MM Mailbag: fab four

For the majority of inquiries I receive -  say, around 75% - I'm ashamed to admit that I can't provide any information.  I do enjoy researching them but I loathe not being able to give a definitive answer on the item or brand people are asking about.  Recently I receive an inquiry from a woman who was, sadly, going through her deceased mother's belongings and came across 4 gorgeous compacts that she wanted to know a little more about.  While I was still not able to provide solid information for a couple of them, I was able to delve a bit more deeply into 2 of them.  I guess 50% is better than my usual rate for inquiries!

First up is this lovely gold-tone number with a sunburst pattern on the front and a basket weave pattern on the back. 

Vintage Melissa compact

Fortunately the puff was still in there so I could see the brand.  The Melissa company, according to the British Compact Collectors' Society, dates from around the 1950s-70s.  Says one researcher: "Melissa is thought to have been based in Acton, London W3 from the early 1950s, but I found that by 1962 the company had premises in Arundel Road, Uxbridge, Middlesex.  In 1970, the company was still listed at this address in a telephone directory, but by 1972 another company occupied the site.  A local trade directory of 1976 listed Searchlight Products, so possibly the firm was still trading at this later date, but I have been unable to find out at what date it ceased manufacturing compacts." 

Vintage Melissa compact

Next up is a "sweetheart" black enamel compact, so named for their popularity among WWII soldiers who gave them as gifts to their loved ones during wartime.  Without a maker's mark I couldn't identify the brand, but from what I could make out the insignia in the heart looks a bit like the "prop and wings" motif from the U.S. Air Corps.  I asked the submitter if anyone in her family was in the military and she confirmed that her father was in the Army Air Force during WWII.  What a sweet gift for her mom. 

I'd love to write a comprehensive history of sweetheart compacts, but it's such a huge project that it will have to wait for when I have time...like, maybe when I'm retired.  :(

Vintage sweetheart compact

Vintage sweetheart compact

For these last two a little more information was available.  Zell was a leading compact company from the '30s-'60s and was  one of the "5th Avenue" lines, along with Rex, Dorset, Columbia and Dale.  Zell had some quite novel compact designs early on, including the "First Nighter" - a compact with a flashlight that was released in the '30s (can you believe that?!)  But Zell was primarily known as a solid brand that offered understated, stylish designs as well.  The compact in question is an elegantly striped square piece with rounded edges.

Vintage Zell compact

Vintage Zell compact

I tried to find a little more information from my local library about the company, but came up mostly empty-handed.  I learned through a few meager news clippings that the company was founded by David H. Zell, who passed away in 1944.  While his widow Sophie was technically President, it was the Vice President, one of their sons Daniel D. Zell, who was really running the show, given this clipping (not to mention numerous patents in his name.)

1951 clip

After I scoured the historical newspapers, I decided to try old-fashioned googling to at least try to find when the Zell company was founded and when it went out of business.  I didn't find those dates, but I did unearth something quite interesting and bought it immediately.

Zell compact ad 1946

Well, look what I spy!  It's the very same compact!  The ad indicates that this particular style actually had a name:  it was called the "Countess".  Here it is up close in case you couldn't make it out.  (The one above is the "Aristocrat" and the one below is the "Princess".  Ooh la la.)

Zell ad close up

When I originally researched this inquiry I guessed that the compact in question was from the '50s, as that was the height of Zell's popularity and, in my opinion, gold-tone compacts.  But I was wrong.  The promotional ad is from 1946, so it must have been released if not that year then around then. While I'm still a little miffed at not being able to put together a full history of Zell, I'm glad I could at least identify this particular compact.  It was complete luck but I'll take it.  :)

I saved the most interesting one for last.  I couldn't for the life of me recognize the brand, as the photo of the mark on the back was too dark and small.

Lucien Lelong tambourine compact

Thankfully the submitter included a picture of the puff.  I recognized the concentric L-shapes as the logo belonging to Lucien Lelong, a famed French couturier turned perfumer and cosmetics manufacturer.

Lucien Lelong tambourine compact

The design of the compact is truly fascinating.  The intricate, regal birds are reminiscent of motifs found on royal crests, and I can't say I've ever seen a compact with little rings attached to it.  Off I went to find more information and found a few ads so I could give a date of when this compact was released.  Known as the "tambourine" compact, it looks like it first appeared in September 1948. The rings could be simply decorative and just there to be "pleasant sounding", or perhaps Mom could attach some charms to them - seems they were really pushing this as either a Valentine's Day or Mother's Day gift.  It may also have waned in popularity by 1950, given the price drop from the original $5 to $0.99.  As a side note, my mind is always blown by the retail prices of vintage pieces!  They seem so inexpensive, but according to this online calculator a $5 compact would cost approximately $52 nowadays.  Still, that's a reasonable price for a nice compact...and it would be only $10.13 on sale.  :)

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, September 1948

LOL at "gifty!"  These old ads crack me up sometimes.

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, February 1949

Lucien Lelong Tambourine compact ad, May 1950

I was really curious to know why Lelong decided to introduce this compact, as it didn't seem to have a connection to any of the company's fragrances or couture.  I did come across this "Ting a Ling" perfume bottle which also had rings attached and was released around the same time as the compact. 

Lucien Lelong Ting a Ling perfume
(image from collection.cooperhewitt.org)

But as you can see, it has bells, whereas I didn't see any Tambourine compacts with bells.  According to the New York Times ad above, the compact was a replica of a vintage French tambourine, which, when I first laid eyes on that description, sounded like utter marketing garbage.  However, thanks to extensive information provided on Lelong by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, it's entirely possible that the design was indeed inspired by a vintage tambourine.  Lelong employed the services of noted artist Peter Fink to create novel, unique packaging for his perfumes and lipsticks, such as the Ting a Ling bottle and Full Dress lipstick mentioned in the ad above, so it's probable that Fink came up with the tambourine compact design as well.  As for the notion that the compact was specifically a French tambourine replica, that's also credible given Lelong's love for his home country.  So maybe the advertising isn't a complete pile of crap spun by unscrupulous marketing directors.*  ;)  Anyway, I was happy that I could find a name and date for this compact.  This is definitely one I'd love to add to my collection, but they are rare (read: expensive, especially when in good condition) and tend to get snatched up immediately.

In closing, I'd like to thank the person who took the time to share these items with me.  Since I was able to provide a couple tidbits, this was one of the few inquiries that didn't end with me getting very upset at finding zero information.  Plus, all of the compacts are great from a design standpoint.  Even if I didn't find a single thing about them, I would have just enjoyed looking at them.

What do you think?  Which of these is your favorite?

 

*Eh, it probably is. Another newspaper ad from December 1948, which I didn't clip since I refuse to upgrade to the "premium" subscription of newspapers.com (they're such jerks - this stuff should be free!), and my local library didn't carry the particular newspaper, notes that the tambourine is an "exact replica of a g---y's tambourine".  Oof.  That would be pretty unacceptable language now, not to mention that it makes me doubt how inspired the design was.  Or it could also be a matter of marketing to different geographic areas - perhaps the advertising people thought that "French" would be more appealing to what they perceived to be a high-fashion East Coast crowd so they used it in the ad that ran in the New York Times, and changed the description to the g-word for simple Midwestern folks, whom they assumed had less stylish taste than New Yorkers and may have been put off by anything described as French (the g-word ad was found in the Indianapolis Star.)

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Curator's Corner, 5/14/2017

CC logoHello and Happy Mother's Day to all the moms!  If you're not a mom I hope you're having a lovely Sunday.  Unfortunately I am not...our living situation has not improved so we continue to actively look for new Museum headquarters, my 3rd chemical peel went badly (resulted in scabby, oozing wounds, which didn't occur with the first 2 peels - no idea what happened this time), and work has really picked up and will be busy till the end of June.  So things might get a little quiet around here since work stress and house hunting = me having no energy/time left to blog.  Anyway, I'll do my best to keep posting.  And to stop complaining.  ;)

- Here's a nice little read on cosmetics and personal hygiene products in ancient Egypt

- It's always surprising to me how little the cosmetics industry is regulated, which is why I was intrigued by this new bill

- And now for the crazy fads from the past 2 weeks:  pizza slice, "shine line" and mother-of-pearl hair are having a moment, brow art continues full speed ahead, and I have to say I'm digging this new eye makeup trend, remarkably impractical though it is.

- Racked highlights the growing population of recovering makeup addicts.  I can't say I'll ever be a part of their group, but it's good to know they're there.  (I was actually aware of the Makeup Rehab reddit previously since the Museum's very first in-person visitor is a member and told me all about it.)

- I've had my issues with Dove's campaigns before, but this is a new level of dumb.  Equally stupid is this new lipstick "hack" - an easier, more accurate way to determine what a lipstick will actually look like on your lips (and for you to see whether it's flattering) is swatching it on your fingertips.  Finally, when will it end??

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, the frontman of one of the decade's most prominent bands finished his Ph.D.  I was also super excited about the new season of Twin Peaks...until I read this article indicating that at least 3 characters aren't coming back.  (Two of these absences are due to the fact that the actors who played them have passed away since the show's original run - so sad!)

- A little art history fun.  Also, if this can get funding, surely my museum can.

- Makeup Museum staff's worst nightmare.

- LOL.

What's new with you?

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Ms. Min for MAC

Before I delve into the summer collections, I thought I'd look at one last release from the spring.  MAC teamed up with Chinese fashion designer Min Liu (a.k.a. Ms. Min) for a small collection featuring Min's signature modern twist on traditional Chinese style.  I picked up the standout from the collection, a blush/highlighter palette embossed with a truly gorgeous wave pattern.

Min Liu for MAC palette

Min Liu for MAC palette

I didn't have to search very hard to find the inspiration behind the colors Min chose, along with the wave design.  In an interview with online magazine Buro 24/7, she explains, "There are actually four main colors in this collection which are China red, lush peony pink, shimmering platinum, and bold ink black. Each colour is rich in meaning and contains a distinct energy in traditional colour theory. Red promises loyalty and bravery. Pink is a metaphor of beauty. Silver introduces the gods and spirits. Black brings honesty and integrity...The philosophy behind my collaboration with MAC is that everything is about how energy flows, casting a distinct aura, vitalising all forms of life — humans, water, mountains, earth, oceans, clouds. That no matter how it shifts and changes over time, the world maintains an eternal rhythm. It's also inspired by the ancient masterpiece Shang Hai Jing (The Guideways through Mountains and Seas), which is about Chinese mythology culture, spirituality, and folklore...[It's] an allegory for the energy that flows between mountains and oceans and across vast landscapes, spanning time and space. To open this compact is like feeling the universe in your hand. Somehow it reminds me that there is a universe out there." 

Min Liu for MAC palette

Min Liu for MAC palette

I personally think the design resembles the waves from this 1597 illustration of the Guideways Through Mountains and Seas.  (It also reminds me of Hokusai's The Great Wave, but that's a completely different cultural reference.)

Classic of Mountains and Seas illustration, 1597(image from commons.wikimedia.org)

So it's pretty, but what does the makeup have to do with Min's fashion?  Well, the designer created a beautiful capsule collection to coordinate with the makeup, which was unveiled at Shanghai's fashion week in a rather dramatic runway show.  (There's probably a lot more information in this WWD article, but of course it's behind a paywall and my library doesn't have the April issue available yet.  Sigh.) 

MAC Min Liu display

Mac-min-liu-show-dance

The clothing was simply stunning and the makeup was spot-on.  I can't imagine a more harmonious collection.  I can also definitely see the traditional-meets-contemporary vibe of the clothing, which is better described by Min:  "The style of Ms MIN has always been inspired a lot by tradition, culture and spirituality. There's been this conversation between modernity and tradition, Yin and Yang, contrary and balance and ultimately, discovering the harmony of all elements together. Anything relative to beauty reminds us and inspires us: beauty of life, beauty of energy, beauty of this world, and beauty inside of ourselves."  And as for her general perspective on makeup, Min emphasizes owning your look. "I'm wearing the makeup, the makeup is not wearing me," she says.  It's a good reminder not to wear anything that makes you uncomfortable; otherwise it will indeed look like the makeup is wearing you and not the other way around.

MAC Min Liu show

MAC Min Liu fashion collection
(images from mt.sohu.com)

Obviously the clothing was also used in the MAC campaign ads - here's a slightly better glimpse of it. 

MAC Min Liu ad

Overall, I can't say I'd wear any of Min's clothing, but I appreciate her aesthetic.  And I think the MAC palette totally captures it by updating a motif inspired by an ancient Chinese text, along with the color scheme - the shades chosen have certain traditional meanings in Chinese culture, but combining them into one palette, along with how they were used on the runway and campaign, gives them a modern feel. 

What do you think?


Friday with Frida: more Kahlo-inspired makeup

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  In honor of this festive day I thought I'd do a quick follow-up to Republic Nail's Frida Kahlo-themed polishes.  Turns out, another beauty brand beat them to the punch in early 2016 with a line of lipsticks featuring packaging inspired by the artist.  You might remember how enamored I was of Mexican company Pai Pai back in 2015, when I was positively drooling over their concept of collaborating with a different Mexican artist each season to create limited edition packaging.  Anyway, I spotted their summer 2017 collection on Instagram and was once again smitten, so I decided to catch up and see what else they had been up to since I posted about them.  That's when I found these lipsticks.

Paipai - Talia Cu

The fashion illustrator/journalist behind these, Talia Cu (Castellanos)1 had a less literal interpretation of Kahlo's work than Republic Nail.  Cu was interested in expressing the essence of Kahlo herself rather than reproducing her work, wanting to explore Kahlo's personality and fashion sense more than her art.  To accomplish this, Cu looked to both Kahlo's general surroundings and the pictures of her personal belongings photographed by Ishiuchi Miyako.  As I noted in the Republic Nail post, Kahlo's clothing, accessories and other items weren't discovered in her home until 50 years after her death.  In 2011 Miyako embarked on a breathtaking series that captured Kahlo's spirit through her personal effects (over 300 were photographed!).  It was these photos, along with other meaningful items from Kahlo's day-to-day life, that Cu used as a jumping off point for her designs.  I tried translating Cu's explanation as best I could (my Spanish is incredibly rusty) from this Vogue Mexico article.2  "I wanted to give a unique perspective and not necessarily focus on her art.  Mainly, I took inspiration from the photographs Ishiuchi Miyako took of Frida Kahlo's things, and I also wanted to revisit certain iconic motifs in her art (watermelon, monkeys, the phrase 'viva la vida') to create this small universe that built her personality."  If any illustrator is suited to take on this task, it's Cu - one look at her Instagram, which is chock full of vibrant street fashion sketches and animations, told me she could breathe new life into Kahlo's style as expressed through various items.

Paipai - Talia Cu
(images from paipai.mx)

Ishiuchi Miyako, "Frida by Ishiuchi #2" and "#11"

Ishiuchi Miyako, "Frida by Ishiuchi #50"
(images from michaelhoppengallery.com and itsnicethat.com)

Cu imagined what Kahlo would look like wearing those cat-eye sunglasses, borrowing (I suspect, given the shape of the flowers atop her head) a portrait by Nickolas Muray.  The green and white polka dot print on the lipstick may also have been a nod to the green floral background from one of Kahlo's most famous photos.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo
(image from nickolasmuray.com)

As noted previously, Kahlo kept several monkeys, along with a host of other animals, as surrogate children. (One thing I didn't know before was that monkeys were also a symbol of lust in traditional Mexican folklore.)  Cu created a charming monkey print to represent Kahlo's attachment to these animals.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait with Monkeys, 1943(image from fridakahlo.org)

Frida Kahlo, 1943(image from nydailynews.com)

I thought a cactus print was kind of strange since I don't remember these plants appearing in any Kahlo paintings, until I did a little more digging - I spotted many cacti in the garden as well as a cactus wall surrounding Kahlo's beloved home, La Casa Azul (it's now a museum and I want to go!), so I'm assuming that's where it came from.

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo - Casa Azul(image from latinflyer.com)

Watermelons were a popular motif in Kahlo's still-life paintings.  Once again Cu gives them a fun, playful twist - they seem much less heavy than the fruits that appear in Kahlo's work.   Knowing that Kahlo added the inscription on Viva La Vida, Sandias just a few days before her death, for example, is rather bleak.  Cu's color choice of bright blue and peach, as well as the exuberant, lightweight lines of the fruit, transforms the phrase into an upbeat slogan of sorts.  (Oddly enough, you can actually buy a ceramic watermelon with the inscription from La Casa Azul's gift shop.)

Paipai - Talia Cu

Frida Kahlo, Viva La Vida, 1954

Frida Kahlo, Still Life with Watermelons, 1953

Frida Kahlo, The Bride Frightened at Seeing Life Opened, 1943

Frida Kahlo, Coconuts, 1951(images from fridakahlo.org)

By the way, if you're wondering why I'm using stock photos of the lipsticks instead of my own, there's a simple reason:  Pai Pai's shipping cost was completely prohibitive.  I was finally ready to pull the trigger on some items from this collection as well as the summer 2017 collection, but when I saw the shipping cost my heart dropped.  I thought the prices were mistakenly listed in Mexican pesos, but no, they were clearly U.S. dollars.  I was going to do a screenshot of the cost, but in prepping the photos for this post it seems PaiPai's check out isn't working (I keep getting an "internal server error" message) so I can't show you.  I do remember the cost though: I had 3 lipsticks in my cart for $66 and shipping was $184.  I have no idea why shipping to the U.S. from Mexico is so steep.  I order from sellers all over the world and have never seen anything like this!  But I simply can't justify more than double the price of the lipsticks themselves.  It's not the total amount that's an issue - I've spent $200-$300 in one go before - but it's a waste to pay that much for shipping alone.  It's very sad for me and a little for the company, as they could have gained quite a loyal customer.  If shipping wasn't ridiculous I'd probably snatch up every collection in full.  As a last-ditch effort, I repeatedly called the one salon in the U.S. that carries Pai Pai and never had anyone pick up, and also DM'ed them on Instagram with no reply.  Hmmph.  Unless Pai Pai comes to their senses and reduces their shipping to a reasonably affordable price, or starts carrying the line in more locations within the U.S., I'm afraid I won't be acquiring any for the Museum.  :(

I don't want to leave on a negative note, as it's both Friday and Cinco de Mayo, so I will say that I think Cu's interpretation of Kahlo is both more inspired and uplifting than Republic Nails.  The illustrations are lighter and speak to the less tortured side of the artist - the objects chosen by Cu were ones that I imagine brought Kahlo happiness, fleeting though it was.  The idea of telling her story through her personal items and other things that had meaning for her, especially when combined with the emphasis on her fashion sense, is a unique way to represent Kahlo.  By consciously choosing not to focus solely on Kahlo's art, Cu gives us a fuller impression of her personality with these illustrations.

What do you think?  And are you doing anything for Cinco de Mayo?

 

1Normally with these sorts of collabs I'd show more of the artist's work but I think these lipsticks really encapsulate Cu's style...plus I had no idea how to work it in with all of the Kahlo stuff!

2The full quote is as follows: “Por mi antecedente en el campo de la moda, me interesé en Frida Kahlo no solo por su trabajo como artista, sino por la personalidad que lograba capturar en su vestuario, y su estilo icónico...Quería darle una perspectiva distinta y no necesariamente enfocarme en su arte. Principalmente, tomé inspiración de las fotografías que Ishiuchi Miyako tomó de los objetos de Frida Kahlo, y a la par retomé también ciertas figuras icónicas en su obra (la sandía, los monos, la frase "viva la vida") todo para crear este pequeño universo que la construye como personaje. Los colores por supuesto, tenían que representar esa alegría en su vestuario.”

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Curator's Corner, 5/2/2017

CC logoA Curator's Corner on a Tuesday?  Sure, why not.  I'm usually late with this feature anyway and end up backdating it, but this weekend was terrible - I'll spare you my whining but suffice it to say that Museum headquarters may have to move soon - so I'm posting this link roundup even later. I hope you enjoy regardless of its tardiness. :)

- Here's a really interesting piece on makeup hoarding and addiction that identified the difference between a hobby and compulsive buying.  I maintain that while I own much more makeup than the average person, I'm not a hoarder since I keep an inventory, regularly clean out my stash and genuinely enjoy everything I buy.  Right?  Right. #denial

- Racked also had an article on Republic Nail's Frida Kahlo polishes.  I was so pleased to see a shout-out to the Museum's post on the topic, but still kinda wished they had interviewed me since, well really, who has more expertise discussing the intersection of makeup and art?  Oh well.

- As you know I can't get enough of flash-in-the-pan fads.  In the past 2 weeks barbed wire brows have replaced feather brows, geode nails are the new geode highlights, lips take on a marbled look, and for some reason butt glitter has migrated upwards to boob glitter.

- Meanwhile, the unicorn frappuccino mania has spilled over into the beauty sphere, with nails and hair inspired by the limited edition Starbucks drink.  The drink may be gone now but the unicorn beauty craze is still going strong - even guys are getting their unicorn magic on.

- Speaking of guys, just when we thought we had reached peak crazy makeup applicator, one girl put part of her boyfriend's nether regions to cosmetic use.  (Link NSFW, obviously).  It's stunts like these that make me appreciate beauty tutorial parodies all the more.

- Happy (belated) 420.

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, I greatly enjoyed the oral histories of both Romy and Michele's High School Reunion and Austin Powers, along with this write-up of one of my favorite Yo La Tengo albums.  All three turned 20.  In related news, I. Am. So. Old.

- I love me some bubbly, but bubbly with glitter is even better.

- More beverage fun: I was initially kind of annoyed about the aforementioned unicorn frappuccino since there was no mermaid frap, but there is!  I really really want one, especially since it sounds like it would be way yummier than the unicorn one (it apparently tasted like Sweet Tarts so I definitely wouldn't have liked it) but I hate the thought of annoying the crap out of the barista

What's been catching your eye?

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Armani's runway palettes: high-end makeup blind boxes?

Thank goodness for Instagram, because without it I might never have known Armani was doing another runway palette this spring!  As with the previous runway palettes it features a fabric print taken directly from the latest ready-to-wear collection packaged in a lovely tulle pouch.  While last spring's didn't really catch my fancy, I deemed this season's palette (along with fall 2016's) Museum-worthy. 

Armani spring 2017 palette

Armani spring 2017 palette

Armani spring 2017 palette

I feel this palette was better equipped than previous ones to help you recreate the runway makeup look, which was simply gorgeous - a pop of bright blue messily smudged along the top lashline paired with peachy-beige cheeks and glossy peach lips.  It sounds like it's been done before, but this look was a new iteration of the sexy disheveled eye in that it used bold color rather than the usual black, and there didn't seem to be any eyeshadow at all.  While I can't use this palette since it's a collectible, I bet I could swap Pat McGrath's magnificent Ultraviolet Dark Star kit.

Armani spring 2017 palette

Armani spring 2017 makeup

Armani spring 2017

Armani spring 2017 makeup

I also think the makeup paired really well with the clothes.

Armani spring 2017 ready to wear

As with the previous runway palettes, my hunch is that there are a handful of different fabric swatches that appear on the palettes.  The one in the stock photo, for example, shows a slightly different section of the pattern than the one I have.

Armani spring 2017 palette

Now let's play the matching game.  I found the exact portion of the fabric in this look.

Armani spring 2017 ready to wear
(images from vogue.com and giorgioarmanibeauty-usa.com)

However, I had to flip it both vertically and horizontally to get it to match the one on the palette case.

Armani pattern spring 2017

I'm enjoying these runway-inspired pieces from Armani.  Arguably they're not earth-shattering from a design standpoint in that they're literal reproductions of the patterns on the clothing, and sometimes I wish Armani would return to bedazzled and/or embossed powders for their seasonal releases, but the joy in these lies in the fact that you never know what you're going to get in terms of the exact part of the pattern that appears on the palette.  It's like a blind box toy of sorts (I'd dearly love to have blind box makeup!) and it's also a fun little game to go through the runway photos and find the particular fabric swatch you have.  Or at least it is to me since I'm a dork that way.  :D

What do you think?

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Poland meets Japan meets France

I spotted this Japan-exclusive Guerlain compact on Instagram and was afraid I wouldn't be able to snag it, but fortunately one of my trusty international sellers got it in stock.  The beautiful floral pattern is the work of Polish-born, Tokyo-based artist Przemek Sobocki.  I find the navy blue outline to perfectly complement the mix of spring green, pale lavender and an array of pinks, especially set against that pristine white background.  The delicate lines within the leaves lend a realistic, vivid touch. 

Przemek Sobocki for Guerlain

Przemek Sobocki for Guerlain

I really wish I had more information about how the collaboration with Guerlain came to be, but in lieu of that I thought I'd take a look at some of the artist's other work.  Sobocki specializes in whimsical, colorful fashion illustrations in a range of areas, from print (magazine features, ads, etc.) and animated shorts and to store displays and packaging.  Of his sources for inspiration and overall style, he says, "Mostly, I am inspired by cinema and books, and I really like 'reality' with a twist – basically 'magical realism' – I think our lives are not only about what we can see or hear or touch or taste, etc., they are also about the reality 'between the lines.' I am very interested in that part of life and of telling stories in this way; to evoke the feeling of suspense.” 

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Manish Arora, 2010

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Harper's Bazaar Japan

Przemek Sobocki illustration for Elle magazine, 2013

Some of my favorites include these amazing store displays for Japan's famous Isetan department store.

Przemek Sobocki store display for Isetan

Another favorite of mine is the "candyland" Sobocki created for online high-end clothing retailer Farfetch - reminds me a little of Will Cotton's pieces.

Przemek Sobocki for Farfetch

Przemek Sobocki for Farfetch

One thing I found interesting about Sobocki's work is that it's primarily a Western style with just a touch of Asian flair.  After opening two exhibitions in Japan, Sobocki knew he was ready to take the plunge into living there; however, he's not as influenced stylistically by Japanese culture as by his native European roots.  It's there, but in his words, not "obvious":  "I feel very comfortable here so the cultural differences [weren't] really much of a problem...there is definitely influence from Oriental culture.  But I guess it's not as obvious as [that of other artists] who live in Asia.  I'm still very inspired by European culture but I absolutely love Asian cinema - so the influence is there for sure!"  I feel as though these jellyfish decorating the windows of a Tokyo salon, along with the underwater scene Sobocki created for a child's bedroom, look a little more Asian - they remind me a tiny bit of the scenes you'd find on Japanese wood block prints.

Przemek Sobocki - window mural for Acqua Salon

Przemek Sobocki - window mural for Acqua Salon

Przemek Sobocki - wall mural

Just for fun, I had to include his rendering of the famous Copenhagen mermaid statue for a Farfetch campaign.  ;)

Przemek Sobocki - illustration for Farfetch(images from sobocki.com and instagram)

While his clients are primarily fashion brands, Sobocki is no stranger to beauty-related illustration.  I adore his interpretation of several looks created by the ultra-talented Pat McGrath for Dior.

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration
(image from sobocki.com)

Here's the actual makeup.

Pat McGrath makeup for Dior

A few more:

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration(images from sobocki.com and papermag.com)

Przemek Sobocki - editorial illustration
(images from sobocki.com and pinterest)

There was also this collaboration for a nail polish set.

Przemek Sobocki - UNT nail polish set(image from sobocki.com)

Despite his extensive portfolio of store displays and advertising campaigns, Sobocki maintains that illustration is his preferred medium because of the artistic freedom it provides. "[Illustrators] can show things differently. They are not bound by the physical limitations of their environment or the models in the same way that a photographer might be.  Instead, an illustration artist can bend the rules a bit and really explore the concept behind the clothes," he explains

Overall, while I would have liked to see more information about how the Guerlain collaboration happened and the inspiration behind the compact's illustration, it's definitely Museum-worthy.  I must remember to include it in next year's spring exhibition, since it arrived too late for inclusion in this year's.

Thoughts?


Found! Some vintage inspiration for Benefit

I was eagerly scrolling through Instagram (which has, incidentally, become my favorite social media platform - please join and follow me, it's so much fun!) and came across a familiar image from one of the many vintage ephemera accounts I follow. 

Vintage Flexees lingerie mannequin
(image from instagram.com)

I knew it was makeup-related, but couldn't recall which company had used something that looked just like this lingerie mannequin.  Was it Too-FacedThe Balm?  Nope.  I racked my brain but just couldn't place it.  It wasn't until I started packing for a weekend at my parents' house that it dawned on me. 

Benefit Lana makeup bag

Aha!  I believe I found the original source for Benefit's Luscious Lana, especially given that Benefit refers to her as a lingerie model.  In an alternate version of the makeup bag she has the rose up by her head, but not in the original green bag.  I'm guessing Benefit used a reproduction mannequin of the Flexees one since her face is a little different.  Naturally this serindipitous find got me interested in trying to track down other vintage mannequins to see whether they figured into Benefit's packaging and advertising, and I found another lingerie mannequin that appeared on many of Benefit's old catalogs.  Apparently both this model and the one used for Lana were mannequins meant to be displayed on a store counter top, so they're pretty small - not life-size or anything, which makes them cute rather than creepy.  Both also appear to be from the 1940s or so.

As with Lana the face on this one is ever so slightly different.

Vintage lingerie mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Benefit makeup catalog

While the features on this mannequin aren't as strikingly similar to the previous two, she still may have served as inspiration for Benefit's Beautiful Bermuda Betty, who appeared in various catalogs and a bag.  The downward-looking pose, hairstyle and smoky eye with thin arched brows look alike, although not identical.

Vintage Formfit mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Benefit Bermuda Betty

I dug a little more but still couldn't find any original sources for Gabbi Glickman, who is probably Benefit's 2nd best known mannequin mascot.  I did unearth a pair of mannequin heads that are identical, but there was no information provided about them.

Benefit Gabbi bag

The one I was most interested in finding though was the mannequin used for Simone, the dark-haired beauty sporting a lavish gold dress who is probably Benefit's most recognized mascot.  Full-sized Simones reside in Benefit's headquarters in both San Francisco and Canada, and she appeared as the cover girl for most of the aforementioned catalogs.

Benefit headquarters - Simone mannequin(image from sfgate.com)

Benefit holiday makeup catalog

I did find a mannequin that looked just like Simone, but I had no idea what company it was for or approximately when it was made.  This was displayed at a Chanel event but I don't think it was an official Chanel advertising piece.

Chanel mannequin
(image from pinterest.com)

It also doesn't look like a regular vintage mannequin but rather a reproduction.  Looking at both this and Benefit's other mannequins in their offices, I'm wondering if they're using a mix of authentic vintage pieces and reproductions.

Benefit office - mannequin heads(image from refinery29.com)

For example, the third mannequin from the right definitely resembles this reproduction...

Mary mannequin by Marge Crunkleton
(image from crunkleton.com)

...while the blonde right in the middle is a dead ringer for this vintage 1940s jewelry mannequin.

Vintage jewelry mannequin
(image from ebay.com)

Why does Benefit rely so heavily on mannequins for their marketing?  One reason is that in their early days, the company couldn't afford to pay real spokespeople and models, so the mannequins served as a stand-in (this was also the reason Stila used illustrations).  Second, Benefit founders and Jean and Jane Ford always had an affinity for vintage fashion and beauty items.*  In a 2011 interview, Jean explained: "Over the years, Jane and I have collected vintage pieces for inspiration...we have vintage mannequins, compacts, posters, handbags and lots of old magazines.  There is something very romantic about the past.  For our packaging, we use both modern and old-fashioned images and styles to create fun products that women will want to carry in their bags or display on their vanity."  Indeed, using retro designs in a modern way has proved to be a dynamite strategy for the company.  I don't really see it as nostalgia for the past, per se, but rather an appreciation for the overall style and occasionally more kitschy aspects of selling femininity, such as those countertop display lingerie mannequins.  Sometimes I look at old makeup ads and burst out laughing - to modern eyes, the cheesiness and over-the-top tone are genuinely funny.  Benefit seizes the opportunity to celebrate the sillier side of vintage beauty and fashion and infused it into their entire brand.

What do you think?   

 

*In addition to the mannequins, I'm wondering whether Benefit was looking at these Max Factor doll lipstick mirrors when designing their 2016 holiday collection.


Curator's Corner, 4/16/2017

CC logoHappy Sunday and Happy Easter to those celebrating.  Here's your bi-weekly batch of links.

- Smashbox is now a world record holder for the most expensive lip art, ringing in at a whopping $26,500.

- After a similar article published a few weeks ago, I really want to ask this author why she has such a hatred for all fun makeup.  This is a topic I've explored before, but I believe women are smart enough to know the difference between nostalgia and infantilization.

- The latest trends sweeping Instagram include feather brows, floral eyeliner, holographic hair and leopard print hair.  Meanwhile, ice cream flavored lip balm is the newest member of the foody beauty family.

- "I get enough FOMO from social media alone — I don’t need my beloved beauty products making me feel like I’m a loser as well."  Racked offers a good piece on time-saving beauty products

- In racist/offensive/bad taste beauty news, we have Nivea's (now pulled) "white purity" ads and a tutorial to recreate United Airlines passenger David Dao's bloodied mouth.  Ugh.

- But at least this is funny

The random:

- In '90s nostalgia, here's a list of little-known facts about my favorite movie and a truly hilarious supercut of Seinfeld bloopers.  Also, Tamagotchis are officially back and Hanson's megahit "Mmmbop", a.k.a. the most annoying song ever, turned 20 this week.

- On the art/museum front, these are possibly the most unimaginative "art-inspired" bags I've ever seen.  You know what's great though?  My favorite little egg starring in famous paintings

- Eggs remind me of Easter, which brought in the usual fun stuff:  the Washington City Paper resurrected the Post's Peeps Diorama contest, while a baker used 1,500 peeps to make a life-size Disney princess.  And I'd be curious to check out this new bunny museum.  Finally, I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I'd probably eat both of these pizzas

Speaking of novelty foods, I'm not sure how I feel about clear coffee but pink pineapples are a total win for me, pineapple fiend that I am.

How are you doing? 

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