's work and I thought both she and Nars absolutely nailed a modern, unique spin on Metropolis, but honestly, it's not my favorite.  The nearsighted among us might slowly be driven crazy while looking at Moon's photos, wondering if we actually have our glasses on/contacts in or if our prescription needs to be stronger.  And the NARS palettes proved immensely difficult to photograph because I could never tell whether my photos are blurry or if it's just Moon's trademark haziness. 

What do you think? 

The French Riviera by way of Greece: Konstantin Kakanias for NARS

Teaming up with an illustrator rather than a photographer was quite a refreshing change of pace for NARS.  For their summer collection the brand collaborated with Greek artist Konstantin Kakanias to create a collection inspired by a weekend getaway to the French Riviera.

Konstantin Kakanias for NARS

Konstantin Kakanias for NARS

Clockwise from top left: NARS Topless, Deep End, Tan Lines and Pool Shark

Clockwise from top left: NARS Topless, Deep End, Tan Lines and Pool Shark eye shadows

NARS blushes in Sexual Content and Liberation

NARS blushes in Sexual Content and Liberation

Aaaaand I just realized I'm missing 2 of the lip covers - there should be 4 total.  How did I space on ordering those?!

NARS Lip Cover in Overheated and Get Dirty

Anyway, Kakanias shared his inspiration in a very short interview which shows him at work creating the illustrations. "I'm very happy Francois Nars gave me this opportunity to have an imaginary weekend, and to create this weekend with these women...I imagine them by the sea, I imagine them by the sunset in the south of France, their reflections on the water, hidden by leaves, having a glamorous yet chic and fun life and really capture the magical beauty."


Let's take a peek at some of Kakanias's other work.  While most of it seems to be for the New York Times Magazine, he's done many other collaborations, including one for Templeton fabrics and illustrating a book by famed perfumer Frédéric Malle

Here are a couple of pieces from Paris fashion week back in the fall of 2013.  While stylistically very different, the subject matter reminds me a little bit of Alber Elbaz's work for Lancôme in that it captures not just the clothes seen at fashion week but the atmosphere - in addition to what's coming down the runway, they depict scenes of the industry's most notable figures mingling and the never-ending attempts by paparazzi to catch them in action.  The two also seem to share a sense of humor about the fashion world, which I always appreciate.

Konstantin Kakanias - Paris fashion week

Konstantin Kakanias - Paris fashion week

Konstantin Kakanias (images from

Kakanias also has experience with interpreting makeup looks, so the NARS collab wasn't unfamiliar territory.  Check out these illustrations of the gold eye shadows seen at the spring 2014 runways.

Konstantin Kakanias - Dior spring 2014 makeup

Konstantin Kakanias - Dries Van Noten spring 2014 makeup

Konstantin Kakanias - Gucci spring 2014 makeup

Konstantin Kakanias - Jason Wu spring 2014 makeup(images from,, and

What I'm most fascinated by though is his depiction of his alter ego, Mrs. Tependris, whom he introduced in 1996 for a New York Times Magazine article. Mrs. Tependris is "a caricature of an art collector and a high society doyenne who Kakanias uses as 'a metaphor for the state of contemporary art and its superficial reception by the public'".  This character even has several books chronicling her adventures. 

Konstantin Kakanias - Mrs. Tependris

Here are parts of her diary from the fall 2013 couture shows in Paris.

Konstantin Kakanias - Mrs. Tependris

Konstantin Kakanias - Mrs. Tependris

Konstantin Kakanias - Mrs. Tependris(images from

Prior to her turn at the 2013 shows, Mrs. Tependris hit the big screen in an animated short film called "Tependris Rising" in 2012, after a 4-year hiatus.  “I love her, but sometimes I get angry with her and swear I’ll never draw her again, then out she comes again,” said Kakanias of the project, which really served as a marketing piece for L.A. label Co's fall 2012 collection.  Mrs. Tependris's absence from the fashion world was explained by her being cryogenically frozen.  She is so impressed with her rejuvenated appearance that she must get back to the runways, post-haste.  I don't know what I love most in this film -  the spider who recognized her during her departure from the cryogenics lab, Kanye's reaction when she announces she's back, the big underwater dance number at the end set to Bowie's "Let's Dance", or her response to the assistant when he asked if she was in the show:  "I'M the show!" she says. 


Mrs. Tependris was, of course, voiced by Kakanias.  The idea of a female alter ego by a male artist also reminds me a little of Marcel Duchamp's Rrose Sélavy...I think it would be great if both she and Mrs. Tependris each had their own dedicated makeup collections. ;)

Getting back to the NARS collab, I admire the way Kakanias adjusted his style ever so slightly to express Nars' vision for his collection.  While his other illustrations are, of course, fashionable, I think he upped the glam factor for Nars.  These women seem just a tad more chic and sophisticated than what he's done previously.  I also like the way he matched the collection's colors on their faces in the boxes for both the eye shadow and lip glosses, i.e. the models are wearing the enclosed shade.  While I still think a collection featuring only Mrs. Tependris would be pretty baller, I'm happy with this.

What do you think of Kakanias's work and the NARS collab?  And do you have an alter ego?

























NARS's new hat

It's just a regular Orgasm blush with a stupid cheap printed plastic's still the same pinky-gold cult favorite as before!

But it's got a new box!  I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it I want it!!!


The clip above is the first thing I thought of as soon as I saw this new, "special edition" of NARS's famous Orgasm blush.  Did it stop me from buying it?  Of course not.  It's the same exact blush, just in a bigger size and with a photo of a chic model in sunglasses.  The photo, mind you, is only printed on the plastic overlay, not on the blush itself. 

Nars Special Edition blush

Nars Special Edition blush

Nars Special Edition blush overlay

Nars Special Edition blush

All of the things I've read about this talk it up as a "collaboration" between Nars and Fabien Baron of Baron & Baron.  Who is that, you ask?  Baron is a hugely successful art director who works with the world's biggest fashion and beauty brands.  The problem is that he has been Nars's own art director for many years - he is responsible for everything from the design of Nars' boutiques to his Makeup Your Mind book to the minimalist black packaging.  Playing this up as some sort of new, special partnership is completely misleading.  Additionally, Baron is also Editorial Director for Interview so, obviously, a close comrade of photographer Steven Klein (ugh) and Baron was the one who helped select the images that went on the Nars/Steven Klein collaboration packaging.  I do find it interesting that in his Instagram feed he chose to post this photo from the December issue of Interview rather than the offensive one that actually ended up on the cover.  But I suppose that given the aforementioned aspects of the brand (I mean, I loved the design of the L.A. boutique), Baron isn't all bad.  As another example, I did find this captivating video that he directed for the debut of NARS Larger Than Life eye liner in 2011. 


Anyway, while this blush wasn't the most innovative thing NARS has done packaging-wise, it's a vast improvement over previous collections.  And I'm looking forward to the holiday 2016 Sarah Moon collaboration - hopefully it will be on par with the Warhol collection.


Friday flop: Steven Klein for NARS

Welp. This is what I get for not thoroughly researching an artist before purchasing things from a makeup collection they worked on.  I was initially excited for Nars' collaboration with fashion photographer Steven Klein, thinking that it would be a significant improvement over 2013's reprehensible Guy Bourdin collection.  The crazy launch party in particular definitely piqued my interest - this guy sounded out there!  And once I saw the images on the Nars collection packaging, I thought, this is great.  Klein's photos immediately grab your attention and stay with you long after you've turned away, and the makeup in some of them is truly dazzling.  They're incredibly strange and some are fairly scary, but I wasn't seeing anything downright offensive - if any of them are disturbing, it's more in a surreal, horror-movie sort of way.  Totally bizarre imagery on the packaging and fantastic new colors?  Sounds like a perfect collab to the Curator.

NARS Steven Klein Despair palette

NARS Steven Klein A Woman's Face set

NARS Steven Klein Tearjerker set

NARS Steven Klein Full Service set

NARS Steven Klein Humoresque set

NARS Steven Klein Dead of Summer palette(images from

There was also the Abnormal Female set, which consists of several lip pencils in a bullet/lipstick hybrid shaped package.  I thought it would make a great display piece, plus I love the idea of lipstick as weapon - it's like a secret, albeit imaginary, way of feeling protected.  I was a little dismayed by Klein's description of the packaging, however: "It's inspired by a lighter I have, which is based on a bullet...I turned it over to François's team and said, 'Do this.' I use bullets and guns in lots of my pictures. And there’s such an interesting parallel between bullets and lipsticks—they have so many similar aspects but are so different. I thought it was interesting—the idea of violence meeting lipstick."  I prefer my interpretation - lipstick bullet as a sort of protective armor rather than a possible glorification of violence - and bought the set regardless.  But Klein's ideas should have tipped me off that something was askew, and I should have started my research way sooner...because in early December this happened. 

Steven-Klein-Interview-Kylie Jenner(image from

I had been reading about the backlash surrounding this photo on the many feminist blogs I follow and was pretty angry.  And as you can imagine, my heart sank when I realized this was the same photographer that Nars had collaborated with.  There are a lot of reasons why this is a truly offensive photo, and others have expressed why more eloquently than I ever could (click here and here for some great responses) so I will leave it at that.  At first I thought, well, maybe this is the first time Klein has done something like this and will apologize for an incredible lapse in judgement.  I mean, that doesn't make it right, but at least he'll acknowledge that he made a big mistake and won't do it again.  (He didn't, of course...and naturally Interview defended the photo and claimed that Klein was referencing British artist Allen Jones. Check out this piece as to why that's a problem in and of itself.) While I bought the Nars items well before the Interview cover was released, I still feel crappy for supporting Klein's work.  If I had just done my due diligence way back in October, I would have known that posing able-bodied models in wheelchairs is nothing new for Klein, and wouldn't have purchased anything. 

Steven-Klein-Vogue-Paris-2007(image from

Plus, if Klein is doing this to make a stir, I can tell you that the shock value goes down considerably if you repeat the same setup.  So it's not even groundbreaking - just a tired old trope that's still insulting any way you slice it.  (As a side note, the first photo in the blog post where I found the image below also depicts a model in a wheelchair, and it was photographed by a designer whose makeup line I like - et tu, Tom Ford?)

Vogue Paris, 2010(image from

I also came across this little gem for another issue of Interview magazine, this time in 2012.  Way to fetishize mental illness!  There is still a huge stigma against people with mental health disorders, and to use their suffering as inspiration for fashion shoots is in such poor taste I can't believe anyone allowed it. Additionally, I wonder if Klein is aware of the haunting histories of certain mental health facilities, some of which abused/neglected patients and gave unscrupulous doctors free reign to torture them by using them as guinea pigs for painful experimental treatments.  Why you'd glamorize those histories is beyond me.

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012

Steven Klein for Interview magazine, 2012(image from

I also don't appreciate Interview's glossed-over description of the theme: "Strict institutional white is the new order this season. Clinically reserved and precisely tailored with maniacal attention to detail. Inspired by the legend of an actress who refused to conform through her descent into madness, Steven Klein conjures an imaginary tale of discipline, betrayal, will, and obsession."  Between this drivel and the wheelchair non-apology, I'm pretty sure I hate this publication even though I've never read a single article.

Getting back to the Nars collection, I can't for the life of me figure out why he went with such a vile photographer for a second time.  Nars told Allure that it was his "pure love and pure admiration for [Klein's] work," adding, "I love his dark side. I love his sophistication. I love his strength. His pictures definitely don’t leave you—they make you react. I love people who have extremely strong imaginations and don’t compromise. And Steven’s photographs are loaded with makeup. And looks. He’s not a photographer who shoots women with nothing on their face."  That's all well and good, but, newsflash, Francois:  you can collaborate with an artist who has a strong imagination and doesn't compromise and makes people react without being insulting, something I can prove in the new year when I unveil another series for the Museum.

This whole thing got me dreading a 2016 holiday collection.  Who's the next asshole photographer Nars is going to team up with next, Terry Richardson?  Unfortunately I think it's a possibility, based on what else Nars had to say to Allure:  “It’ll be for holiday 2016 and it will be with another photographer. Someone alive and really, really famous and iconic. That’s all I can say."  Fingers crossed it's not Richardson.  On the plus side, Nars added, "That will probably be the last photographer for a while, though. Then I want to move on to other artists.”  Hopefully he'll get back to the likes of Warhol.

TL;DR: I feel bad for buying stuff from this collection. To Steven Klein: fuck your ableist bullshit.  To Nars: shame on you for admiring this douchecanoe, let alone putting his images on your products.  It was highly disappointing that for 2 holiday collections Nars went with a photographer who believes that such derogatory imagery is edgy and cool.

What do you think?

Quick post: Advertising déjà vu with NARS

I came across this promo image for new NARS nail polish line and couldn't take my eyes off it.  A variety of beautiful colors languidly streaming downwards...where have I seen this before?

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Aha!  I remember being struck by this ad for German brand Uslu Airlines way back in 2010:


In turn, both of these ads remind me of the work of Morris Louis, whom I discussed in my post on the Uslu Airlines ad.  So I won't rehash it here - I'll just give a quick refresher so you can see for yourself.  The new NARS ad has a similar approach to the 1960 painting Where by Louis, although the latter has slightly more subdued, desaturated shades, and the stripes of color aren't quite nestled right against each other.


The drips at the ends also are reminiscent of this untitled work by Louis:

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There is just something so appealing about seeing beauty products presented in a high-art fashion. Or am I the only one who drools over more artsy ads?  Tell me what you think.

Guy Bourdin and NARS

Um, wow.  I was pretty excited for the latest NARS collaboration with fashion photographer Guy Bourdin...until I actually started looking at his portfolio.  As a feminist I found it troubling, to say the least.  As someone who enjoys art and fashion, I can appreciate how groundbreaking Bourdin was in terms of fashion photography.  And I understand why Francois Nars chose him as inspiration for this collection, as it was Bourdin's work that inspired Nars to become a makeup artist - the way he captured the rich, saturated hues in many of his photos was truly genius. I recognize that the collection isn't meant to glamourize violence against women but rather to celebrate the bold colors in Bourdin's work.


I'd say about half of the Bourdin photos I've seen portray violence against women, and another sizeable portion seem to signify that women are nothing more than blow-up dolls to be used and discarded.  I could even consider overlooking these disturbing images if they were part of a larger body of work that didn't glorify dead/objectified women, but I found nearly all of his photos to be fairly repugnant.  I could also perhaps consider separating the images from Bourdin himself - just because his photos dehumanize women doesn't necessarily mean he is a misogynist.  Unfortunately, that's not the case on that front either.  He was just as anti-woman as you would suspect from his photos.  Maybe it's because I'm from a different generation.  In the '70s these images would have been considered "daring" and "pushing the envelope".  In 2013, using offensive pictures to sell something isn't a novel idea.  The "edginess" of showing a woman stuffed headfirst into a trashcan has long worn off; this image and others like it are solely abhorrent.

In my cursory research on the matter I found that I'm not alone in my dismissal of this collaboration.  These bloggers said it better than I could, so rather than write any more about this I encourage you to read their thoughts on the topic:  Temptalia and InTruBeauty.

What do you think?  Will you be passing on this collection?

Couture Monday: Pierre Hardy for NARS

This was a nice little surprise for spring - a collaboration between high-end French shoe designer Pierre Hardy and NARS.  In my shoe-buying fantasies I'm more of a Louboutin/Prada girl, but I do appreciate the architectural, geometric quality of Hardy's work (more on that later).

The collection consists of 6 nail polish duos and two blushes.  I picked up the duo in Sharks because of the beautiful lemon yellow.  I actually would not have bought it though if it hadn't been for the very clever packaging.


Once I saw that the nail polishes were arranged on opposite ends and that they came with their own tiny dust bag (just like shoes!), I was smitten.



I was too lazy to swatch these but you can find swatches here.

Here are the two blushes in Boys Don't Cry and Rotonde:


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So what's up with the 3D cube pattern?  Simply put, this cube motif has become Hardy's signature in both his fall 2012 and spring 2013 collections.  From the landing page at his website...

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And, of course, shoes:

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I'm still on the fence about the blushes.  On the one hand, I like that NARS didn't go too literal and just put the cube pattern on the blush rather than embossing one of Hardy's actual pieces, like a shoe or a bag on it.  On the other hand, that might have been pretty cool!  The cube pattern is great, but by itself on a blush there's nothing that denotes it as being distinctly Pierre Hardy.

In any case, I was extremely impressed by how the colors in NARS collection so closely aligned with those in Hardy's spring 2013 lineup.  The blush colors are similar to these bags:


The lavender and lemon yellow from the Sharks duo is borrowed from several pairs of shoes, including the ones in the promo image:

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And this low-heeled pump, which to my eye also looks like it contains the tan color from the Easy Walking duo:

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The duo in Venemous takes its cue from the grey and black in another cuff bracelet:

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All in all, a well-done capsule collection.  Did you pick up anything from it?

MM Pre-Holiday/Winter exhibition


You didn't think the NARS/Warhol madness was over at the Makeup Museum, did you?  How silly!  Because this collection is so extraordinary and to tide myself over until I can launch the holiday 2012/winter 2013 exhibition in late December, I'm devoting a small, special pre-holiday exhibition to the NARS Andy Warhol collaboration.  Enjoy!




You can read about all of the objects included in this exhibition here and here

Top shelves, left to right.

Kiss Lip Gloss set:





NARS Andy Warhol poster:




Flowers palettes #1 and #2:





Flowers Palette #3:







Second shelf, left to right.

Beautiful Darling gift set:





Self-Portrait palettes #1 and #2:






Self-Portrait palette #3:







Photobooth gift set:





Here's your 15 minutes: NARS and Andy Warhol, part 2

The Andy Warhol for NARS collection is positively enormous!  Here is part 2, the Silver Factory Holiday collection.  (Click here for part 1 and to read about the background on the collaboration.)

The ad copy: "In a new makeup gifting collection for department and specialty stores, NARS captures the spirit of Warhol’s Silver Factory. The edgy energy of the Screen Tests, the intense color of the silkscreens, and the cool of Warhol’s superstars –underground icons and downtown divas who amazed audiences just by beingthemselves. For Andy the factory characters were like a full spectrum palette – personality as color."

Let's start with the eyeshadow palettes, which feature variations on Warhol's Self-Portrait of 1967.  Like the Flower palettes, each has with a unique quote inscribed on the mirror and a "Get the Look" card. 

Self-Portrait Palette #1:




With flash:



Get the Look card, which shows a close-up of Edie Sedgwick (the Flower palettes used Debbie Harry):



Self-Portrait Palette #2:



With flash:


Get the Look card:



Self-Portrait #3:



With flash:



Get the Look:



Each palette also came with a booklet, with different content than the ones for the Flowers palettes.  (The one shown below is slightly bigger than the ones included with the Self-Portrait palettes - this bigger version is included with the Beautiful Darling and Photobooth gift sets.)









Getting back to the self-portraits, here is one of the original 1967 silkscreens.  Like Warhol's earlier Flowers, the image is based on a photo (this time, taken by Rudolph Burkhardt) and was hung in blocks of 4 or more.

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Much has been written about Warhol's self-portraits, and while I can't cover everything, I can tell you how two themes are identical to those found in Flowers.  1.  As with Flowers, Warhol's Self-Portrait upends an art historical tradition - in this case, that of the brooding, intellectual self-portrait of the artist, while in Flowers it was the still-life - through the use of psychedelic colors and a rather theatrical pose that was not meant to convey the "real" Warhol.  "Warhol has taken this mainstay of the history of art and has resurrected it with the colors and the patterns and even the media of the modern world. By taking a photograph of himself as his subject matter, he has not only carried on the tradition, but has also attacked it, assaulting it with the sheer force of innovation. The screenprint process itself adds a twist, as Warhol has deliberately excluded himself as much as possible from the creation of his likeness. To what extent, then, is this a self-portrait? Warhol is perversely celebrating his connection to the piece while advertising his own detachment from it. Meanwhile, the mad colors, which completely avoid any attempt at realism, and the simple, almost cut-out fields in which they have been applied, work visually on an aesthetic and expressionistic level yet show his irreverence towards the painstaking oils of hallowed forebears such as Rembrandt and Cézanne. This is the ultimate Pop self-portrait, at once iconic and iconoclastic...Here, even his appearance as an intellectual appears almost theatrical. This is a self-conscious pose, echoing Rodin's Le Penseur. Warhol is deliberately casting himself in a new light, presenting himself as some manner of artistic svengali...He is not only editing how he is perceived, but is deliberately playing with his image. There is a strange tension between Warhol presenting himself as the thinker, as the lynchpin of the avant garde, and at the same time self-consciously striking a pose. This pantomime level shows an artist unwilling to take even his own position too seriously.  Rather than present us with the 'true' Andy Warhol, he has instead edited, omitted, posed and colored his image in search of something that he has controlled - his 'good picture'. Ironically it is through this playfulness that we begin to detect the true likeness of the artist himself."(source)

2.  Once again, the notion of death winds its way through Warhol's work, although it's not explicitly depicted.  "Throughout the history of art, the main role that the self-portrait has played is not the celebration of the artist, but a testimony to the artist's achievements. Whenever a self-portrait is created, no one can help but ask which will last longer, the artist or the artwork?... However much an artist believes in the durability of their work, or of the lasting nature of their influence, the reality of death is more apparent in a self-portrait, literally staring them in the face. This makes the dark colors of Self-Portrait and Warhol's pensive look all the more appropriate. It is not so much his fame, or his arrival, that the artist appears to be contemplating, but instead death." (source)

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Next we have the Beautiful Darling Gift Set, which includes Candy Darling nail polish, Femme Fatale eyeshadow duo, and Woman in Revolt lip gloss.  "Candy was the ultimate blonde bombshell. She was Andy’s greatest actress, even though she was a man. She said 'You must always be yourself no matter what the price. It is the highest form of morality.' She thought beauty was a duty and worked harder at it than anyone."  Both the outer box and the silver pouch feature a still from Beautiful Darling, a 2010 documentary on Candy (her life was cut tragically short by cancer at the age of 29).




Born in Long Island as James "Jimmy" Slattery, Candy Darling met Warhol in 1967.  They immediately connected due to their lifelong fascination with Hollywood.  Warhol casted her in several of his films, which used Candy's ultra-glamourous presence and acting ability to their full potential.   Says one biographer, "Blessed with good looks and loads of acting talent, through force of will Candy Darling became the incarnation of the old-school Hollywood stars that both the young boys Jimmy Slattery and Andrew Warhola had adored. Although one of Candy’s most prominent characteristics, besides her beauty, was her sharp wit and comedic skill as an actress, this, unlike so many drag acts, was no send-up of femininity, not even an act, beyond the sense in which each of us, in constructing a persona, puts on an act. This probably accounts for Candy’s enduring mystique and appeal.  The fact of being a male impersonating a woman, a movie star, was audacious (even illegal) in itself, yet Candy’s own behavior, unlike that of so many members of Warhol’s troupe, was not flamboyant, but rather demure and ladylike, ultimately increasing her magnetism."  

Onto another one of Warhol's superstars:  Edie Sedgwick.  According to NARS, "Edie Sedgwick was the sixties It Girl, with the biggest eyes, the shortest skirt and the longest legs. For Edie life was a non-stop performance. Edie and Andy were silverhaired lookalikes. Andy said 'she had more problems than anybody I ever met,' but she was his muse and if Andy were a girl he would have been Edie."  The Edie gift set is packaged in a film canister and includes Film Star lipstick, Edie eye shadow, Carpates eye liner, and a blush duo.  The canister shows a still from her Screen Test of 1965 (Warhol invited many people sit for film portraits but named them Screen Tests).


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Edie met Warhol in 1965, and was only part of his world for a little over a year.  Based on what I've read about her, she seems to have been a lost soul.  There was a family history of mental illness, which she developed herself early in life.  She turned to heavy drug use and ultimately died of an overdose at 28.  If I can play armchair psychologist for a minute, I think she gravitated towards Warhol because she was looking for a way for people to pay attention to her and make her feel special, along with wanting to become a full-blown celebrity.  I also got the feeling she was a huge phony, as she came from significant wealth but pretended to be a struggling actress, yet simultaneously bragged about how much money her family had.  When someone better (in her eyes) came along to fulfill her needs with the promise to make her a star - in this case, Bob Dylan - she abruptly left the Factory and stopped speaking with Warhol.  She never did become a celebrity either through acting or modeling; the highest level of notoriety she achieved was socialite, and an erratic, drug-addicted one at that.  Reading about her life made me feel fairly sad. 

Let's go to something slightly more upbeat!

The biggest (and most expensive) set in the collection is the Silver Factory set.  "Andy listed his occupation as ‘Factory Owner.’ He called his silver-foiled studio ‘The Factory’ because for him art was work, and it took a team to make it. His ‘superstars’ surrounded him there, but he said he was hanging around them."  The set includes the Multiple (highlighter/blush) in Silver Factory, eye shadow trio, lipstick in Chelsea Girls, blush, eye liner, eye shadow brush and blush brush. 


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Ah, The Factory.  How can I explain?  In a nutshell, it was a warehouse-sized space that Warhol used as a studio beginning in 1964, but was also used for some serious partying - a "non-stop freak out, a long burst of sex, drugs, rock and roll, art, and pop culture."   Decorated by Warhol's friend and in-house photographer Billy Name, the Factory was covered entirely in silver paint, fractured mirrors and tin foil, even the elevator.  "Warhol assembled a menagerie of adult film performers, drag queens, socialites, drug addicts, musicians, and free-thinkers that became known as the 'Warhol Superstars' to help him. These 'art-workers' helped him create his paintings, starred in his films, and basically developed the atmosphere for which the Factory became legendary." (source)

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According to one account, the first series of art works Warhol created there were packages for food and other grocery store items.   "The first works created at the Factory were a series of food boxes. Andy was fascinated by the shelves of foodstuffs in supermarkets and the repetitive, machine-like effect they created... He wanted to duplicate the effect but soon discovered that the cardboard surface was not feasible. I located a carpenter in the East Sixties, and Andy hired him out to build plywood boxes that we would then paint and screen, to create the illusion of the real thing... The brand names chosen consisted of two versions of Brillo, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, and Mott's Apple Sauce. We obtained cardboard-box samples of each of these products wither from a grocery store or, in the case of the Brillo box, directly from the manufacturer... We were able to get at least two sides done in a day. A hundred or more were produced in a period of a month. They were literally three-dimensional photographs of the actual products."

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The Factory eventually had three different locations between its inception and 1984, and was constantly buzzing with work on movies, photos, and silkscreens.  As former Velvet Underground member John Cale said, "It wasn't called the Factory for nothing. It was where the assembly line for the silkscreens happened. While one person was making a silkscreen, somebody else would be filming a screen test.  Every day something new."  

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There is far too much to discuss when it comes to the projects and other things that transpired at the Factory over the years, so I'll just say this - I would love to have been a fly on the wall at any given party there!

Rounding out the collection is the Photobooth gift set (which you can still enter to win!).  It includes nail polishes in Back Room (black), Soup Can (tomato red), Chelsea Girls (beige), and Silver Factory (light metallic silver).  The box features Warhol's 1963 shots from a Times Square photobooth. 





He was commissioned to make a silkscreen painting out of these pictures for Detroit art collector Florence Barron.  The original price was $1,600 (roughly $11,000 today).  It fetched $38.4 million at a 2011 Christie's auction.

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Christie's describes the photobooth series, providing some insight as to this image was chosen for the NARS Silver Factory collection and how it relates to the other "superstars" included:  "Warhol’s decision to make his first self-portrait using a photobooth was a genius act that reflected both his admiration for Marcel Duchamp and the latter’s concept of the 'ready-made' work of art, as well as Warhol’s own oft-stated desire to be a machine. The common dime store 'photomat' clearly conformed with Warhol’s desire to create a new mechanical and democratic art for a massconsumer and mass-media obsessed world. The photobooth’s impersonal lens offered a nonprejudicial and artless image of whatever pose or face the sitter wished to present to it. Behind its closed curtain, anybody could be a 'superstar' of their own making. While Warhol’s earlier use of photography had been restricted to the recycling of previously published media images, his discovery of the coin-operated photobooth gave him a means to generate unique images that at the same time had been made by a public machine that everyone had access to.  Warhol was inspired to use the photobooth after being commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar magazine to provide images for an article in the April 1963 issue...The photobooth was the perfect tool for Warhol’s vision: he loved the photostrip’s seriality, its resemblance to filmstrips; he enjoyed the photobooth’s elimination of the photographer, and along with the silkscreen, its ability to remove Warhol’s art yet another step from the human touch. Within the private domain of the booth, one could act out one’s fantasies as though in front of the bathroom mirror; and he reveled in the sleaze factor - the booths in Times Square were especially disreputable places." (emphasis mine)  For more on his photobooth pictures, check out this book published by Robert Miller Gallery.

So that about wraps it up.  I must say, I am now thoroughly exhausted!  If you're still reading, thank you!  I hope you enjoyed learning about Warhol for this collection as much as I did.  And if you're not too tired to answer questions, which is your favorite piece in the Silver Factory collection and who would you want to hang out most with?  Besides Andy himself, of course, my vote goes to Candy Darling - she seems like she would have been a lot of fun.