Couture/Fashion

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 vogue.com) 

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
(image from vogue.com)

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
(image from cnn.com)

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 vogue.com)

Images from Dance Hall: The Rise of Dance Hall Culture by Beth Lesser(images from lostinburanism.tumblr.com and timeline.com)

Joe Lickshot with Prince Jazzbo and his son on Olympic Way, photo by Beth Lesser
(image from caughtbytheriver.net)

Duro Olowu, spring 2020(images from vogue.com)

Francoise Gilot sketchbook
(images from taschen.com)

Francoise Gilot sketchbook(image from nytimes.com)

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 crfashionbook.com)

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?


The Birkin of lipsticks: Rouge Hermès

Rouge Hermès lipsticks

Here's a bit of luxury to start off your week! (Yes, I backdated this post.) Hermès, historic French purveyor of fine leather goods and other accessories since 1837, debuted a lipstick line back in March.  Once I saw the modern color-blocked tubes I knew some of them had to make their way into the Museum's collection, so I picked up a few of the limited-edition ones and one from the permanent line.  I'm not going to spend any time discussing the merits of the Birkin bag vs. the Kelly or anything else related to Hermès fashion and history, as there are any number of resources out there. Instead, I'll talk about the house of Hermès in passing only as it relates to the lipstick.   

I love the canvas pouch and signature orange box each are housed in. The tubes were created by Pierre Hardy, creative director of Hermès jewelry and shoes.

Hermès lipstick

The caps are engraved with the ex-libris emblem chosen by Émile Maurice Hermès for his personal library in 1923. "The top curves inward a bit like a fingerprint, giving it a little softness...an anticipation of the gesture to come," Hardy explains to Wallpaper magazine.

Rouge Hermès lipstick in Rose Inoui

I adore the color combinations and the material is equally impressive.  Though the tubes may resemble some sort of plastic, they are entirely free of it and are also refillable.  The brushed metal on the tubes used for the permanent shades is a nod to Hermes's "perma-brass" fixtures on their bags.  I'll let Wallpaper expand on the design:  "Each lipstick tube is made of 15 different elements by partner workshops in France and Italy. Refillable, they are meant to be kept as precious objects, like jewels.  The modern graphic design of the tubes contrasts with the classic ex-libris on the cap. The top half of the tube is white, or what Hardy calls 'the image of purity and simplicity'. Hardy will play around more freely with the colour blocks of these tubes, finding ‘harmonies’ with each individual shade. For the first edition, an intense purple lipstick comes in a tube with bands of red and cornflower blue, while a coral shade is offset by emerald green. The overall effect is very Memphis Group...Prior to this, Hardy had no experience with beauty products, and neither, really, did Hermès. He says there were advantages in approaching the design with a blank slate. ‘I thought, let’s act as though nothing else existed. I will try to create the quintessence of an object that is feminine, pure, simple. One that is immediately desirable but will stand the test of time, and that can convey the Hermès style: luxury and sobriety.'" 

Rouge Hermès lipsticks

A couple of points here:  first, the very old idea of makeup containers as jewelry or art objects is obviously still going strong in 21st century.  Second, I had to google the Memphis Group (they're a design collective from the '80s, FYI) but the resemblance in terms of color-blocking is striking. 

Memphis Group sofa
(image from designmuseum.org)

Third, the article says that Hardy had not designed makeup before.  This is not exactly true, as he collaborated with NARS on a collection back in 2013.  Do you remember the adorable little shoe duster bags for the nail polish duos?  I'm almost positive this charming design touch was Hardy's idea.

Pierre Hardy x NARS nail polish duo

In addition to makeup as jewelry, Hardy brings up another age-old idea: makeup as art, specifically painting. Regarding the lip pencil and brush he designed for Hermès in addition to the tubes, he remarks, "I studied visual arts, and these materials – brushes, pencils – resemble what we used back then. It is interesting to approach the question of femininity like a painter: what can we offer a woman so she can be an artist of her own beauty?"

Hermès lip pencil and brush
(image from lifestyleasia.com)

Now let's talk about the lipsticks themselves. Jérôme Touron, formerly of Dior and Chanel, was hired as the creative director of Rouge Hermès specifically to oversee the shade selection and textures.  Each of the 24 colors (the number based on the house's address at 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré) is inspired by the roughly 900 leather colors and over 75,000 silk swatches from the company's archives.  While it was difficult to narrow down the initial lineup, Touron enjoyed the "pure freedom" of digging through the archives. "It’s like a carré [square]; there is a profusion, an infinity of possibilities, and at the same time, a frame, that is clear and precise. Make-up works exactly the same way; there is an infinity of options in terms of colours, textures and types of application and at the same time it has to meet a certain function." The matte Orange Boîte, shown below, is a direct reference to Hermès's orange boxes, while Rouge H is from a color released in 1925 that I may have to buy.  As Touron explains, "[Emile] introduced at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris, with a truly pioneering spirit: he was the first to ask his tanners to create an exclusive 'signature' shade for leather. This colour immediately became a signature colour for Hermès because of its unique and singular hue: different (darker) from the Art Deco bright red of the time."

Rouge H. lipstick and bag(images from hermes and therealreal.com)

The lipsticks are allegedly scented with a custom fragrance concocted by the brand's perfumer Christine Nagel with notes of sandalwood, arnica and angelica, but I couldn't detect any scent. (Hopefully I'm not developing COVID.) There are 10 with matte finishes and 14 with satin, representing the various finishes of leathers, Doblis suede for the mattes and calfskin for the satins.  However, Elle magazine reports that the satin texture is inspired by the company's silk scarves, so who knows.

Hermès lipsticks in Orange Boite, Rose Inoui, Violet Insensé, and Corail Fou
Hermès lipsticks in Orange Boite, Rose Inoui, Violet Insensé and Corail Fou

Hermès plans on releasing limited edition shades every 6 months, so I purchased the three fall 2020 colors. I really will try not to buy all three each and every season because it might not be the best use of the Museum's budget, but the color-blocking is just so irresistible (even if we have seen it on lipstick before).  And as a collector there's a compulsion to have them all. 

Hermès limited edition lipsticks, fall 2020

Also, all of the shades of the limited-edition lipsticks are inspired by an 1855 book Touron refers to when creating colors: The Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colours and Their Applications to the Arts by Michel-Eugène Chevreul (that's a mouthful!)

Hermès limited edition lipsticks, fall 2020
Hermès fall 2020 lipsticks in Rose Ombré, Rose Nuit and Rose Pommette

I'm still scratching my head over what exactly Touron does. I thought for sure he was a makeup artist since most lines have a makeup artist involved, but apparently he is a "product developer" according to the Wall Street Journal.  The article reports that the decision not to hire a makeup artist or celebrity face was intentional. "'The idea of one makeup artist giving all the rules was not ours,' says [President and CEO of Hermès Parfums] Agnes de Villers. Touron is a product developer. He used makeup artists to help him test and develop products, but no one is signing a product group or telling anyone how to wear anything. For [artistic director Pierre Alexis] Dumas, that approach infantilizes customers. 'We've always relied on the good sense and intelligence of our clients,' he says. There will be no Hermès 'face of the season' or step-by-step inserts with line drawings. As Dumas puts it: 'Lipstick is not a status symbol, nor a sign of submission to an order, but an affirmation of the self.'"  It's certainly a unique approach and only time will tell whether it pays off.

Jerome Touron(image from buro247.me)

I have to say I wasn't impressed with Touron's reasoning for starting with a lipstick or its meaning. "I think the lipstick is special because it has the ability to reveal personality in a few seconds, in a single gesture, in just one application. Instantly, it reveals the colour of the personality. In a way, it exemplifies our conception of beauty: to reveal, not to transform. Hence the desire to start the Hermès Beauty with a lipstick collection. Also, perhaps because a lipstick concentrates in a very small size, our whole approach to the object, the colour, the material and the gesture in other words, some of the great fundamentals of Hermès."  Eh. I wish he had been honest rather than trying to spin it into something more profound than what it is: good business sense. Nearly all major cosmetic lines start with one product and it's usually lipstick because it's the most profitable makeup item and a good way to test the waters. Lipstick is really a barometer to see how the line is received and whether there's interest in a full collection. As for the "gesture" nonsense it's really just the brand's tagline of "beauty is a gesture", and I also think makeup can absolutely be transformative, even as it's "revealing" one's true colors.  I did, however, enjoy the beautiful boxed set he came up with for the holiday season and his description of the relationship between color and music.  The Piano Box set contains all 24 permanent shades.  "Laid out in a line with their black and white lacquering, the lipsticks looked just like piano keys...for me, colors are like musical notes; they can be combined to create harmonies and resonance. More fundamentally, color, like music, is at the same time a precise system—like a frame, and something free, artistic, and deeply emotional."  That could explain why there are so many music-themed makeup objects!

Rouge Hermes Piano Box for holiday 2020
(image from elle.com)

Anyway, what's especially interesting is that nearly every article claims this is the first time Hermès released lipstick.  That is not true and I have the photos to prove it. A very kind Museum supporter on Instagram sent me images of a previous lipstick by Hermès.  She's not sure exactly when they came out, but according to newspaper articles it debuted in early 2001 in the U.S., selling for $25.  The Wall Street Journal cited earlier reports that artistic director Pierre Alexis Dumas had suggested lipstick back in 2000 but that the company turned out not to be ready for a full line. "'I think I was the one who suggested to my father [Jean-Louis Dumas, the late chairman and creative director of the house] that we should register the name for lipstick.' They didn't do it then—instead just once making a single shade of red lipstick in limited edition. They needed to think it through some more." However, this photo shows a number on the lipstick which implies there were more shades.  Perhaps in Europe, where this online friend of mine is based, offered more colors and in the U.S. we only got one.

Hermès lipstick, ca. 2001

Hermès lipstick, ca. 2001
(images from @amalia.vet)

Hermès lipstick newspaper ad, January 2001

Article by Lisa Anderson, April 2001

In looking at the older lipstick and comparing it to the 2020 version, I must say the new line is far superior design-wise than Hermès's previous attempt at makeup. It makes sense, since Touron, Hardy, Nagel, Dumas, along with Bali Barret, director of Hermès Women, spent 3 years bringing the cosmetics line to fruition. There wasn't nearly as much fanfare or press for the earlier release, which leads me to believe it was more of a quick money grab led primarily by their marketing department without any real thought put into it - one can tell top executives and designers were not too hands-on.  I'm all for minimal style, but the slim, plain packaging reads as very uninspired and not at all distinct from other brands, nor does it really capture Hermès's vision.  This could also be the reason why the line failed within a year - I saw no mention of it after March 2002 - and why nearly all the coverage for the new line omits any reference to their earlier foray into cosmetics. In hindsight, the company may see it as a mistake and prefer that it stays buried in newspaper archives...unfortunately for them, beauty aficionados don't forget!

Anyway, as with other luxury makeup, many people will want to know whether Hermès lipstick is worth shelling out a significant amount of money for. On the surface, $67-$72 is an absurd price for a single lipstick.  But as I noted with Louboutin nail polish, you're not just paying for the product; you're paying for the Hermès name along with all of the thoughtful details outlined above, not to mention that they are more affordable than nearly any other Hermès item (the leather cases for the lipsticks start at $340).  Having said that, there are plenty of other quality lipsticks to choose from if you're not into forking over some 70 bucks for the name or packaging.  Most reviews have indicated that Hermès performs well although not necessarily better than other high-end brands, so splurging on one (or several) because of the luxurious feel makes sense. But I don't believe any of the ingredients or technology in the product by itself warrant the price tag - beeswax, shea butter and mulberry extract are not that special, after all.  Bottom line: if you're wondering whether it's worth it to buy these, yes, but only if you're really into all the luxurious bells and whistles, a collector or if you love the brand. Again, if you just want a lipstick that performs well and don't care about the label, pretty orange boxes and colorful tubes, there are many comparable lipsticks out there.

Rouge Hermes lipsticks

To conclude, I'm really enjoying Rouge Hermès despite the fact that I haven't swatched any of the lipsticks I purchased (although it is very tempting!) You know I admire attention to detail when it comes to makeup packaging and design, and these tick every box.  I also think these tie into the company's aristocratic history but look much more approachable than I was expecting.  I always perceived Hermès as a sort of blue-blood, old-money type brand - I mean, they started as a company that made fancy leather horse saddles and harnesses for people wealthy enough to consider equestrianism a hobby - but the modern and colorful design of the lipsticks proves they may not be as stuffy as I thought.  Still, I'd like to see more adventurous shades and textures, i.e. their Malachite green or a glitter finish. And obviously they need more diversity in their advertising.  I can't say I've seen any, ahem, mature-looking models or anyone resembling a gender besides cis women, so hopefully they'll branch out a bit while still keeping true to the brand's heritage.  A full makeup line is planned to be in place by 2023, so fingers crossed we'll see some other interesting limited edition items...maybe a Birkin-embossed highlighter or one of their scarf patterns printed on the outer cases. ;) 

What do you think of Rouge Hermès?  Would you or have you tried them?


Sneaker pimps: Onitsuka Tiger for Shu Uemura

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

Shu Uemura Onitsuka Tiger collection

The lip colors were definitely my shades. 

Shu Onitsuka Tiger lipstick

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

Shu Onitsuka Tiger palette

Shu Onitsuka Tiger palette

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

Shu Onitsuka Tiger cleansing oil

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

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

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

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

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

Kill Bill - Uma Thurman wearing Onitsuka Tigers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Onitsuka Tiger x Givenchy
(image from givenchy.com)

Onitsuka Tiger x Valentino

Onitsuka Tiger x Valentino
(images from hypebeast.com)

 

 

Willow Smith for Onitsuka Tiger

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

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

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


Fit for a princess: Shiseido x Sirivannavari

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

As you may know, I have a love/hate relationship with Instagram.  On the one hand it's usually the first place I spot new collections so it helps keep me head of the curve; on the other hand, occasionally I see things I want for the Museum and can't acquire.  So when I saw this lovely Thailand-exclusive collection from Shiseido on their feed, I was overcome with sadness since I figured there was no way I could get my hands on it.  Just to exhaust my options I emailed my personal shopper in Japan to see if he had any contacts in Thailand, and lo and behold he put me in touch with someone who was able to get it for me!  I now present the Princess Hanayaka collection, a collaboration with Her Royal Highness Sirivannavari Nariratana, princess of Thailand.  The "Hanayaka" moniker apparently means “the lady with joyfulness and beauty of a princess.”

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari graduated with a major in Fashion & Textile at the Fine and Applied Art department of Chulalongkorn University in her native Thailand, then earned her MA at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale De La Couture Parisienne.  She launched her own clothing line in 2005, which quickly became a favorite among Thai's elite and includes ready-to-wear, couture and accessories.  A makeup collaboration was the next logical step.  While the likes of Vogue and Glamour think otherwise, I have to say I personally think the fashion line is little more than a pet project for Sirivannavari. However, I admit the packaging for the Shiseido collaboration is beautiful, and given that it took two years to come to fruition, I believe the princess put some serious effort into it.

I purchased the full collection, which came in a gorgeous printed box.

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

The inside was lined in velvet with compartments for each of the 4 pieces.  I felt so special and fancy opening it, it's the kind of thing I imagine other beauty bloggers get as a PR item.

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

The color story of the makeup itself was driven by a desire for versatility to accommodate, you know, all your princess needs. I'm kidding, of course - it does sound like Sirivannavari tried to ensure the collection would have something for everyone, and in looking at the makeup there's a nice range of textures and shades.  “For this collection, my intention is to create the beauty products that are compact, easy and convenient to apply. The colors in the palette must be beautiful and highly flexible for various combinations of mix and match for different occasions, from daytime natural look to nighttime glamour. One palette can be applied for eyes, cheeks, and lips makeup while the texture of the cosmetics must make it easy for different color combinations. I chose all the color schemes and different shades for this collection myself based on what color combinations I think will best bring out women’s beauty," Sirivannavari explains. This vision, she adds, aligns perfectly with Shiseido's.  "[I've] always wanted to create beauty products that can fully answer the needs of women in Asia. This is also what Shiseido wants as a premium makeup brand that understands the needs of Asian women well. That’s how our collaboration started. I’m delighted that we both share the same intentions, which is to create what will enable the beauty of women in Asia to glow from inside and out naturally.”  Once she had the color story down, she used them as reference point for the packaging.  "I then used [the] colors to work with the graphics and drawings inspired by previous Sirivannavari collections to design the packaging. The drawings of rice ears, bees, and lovebirds are used as the main designs. When combined with a Japanese touch, the lines and feels become perfect for the packaging designs of this collection." 

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

The main motifs on the packaging were borrowed from several recent collections and combined to form some truly beautiful prints.  Here are some closeup shots of the shopping bag and lip collection box so you can see the details a little better.  I found the outer cases of the palettes very hard to photograph, so I think the bag and box work better in terms of getting a good look at the designs. The embroidered wheat sheaves and bees on the palettes were key elements in the spring/summer 2015 collection.  Sirivannavari used her study of Napoleon-era uniforms as the jumping off point for the collection.  "This latest collection began with the review of my dissertation I did at the Ecole De La Chambre Syndicale De La Couture Parisienne, which was about the Napoleonic uniforms. As I was looking at my works, I had the idea to turn the sketches to reality with a modern touch and add some Neoclassic and Roman details into the collection. For example, there is embroidery of motifs such as the ear of rice, bee, olive wreath, leopard and stars. Traditionally, these symbols signify all great meanings."

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari spring 2015 embroidery

Sirivannavari spring 2015 wheat embroidery

The origami-esque birds also figured prominently in the spring 2015 collection.

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari spring 2015 scarf

Sirivannavari spring 2015

The vibrant floral prints found throughout the packaging are best exemplified by the spring 2016 collection, which was inspired by the gardens of Versailles as well as the work of Monet and Renoir.

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari spring 2016

Sirivannavari spring 2016

Sirivannavari spring 2016

Finally, the constellations and star patterns, which are the highlight of the eyeshadow palette, come from the spring 2017 collection.

Sirivannavari x Shiseido

Sirivannavari spring 2017 scarf
(images from @sirivannavari_shop)

In looking at Sirivannavari's other work (which was relatively hard to find given that the website still appears to be under construction) I don't think she's particularly groundbreaking as a designer, and if she wasn't a young, attractive member of a royal family I doubt she'd make it very far in the cutthroat world of fashion.  Not to mention that she doesn't have to worry financially if her line fails or if she doesn't feel like working on it, which explains why she took a few breaks since she established it over a decade ago.  Having said all that, I think she did an admirable job with the Shiseido collaboration.  The various prints and motifs she uses in her fashion pieces translated well to makeup packaging and were a good fit for the Shiseido brand.  Additionally, I think it was a wise choice to mainly use her signature delicate yet colorful floral prints instead of, say, the darker themes that dominated her spring 2014 collection. The fact that the Shiseido lineup was so exclusive is also very appealing to collectors like me, although it would have been nice to see it around the globe so that everyone could purchase it if they wanted.  Then again, I'm not surprised a collection designed by a princess with seemingly little understanding of how regular people live would be accessible only to a few.  I guess you could say I'm a bit conflicted with this one.

What do you think about this collection?  What's your favorite print or item?


Oodles of doodles: Burberry spring/summer 2018

While I'm not Burberry's biggest fan at the moment, I did want to share their spring/summer 2018 blush (leftover inventory of which I'm hoping doesn't go up in flames).  As with previous releases the design is a makeup version of one of Burberry's seasonal pieces.  In this case, the blush borrows one of the patterns from the Doodle collection, an illustration-based lineup created by British artist/director Danny Sangra.  I like that they chose the artist collaboration from their spring collection rather than blindly using an in-house design.  Lovely though they can be, using the work of an outside artist is a nice change of pace. 

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush

Burberry Doodle blush detail

Burberry Doodle blush detail

The particular "doodle" on the palette appeared on this trench coat and sweatshirt.  It may have been on other pieces but I didn't spot any.

Burberry Doodle trench coat
(image from bergdorfgoodman)

Burberry Doodle sweatshirt
(image from farfetch.com)

As usual, I felt the need to show the exact part of the pattern used.  I believe the eye on the right was moved down from where it was in the original pattern so as to fill some blank space.  It's an incredibly strange design that looks almost surreal or psychedelic to my eye.  Between the hand that appears to have a pinky finger with teeth, the square made up of tiny x's, the arrow shapes and the words "oh" and "England", there's some weird stuff going on here.  However, that's par for the course with this artist.

Burberry Doodle palette detail

So as not to leave you in the dark about the style of the artist who created this very odd pattern, let's take a peek at Danny Sangra's illustrations and his collaboration with Burberry.  I have to give them credit for seeking out a young, fresh artist who was able to infuse this venerable brand with a little cheekiness.  Sangra, who studied graphic design at London's prestigious Central St. Martin's, has been drawing approximately since he was 8 years old, when he took a tumble off a chair at his mother's hair salon.  "I was a little shaken so to calm me down, my mum’s assistant got me to draw some cartoons. That is literally the day I started to draw with enthusiasm," he says.  Most of his images consist of vintage magazine pages covered in offbeat phrases and words - sometimes surreal, sometimes hilarious (or both), but always visually compelling.  They remind me a little of drawing in your junior high textbook or passing funny notes during class; there's something a bit juvenile about marking up these images that makes me giggle.

Danny Sangra

Danny Sangra

I cracked up at this one, since it reminded me of the time I left a magazine out on the kitchen counter only to come home and find that my husband had blacked out the cover girl's teeth and gave her a mustache.  I can't for the life of me remember who it was (maybe Katy Perry), but it was just one of those moments that made me hysterical laughing.  Nothing like coming home from work and being unexpectedly confronted with a graffitied magazine.  (I asked him why he did it and he said he was just bored and thought it would be funny.  Fair enough.)

Danny Sangra

Scribbling random words and images in fashion magazines may have gotten Sangra in trouble with his parents when he was a kid, but proved to be worthwhile long-term:  in the summer of 2017, his "doodles" caught the attention of Burberry, who gave Sangra free reign to re-imagine some of their campaign images from their archives with his signature humorous style in a project called "Now Then".  Phrases are scattered across the photos in an almost stream-of-consciousness manner, infused with British silliness that doesn't fall into stereotypical traps.  He explains, "I tend to play with colloquialisms, surreal thoughts and kitchen sink-esque observations...it feels like a very British commentary.  [T]ypically, I write things that need to be deciphered. However, for the Burberry project, from the beginning it was meant to be very British – but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just 'Big Ben’ and ’London Bus' British! I was born in Yorkshire, but have lived in London almost half my life; I wanted a lot of colloquialisms which I knew would bring a humour to the project." 

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Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 12.54.02 PM

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Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 12.54.49 PM

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This one was my favorite.  "I'll put the kettle on." 

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 12.55.12 PM

The advertising project led to more work with Burberry - an augmented reality app*, a Snapchat takeover, and of course, Sangra's work appearing on Burberry's clothing and accessories. The color schemes for both the app and fashion items were coordinated due to, ironically, Sangra's colorblindness.  "I've always been very specific about colour – because I have to be!...For the bag collection, it was actually dictated by the Augmented Reality project I did previously with Burberry. Because I was painting in Virtual Reality, and the colour had to pop against whatever real-life situation people chose to use the app, I went for primary colours. Then, when it came to designing the bags, we felt it would be good to keep the world cohesive, which is why I made the bags bright unlike the archive illustration pieces."  Sangra kept the primary colors as well as Burberry's traditional brown check pattern, but also added a healthy dose of vibrant shades.

Burberry Doodle tote bags

Burberry Doodle tote bag
(image from juice.com.sg)

Burberry Doodle wallet
(image from tradesy)

Some of the clothing even bordered on neon.  (And I swear the pink on this dress is the same shade as the blush palette.)

Burberry Doodle dress

Burberry Doodle sweatshirt
(image from nordstrom)

Sangra also did live illustration at several Burberry flagships across the globe, decorating customers' bags as well as the store windows.  “It's always an entertaining way to connect with the people passing by...Kinda like if the store was talking to you. That seems an over the top way of describing what I'm doing -- essentially it's Burberry letting a tall bloke paint random things on their windows,” he says.  This sort of hands-on artist involvement with a brand isn't new - see OB for Shu Uemura and Donald Robertson - but Sangra brought his unique brand of irreverence and wit to the concept.  Unsurprisingly, he didn't want the run-of-the-mill "pretty" window displays:  "I knew I would write “How do you say roast beef Yorkshire pudding” in the Tokyo store window, but I didn't know I was going to lay down and pretend I was asleep! I've kept every window on the tour 'internationally local' – but once I'm in the window, who knows! I've been getting away with more and more as this tour progresses. I want people on the street to stop and take it in. I don't just want some pretty windows."  

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As to be expected, Sangra also had a field day with customizing the bags at these events. 

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

It was a fruitful collaboration to be sure, but the key to its success was Burberry giving more or less carte blanche for Sangra to do as he pleased, which is quite refreshing in the land of artist collaborations.  He explains, "[W]hat surprised me was how much freedom they have given me. Usually, with companies of that size, there's tons of restrictions – but Christopher [Bailey] and the team have just let me get on with what I do. Obviously, I reacted to the fact it's an illustrious British brand that is so ingrained in the culture. Whatever I did, it had to feel honest."  Sangra clearly enjoyed this freedom, even poking gentle fun at the Burberry brand.

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

Danny Sangra for Burberry

What I like most about Sangra is obviously his sense of humor; the fact that he doesn't take himself or art in general all that seriously makes his work easily accessible.  His approach:  "I think you need humour across the board in general. Humour allows for more interaction. It seeks to unify rather than segregate (most of the time). I have a difficult time when I see people taking art too seriously. Art shouldn't be elitist, it should inspire. Humour is just another tool to create a response. I tend to use humour as a cloaking device...I think the humour [in my work] comes from me not trying to sell the work; I'm just writing whatever is on my mind, from either my own points of view or my characters’ points of view. I don't really try make stuff funny, it's just the way it comes out. There's an awkwardness to the way I present it that adds to it – you either relate to my work or you don’t, I’m not trying to hook you in!"  

Screen Shot 2018-08-01 at 12.56.00 PM

Additionally, Sangra's clever use of text, whether alone or scrawled over magazine images, is the key ingredient in making his work come alive.  While Sangra is also a film director, reading and writing serve as the foundation for his creative process.  "I'm not a heavy reader as I lack the patience, but I'm trying! I find reading gives me the most inspiration...I write more than anything else these days. I constantly write notes. Words, conversations etc. Those tend to ignite a project. I'll hear a phrase and then I'll either think of a film I can make with it or how it could become a series of images."  Jotting down a few phrases on a slip of paper seems overly simple - I can see how some wouldn't consider it "real" art - but keep in mind that the written word is essential to the work of tons of "real" artists (i.e., Basquiat, Barbara Kruger).  The process is slightly more complex than you'd think.  Having said that, I don't believe Sangra's scribbles are incredibly high-brow or overly conceptual pieces (although his in-store antics could certainly serve as performance art), but sometimes it's nice not to be confronted with anything that could be remotely construed as pretentious.  With Sangra, what you see is what you get; there's no affectation here.

Danny Sangra
(images from instagram unless otherwise noted)

Getting back to the Burberry palette, I'm so curious to know whether Sangra is aware that one of his illustrations appeared on a makeup item.  While I think it would have been incredibly fun to present him with an empty palette and have him come up with something just for the makeup line, I still appreciate that Burberry used one of his existing designs rather than relying on their usual seasonal collection.  As for the design itself, the fact that it's such an odd jumble of images makes it memorable and takes away the haute couture formality and seriousness that can sometimes plague makeup releases from high-fashion houses.  By choosing possibly the strangest illustration Sangra had created for Burberry, the blush perfectly represents not only his work but also a more playful, casual side of the brand that we don't often see.  I must add, however, that I think it would have been hilarious to have one of the Now Then images on the outer packaging.  ;)

What do you think? 

 

*I had no idea what an AR app was.  Fortunately this article explains it in a nutshell:  "The augmented-reality feature interacts with users’ camera feeds to digitally redecorate their surroundings with Burberry-inspired drawings by the artist Danny Sangra...The new augmented-reality feature allows users to export the images they create, enhanced with graffiti-like doodles, to social media in a Burberry frame."


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 thegloss.ie)

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 10magazine.com)

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 femalemag.sg and mr-mag.com)

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?

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A rose renaissance with D & G

You might remember a time when many roses in makeup were simply not Museum-worthy.  I'm pleased to say that between Smashbox's amazing rose highlighters (the result of a collab with makeup artist Vlada Haggerty) and this stunner from D & G, the rose motif has redeemed itself. 

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

Dolce & Gabbana Rosa Duchessa

The blush is appropriate for the designers' spring 2018 lineup, which can arguably be described as an explosion of roses.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018
(images from us.dolcegabbana.com)

As a matter of fact, D & G has been celebrating their favorite flower rather heavily the past few years.  A few highlights from recent seasons:

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2017

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016

Dolce & Gabbana fall 2015

Dolce & Gabbana fall 2014(images from vogue)

While there seems to be a noticeable uptick in the use of these blooms more recently, they've been blossoming in the D & G line nearly since its inception.  According to this profile, the first instance of the rose motif appeared in the the fall/winter 1989-1990 collection, which was inspired by actress Anna Magnani in the 1955 film The Rose Tattoo.  The collection was modeled in Vogue Italia by Isabella Rossellini.  Alas, I was unable to find a good photo that actually showed one of the pieces featuring a rose, but I hope this dress from the mid-90s will help trace the evolution. 

Dolce & Gabbana '90s rose dress
(image from 1stdibs)

The runway makeup also has a rose-centric tendency of late.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2018 makeup

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016 makeup(image from makeupforlife.net)

Dolce & Gabban fall 2015 makeup(image from vogue)

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2014 makeup
(image from yourfacebeauty.info)

Finally, D & G's makeup itself serves up a rose bouquet.  One of the inspirations behind the beauty line is Stefano's memories of his mother's rose-scented lipstick:  "The rose was everything to the [fall 2015 fashion] collection, not just because it's the flower you give your mother on Mother's Day, but because Stefano's favorite childhood memory of his own mother is the rose scent of her red lipstick. That's why Dolce & Gabbana's lipsticks are uniquely fragranced."  Additionally, the mauve and pale pink tones of the spring 2016 makeup collection took their cue from a rose garden, and later that year a line of cream blushes called Blush of Roses was introduced.

Dolce & Gabbana spring 2016 makeup collection(image from fashionisers.com)

The spring 2018 highlighter, however, is the first time the rose has been visually represented in the makeup.  While I don't think this is the most unique palette - roses in makeup are nothing new, and D & G might have chosen a more interesting motif that reflects their appreciation of Sicilian culture like the carretto or coins as they did in seasons past (and how cool are these fish?!) - I believe design-wise they did a good job.  The rose looks more like a somewhat abstract illustration rather than a literal image of the flower, lending an artful and sophisticated air.  And I can lose myself in the ever so slightly shimmering pink and fuchsia swirls of the powder.  Would I like to have seen the rose embossed rather than a flat representation?  Maybe, but it's gorgeous as is.  I just wish I could find more comprehensive information on the designers' love of roses.  My theory is that the particular character and significance of the rose changes each season to accommodate whatever theme they've created.  For example, the fall 2015 collection was inspired by maternal love and the roses presented as gifts to mothers, while during the previous season, the flower took on a different meaning to fit the Spanish flair of the collection:  "Carnations and roses are the flowers most symbolic of love that were also thrown into the arena to show admiration and love for the toreador in traditional bullfights," explained Gabbana.  I'm not exactly sure what message they were trying to get across with the rose for spring 2018 (other than general theme of love in the case of the clothing and this rather bland description of the makeup collection: "inspired by a springtime garden in Sicily"), but this is one of those instances where I can let it slide due to the beautiful design of the blush.

What do you think of this palette?  Do you like rose-hued makeup?

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It's panda-monium! MAC Nicopanda

This was another one of those "buy first, ask questions later" type of purchases.  As soon as I saw the images I knew this collection belonged in the Museum, even though I had no idea who or what Nicopanda was.  Turns out, Nicopanda is a streetwear line founded by designer Nicola Formichetti in 2011.  I'll talk more about the brand in a bit, but first, let's feast our eyes on the positively adorable packaging.

MAC x Nicopanda

MAC x Nicopanda

MAC x Nicopanda

In keeping with the brand's spirit, I picked up what I thought were the most fun lip colors.

MAC x Nicopanda

Even the boxes are precious.   You know how much I appreciate patterns on both the inside and outside!

MAC x Nicopanda

MAC x Nicopanda

I normally would have gone for a palette rather than face stickers, but these were apparently Formichetti's favorite item in the collection, and when I thought about it a little bit, it occurred to me that they were the most representative of Nicopanda's vibe.

MAC x Nicopanda

MAC x Nicopanda

MAC x Nicopanda

The panda design on the MAC collection, obviously, is a replica of the panda mascot in the Nicopanda clothing line.  Formichetti notes that it was imperative to incorporate the panda motif in a big way - as with the Jeremy Scott collection, custom molds for the packaging were required, and Formichetti sees the final designs "almost like a collectible".  As we'll see shortly, the the Nicopanda symbol holds a lot of meaning for the designer.  "Ultimately, the panda was a big part of this inspiration. I originally created this character to represent something that is a symbol of creativity and diversity. It was very important to bring the panda into the design and creative process. The packaging is clearly inspired by the panda, which is custom made and the first time MAC has launched something like this. It’s visually so exciting, elegant, fun, unisex, and everything we wanted to accomplish."

Nicopanda shirts(images from nicopanda.com)

Now that we've seen a bit of the MAC collection, let's get down to the what, how and why.  The Nicopanda brand began as a pop-up store in 2011. as a side project of Nicola Formichetti and his brother Andrea.  Nicola was working as a stylist to the ever-eccentric Lady Gaga at the time (and became creative director for Diesel a few years later), and due to its overwhelming popularity the line expanded to become a full-time endeavor by 2015.  As for the panda moniker, Formichetti explains:  "My friends used to call me Nico Panda because I’m half Asian, I had this long beard back then; and was a little chubby, so I looked like a bear—an Asian bear. So people started calling me Nico Panda on Twitter, and then once Gaga did that panda makeup, I created this character for the store."

Nicopanda-store(image from elleiconlee.com)

Nicopanda was born out of Formichetti's desire to both explore his Japanese roots and create a unique, light-hearted streetwear line that's also genderless.  "It's our job to provide as many options as possible for people to choose from so they can be whatever and whoever they want to be," he stated.  "We should have unisex garments.1  But, we also have to have more feminine and more masculine clothing because there are times when you'll want dress more masculine, more girly or in between."  As you can see from recent collections, Nicopanda definitely appears to be a pioneer in genderless dressing.  Not only is the clothing intended for all genders, the casting of androgynous models furthers the notion of a future without gender labels.  I have to say I like the concept of readily accessible clothing that's not intended for men or women.  Wouldn't it be fun to go into a store, see an item you like and buy it without worrying it's the "wrong" gender for you?  I mean, if I like a piece of menswear I'll buy it, but there's a great sense of freedom in buying non-gender specific clothing.

Nicopanda fall 2016

Nicopanda 2018

Another way Formichetti is turning the notion of gendered clothing on its head is the use of traditional markers of femininity - pink, ruffles, skirt silhouettes - on ostensibly male models.  The point Formichetti seems to make isn't men embracing their feminine side, but rather wanting to create styles that anyone would feel comfortable wearing if they chose.

Nicopanda spring 2018(images from vogue.com)

Nicopanda 2015(images from voltcafe.com)

Obviously, the topic of genderless clothing is far beyond the scope of this post, but I want to look at how Nicopanda applied the concept to makeup.  In the video below, he stresses that the MAC collection is for everyone:  "I made this collection for everybody - girls, boys, and then everyone in between...I think it's very genderless and freestyle...diversity and inclusivity are part of everything I do and Nicopanda does." 

Indeed, most of the models in the ads defy gender and even race.  Diversity and playing with opposites were central to Formichetti's vision for the MAC collection, since they are also tenets of the Nicopanda brand.  "The inspiration for me was to create something that was new and different and focuses on creativity and diversity all while being playful and fun. That’s kind of the inspiration for everything I do. I wanted to create something that was personal to my brand and something that was special to celebrate my longstanding relationship with MAC.  Together, we desired to develop something fresh, new, and contemporary for this new generation of makeup users. I’m half Asian and half European so it was important to me that this collection delivered a little bit of east and a little west. There’s a touch of street culture and high fashion.  The theme was diversity. To create something that was very feminine but also masculine. For the packaging, we wanted this to show polar opposite colors that worked together just like a panda. I love bringing together opposites - you can even see that in the packaging - contrasting the white and black. Nicopanda brings together high-fashion and streetwear just like this make-up collaboration." 

Nicopanda-models

As for the makeup in the ads, it seems Formichetti's insistence on creativity may not have resonated with everyone.  Many expressed the opinion that the application resembled a toddler's finger paint (you MUST check out Karen's hilarious take on this over at Makeup and Beauty Blog), while some were genuinely confused.

MAC Nicopanda ad

While I personally admire the very avant-garde application, I'm inclined to say that these sorts of looks aren't as wearable as Formichetti intended.  He says that there is something for everyone, and that non-traditional shades are in fact versatile:  "With the actual products, I desired to create something that could go from day to night. Something that was fun and funky for the person who wants to take their makeup to the next level, but something that also works for someone who wears minimal makeup. The mix of colors is so couture.  I wanted to use non-traditional colors that are really popular with my Nicopanda crew - all the colour palettes for lips, eyes, and cheeks are very wearable and absolutely fabulous."  I don't know about you, but I'm definitely not seeing this in the ads or even in the makeup itself.  For the most part the colors skew bright - there's nary a neutral to be found, save, perhaps, for the face powder.  Again, I have no issue with this, as my love for so-called weird colors and non-traditional application knows no bounds, but it seems rather disingenuous to claim the collection is easily wearable when at the same time promoting solely unusual looks.  Traditional application is entirely left out of the official ads; MAC encourages customers to "let out your inner weirdo" and "never stop breaking the rules". 

MAC Nicopanda ad(images from instagram)

I feel as though Formichetti can't disguise his penchant for "crazy" makeup colors and application, and he shouldn't have brought up the issue of wearability with the MAC collection.  I would have expected nothing less than totally out-there makeup, given previous looks from his runway shows.  The MAC collection is absolutely an extension of the Nicopanda aesthetic, and I don't think Formichetti should have tried to promote versatility as a selling point because that's clearly not what he's about.  As my mother would say, a leopard can't change its spots.

Nicopanda spring 2018

Nicopanda 2015(images from vogue and voltcafe.com)

There is also the issue of claiming diversity when there's not a single model over the age of 25.  Perhaps in terms of gender and race Formichetti nailed diversity, but let's be honest, he clearly wasn't making face stickers with people my age in mind.  In explaining how the MAC collaboration came to be, Formichetti notes that a more youthful demographic is the key focus for Nicopanda.  "Nicopanda is about youth — the new generation. The brand is always about trying new things, sharing and creating new ideas, so I wanted to tackle the beauty world with Nicopanda. A cosmetics collaboration with MAC is a natural partnership...I’ve been collaborating with MAC for a long time, working on their campaigns and projects for years...it was a natural progression to create product together with Nicopanda. They are like family, and we really trust each other."  In the earlier video interview, he states that his vision and MAC's are similar due to their interest in spurring creativity, but also because of their "work with young talent."  While MAC and Nicopanda are a great match for the most part, Formichetti seems to have left out the "all ages" part of MAC's 3-phrase tagline.  Once again, I wouldn't mind so much if he didn't claim otherwise - if you want to make a collection for the teens and 20-something crowd, that's fine, but don't insinuate that it's the epitome of diversity because it's not. Formichetti maintains he's talking about the "young at heart" when discussing his customers.  "The Nicopanda customer for me is someone who wants to play and isn’t scared of trying new things. I desired to give them the materials to inspire their creativity and encourage that playfulness. My consumers don’t take things too seriously and are super young-spirited. Not necessarily in age, but they exude a young energy. This collection is so in sync with that; sophisticated yet light-hearted."  I still say the ads tell a slightly different story.

Overall, I applaud Formichetti for breaking gender barriers in fashion, and making it affordable to boot.  I love the concept of Nicopanda and MAC was an excellent match for a cosmetics line.  I only wish Formichetti would have insisted on including a few older faces and some more traditional looks for the campaign, or left diversity out of the conversation all together.  The models in the ads were certainly varied in race and gender and the makeup looks felt fresh and modern, but the lack of models in their 30s and up, along with the presentation of solely non-traditional makeup application, directly contradicts Formichetti's stance that this was a collection meant for everyone and could be worn in more traditional ways.  Nevertheless I'm willing to overlook it in this case because that panda packaging is simply too cute and unique.

What do you think?

 

1I must point out that genderless is not equal to unisex.  This article explains why.

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Givenchy spring 2018

'Tis Friday, so I will keep this post on Givenchy's spring 2018 couture collection brief.  The floral print, while beautiful, doesn't exactly read spring to me - the black background and dark hues of the flowers themselves seem rather moody and more suited to fall.  Nevertheless these items were definitely Museum-worthy and a nice addition to previous Givenchy couture releases.

Givenchy spring 2018 couture collection

Givenchy spring 2018 couture collection

I've seen this lipstick swatched and it's a gorgeous rich raspberry shade.

Givenchy spring 2018 couture lipstick

It took a while for me to identify the print, and that might have because I assumed it would be from the most recent spring or even fall collection.  Turns out, it's actually from the fall 2013 collection.  So my perception of the pattern being more appropriate for cool weather wasn't inaccurate. 

It looks like the color scheme was adjusted slightly from the original red and ivory to include blue, purple and dashes of yellow on the makeup packaging.

Givenchy fall 2013 bag
(image from fusionofeffects.com)

Givenchy fall 2013 runway

Givenchy fall 2013

As you may know, I'm obsessed with finding the exact portion of the print that appears on the makeup. 

Givenchy fall 2013 print detail

While I maintain that the print is even lovelier on makeup packaging than on the clothing, I'm still scratching my head as to why Givenchy chose a five-year-old pattern that was originally from a fall collection for their spring 2018 couture makeup release.  Overall, I'd say it's pretty to look at but rather uninspired.  It seems like they slapped on any floral print they could find but one they hadn't put on packaging previously just because it's spring - everyone likes flowers for spring, right?  It appears all the more unimaginative when you consider Givenchy had some interesting prints to choose from the ready-to-wear collection that would have worked nicely on makeup, such as these clovers.  The print is a 1961 original by Hubert de Givenchy, resurrected by recently appointed Givenchy designer Claire Waight Keller.

Givenchy spring 2018
(images from vogue.com)

It's another example of a disconnect between the clothing and makeup branches of a couture house, which we've seen with others.  Perhaps Makeup Artistic Director Nicolas Degennes is not "collaborating" as much as he should be with Keller.  Unfortunately it seems this laziness and lack of coordination is continuing, along with a dash of cultural appropriation, in the upcoming "African Light" highlighter Givenchy is releasing for summer (more about that later).

What do you think about this collection?

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King of the Jungle: Chanel Signe du Lion

Still plowing through holiday 2017 collections - hopefully you're not getting tired of them!  Today I'm sharing Chanel's exquisite Signe du Lion highlighting powders, which are based on their Sous le Signe du Lion jewelry line that was launched in 2013. 

Chanel Signe du Lion highlighters

I don't know why Chanel released these highlighters now, as I didn't spot any lion-themed pieces in any of their most recent fashion collections, but I'm not sure I care.  Just look at them!

Chanel Signe du Lion highlighters

I also really like that Chanel opted for rose gold and white gold colorways rather than the more traditional silver and yellow gold.  Of course those are always nice options -  I will never turn my nose up at silver and gold, especially around the holidays - but I feel these are more understated and a little bit unexpected.

Chanel Signe du Lion highlighter

Chanel Signe du Lion highlighter

The jewelry line originally consisted of 58 pieces and was inspired by Coco Chanel's love of the lion motif.  I'll let The Jewellery Editor give the full background.  "Not only was Mademoiselle Gabrielle Chanel born under the star sign of Leo. In 1920 she travelled to Venice for the first time, at an impressionable moment her life when she was mourning the death of Boy Capel, her great love.  Lulled by the waters of the lagoon and entranced by the opulence of Byzantine art, it was in Venice that Gabrielle emerged from her sorrow. Here she found inspiration and strength in the rich gold tiles of the church cupolas, the mesmerisingly bejewelled Palo d'Oro altar piece of St Mark's and the ubiquitous lions that grace almost every building, door knocker and public monument of La Serenissima.  The lion is the symbol of St Mark, the patron saint of the city, whose relics rest in the Basilica. The lion is also a symbol of power and the dominance of Venice over the world during the Renaissance - an apt figure for Gabrielle Chanel, a powerful woman who decorated her rue Cambon apartment with statues of lions and used them in couture details such as buttons, handbag clasps and brooches."

Let's take a moment to drool over some jewelry highlights, shall we?

Chanel lion bracelet

Chanel lion earrings

Why yes, you can buy me this necklace.  It's such a bargain at a mere $86,500.

Chanel lion necklace

Chanel lion earrings

Chanel lion ring

Chanel lion brooch

I think this ring most resembles the design on the highlighters.

Chanel lion ring
(images from chanel and jewelsdujour.com)

I wanted to see whether any lions had popped up in Chanel jewelry and accessories prior to the 2013 jewelry line and was pleasantly surprised to find they had been roaring throughout a good chunk of Chanel's history. 

Chanel lion brooch, 1960s
(image from 1stdibs)

Chanel lion coat of arms jewelry set, 1970s
(image from 1stdibs)

Chanel lion bracelet, 1980s 
(image from onekingslane)

Chanel lion bracelet, 1992
(image from tradesy)

Chanel lion brooch, 2001
(images from 1stdibs)

I was also curious to know whether Chanel was fabricating, or at the very least, embellishing Coco's fondness for lions as a marketing ploy to sell the jewelry line.  Once again I was surprised to see that Gabrielle Chanel did appear to have a genuine love for the motif as evidenced by this 1960 magazine spread and photos of her apartment, which show that she did indeed decorate it with an abundance of lions.  Additionally, in 2016 Chanel carried on the legacy of its founder's appreciation for the motif by paying for the restoration of the lion statue, as well as the surrounding mosaic, on the facade of St. Mark's basilica in Venice.  So it looks like Chanel wasn't...lion. (I'll be here all day, folks.)

Chanel-1960(image from parismatch.com)

Lion statue in Coco Chanel's apartment(image from ilovecuriosity.wordpress.com)

Chanel's apartment(image from interiormonologue.com)

This bronze statue served as the inspiration for Chanel's fall 2010 couture show, for which Karl Lagerfeld, grandstander that he is, commissioned an enormous version of the statue as the runway's focal point.  He even had a male model don a lion's head for the grand finale.

Bronze lion statue in Coco Chanel's apartment(image from styleblog.ca)

Chanel fall 2010 couture show

Chanel fall 2010 couture show

Chanel fall 2010 couture show(image from vogue and popsugar)

The most recent lion reference I was able to find in Chanel's accessories besides the jewelry line was this series of Leo bags from spring 2011.  This doesn't mean they don't exist; I just didn't notice any in my cursory browsing of runway photos from 2015-2018.

Chanel Leo bag
(image from designer-vault.com)

Chanel Leo bag
(image from tradesy)

As for the highlighters, I'm still not sure why Chanel decided to release them now, as the jewelry line debuted a few years back and I didn't see any lions in more recent runway collections.  But I will say that the simplicity of the highlighters' faceted design and subtle hues instead of an overly busy and more colorful one nicely reflect the 2013 jewelry line, which I also believe was the best choice in terms of inspiration for highlighting powders.  I don't think fine jewelry is always better designed than costume jewelry, but I think in the case of Chanel's lion-themed baubles, the 2013 collection is way more refined and modern compared to the costume jewelry from previous decades, not to mention incredibly luxurious - it translates perfectly to highlighters.  I would like to see a bronzer embossed with Lagerfeld's oversized version of the lion statue...I'm envisioning a shiny golden bronze powder for the lion and a dazzling white pearly highlighter for the sphere under its paw. ;) 

What do you think about these highlighters?  Are you a Leo?