Curator's Corner, July 2018

CC logoHere's the monthly rewind for July 2018. 

- Allure had an interesting history of Armenia's beauty industry, while Racked has yet another piece on makeup for incarcerated women.

- Lots of somewhat unsurprising industry news but still worth a mention:  fast beauty suffers the same problems as fast fashion; Sephora continues to dominate sales even in more niche categories once cornered by smaller, indie brands; and if companies won't stop animal testing for the animals' sake, they should at least do it to meet consumer demand.  Finally, congrats are in order for Mother, whose company's value has surpassed that of "self-made" (LOL, nope) billionaire Kylie Jenner.

- Despite this report, I highly doubt mascara is going anywhere...especially for those of us who don't have the time/money to regularly splurge on lash extensions or tinting.  This sort of privilege goes hand in hand with the no-makeup trend.  Who needs foundation when your skin is flawless from expensive dermatological treatments?

- On the manicure front, '80s-inspired jelly nails are, like, totally rad.  And if your mom won't let you have press-ons, you can DIY them with clay like this 10 year old.

The random:

- Doesn't get any more '90s than 311 and the Offspring covering each other's songs, or explaining all the lyrics to Barenaked Ladies' 1998 irritating but admittedly catchy hit "One Week".  Plus, make way for a Spice Girls exhibition.

- Ooh, here's another fun way for me to pretend to be a curator besides blogging. 

- If we ever find a house, I will definitely be using this wallpaper in some capacity.

- Bawling.

- As for my summer vacation, unfortunately my annual 3-day trip to the Jersey Shore got rained out so I missed having any beach time, but I did have fun hanging with my parents at their house.  The plushies were very content as my dad always fully stocks cookies and other sweets.

Dessert feast!

Polishing off some brookies and brownies

How did July treat you? 

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

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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!"  

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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."


A lipstick is forever: Tattoo

Around this time 2 years ago I got my first tattoos.  In honor of that momentous occasion, I thought I'd take a look at a vintage brand that featured some truly wild advertising.  I had come across Tattoo years ago, as well as its sister line Savage, and was immediately struck by the images used in their ads and on the products themselves.  I managed to snag two of the ads, as well as the lipstick case and rouge container.  Given their tropical feel I had originally intended on including them in the summer exhibition, but upon closer inspection I decided against it.  Let's see why, shall we?

Sadly I was unable to make out the name of the illustrator who created the imagery on this one.  It's something with an R, but beyond that I'm completely lost.

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1934

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1934

This one is by John LaGatta (1894-1977), and as you can tell by the publication name and spelling of "colour", appeared in a British magazine.

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1938

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1938

Tattoo lipstick

Tattoo lipstick

Tattoo rouge compact

Tattoo rouge compact

As with Po-go Rouge, the compact is teeny compared to today's blushes. 

Tattoo rouge

The puff is imprinted with the same design.

Tattoo rouge puff

There was another compact with "U.S.A." inscribed beneath the Tattoo name.  (Of course, I totally forgot I had this one and ended up with two...I could be wrong, but I don't think the "U.S.A." imprint presents any real significance; I believe it's just a slight change in production.)

Tattoo rouge compact

There was also a difference in the bottoms of the compacts.  The one with U.S.A. on the front doesn't have any inscription on the back.  Again, I don't think there's any real significance to this, just a negligible difference in the manufacturing.

Tattoo rouge compacts

What IS an interesting difference, however, is an alternate design on the lipstick and rouge.  It appears these were sold around the same time as the more commonly seen design.  It may have been a mini version, but I'm not sure.

Tattoo lipstick
(image from pinterest)

Tattoo rouge compact(image from pinterest)

This is the only ad I found in which the alternate design appeared.  It's from 1947, so maybe it only showed up towards the end of Tattoo's reign (the latest newspaper ad for Tattoo was from September 1949).

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1947(image from pinterest)

However, the shade I own is Coral Sea, which was trademarked in 1946.  So maybe this wasn't new packaging after all.

Tattoo lipstick in Coral Sea

Tattoo Coral Sea patent
(image from tsdrapi.uspto.gov)

I also own a Savage powder box, which you might remember from this post and then its later appearance in the 2015 summer exhibition.  I deeply regret including it now.

Vintage Savage blush

Vintage Savage blush

I don't have the complete story of Tattoo/Savage, but thanks to Collecting Vintage Compacts and what I was able to cobble together from old newspaper ads, the lines were introduced in the early 1930s by James Leslie Younghusband, a Canadian military/stunt pilot turned Chicago-based businessman.  Younghusband was the brains behind another "indelible" lipstick line called Kissproof, which he invented in 1923.  Despite its poisonous ingredients, the lipstick was sold until the early 1940s.  I'm not sure why Younghusband felt compelled to develop not one but two "permanent" lipstick brands while Kissproof was still being sold, since I've compared the copy from the Tattoo and Savage ads to the Kissproof ones and all touted them as long-wearing lipsticks that were also comfortable to wear - formula-wise, there doesn't seem to be much difference.  The author of Collecting Vintage Compacts has promised a second installment about Younghusband and the launch of Tattoo and Savage so I'll update this post with additional information, but in the meantime I wanted to share some thoughts and other questions I have about these lines. 

First, I'm not going to dance around the obvious here: there's no way any company could get away with this sort of fetishizing of "exotic" people and cultures today.  The ads and product design certainly are eye-catching - who wouldn't want to wear colors inspired by a tropical paradise? -  but when you look closely and read the ad copy, you realize how racist they are.  Tattoo and Savage represent the pinnacle of white men's fantasies about "native" women's sexuality, which in their minds is completely untamed and animal-like.  By wearing lipstick shades appropriated from these "uncivilized" cultures, white ladies can show off their racy side while still adhering to traditional American/European standards of female decorum.  Take, for example, the copy in this ad.  "From South Sea maidens, whom you know as the most glamorous women on earth, comes the secret of making and keeping lips excitingly lovely and everlastingly youthful.  In that land where romance is really real, you'll naturally find no coated, pasty lips.  Instead, you'll find them gorgeously tattooed!  Not with a needle, but with a sweet, exotic red stain made from the berries of the passion-fruit...Tattoo is the civilized version of this marvelous idea."  Yes, it's so very uncivilized to wear a lip stain made of crushed berries - only cavewomen do that!1

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1935

Savage is even more blatantly racist, highlighting the fact that their colors were inspired by "primitive, savage love".

Savage lipstick ad, 1934

And their reds are "paganly appealing hues that stir the senses...rapturous, primitive reds, each as certainly seductive as a jungle rhythm."  Bonus points for this ad linking "wickedness" to indigenous cultures.

Savage ad, 1935

The Tattoo ads (including the two I own) feature a variety of tan-skinned women catering to pale white women, imagery that dates back at least to the Renaissance and is still used today in an effort to make a scene appear "historically accurate."  You'll  notice that these particular women are depicted in stereotypical garb that existed solely in white people's imaginations, i.e. hula skirts and flower necklaces.  And just to further the idea of their supposedly insatiable lust, they are also shown topless. Women of color are reduced to othered, highly sexualized props whose only purpose is to serve white women.  (Somewhat unrelated, but if you want to take a gander at the lipstick display shown in this ad, you can see it here.  I remember one popped up on ebay a couple years ago with an starting bid of a mere $199.99.)

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1935

Tattoo "Hawaiian" ad, 1935

Tattoo "Hawaiian" ad, 1935

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1937

Tattoo ad, 1936-37

This is another one by LaGatta. 

Tattoo ad, 1937(image from pinterest)

More proof:  the ideal "Tattoo girl" was white and blond.

Tattoo ad, 1936

Savage also threw in a nod to colonization with the use of "conquer". 

Savage ad

Savage "Jungle" ad, 1935

All of this begs the question of what Younghusband was trying to accomplish with these lines.*  Indelible lipstick was all the rage in the '20s and '30s; no doubt Younghusband's company faced stiff competition from the likes of Tangee and others.  Perhaps he felt that this manner of cultural appropriation, i.e. creating what was probably the decade's most risqué and raciest makeup line by portraying the indigenous people of the South Pacific as feral and completely unfettered by "civilized" society's code of conduct, and then offering white women a socially acceptable way to channel that imagined freedom via lipstick, was the best way to stand out in a crowded market.  The ads repeat words like "thrilling", "maddening", and suggests that the color will last through late-night activity.  Sounds very exciting, yes?

Tattoo lipstick ad, 1936-37

Savage Dry Rouge ad, 1935

Savage ad, 1935

Savage lipstick ad, 1934
(all ad images from lantern.mediahist.org unless otherwise noted)

The other possible reason Younghusband looked towards the South Pacific was the rise of tourism to Hawaii and other islands during the 1930s.  As the blog author of Witness to Fashion astutely points out in a post on Tattoo, the increased tourism heralded a cultural love affair with anything tropical.  "Tourism to Hawaii, via luxurious cruise ships, increased in the 1930s. The “white ships” of the Matson Line sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii and the South Seas. Quite a few movies with a tropical setting were made in the thirties, including Mutiny on the Bounty (1935),  The Hurricane (1937) and Her Jungle Love (1938) — both starring queen-of-the-sarong Dorothy Lamour, Charlie Chan in Honolulu (1938), and Honolulu (1939). Bing Crosby and his movie Waikiki Wedding (1937) popularized the song 'Sweet Leilani,' written in 1934."  Sounds plausible.

Getting back to my other questions, I'm unclear on the difference between the Tattoo and Savage lines, or why Younghusband would launch both nearly simultaneously.  As I noted previously, there doesn't seem to be an appreciable difference between the two, and they were released at approximately the same time - around 1933 for Tattoo and 1934 for Savage.  Tattoo lasted till about 1949, while the last newspaper ad I found for Savage dates to October 1941.  At first I thought perhaps Savage was a drugstore line, whereas Tattoo was sold only in department stores, since their respective prices were 20 cents and one dollar.  This 1939 Gimbel's ad for Savage, however, kills that theory. 

Savage lipstick newspaper ad, 1939

Finally, and you may be wondering this as well, why on earth did I knowingly purchase such racist items for the Museum and then choose to blog about them?  Unfortunately I can't really answer that myself.  It's not like I wasn't familiar with these lines or thought they were okay and then realized they weren't, which has happened before.  I also like to consider myself at least somewhat conscious about racial and cultural appropriation issues within the beauty industry.  I guess I thought that, distasteful though they are, they're important from a historical perspective.  I wanted to have tangible reminders of what was acceptable back then.  Items like this also help me remember to be a little more mindful when purchasing contemporary pieces.  So while I've made the decision not to feature such items in exhibitions, since it dawned on me that I prefer exhibitions to have more of a celebratory spirit and racist beauty products aren't things I necessarily want to champion, I think a cosmetics museum should have these types of items and open a dialogue about the ugly side of the beauty industry and its history.  My main goal for the Museum is for it to serve as a happy, magical place full of wonderful and beautiful things, but sometimes it's necessary to take a good hard look at some of the problematic issues within the world of cosmetics.

Well, that's enough of my blather, except to say that I'm sorry I don't have more concrete information on these lines - hopefully Collecting Vintage Compacts will shed further light on them.   Thoughts?

1 While I was poking about at newspapers.com I came across an article from 1934 that serves as historical evidence of how indigenous people were viewed by Americans/Europeans in the '30s.  This one tells the tale of one young woman "explorer" (read: colonizer) who attempted to "civilize" the "ferocious Amazonians" in South America by bringing them cosmetics.  I literally can't even with this.

Stevens_Point_Journal_Thu__Jun_7__1934_

2I do really wonder what the hell was wrong with Younghusband.  In the news articles I found, his first wife passed away in 1927, and he went on to remarry 4 different women in the span of 13 years, all of whom accused him of adultery.  The rough timeline is that he divorced the 2nd wife in 1931, married his third in April 1933 and divorced her in 1935.  I'm not sure about the 4th wife, but in November of 1937 he married his fifth.  A 1950 article regarding the divorce of his 5th wife states that he went so far as to "spend thousands of dollars on detectives, photographers, wire tappers and gigolos in attempt to frame [his wife] in an embarrassing position in a Florida hotel so he could gather divorce evidence."  What a psycho.  The same article also claims that during the wedding, Younghusband hit a police reporter in the head after inviting him to cover the wedding.  So yeah, something wasn't right with this guy, and it's not just the rampant racism in his company's lipstick lines.

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Summer 2018 exhibition inspiration

As a quick followup to the summer 2018 exhibition, I wanted to share the images that inspired it.  Obviously this will be a very photo-heavy post without much substance, but what better time to take off our thinking caps and indulge in some tropical eye candy than summer? 

In looking back at the planning process, I have determined that Smashbox's Pinks and Palms palette was the item that planted the seeds for the exhibition.  It was released all the way back in early April, but after I laid eyes on it I couldn't get the vibrant pink and green color scheme out of my head.

Smashbox pinks-palms

From there I started seeing palm trees and flamingos as well as pink and green basically everywhere. In addition to this gorgeous jewelry branding and an amazing photo for a beautiful spread in Harpers Bazaar Thailand, here are a few "moodboards" of sorts composed of images that popped up on my Instagram feed over the past few months.  (Sorry, Pinterest, but with Instagram's "save to collections" feature, I'm afraid I don't need you much anymore.)  In addition to palm trees, monstera leaves are so ubiquitous there was even a whole article about why the motif is everywhere right now

Summer 2018 moodboard
Top row: crikirsten, franzi.fri, marinedequenetain
2nd row: caroline_south, labelsforlunch, violettinder
3rd row:  artdeco, benefit, clarinsusa
Bottom row:  beautyhabit, nailsinc, makeupforeverofficial

Summer 2018 moodboard
Top row: marcbeauty, marinedequenetain, smashboxcosmetics
2nd row: theebouffants (Kendra Dandy), ringconcierge, rodartekaren (co-founder of PaiPai)

3rd row: atomicbooks, lipstickqueen, nailsinc
Bottom row: kikomilano, willnichols, paulandjoe_beaute

summer 2018 moodboard
Top row: audreyestok, diormakeup, thebalm

2nd row: winky_lux, capitalofficial, clarinsusa

Other exotic birds besides flamingos are trending too - parrots, toucans, cockatoos all seem to be popular.  Perhaps it's partially the influence of the New York Historical Society's "Feathers: Fashion and the Fight for Wildlife" exhibition.  In any case, as I was browsing my usual shopping sites, I came across tons of palm trees and birds.

Summer 2018

  1. Gap pajamas (I totally bought these and I love them!)
  2. Flamingo Tangle Teezer
  3. Palm tree and flamingo garland (see also these napkins)
  4. Nails Inc. Flock You nail polish duo (bought these too, they're so pretty!)
  5. Anthropologie parrot dress
  6. Kate Spade flamingo tote
  7. Anthropologie toucan clutch
  8. J. Crew flamingo tee
  9. Palm tree and flamingo mug
  10. Old Navy pajamas (if the Gap ones weren't doing it for you...they also have palm tree and flamingo prints by themselves)

In terms of what items to include in the exhibition, I was somewhat overwhelmed with the number of pieces - both new and ones the Museum already has - that fit the exhibition theme.  However, I didn't want to repeat too many items from previous summer exhibitions, so off I went in search of new and exciting things.  Below are some items I was mulling over but that didn't make the cut for various reasons (i.e., not available, too expensive, or I just didn't think the design was that special).  I was so sad the Guerlain Sous Les Palmiers bronzer wasn't released in the U.S. in time for the exhibition launch, as I had been planning for that to be one of the stand-out items.  Oh well.  Perhaps I can tuck it away for next year's summer exhibition. ;) 

Summer 2018

  1. Vintage Stratton compact
  2. Benefit Flamingo Fancy bronzer
  3. Laura Geller Island Escape palette
  4. Coastal Scents Jungle Roar palette
  5. Lise Watier Eden bronzer
  6. Streamcream Flamingo moisturizer
  7. ArtDeco Jungle Fever Beauty Box
  8. Guerlain Sous Les Palmiers bronzer
  9. Vintage compact
  10. Vintage Estée Lauder parrot compact
  11. Mark Havana Sol eyeshadow palette

I had also considered printing out the ad for MAC's Flamingo Park collection and putting them with Felicia the Flamingo, but given how I felt about the latter I decided not to include it.  As for MAC, I much prefer original ads to reproductions.

So those were all the things rattling about in my head that inspired the summer exhibition.  Do you like exotic birds and tropical plants as design motifs?  I like them, but not as much as my beloved mermaids - I still can't believe I managed to do a whole summer exhibition without one!


Curator's Corner, June 2018

CC logoWelcome to yet another format of Curator's Corner.  As I noted previously, I don't want to completely abandon this feature, but it's still too hard for me to keep up so I decided to try a "monthly rewind" of sorts.  Here's some notable news from June.

 - Yay!  Sephora is now offering makeup classes especially for trans people.  Perhaps they should start carrying this line?

- An interesting piece at Refinery29 covers the world of beauty treatments and makeup within prison walls.  It's different angle than the Racked article we saw back in January.

- Call it the Fenty effect: more brands are offering at least 40 shades of foundation, including the new Flesh line created by former Allure editor Linda Wells.  The line is getting a lot of buzz, not just for its color range but for the product and shade names that are only appealing if you're a cannibal.  (Apparently the "uncomfortable" names were intentional.)

- More info on the expansion of J-beauty...although I still bristle at it being called a "comeback". 

- Makeup.com had a nice little history of face powder.  I only wish I was writing their makeup history series.

- Ever wonder how your makeup is actually produced?  In addition to animal testing and potentially dangerous ingredients, new light is being shed on the issue of human rights abuses within the beauty industry.  It's a sad topic but one that needs to be addressed and remedied immediately.

- On a lighter note (sort of), check out this gigantic (2,000 lb!) bath bomb.

- I'm not crying, you're crying.

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, 20th birthday celebrations are in order for the premiere of Sex and the City as well as The Truman Show.  Meanwhile, Daria is getting a reboot and Stereogum catches up with Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz (don't pretend you don't know all the words to "Mr. Jones"!) Finally, I greatly enjoyed this oral history of one of the funniest shows from the decade, short-lived though it was.

- Speaking of TV, I've been watching probably more than is healthy and looking forward to new shows.  I'm currently obsessed with The Staircase and can't wait for new seasons of The Terror and American Horror Story (especially after 2 incredibly lackluster seasons of the latter.)  However, I am gutted that one of my favorite shows has ended. Desus and Mero will live on via Showtime, but it just won't be the same.

- If you follow me on Twitter you know I've been wrestling with insomnia.  I'm curious about this Sleep Stories app that features Bob Ross, because his show is one remedy I've found that works most of the time.

- On the domestic front, I'm taking advantage of berry season big time.  I made raspberry muffins and a strawberry pie.  I have zero food photography skills but trust me, both were very pretty and quite delicious if I do say so myself. :)

Raspberry muffins

Strawberry pie

And brownies and lime sea salt chocolate chip cookies - no berries involved in either of those, but the cookies are a summery twist on traditional chocolate chips...plus the Babos loved them. (And subsequently landed themselves in a cookie coma.)

Babos with cookie dough

Babos feasting

cookie coma

And that about wraps up June!  Do you have any fun plans for the rest of the summer?

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Mermaid magnificence with Rodin and Robertson

Apologies for the back-to-back artist collaboration posts, but I'm just too excited to wait any longer to share this beautiful mermaid collection from Rodin Olio Lusso (plus it's a nice way to celebrate the arrival of Mer-Babo!)  I have to admit I never paid Rodin much attention, since I rarely see it reviewed on beauty blogs and there are no counters near me to check out the line in person, but the amazing (mer-mazing?) packaging for their latest collection, created by artist/illustrator Donald Robertson, definitely got my mermaid tail wagging.  You might remember Robertson, a.k.a. the "Warhol of Instagram", from his collaboration with Smashbox in 2015.  If not, head on over to this post to check out a brief bio of Robertson and a summary of his style and process, which I don't want to re-hash here.  Instead, I'll discuss the inspiration for the Rodin collection and provide a short update of his work since 2015.

You know that I rarely buy entire limited-edition collections, especially ones with as steep a price point as these beauties, but they were far too special for me not to purchase.  Mermaids AND an artist collab?!  It was a no-brainer for me.

Rodin mermaid collection

First up is the lip oil.

Rodin mermaid lip oil

I can't resist showing the sides of the boxes, as the details go all the way around. 

Rodin mermaid lip oil

Next we have the body oil.  It looks so luxurious, I'm tempted to slather myself in it.

Rodin mermaid body oil

Rodin mermaid body oil

The liquid illuminator is another one I want to actually use instead of admire.

Rodin mermaid liquid highlighter

Rodin mermaid liquid highlighter

The powder brush feels nice and fluffy, but it's the box that won my heart.  Look at the jellyfish!

Rodin mermaid brush

Rodin mermaid brush

Finally, we have a simply stunning highlighting powder.  I don't think I've ever seen a powder with a mermaid embossed design; to my knowledge they've only appeared on the outer cases. 

Rodin mermaid highlighter

Rodin mermaid highlighter

I love all the details, especially her little belly button!  The way her head and tail are tilted and long pretty locks remind me a bit of the ethereal nymph designed by Marcel Wanders for the Cosme Decorte holiday 2015 compact.

Rodin mermaid highlighter

Rodin mermaid highlighter

I appreciate that Robertson explained a little bit about the process for manufacturing the powder:  "It starts with a gaffer tape circle outline in sharpie ... the powder people needed layers for sculpting so I used acetate and played in marker and cut tape overlays. I wanted it to match my mermaid box paintings."  Eun Sun Lee, President/Creative Director of design firm CMYK+WHITE, Inc., oversaw the final product packaging.

Rodin-mermaid-highlighter-powder-prototype

So how did the collection come about?  Here's a succinct background from the Rodin website: "[Rodin founder] Linda, a Pisces with an affinity for the sea, believed she’d been a mermaid in a previous life. Her fantasy sparked artist-friend Donald Robertson’s interest so much that he put his paintbrushes to work and brought the RODIN Mermaid Collection to life."   From what I was able to find online, Robertson and Rodin have been friends since at least 2015, when they attended the Fragrance Foundation awards.

Linda Rodin and Donald Robertson, 2015
(image from zimbio)

Working with Rodin appears to be a joy for him, as she's one of his muses in addition to a friend.  Robertson was immediately struck by the former model and Harpers Bazaar stylist:  “The first time I saw a picture of Linda, I became obsessed...She’s so visual. When I see somebody I like, I steal their image and put them on paper.” 

Donald Robertson - Linda Rodin(image from 1530main)

Donald Robertson - Linda Rodin(image from pinterest)

He was there for Rodin's debut at L.A. based beauty store Violet Grey in 2016, so his familiarity with the brand as well as Rodin's own style makes Robertson the best candidate to create limited-edition packaging.

Linda Rodin and Donald Robertson(image from hao-creative.com)

I scrolled through Robertson's Instagram to try to get a better sense of the timeline for the mermaid collection.  While he officially announced he was working on a new mermaid-themed project in late 2017, as early as January 2017 it appears he already had mermaids on the brain.  Check out this custom caviar packaging.  The mermaid looks quite a bit like the one on the Rodin highlighting powder, yes?

Donald Robertson

In June 2017 Robertson created a mermaid pool float collection for FUNBOY, proprietors of "the world's finest luxury pool floats".  I didn't know "luxury" pool floats existed, but I guess it's not surprising.

Funboy x Donald Robertson mermaid pool float
(image from funboy.com)

Funboy x Donald Robertson mermaid pool float

Fast-forward to October 2017, when Robertson first shared he was working on a mermaid-themed project.  This image ended up being used for the body oil.

Donald Robertson - mermaid

By February 2018, nearly all of the designs had been finalized.  Here are a few that didn't make it onto the Rodin packaging but are gorgeous nevertheless.

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

Donald Robertson - mermaid

In the months leading up to the collection's release, it seems Robertson was inspired by Rodin's assertion that she's really a mermaid.  Using the playful hashtag #peopleisuspectaremermaids, he painted a series of fashion figures as mer-people. 

Donald Robertson - Cynthia Frank

Donald Robertson - Carlos Souza

Donald Robertson - Naomi Campbell

Donald Robertson - Streicher Sisters

Donald Robertson - Ryan Morgan

Donald Robertson - Jeremy Scott

After the collection debuted, Robertson kept the mermaid magic going with some bonus illustrations and animations on Instagram.

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

Donald Robertson - Rodin mermaid collection

He even did specially painted bags for the collection's launch in the UK, along with a rendering of the queen as a mermaid.  So. Cute.

Donald Robertson - Liberty of London mermaid bags

Donald Robertson - queen mermaid

As for his other projects, Robertson's been keeping rather busy since we first looked at his work in 2015.  In addition to the Rodin collab, he's done collections for Alice & Olivia, Canada Goose, S'well water bottles and Flirt Cosmetics.  He also released a book of his work, which has now made its way onto my Amazon wishlist.

Donald Robertson - Alice & Olivia

Donald Robertson - Alice & Olivia
(images from aliceandolivia and tradesy)

Donald Robertson - Canada Goose(images from canadagoose)

Donald Robertson - S'Well

Donald Robertson - Flirt Cosmetics

Donald Robertson - Flirt Cosmetics(images from stylecaster)

Donald Robertson book

This is in between doing all the timely Instagram drawings he's known for, such as the recent royal wedding and Met Gala.

Donald Robertson - royal wedding

Donald Robertson - Met Gala

I admire the more political angle in this "Team Immigrant" print.

Donald Robertson - Team Immigrant
(images from instagram unless otherwise noted)

Plus, Robertson manages to make time for a number of in-store illustrations.  This brings me to a fabulous bit of news to share with you all: I was lucky enough to get my hands on a custom-painted bag by Robertson himself!  My heart dropped when I saw that Robertson would be painting tote bags at Bergdorf Goodman and that they were available in-store only...or so I thought.  A fellow makeup collector and long-time Museum supporter (who was even more determined than I was to get the custom bag!) called the store and somehow found a very nice salesperson who agreed to send her one.  This incredibly sweet collector kindly thought of me and gave me the salesperson's info so that I could get a bag too!  Not only that, the salesperson even asked me if I had any requests to give to the artist, and I asked for a mermaid and/or jellyfish.  Both she and Robertson delivered by giving me a beautiful red-headed mermaid swimming alongside two pink jellyfish.  I couldn't believe my eyes when I opened the package.  I know I gave a sneak peek in the Mer-Babo post since the little guy declared it to be his, but here's the bag in all its glory.

Donald Robertson mermaid tote bag

It's one of those super special items that if, in a fire, I only had time to save only a couple Museum pieces, this would be one of them.  While I wish I could have made it up to NYC in person so I could meet Robertson and the lovely Bergdorf sales associate, I'm deliriously happy to get my hands on a bag he actually painted and so grateful that another collector was looking out for me.

Overall, obviously I'm in love with this collection.  Robertson did an excellent job coming up with mermaid designs that are both elegant and whimsical, as well as being perfectly suited to the Rodin line.  From their beautiful flowing tresses to their tails that show just a hint of colorful scales, these stylish mer-ladies coquettishly frolicking with their underwater friends whisk us away to a summery ocean fantasy.  Robertson also completely nailed the color scheme - I love the soft greens and blues with pops of pink, orange and purple contrasted with the black outlines of the shells and sea kelp.

What do you think about this collection?  Are you as smitten as I am?

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Welcoming a very special Babo!

You might remember the super-awesome birthday card the husband made me a while back in the shape of a mer-Babo.  I always knew they existed since the Sailor Babos told me so, but I had never seen a real live one...until a very kind fellow Uglydoll enthusiast on Instagram sent one to swim my way.  Please welcome Mer-Babo! 

Mer-babo

He seems very interested in life on land (despite all the time he spends splashing around in the tub), so I'm thinking his natural curiosity will make him a great research assistant at the Museum.  He's already made himself acquainted with some of the Museum's mermaid-themed objects too!

Mer-Babo

Mer-Babo

The staff page has been updated, so enjoy getting to know the Museum's employees if you haven't already.  :)

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Soy happy about this new Fresh cleanser!

I've been following fashion illustrator Blair Breitenstein on Instagram more or less since I joined about 2 years ago, and I figured it was only a matter of time before her work appeared on beauty packaging.  The only surprise was the brand - I thought for sure MAC would have scooped up Breitenstein for a collab (more on that later) but it turns out Fresh beat them to it.  As you know, I try not to make a habit of collecting skincare/bath and body products, but I haven't been able to resist Fresh's artist collaborations and knew their iconic soy cleanser illustrated by Breitenstein had to join the crew.  It seems like odd timing, as Fresh usually does special packaging to mark an expected milestone, but decided to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the introduction of the cleanser.  Why they wouldn't wait until 20 years is beyond me, but really, no special occasion is needed for an artist collab in my view.  :)

Breitenstein honored the original product packaging that featured a "soy girl" by maintaining a female presence, but thoroughly modernized it with her own style and added another girl.  I love the image, since for me it represents the timeless tradition of women bonding over beauty rituals.  And their robes look so plush!  It's an appealing scene and one that reminds us to take some time out for ourselves and take pleasure in the cleansing process.  I love applying my makeup, but I also enjoy feeling the warm water rinsing away the day's grime and knowing that it's time to wind down for the night.  (I guess if you use it in the morning it's an equally enjoyable way to prepare for the day ahead.)  While I think the concept of "self-care" has been ridiculously co-opted at this point, face-washing is a necessity so you might as well make it a nice experience for yourself.  This cozy and comforting image definitely helps with that.

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Here's the original "soy girl" for reference.

Fresh-original-soy-girl
(image from nylon.com.sg)

Let's get to know Breitenstein and take a look at her work, shall we?  Born and raised in Seattle (though she now calls NYC her home), the 28 year-old illustrator attended Washington State University and majored in communications (with a minor in art history, ahem!) Breitenstein had always loved art, especially painting, but it was a class she took her junior year of college that helped shape the path to her career as an illustrator and, arguably, her spontaneous drawing process:  "My junior year I studied abroad in Florence and took all art classes. One of my classes was called Florence Sketch Book. The class was literally drawing all over Florence in our sketchbooks. One assignment was to draw as many paintings in the a museum as you could before class ended. That's when I fell in love with sketching. I loved the quick quirky half drawn pieces more than anything I had ever taken a lot of time to paint."  Indeed, there a freshness and immediacy to Breitenstein's illustrations.  While they appear hastily sketched at first glance, they're much more detailed than meets the eye. 

Blair Breitenstein, Meow in Miu

Fashion was a natural source of inspiration, given her family's interest in fashion and Breitenstein's own lifelong affair with fashion magazines.  "I grew up surrounded by fashion. My mom and grandma love fashion, so even early on my art has been inspired by fashion. My grandpa was an artist. I have always wanted to be an artist...When I was growing up fashion was an escape. I remember flipping through a W Magazine when I was very young, and I was fascinated with the opulence of it all. I was intrigued by the fantastical and remote settings in the editorials. At the time, I assumed everyone enjoyed magazines and fashion imagery as much as I did.  Later I realized I didn’t just enjoy flipping through magazines. I realized fashion was my passion and my muse...fashion still is an escape. The things I draw are not realistic to me. I do not have the place or money to wear Dior but it is too beautiful for me to ignore so I draw these things."

Blair Breitenstein, Oscar de la Renta

Blair Breitenstein, Met Heavenly Bodies gala

Blair Breitenstein, Chanel

As for her process, Breitenstein selects images from the runway, magazines, or social media and works from those. "I am always collecting images. I screenshot, browse tumblr, mark up magazines, etc. I usually start my morning reviewing all of my images; then I just start drawing. I draw for a few hours in the mornings." For tools, Breitenstein relies mostly on watercolor, but utilizes markers and pastels as well.  The variety ensures she's able to capture the range in materials and silhouettes in the clothing she represents.  "I get fixated on textures, colors, shapes and movement of clothing. I get completely lost looking at fashion week coverage," she says.  One of my favorite uses of various artist tools comes in the form of these illustrations based on couture gowns by Dior and Giambattista Valli.  The watercolor allows the viewer to practically feel the sheer, gauzy texture of the garments between their fingers, while markers add just enough definition to the dresses' layers as well as the models' hair and makeup; in the case of Dior, the dark eye makeup provides a delightfully sharp contrast to the soft tulle on the dresses, while the red pouts on the models at Giambattista Valli stand out without overpowering the design.

Blair Breitenstein, Dior and Giambattista Valli(images from blairbreitenstein.com and instagram)

Just for fun (and because I'm almost legally blind from nearsightedness), I wanted to share another area in which Breitenstein excels: eyewear.  Her drawings of fabulously bespectacled ladies seriously make me want to ditch my contacts.

Blair Breitenstein, Chanel glasses

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

I can't tell whether I like Breitenstein's takes on Vogue covers more than her runway illustrations...probably just a little bit more since, like me, she's a huge Pat McGrath fan.  McGrath did the makeup for the following covers, and I think Breitenstein captured the vibrancy and uniqueness of her work perfectly. 

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue December 2017(images from vogue.co.uk and instagram)

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue Italia 2012(images from fashionista and instagram)

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue Italia 2004(images from vogue.it and instagram)

Breitenstein also recreates some pretty amazing vintage covers.  It's not surprising, since she cites '60s and '70s style as an  influence: "I would describe my style as exaggerated, moody, sexy, and fashionably on trend with a nod to the 60’s and 70’s."

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1968

  Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1965

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1965(images from instagram)

In hearing her describe her work, I feel as though she left out one descriptive term, but perhaps one that was too obvious.  All I could think of was "chic".  Even non-models are impossibly chic - whether playing tennis, gardening, or just languidly lounging about on sofas or poolside in bikinis, these women are incredibly stylish, and seem somewhat intimidating in all their glamour.  But perhaps their confident stares are signaling mystery and intrigue.  As Breitenstein notes, "I think I’m a bit mysterious, and I think my illustrations are a bit mysterious too."

  Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

The bathing beauty on the left is particularly great.   Drink in hand, this woman combines a bouffant, pearls and a fierce winged liner with an expression of mild disdain and boredom.  She's a completely unapologetic rich bitch, which for some reason greatly amuses me.

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

I saved my favorite subject (makeup, obviously) for last.

Blair Breitenstein, Complimentary Colors

Blair Breitenstein, Ode to Pat McGrath

Blair Breitenstein, Sies Marjan(images from theimpression.com and instagram)

Blair Breitenstein, Vivienne Westwood makeup(images from elle and instagram)

Breitenstein also dabbles a little in makeup still lifes, which I adore as well. 

Blair Breitenstein

Not only does she draw pictures of MAC products, she also paints with them on occasion.

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

To bring this post full circle, the MAC sketches are why I was a little surprised Fresh tapped Breitenstein for a collab - if any beauty company was going to approach her I think it would be MAC.  Then again, it's always possible she'll get a line from them too.  In any case, the ever humble Breitenstein notes how pleased she was to work with Fresh and create a more regular girl rather than a high-end fashion model.  "I was really excited to work on the Soy Face Cleanser because I got to bring the Soy illustrated girl to 2018.  She's different than the normal girls I create.  She's also a bit more like me - less done up - and that was really exciting for me to be able to create a girl that I can really relate to." 

These girls definitely seem more approachable than Breitenstein's usual figures, while still maintaining her signature chicness.  I think it's partially due to the fact that they're in profile and not staring out at the viewer, which is the case for most of her work.  And I know I mentioned the fluffy robes previously, but depicting women in "bath-leisure" attire rather than high fashion also helps tone down the intimidation factor.

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Overall, I think the illustration perfectly captures the essence of Fresh Soy Cleanser.  In terms of brand imaging, Fresh packaging has always been spa-like and sleek, while the product itself is soothing and calming, just like the water cascading from the girls' hands.  I admire how Breitenstein modified her style just a bit to accommodate both the Fresh brand and a specific product from them.  Plus I'm really happy to see her continued success via a collaboration with a major beauty company.  Not only is Breitenstein talented, she seems pretty down to earth and grateful for the exposure her work garnered via social media. "I never thought art would lead to a career. No one ever explained that their are SO many jobs that require a BFA...If instagram was a person I would hug it and send it a billion thank you cards and flowers."  I just hope the fashion industry doesn't crush her spirit!

What do you think?

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Macaron madness! Lancôme vs. LM Ladurée, round two

Mum.macaron.smackdown.poster.2pp

I'm kicking off summer with a very sweet smackdown!  Because it involves macarons (or as MM staff calls them, "fancy French cookies"), I've selected the Museum's education specialist, Cookie Dreamer Babo, to serve as referee.  I also needed to keep an eye on him and the others to make sure they didn't eat the makeup as I was taking pictures.  ;)

LM Ladurée vs. Lancome

"What have we here?"

Given LM Ladurée's fight with Bésame, you can guarantee that she's one of the feistier combatants the Museum has had in the ring despite being a relative newcomer to the makeup world.  But more importantly, the current battle is not the first time LM Ladurée has squared off against Lancôme...and now it's time to see which of these venerable French brands wins their second bout.  Let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllllle!  *ding ding*

LM Laduree vs. Lancome

LM Ladurée gets off to a strong start with eyeshadows and cheek colors encased in illustrated macaron packaging a variety of delightful shades.  While they are mini sized - although not with a mini price tag, mind you, which is why there are only 3 compared to Lancôme's quartet - LM Ladurée's prowess lies in the details.

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

Blammo!  That's the sound of the adorable border of macarons on the side of each box delivering a sharp upper cut to Lancôme.

LM Ladurée summer 2018

In addition to macarons, there are what appears to be profiteroles in the lineup.  LM Ladurée is really bringing the heat! 

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

Finally, each color is embossed with LM Ladurée signature "merveilleuse" silhouette.

LM Ladurée summer 2018

But what Lancôme lacks in detail it makes up for in size and authenticity.  This blush set comes in a cheerful patterned box with two generously sized cushion blushes and two macaron-shaped application sponges. 

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

Ka-pow!  Lancôme's very realistic packaging packs a strong left hook to LM Ladurée's daintier collection.

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

Looks like LM Ladurée is getting a tad bit overcome with the size and durability of Lancôme.  While the sponges are soft, the plastic packaging of the blushes is way sturdier than LM Ladurée's cardboard. 

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

LM Ladurée is down!  Cookie Dreamer Babo is giving the count...six, seven...no, WAIT!  There's been a breaking development!  LM Ladurée is getting up and retaliating with quite the unexpected weapon: a beautiful face powder shaped like an elaborate pink cake, complete with delectable embossing.

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

Another development! Lancôme just called for a timeout and claimed LM Ladurée was fighting dirty since the cake is much bigger than the other items, but Referee Cookie Dreamer said it's fair play because it looks so tasty.  Not sure I agree with his rationale, but Babos aren't known for being bright and he is the referee, so back at it they go.

LM Ladurée summer 2018

We have a fight for the ages on our hands!  Will Lancôme's incredibly realistic and more economical set come out on top?  Or will LM Ladurée's attention to detail and last-minute cake surprise triumph over her fellow French foe?  Tell me in the comments!

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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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