Curator's Corner, 4/1/2018

CC logoHappy Easter Fool's!  Let's take a look to see what the interwebz had in store for the past few weeks.

-In what I thought for sure were early April Fool's jokes that turned out to be true, Chanel beauty will now be sold at Ulta, while Einstein Bros. inexplicably released cheese-scented shampoo and bacon-scented conditioner.  Equally confounding is the fact that both items sold out

- The crazy brow trend isn't going anywhere any time soon.  However, Racked points out why we fall for these and explains why they're actually not trends at all.

- In makeup history, the Smithsonian outlines Madam C.J. Walker's philanthropic endeavors, and we finally discover what brow pencil Frida Kahlo wore.

- On why J-Beauty isn't the new K-beauty.

- Certainly a novel use for a hairdryer, but I guess when you shell out that kind of money for a Dyson it should do more than merely dry one's hair, yes?

The random:

- So much '90s nostalgia!  Twentieth birthday wishes are in order for both Dawson's Creek and one of the Curator's favorite movies (read more critics' thoughts here and here).  Meanwhile, '90s-era music is experiencing not so much nostalgia as a resurgence, what with bands like The Breeders, Belly and Superchunk all releasing new albums.

- On the museum front, what's worse than another made-for-Instagram museum?  One that rips off legitimate artists. Sigh.

- No idea how I missed this book - it was just recently brought to my attention via Twitter - but it's now on my wishlist. 

How are you?  Did you have a good Easter/Passover/weekend?

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On the wings to beauty: Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics

Jacqueline Cochran, ca. 1938

"It never dawned on me not to do something because I was a woman...I thought nothing of approaching men like Vincent Bendix, the airplane manufacturer for whom the transcontinental air race was named, to explain my position: 'I can fly as well as any man entered in that race.'  I didn't see it as being boastful so much as speaking the truth.  I learned through hard work and hard living that if I didn't speak the truth about myself, no one else would fill in the missing pieces." - Jacqueline Cochran

As with Tommy Lewis and Richard Hudnut, I found a very interesting piece of makeup history completely by chance.  I was thinking how cool it would be to see some mid-century modern designers' work on makeup packaging, i.e. Alexander Girard, Charley Harper and Paul Rand.  On a whim I typed in "Paul Rand makeup" into Google (I think I was under the impression that I could somehow will makeup packaging with his work into being if I just believed hard enough) and lo and behold, a bunch of ads he had designed for a brand called Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics popped up.  I had never heard of it so I searched for just Cochran's name...and was mighty confused by the results. 

Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran (1906?-1980) was a pioneer of aviation in the 20th century, a.k.a. an aviatrix (don't you just love that word?! So bad-ass!)  A contemporary of Amelia Earhart, Cochran set world records for flying from the '30s through the '60s, including:

  • The first woman to enter the famous Bendrix race in 1935, and the first to win in 1938
  • The first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic in 1941
  • The first woman civilian to earn the Distinguished Service Medal for serving as the director of the Women's Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) and training women pilots in WWII
  • The first woman to break the sound barrier in 1953
  • The first living woman to be inducted into the Aviation Hall of Fame in 1971
  • Held more speed, distance and altitude records than any pilot in history at the time of her death.

Further along in my search I discovered that this amazing woman was, in fact, the same Jacqueline Cochran as the one behind the cosmetics line.  While I don't wish to diminish her accomplishments as a pilot, obviously I'm more interested in telling the story of her makeup company.  As we'll see, Cochran may never have gotten into flying if it wasn't for her interest in cosmetics. 

It seems like I'm sharing too much of Cochran's early life, but I promise it's relevant!  Jackie Cochran (original name Bessie Lee Pittman1) was born an orphan around 1906 in Florida.  The exact year is unknown because she didn't have a birth certificate.  Adopted by an impoverished foster family, Cochran worked throughout basically her entire childhood.  When I say "impoverished" I don't mean the family couldn't afford multiple cars; I mean they literally didn't know when or if their next meal would come, and the children's clothing consisted of flour sacks stitched together.  In 1914 the family relocated to Columbus, Georgia to work at a cotton mill, children included.  At the age of 14 she experienced her first foray into the beauty industry by taking on the role of "beauty operator" at a local salon, learning how to operate the perming machines and dyeing clients' hair.  A traveling salesman for a perm machine knocked on the door one day and offered her a job as an operator in Montgomery, Alabama, and off she went.  (I can't even imagine going to a strange town with not a penny in my pocket and knowing nearly zero people, especially at 15.)  One of her regular customers suggested she go to nursing school despite the fact that Cochran only had a third-grade education.  After deciding nursing wasn't the career for her, Cochran moved to New York and landed a job at Antoine's, a high-end salon located within Saks department store.  I'm astonished at how hard Cochran had to work just to survive, and though sheer grit and fierce will to succeed, she was able to make a slightly better life for herself as a teenager than as a child.  (You really need to read her autobiography, which is where I'm getting most of this information2 - the courage and determination she had were mind-blowing, yet she presents it in a very matter-of-fact manner, not in any sort of bragging or "woe is me" way.  When a group of school girls asked why she was so ambitious, she straightforwardly replied, "poverty and hunger").

Jacqueline Cochran(image from floridamemory.com)

It was at a party in 1932 where she met her future husband, millionaire lawyer and businessman Floyd Odlum.  Cochran was completely unaware of his background (and wealth) at the time, but was immediately attracted to him.  The party's host introduced them, and during their chat, Cochran mentioned her desire to get out of the salon.  "I've been thinking about leaving Antoine's to go on the road selling cosmetics for a manufacturer...the shop can be so confining and the customers so frustrating and what I really love to do is travel.  I want to be out in the air."  To which Odlum replied, "If you're going to cover the kind of territory you need to cover in order to make money in this kind of economic climate, you'll need wings.  Get your pilot's license" (p. 57). And with that, Cochran took flying lessons and earned her pilot's license in a mere 3 weeks - setting records right from the start of her aviation career.  In 1935 she officially established her eponymous line, which was meant for a more active woman who wanted to have adventures but also look polished while doing so.  (Not that women need to look polished, or even require makeup to look polished, of course.)  The brand's use of "wings to beauty" and claim that a full beauty routine takes just a few minutes a day suggest that it was a brand intended for the busy go-getter, perhaps even an early version of athleisure beauty.  Indeed, both the ads and Cochran's own words in a 1938 interview demonstrate a no-nonsense, time-saving approach to beauty - ever practical, she skipped blush while flying.  Says the article, "Mandarin fingernails and artificial eyelashes are ceiling zero to [Cochran]. 'You get pale at high altitudes,' she explains. So rouge just stands out in one big spot.' Likes an eye cream to 'keep my eyelids from drying'.  There's a foundation cream with an oil base. 'Your skin gets dry in high altitudes.' Then lipstick and powder.  That's all.  In summer, she likes a grease make-up - foundation cream that makes you look all bright and shiny and is worn without any powder. 'Just a touch of paste rouge and your lipstick. It's young-looking and very attractive with sports clothes.'"  I think Cochran definitely would be a fan of athleisure makeup today, as she seemed to prefer a minimal, fresh-faced look.

Jacqueline Cochran makeup ad, 1939
(image from hprints.com)

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1939

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1939

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1940

Some more of her musings on makeup:  "I'm feminine but I can't say that I was ever a feminist...I refused to get out of the plane [after a crash in Bucharest] until I had removed my flying suit and used my cosmetics kit.  That was feminine and it was natural for me.  It gave me the pick-me-up I needed and I wasn't ashamed to do it.  I didn't want to be a man.  I just wanted to fly" (p. 20).  Though she says otherwise, Cochran's actions most definitely paint a feminist picture.  I'm seeing her reapplication of makeup following a crash as more of a coping technique and less "I need to look pretty".  As we'll see, however, later advertising for the brand took a decidedly ageist turn.3

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad, 1940

The brand was also a reflection of Cochran's unstoppable determination and desire to innovate.  "I wanted no part of other people's products because I was crazy enough then to think I could do better...when I first set about to develop a greaseless night cream, I was told that a greaseless lubricant was clearly impossible.  I knew they were wrong and I never recognized the word impossible.  My most successful cream, Flowing Velvet, is the result of my stubbornness" (p. 119).  Flowing Velvet was possibly the first moisturizer on the market intended to replenish the skin in high altitudes and extreme travel distances - i.e. long flights.  It was introduced around 1942 and the line expanded in the '50s to include face powder and lipstick.  Sadly, the advertising greatly contradicts Cochran's own words, as it seems to be geared towards ancient ladies over the age of 20 (!) trying to regain their youthful glow.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1955

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1960

I couldn't locate a jar of the famous cream, but I did scrounge up a powder refill from the early '60s. 

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder, ca. 1961

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet powder ad, 1960

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet lipstick ad, 1959

One of the most unique products Cochran came up with was the "perk-up stick", which contained 5 beauty products in a tiny cylinder for on-the-go usage. "I was proud of what we used to the Jacqueline Cochran 'Perk-Up' cylinder.  I would take one on all my trips, on all my races.  It was a three-and-a-half inch stick that came apart into five separate compartments for weekends or trips.  It would fit anywhere and it had everything" (p. 119).

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1947
(image from Blue Velvet Vintage)

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1947

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick ad, 1948

I was fortunate enough to snag one of these for the Museum. 

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

I've taken most of it apart so you can see what it looks like.  I couldn't get some of the compartments open and didn't want to break it, but all of the ones I did open still had product left.

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

At one point it had a sifter for the powder so that it didn't spill out when you opened the compartment. 

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

The Perk-Up Stick also came with a little spatula so you could refill it as needed and hygienically apply everything.  While the concept seems genius (seriously, why aren't companies now coming up with things like this?!) one must remember that products in the first half of the 20th century were generally smaller and more streamlined - no big huge honkin' palettes back then.  And refillable packaging was way more common.  In thinking about the lovely compacts I've collected over the years, I'm remembering that people didn't throw them out, they just popped in a refill.  Still, the Perk-Up stick is unlike anything I've seen, contemporary or vintage.  As the author of Blue Velvet Vintage notes, the closest thing we have today to the Perk-Up Stick are stackable jars.

Jacqueline Cochran Perk-Up Stick

I also purchased one more piece from the early '60s.  However, the photo below is not mine, for you see, I bought not one but TWO of these compacts, yet ended up with none.  I bought one in late February, only for USPS to claim it had been delivered when it had not...and then a few weeks later when it still didn't resurface, I found another floating around on Ebay and bought it to replace the lost one. Despite being from a totally different seller in a completely different part of the country, somehow USPS lost the replacement as well.  How they managed to do that I have no idea - perhaps this compact is cursed.  There are others available for sale but they're not in as good condition as the ones I purchased, and at this point I'm not willing to invest any more money into it.  Nevertheless it would have been a nice piece to have in the collection.

Jacqueline Cochran L'Opera compacts(image from pinterest)

Jacqueline Cochran L'Opera compacts ad, 1961

As for the Paul Rand ads, despite reading almost as much as I could find on Cochran, I'm still not clear on how the partnership with Rand started.  I do know that I'm in love with the ads. 

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand, 1945

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand, 1946

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran ad designed by Paul Rand

As this exhibition catalogue shows, I'm missing a few more of his ads, alas.

Jacqueline Cochran ads designed by Paul Rand(image from amulhall015.portfolio.com)

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1944(image from pinterest)

Obviously I'd give my eye teeth for this crazy powder!

Jacqueline Cochran face powder box designed by Paul Rand

Jacqueline Cochran face powder box designed by Paul Rand(images from paul-rand.com)

One observation I had in looking at these was that as heavily as the Chromoblend powder was marketed throughout the '40s - given the abundance of ads I'm imagining this was one of the pillars of the line in addition to Flowing Velvet - I couldn't find any jars to actually buy.  I'm wondering if custom blend face powder king Charles of the Ritz was too stiff a competition.  Did Cochran launch her own custom face powder as a way of thumbing her nose at his company and trying to prove that, once and for all, her product was superior?  While it's unclear which Charles she was referring to, Cochran recalls her meeting with him less than fondly. "What an irritating snob of a man Mr. Charles was.  I made the interview worse by insisting outright that I was an expert at everything.  He didn't believe me.  I didn't look old enough to be expert at anything, he said.  We were two big egos out to prove who is bigger, better.  In fact, I told Charles of the Ritz that not only was I good, I was probably better than he was.  That amused him for a minute, but he was not so amused when I wanted fifty percent commission on every customer I had in his salon...it makes me smile to think that the cosmetics company I would found several years later, Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics, still competes with Charles of the Ritz" (p. 55).

The overall concept of going to a counter and having custom face powder blended is remarkably similar.

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1945

The use of the spatula in this ad and the idea of making custom powder "while you wait and watch" is also nearly identical to Charles of the Ritz's ads.

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics ad designed by Paul Rand, 1944

So what happened to Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics after its heyday in the '40s and '50s?  Cochran sold the company in 1963 to American Cyanamid Co.  It was then formally acquired by Shulton, a subsidiary of American Cyanamid, in 1965.  Unfortunately the ageism continued to run rampant in ads throughout the '60s.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1966

At least they were still touting a speedy beauty routine for women who don't have much time to devote to skincare.  Then again, sitting around and drinking tea doesn't exactly scream "busy".  Like, they couldn't have shown a woman on her way to work or engaged in a sport of some kind?

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet ad, 1967(images from ebay)

But making women terrified of aging must have been effective, since the Flowing Velvet line was popular enough to continue expanding to include eye makeup and lip gloss.

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet eye color, ca. 1967
(image from pinterest)

Jacqueline Cochran Flowing Velvet Model Mouth, ca. 1967
(image from pinterest)

Unfortunately I'm not really sure of the brand's trajectory after the '60s.   The timeline below suggests that Jacqueline Cochran Cosmetics is long gone, but also was part of a recent re-branding effort.  So maybe there are plans to revive the line?

Jacqueline Cochran cosmetics timeline(image from behance.net)

In any case, while the later advertising left something to be desired, you had to give Cochran credit for setting world flying records while simultaneously managing a multi-million dollar cosmetics company that at one point had over 700 employees.  She also made good on the originally intended purpose of her pilot's license:  after the war ended, Cochran flew an average of 90,000 miles a year to sell her line in various locales.  For Cochran, the beauty industry allowed her to both get out of poverty and provide women with a sense of well-being (ageist advertising aside).  "In a beauty shop the customers always came in looking for a lift.  And unless I really screwed up, they left with that lift.  I could give them that.  I could give them hope along with a new hairdo.  My skills as a beautician had bought me a one-way ticket out of poverty, and I'd never forgotten it.  I was always proud of my profession" (pp. 46 and 57).

Jacqueline Cochran testing out color combinations

Had you ever heard of Jacqueline Cochran?  What do you think of her and her line?  It was pretty eye-opening for me - I think I should Google the other mid-century artists I mentioned and see what rabbit holes I can fall into. :)

 

1 Interestingly, Cochran's autobiography completely leaves out how her got her surname.  Apparently she married Robert Cochran in 1920 at the age of 14, had a son a year later (who died at the age of 4 in 1925), and divorced Cochran in 1927.  She selected the name Jacqueline on a whim while working at Antoine's.  In the book there is no mention of her first husband; instead, she claims she chose the name from a phone book.  "I went to the first phone book I could find, ran my finger down a list of names, and decided on Cochran.  It had the right ring to it.  It sounded like me. My foster family's name wasn't really mine anyway...I wanted to break from them in name.  I had my own life, a new one.  What better way to begin than with my own name.  Cochran.  Why the hell not?" (p. 49)

2 In addition to the staggering amount of information online, there are also several official biographies of Cochran.  I chose the autobiography because I wanted to hear her story in her own words and get a sense of her personality.

3 It seems highly unlikely that Cochran was directing the ad copy for her line, so I can't fault her too much for that, as distasteful as it is.  However, a bit of gossip that appeared in a 1951 newspaper article makes me think that Cochran wasn't the feminist hero we'd like her to be.  I've included a few excerpts in which Cochran basically says "no fatties allowed" in the Air Force's women's pilot program.  Yikes. 

Jacqueline Cochran 1951 news article

Jacqueline Cochran 1951 news article

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Quick post: more springtime fun with Paul & Joe

Today I'm briefly sharing a very hard-to-get collection.  When PJ at A Touch of Blusher posted about these adorable lipstick cases from Paul & Joe, my heart sank as I saw they were exclusively available at Hankyu Umeda, a department store in Osaka.  While I have several personal shoppers at my disposal, all of them are based in Tokyo, and Osaka is quite a trek from there.  And since the items were only available to purchase in-store, nothing could not be ordered online or via phone by my trusty shoppers.  So how did I get my hands on these, you ask?  Well, a very sweet Instagram buddy of mine messaged me to let me know they had popped up at a Japanese auction site, so one of my shoppers was able to purchase them for me there and ship 'em straight into my eager collecting paws.  It's a springtime miracle!

There were compact cases also available, but I just picked up the lipstick cases since they had the same prints.

Paul & Joe Hankyu Umeda lipstick cases

Paul & Joe Hankyu Umeda lipstick cases

The jungle-kitten print seems to be a combination of several Paul & Joe Sister items.  While I don't see the cat in the print below, it did appear in a pair of embroidered shorts.

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018
(images from paulandjoe.us)

I'm not sure where the leopard pattern on the red case originated, but the zebra and giraffe print is borrowed from the spring 2018 resort collection. 

Paul & Joe resort 2018

Paul & Joe resort 2018(images from vogue.com)

I'm so glad to have gotten my hands on these!  My love for this brand's packaging knows no bounds, and I would have been upset to have even more gaps in the Museum's Paul & Joe collection (I'm missing nearly all of their items from 2005 and earlier). 

What do you think of the prints?  And have you ever been overjoyed at acquiring a much-wanted item?

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Swan Lake: Polkaros for Guerlain

Easing back into blogging (and spring, hooray!) with this beautiful compact by Guerlain.  In what I'm hoping is a never-ending series of artist collaborations, for their Parure Blanc compact this year the company teamed up with Ros Lee, founder of home decor brand Polkaros.  We'll get to that in a second, but first, let's admire the delicate pair of swans gracing the compact.

Guerlain x Ros Lee (Polkaros)

I absolutely adore the white and pale baby blue hues of the swans, especially with the pops of vibrant orange-red on the their beaks, cheeks and Lee's signature.  It almost looks like they're wearing blush!  The reverse color scheme is genius as well - Lee's graphic design experience definitely shines here.

Guerlain x Ros Lee (Polkaros)

Guerlain x Ros Lee

So who is Ros Lee and what is Polkaros?  Lee comes from quite an interesting background, both personally and professionally.  Born in Singapore into a family of potters, Lee developed a love of art early on and learned pottery skills from her father. After studying graphic design, in 2002 she visited Tokyo to take part in a design festival and was so taken with the city she decided to stay.  In 2005 she won a National Arts Council Takashimaya Scholarship to study art and design there, and the following year entered the Joshibi University of Art and Design.  Majoring in textile design, after graduating Lee landed a job at Tokyo's Accent Corporation as a lifestyle product designer.  Five years later, Lee began working as a consultant/accessories designer for Clinique and decided to start her own line of home goods on the side, and Polkaros was born.  Lee explains why she chose the name: "I hoped that the products I create would carry the same characteristics as the polkadot pattern – happy, cute, classic, timeless and simple. It always amazes me how you can find polkadots everywhere and in many different eras. This may be a bit overly ambitious but I wish that our products would add a bit of childlike fun in every household and last for decades...I find inspiration from old toys, folk art and ethnic cultures. I love to look at the motifs and colors from the past as they tell a story about a certain time and a different way of life."  In looking at her work, I think Lee definitely achieved her goal.  Everything from plates and utensils to vases and planters are brimming with playfulness without being juvenile.  There's also a simplicity that echoes various forms of folk art - nothing fussy, just uncomplicated shapes that emphasize their handmade nature.

Polkaros

Polkaros

Polkaros - fox planters

Two of my favorites are these dessert-inspired vases.  This one is takes its cue from ice kachang, a Singaporean dessert with shaved ice, jelly beans and syrup.

Polkaros

And this one is inspired by Lee's favorite childhood dessert, tang yuan.

Polkaros

Of course, I'm smitten with this holiday mer-lion print, another nod to Lee's Singapore upbringing.

Polkaros merlion

I also want to briefly highlight some other key elements of Polkaros's style.  It's described as "a lifestyle brand that combines influences from Japanese traditional crafts with modern zakka goods."  While I'm unfamiliar with the former - the only Japanese craft I know about is origami - "zakka" was totally foreign to me.  I found that there are entire museum exhibitions devoted to the concept so a full history is well beyond the scope of this blog post, but in a nutshell, zakka is a way of adding beauty to mundane objects.  This site describes it as a "celebration of humble, everyday objects that bring its users great satisfaction. Zakka aren’t antiques, they’re not expensive, they’re not flashy; they’re familiar and timeless."  Needless to say I love this idea and, like hygge, I think I've been embodying it for years without realizing it - particularly when it comes to office supplies.  (Anything to help me cope with the horror of work is welcome; I'm partial to pretty/funny post-it note pads.)  As we've seen, Polkaros takes basic objects such as planters and utensils and makes them aesthetically pleasing through adding charming little faces and/or playful colors.  As for Japanese craft traditions, they are also well-represented in Lee's work.  Take, for example, this wrapping paper filled with craft motifs.

Polkaros

Or these tote bags bags, which are modern interpretations of traditional Japanese patterns.  From the website, I learned that the one on the left is a Kikko tsunagi pattern, which is inspired by the hexagonal scales on a turtle shell, while the one on the right is Uroko-gara, "a scale pattern made of a combination of triangles that is believed to ward off evil."

Polkaros

Meanwhile, the blue pattern is a twist on seigaiha, a traditional blue wave pattern (and, incidentally, one we've seen on a Guerlain piece before), and the yellow one is inspired by Mizuhiki knots:  "Mizuhiki is the art of knotting rice paper cord into a decorative element."

Polkaros

Then there are also these vases inspired by kokeshi dolls.  Again, kokeshi is such a vast topic I couldn't possibly cover it all, but they are wooden Japanese dolls that originated in northern Japan and date back all the way to the Edo period (1600-1868).  All of Polkaros' kokeshi are ceramic and have individual names and descriptions.  This little guy is known as Riku, who "practices martial arts by day and paints at night."

Riku

More recently, Lee created a beautiful collection for Hinamatsuri, a.k.a. "dolls' day" or "girls' day" in Japan that occurs annually on March 3.  It's a truly fascinating celebration in which ornamental dolls representing the Emperor, Empress and various assistants and musicians are displayed in a rather elaborate setup of 6-7 platforms.  Typically people display at least the Emperor and Empress, if not the full arrangement.  These are Lee's representations of the royal couple.

Polkaros Hinamatsuri dolls

And this hanging piece is Lee's take on tsurushi-hina, a traditional decoration consisting of handmade dolls and other objects on strings.

Polkaros tsurushi-hina

I'm impressed with Lee's vast knowledge of Japanese cultural traditions and how she infuses them with her signature modern, playful style. Getting back to the Guerlain collab, I'm not sure how it came about.  Guerlain and Clinique are owned by different parent companies, so I doubt Lee's work for Clinique had anything to do with the partnership.  I'm also a little puzzled about the swan motif.  I love it, but am wondering where the inspiration came from and why it was chosen.  I did a little sleuthing at Lee's lovely Instagram page and saw this photo from a trip to New York in 2014.

May 2014

There was also this swan, with the same overall shape and similar facial design (look at that pop of color on the cheek!) from January 2016.  It was captioned simply "a change of pace" (at least, that's what Google translate told me), and it is indeed a more sophisticated departure from Lee's usual style.  So I'm guessing Lee does have a fondness for swans and I assume they were selected as a more elegant motif to better suit Guerlain's image. 

Polkaros - swan
(images from instagram and polkaros.com)

While Polkaros's typical aesthetic is certainly delightful, it doesn't seem to align perfectly with the Guerlain brand.  Once again, I'm impressed with how Lee modified her childlike approach while maintaining the sense of whimsy to fit the likes of a high-end French line. 

Overall, this collab gets an A from the curator.  (It would have been an A+ if the powder inside the compact had been embossed with the same swans.) Not only was I introduced to Polkaros's magical world, I learned a lot about traditional Japanese crafts and the concept of zakka, which I now plan on consciously incorporating a little more into my daily life.

What do you think?  And do you prefer Przemek Sobocki's 2017 Guerlain compact over this one?  They're apples and oranges to me - totally different styles but I love both equally.


Pre-spring blog break

some ecardHello!  Again, while I don't think anyone is positively dying to know my whereabouts, the compulsive side of me felt the need to officially announce that I'm taking a little break from the blog.  As you know, I'm feeling less than positive about it lately, and I also desperately need time to work on makeup-related things that I can't get to while writing and taking photos.  Namely, I plan on doing a lot of decluttering, re-organizing and inventory updating.  It would also be nice to, you know, enjoy a couple weekends that aren't entirely spent blogging - I'd like to maybe read a book (one that's not for review here), color, bake, spend time with family, etc.  

I'll be back in a few weeks, hopefully feeling refreshed.  In the meantime, please be sure to keep up with me on Instagram and Twitter, and check out the archives if you want something to read.  :)

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The Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Co: a forgotten piece of history

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 3.42.28 PMAs usual, I forget exactly what I was searching for at newspapers.com when, about a month ago, I stumbled across a very interesting article from 1938.  I know the search term must have included Richard Hudnut's name, but beyond that I can't remember.  In any case I was delighted to uncover a profile of a rather remarkable man.  Thomas R. "Tommy" Lewis apparently designed many of the compact cases for perfumer Richard Hudnut from possibly the mid-1920s through at least the '30s.  Both Collecting Vintage Compacts and Cosmetics and Skin have excellent histories of the brand, so you can check them out there.  I, however, will be focusing on Lewis and some of the compacts he may have created. The reason why I felt such a compelling need to share his story is a matter of race: Lewis was one of very few American black jewelers in his day, and one who overcame both racism and poverty to establish his own very successful jewelry firm.  In honor of Black History Month I thought it would be appropriate to share as much information as I was able to find on Lewis, and hopefully I can do it without whitesplaining or tokenizing.  I offer my sincere apologies in advance if I offend!  (Constructive criticism is welcome; mean comments are not).

According to another article written in 1935 that I found online, Lewis was born into an impoverished family in Providence, Rhode Island.  Undaunted by his circumstances and without the support of his parents or siblings, he attended RISD with the hopes of becoming a jeweler, earning a scholarship in the process.  After graduating he worked for a leading jewelry manufacturer in Providence for several years, then struck out on his own.  

I was unable to find the date he started his company or much other information besides what was in these two articles.  The 1935 online article says that he started his business 27 years prior, so I'm assuming he established it in 1908; however, the 1938 article says that he had been in business for 26 years, so maybe it was 1912.  And there's no information on his relationship with Hudnut other than what was in that article, so when he started making compacts for them is unclear.  The only (rather patronizing) mention is as follows:1  "Visit the cosmetics department in any first class store, ask the clerk to show you a Richard Hudnut powder compact and then surprise him by telling him that he is looking at the work of a [black] man.  Everyone of those compacts was designed and produced here in a plant at 19 Calendar Street, the home of the Lewis Jewelry Manufacturing Firm.  The same is true of their perfume bottles, for Mr. Lewis works on glass as well as platinum, gold, silver or any other metal from which jewelry or ornaments can be made.  The Richard Hudnut people are among his biggest customers, but not his most consistent.  That honor is reserved for other jewelry manufacturers who regularly send in their commissions for original designs in bracelets, watch chains and other novelty jewelry."  So it seems that while Hudnut was not the biggest source of business for Lewis's company, we know that he was designing all of their compacts by 1938, and presumably earlier.  When I purchased these compacts for the Museum I made sure to select ones that I could get specific dates for, i.e. compacts that were plausibly produced by Lewis given the approximate timeline, and also ones that seemed to be the most jewelry-inspired. 

Richard Hudnut compacts

First up is the original "twin" compact, which was introduced in late 1922.  I didn't realize this until after I bought it, but this double case was designed by a man named Ralph Wilson in 1921 and patented in early 1922.  Wilson was the New York representative for Theodore W. Foster and Bro. Company, a prominent compact and jewelry manufacturer.  Foster, like Lewis, was also based in Providence, so maybe there might be some connection between this company and Lewis's - perhaps this is the company Lewis worked for after graduating from RISD?  In any case, we have proof that the twin compact was created by a company other than Lewis's, so this is not his work.  I still like to think, though, that Lewis may have apprenticed with Foster, grew familiar with Hudnut's aesthetic and went on to earn the company's favor over Foster.

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut twin compact ad, October 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact ad, 1922

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

How cool is this?  You flip over the blush and there's powder on the other side.  Genius.

Richard Hudnut Three Flowers twin compact

Hudnut's Deauville fragrance was introduced in 1924. Again, no telling whether this was done by Lewis, but probably not given that it's basically the same interior mechanism as the earlier twin compact.

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact ad, 1926

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Richard Hudnut Deauville compact

Le Début, a fragrance available in 5 different variants that were color-coordinated to their bottles and powder compacts, well, debuted in 1927.  I was fortunate enough to track down an original ad for these beauties.  They're actually pretty common - I was able to find all the colors shown in the ad - but in the end I thought the black one was the most elegant.  (Okay, I really love the silver one too!)

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut, Le Debut compact ad, 1928

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

Richard Hudnut Le Debut compact

In the 1938 photo below it states that Lewis designed the "famous Richard Hudnut compact", but I really have no idea which one they're referring to.  It could be Le Début, or it could be the "triple vanity" compacts designed in the mid '30s.

Tommy Lewis - 1938 profile

This enameled, oh-so-Deco case came out in 1936, according to the newspaper ads I found, and the last mention of it was in 1938.  Again, it's funny how certain objects call to you.  This one was also available in a variety of colors, but I just knew the red belonged in the Museum. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The triple vanities had three compartments for powder, blush and lipstick.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1936-1938

The ad also mentions jewelry several times, so I'm hopeful it was made by Lewis's hand.

Richard Hudnut compact ad, October 1936

Lastly, I picked up this stunner, which dates to about 1939.  Evidently between this one, the Three Flowers compact and the silver Evans compacts I have a thing for sunburst patterns, probably because they remind me of glorious sunny days. 

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

How exquisite is this jewel detail?  And in such impeccable shape for a nearly 80 year-old compact - it's mind-boggling that none of the stones are missing.

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact, ca. 1939

Richard Hudnut compact ad, December 1939

To give you a sense of how dainty and small these triple vanities are, here they are with one of NARS' highlighting trios.

Richard Hudnut triple vanity compacts

Getting back to Lewis, I can't say for sure whether his company was responsible for any of these compacts; I can only hope at least some of these jewelry-inspired designs were his.  The fact that the 1935 article doesn't specifically mention Richard Hudnut makes me think that perhaps Lewis wasn't designing compacts for Hudnut until somewhere between 1936-1938.  But it's also entirely possible he had been producing compacts for them for years.  In any case, I want to highlight just how difficult it was for a black man in the 1900s to not only get out of poverty, but graduate from one of the top design schools in the country AND start his own business that eventually employed up to 60 workers in the busy seasons.  As the 1935 profile states: "But jeweler, designer, silversmith?  What chance would he have?  Where could he work?  Who ever heard of a [black] man, a designer, a master craftsman in the jewelry trade of all trades!  One can imagine what would have been Lewis's fate if his ambitions had been left in the hands of some of the so-called vocational guidance counselors who are at the present time shaping the lifework of many [black] students in the public schools of our large cities.  According to the formula which they use, there are no [black] jewelers now in existence, hence no future; it would be impossible for a [black] silversmith to get a job since he cannot belong to the union, and the white jewelers would not employ him anyhow."  Through incredibly hard work and innate talent, Lewis persevered, not only becoming a success himself but also helping others do the same.  Most of his employees were black, and Lewis provided them with better wages than other jewelry firms in Providence as well as training. 

Thomas R "Tommy" Lewis
Employees at Tommy Lewis's company

I just wish I could have found more information and photos to make for a somewhat complete biography.  Searching online for Lewis's company yielded nothing, as did basic searches for Lewis himself.  I ended up contacting the Rhode Island Historical Society and they kindly provided census records indicating his year of birth (1880), but said they didn't have any business records related to Lewis's company, which I think is bizarre.  If it was as prolific as the articles claim it was, and if it really did provide hundreds of thousands of pieces of costume jewelry to the likes of Saks and Woolworth's and compacts for Hudnut, I find it very strange that there are absolutely zero traces of his company left save for these two profiles.  Especially since the 1938 article even gives the address of his workshop - with that specific type of information there should be historic maps or architectural records listing it.  He also apparently had over 200 patents to his name, none of which I was able to find.  I guess the saddest part is that there are tons of other stories like Lewis's, and we simply don't hear about them.  So many histories for non-white people are erased or buried, and I really wanted to bring Lewis's story to the surface because it was truly outstanding (and not only because it's Black History Month...I just so happened to find the newspaper article around a month ago and thought the timing worked out nicely). I really hope this post didn't come across as patronizing or me highlighting a "token" black person.2  I find Lewis's story impressive not because I can't believe a black man could ever be creative and intelligent enough to start a jewelry firm, but because of all he had to overcome to achieve his goals.  "Perhaps it is the memory of a [black] boy with a dream to become a jeweler, a silversmith, a designer, a [black] boy who kept his dream despite the doubts of his family from within and racial prejudice from without.  For Thomas Lewis is an artist and so he believes in young men and young women with dreams."

Thoughts? 

 

1 I spent several hours googling whether it was acceptable to type the word "c*lored" if I was quoting from an old newspaper article.  In the end I realized I personally didn't feel comfortable using it even if it was a quote, so I replaced it with "black".

2 I rarely, if ever, highlight makeup histories featuring people of color, i.e. Madam C.J. Walker, Annie Turnbo Malone, etc. because I'm not sure whether it's okay for a white person to do that - while I think their stories absolutely need to be heard and recorded, once again I fear that it would come off as whitesplaining or tokenizing if I attempted to write about them.  In the case of Tommy Lewis, there was such scant information available I'd figure I'd make an exception in order to at least introduce him and his work.

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Press play: Jeremy Scott for MAC

I was supposed to write a post rounding up all the delectable Chinese New Year goodies, but not all of the ones I ordered arrived.  I didn't want to write it without having everything in hand so instead, I thought I'd celebrate the packaging design mastery that is the MAC Jeremy Scott collection.  You might remember Scott's teddy bear-themed Moschino/Sephora collab from last year, but the MAC collection is under the designer's own name, and dare I say, even more amazing design-wise than the "beary" cute goodness served up by the Sephora collection.  This is especially true for those of us who grew up with mix tapes and CDs - as a child of the '80s and a teen/young adult in the '90s, the nostalgia is quite strong with this collection.

Scott wanted it to look like "something you'd buy at Best Buy" and that's exactly what it resembles.  Every last detail on each of the three pieces (CD, cassette tape and boom box) make them look like the real deal.  As a matter of fact, I left them sitting on the kitchen counter for a couple days before taking photos and every time I walked by they threw me for a loop.  I couldn't remember whether I was supposed to be making a mix tape or CD for someone, or thought maybe the husband is making one for me, as he did early on in our courtship.  It was sort of like being in a time warp.

MAC Jeremy Scott

The collection is obviously inspired by music and the fact that Scott remains one of the top designers for the world's leading pop stars.  It also reflects his perspective on the similarities between music and makeup .  He explains to British Vogue:  "Music plays a huge part in getting me into the mood, whether that be music from certain time period, or something aggressive or something that sounds ethereal – it envelops me and gets my mind in a certain frame for creating. Often when I’m designing clothes for my girls like Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, either for a tour or for a red carpet event, I will play their songs and channel their spirit. Or when I miss them, I play their music and they’re with me, they’re chatting in their room. Music carries the essence of somebody. That’s why we fall in love so hard with musicians, they’re connecting with our hearts on such a visceral level...I’m fascinated by music and how you can change the mood of a whole room just by changing the song. Music fills the air and wraps itself around you. To me, that’s a similar quality to what make-up can do – both have such a transformative quality. You can wear a plain white T-shirt and scruffy jeans, but put on a bold lip and there’s a whole different feeling. Make-up can overpower the apparel. I wanted this collection imagery to show different inspiring moments in music, including a boom box, cassette players and CDs, and really play on the frivolity of a night out as well as make-up and music’s transformative power."

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC originally approached Scott two years ago for a collaboration, since they've been doing the makeup for his runway shows for years.  The reason it took so long for it to come to fruition was in fact the design aspect.  I can absolutely believe it would take years to create makeup packaging that 100% mimics the technology we used back in the day to listen to music.  Scott notes the importance of the packaging to him and his hopes that one would display it. "Any time you have special molds for compacts and cases, that takes a super long time. I wanted the compacts to be a living thing — maybe after you’ve used all of the makeup, you still want to keep it because it’s an object. I think it can be repurposed and sit on your shelf."

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

The coup de grace in the collection (and the most divisive among makeup enthusiasts, as we'll see shortly) is the boom box eye shadow palette containing 29 shades.  It's simply filled with breath-taking details, from the box to the outer case to the interior of the palette.  I'm wondering whether MAC did all of these in-house or worked with an outside design firm.  Either way, the collection is beyond creative and unique, and I hope whoever came up with the designs gets an award.

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

MAC Jeremy Scott

While many shared my favorable opinion of this collection, there was a handful of detractors who outright abhorred the eye shadow palette.   Some commenters claimed that the overall gigantic size of the palette made it clunky and inelegant, but it was the inside that seemed to make people the most hostile. Many took issue with the "waste of space" necessary to achieve the equalizer effect.  Here are a few rather harsh comments

  • "That wasted space is making me sick."
  • "All I can think about is the other eyeshadows that could of been in that palette..."
  • "What a complete over production of excess packaging. Poor Earth."
  • "It looks like they forgot to add the rest of the shadows in the palette. I mean I get the concept but it shouldn't be for makeup...don't these companies realize consumers don't care about that stuff we care about cost effectiveness and getting as much as you can for your money when you're purchasing these products."
  • "Why are we being sold half empty products? The packaging is a joke."
  • My OCD is kicking in full force."
  • "What incredibly wasteful packaging. Plastic destroys our environment people. At least HALF of the packaging on a couple of these products could have been done without. It’s a shame how complacent people are about environmental destruction... and all for what? Eyeshadow."

MAC Jeremy Scott

The collection also seemed to dredge up the age-old discussion of buying makeup just for the packaging.  I'm cringing from this Reddit post: "So the New eyeshadow palette is half empty because of the equalizer design/Sound waves. And I saw someone on IG saying that she bought it, was never going to use it, But just had to buy it because of the packaging. This palette costs 75$! I hear so many on youtube talking about packaging and how they are gonna buy something just because it looks cute/beautiful/whatever, and I don't understand how that can be enough of a reasoning. Makeup is (in my eyes) not decor But something to be used. So my question is, can anyone explain Why packaging is enough of a reason to buy something, What you do with the makeup that you don't use But is pretty or just give your overall thoughts on gimmicky packaging and limited edition “collectors items”? :) I'm sorry if I Sound super judgy, I just dont get Why you would buy something only for the packaging, name, brand or theme if you know you don't like the colours or wont/cant use it."

It seems my decade-long attempt to get people to understand that collecting makeup with interesting/beautiful packaging is just fine, and even worthwhile from a historical perspective, has gone unnoticed.  It's disheartening to say the least, as many respondents chimed in with how they appreciate nice packaging but would never buy makeup just for the packaging alone and not use it; apparently it's "mindlessly consumerist" and "dumb".  One of the positive things in that Reddit post is that the OP noted that she sees "so many" on YouTube purchasing makeup just because it's pretty, without any intent of using it.  So maybe more people are getting into the notion that appreciating makeup as an art object in and of itself is an acceptable pursuit.  Still, I'm tired of people being judgmental about collecting makeup.  (I'm also sick of these same people claiming not be judgmental by adding drivel such as "to each their own" or "whatever, it's not my money" to their disparaging comment, as if that makes their statement non-judgmental.  Please.  It's like someone texting "fuck you" with a smiley face emoji - doesn't make it any less obnoxious).  I mean, no one's forcing them to buy things just for the packaging, so what do they care if other people do?  There's no harm in companies making whimsical packaging or in people buying it.  I don't want to continue rehashing my stance on makeup collectibles and why they are museum-worthy, but you can read it here.  In the case of the Jeremy Scott collection and the issue of waste, it's annoying to see people complain about what they perceive to be excessive packaging.  I guess if you only look at makeup solely as a utilitarian item, you're narrow minded and have no imagination that's fine, but I don't think it's right to be holier-than-thou and pontificate about the environmental impact of certain items when they were designed to be collector's pieces.  I wonder whether these people complain as much about this for other objects or only makeup.  I'm also betting that the vast majority of people who bought the collection aren't necessarily going to throw the items in a landfill when they're done using them - as Scott suggested, they are more than likely to keep them as display pieces.  Finally, I think in the case of this particular palette, it's actually a decent value - at $75 for 29 colors, it comes out to about $2.60 per shadow.  (Alas, the quality was dismal, but that's not what I'm focusing on, obviously).

The other packaging-related thought I have rattling about in my head that is that the collection still has not sold out.  On the release date (February 8), I woke myself up around every half hour starting at midnight so that I could have a chance of nabbing the collection before it sold out, which I was sure it would do in seconds.  Instead, over 2 weeks later all three pieces are still widely available at various retailers.  I'm wondering whether it has something to do with the packaging - not because wasted space issue, but because it's not appealing to a younger crowd.  You would think the bright colors would be a natural draw for a youthful demographic, but CDs, tapes and boom boxes probably don't have the same nostalgic impact on, I'd say, anyone under 25, so the packaging might have missed the mark with a good portion of MAC's target audience.  I'm having this vision of a group of teens/early 20-somethings walking by the MAC counter and being genuinely confused as to what they're looking at ("What's THAT supposed to be?"), since they were raised in the digital age where music largely doesn't exist in these sorts of physical formats anymore.  Indeed, I'm not the only one who thinks this might be the reason behind the non-sellout status of the collection.  I also think one commenter's musing that the collection might have been more palatable to the youth if it had included a record-shaped compact is hilarious - maybe those teenage hipsters who listen to records would have bought it.

  • "Love it!! Only people who grew up with this stuff will get it."
  • "i need this!!! as an 80s 90s lover i must have this"
  • "i was born 79..i'm so happy all you guys don't want it..that means it will be around for 2 weeks. i thought it would sell out..but i forgot a lot of these people are so young the probably never had a real boom box. Maybe if the palette was a record the kids would be more interested in it."
  • "Such beautiful collectors items. Millennials born in the 80's can appreciate this I think. The new generation Z peeps... Not so much."
  • "The packaging is everything and calling me. #90sgirl"

Final thoughts:  it might be the nostalgia talking, but obviously I think the collection was worth every penny due to the incredible packaging.  The design is also a perfect reflection of Jeremy Scott since it's just as fun and over-the-top as he is.  Even without his name on every piece you could most likely tell it was his collection.  While I'm dismayed at how some people criticized the packaging of the eye shadow palette with no legitimate reason, I'm heartened by my fellow xennials who recognized and appreciated just how faithfully every detail of the music technology we grew up with was replicated.  The only thing I would have done differently is add a Walkman palette to the mix - I was positively glued to mine in the '90s and still miss it to this day.

What do you think? 


My bloody Valentine: J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown at workWhen I first spotted this collection at Sephora I thought it was another collaboration with Curtis Kulig.  Surprise, there's actually another street artist who has made grungy, graffiti-style hearts and love the main themes of his work.  UK-born J. (James) Goldcrown spends his time shuttling between New York and L.A. making colorful, heart-filled murals to liven up city streets and spread a message of hope and positivity.  I'm not sure how the partnership with Sephora came about, but I do know that the business-savvy Goldcrown is no stranger to these sorts of deals (more on that later.)

The collection included several makeup bags, a brush set and a quadruplet of heart-shaped makeup sponges.  I picked up the last two since I thought they were the best representation of his work.

 

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

I love how the sponges are meant to resemble chocolates, both in the heart designs on the box and the paper liners to hold each one.

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

The rainbow of overlapping hearts that Goldcrown is so famous for were a sort of happy accident. "‘Bleeding hearts’ kind of started as a mistake. I was aware I was doing it, but at the same time, I wasn’t doing it for anyone. I was actually testing the pressure of spray cans because I mixed spray paint with my multimedia and fashion photography work. To get the right pressure from the cans, I sprayed hearts on this door in my studio. Eventually, the door was full of hearts. When a client came in to pick up a piece I made for him, he ended up buying the door as well—he loved the hearts. Soon after I went to Art Basel and showed a wide spectrum of my projects. Two of them were bleeding hearts and they sold immediately. It ended up being a sell-out show, but I realized that what the people were ordering were the bleeding hearts." 

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

J. Goldcrown for Sephora

Born in West London and entirely self-taught, Goldcrown started out as a fashion photographer.  After taking a brief break from fashion to make an award-winning documentary on the AIDS/HIV epidemic in Africa, he founded a communal New York studio in 2014.  In November of that year a local eatery approached Goldcrown for a mural.  Ambivalent at first, he eventually took the plunge: "[Lasso] asked me if I’d like to do a mural, but they were booked until February, and that was in like November,  so I had time, and then I was -had no idea what to do, I’d never done a mural in my life, I’d never done anything in the streets apart as a kid – I’d never done anything legally or being asked to do it and paid for it! One of my friends was like 'why don’t you just do the hearts?'  but I thought it was too obvious — again – being told what to do. I was like “NO” and as it came I was like, 'Shit yeah, I should really do the hearts, it’s valentines there’s a lot of logic behind it.'  And then I did it without any kind of understanding where I was and the power of – and people just genuinely come here to photograph street art and then I think four days later I was in a paper and it was just like people just using it as a backdrop and it just went viral." 

J Goldcrown - Lasso

J Goldcrown - Lasso

Indeed, Goldcrown's success is due not only to the quality of his work but also being in the right place at the right time.  After Lucky magazine founder Eva Chen posted a photo of her posing in front of the wall, Goldcrown gained roughly 4,000 Instagram followers.  And #lovewall has over 1 billion tags on the platform.  As more fashion bloggers started to expand their social media presence to Instagram, "wall-scouting" has become a veritable art form in and of itself over the past several years; Goldcrown's work hit just as fashionistas were searching for the latest and greatest backdrops as a tactic to boost their IG numbers. “It’s really just some hearts layered up, in bright colours. I can see the appeal to a fashionable eye – the colours are bound to match something. But it’s also fun. People like that, to liven up their social media presence. Maybe people are looking for more in their Instagrams,” Goldcrown muses.  In addition to his painting style, I'd wager that his experience in the fashion industry gives him a natural eye for what will photograph well, an ability that definitely helps skyrocket one to Instagram fame.  It's also this background that allows him to carefully select the collaborations he feels are in line with his professional goals.  "I want to kind of stay the level of the people I’m working with, the brands like Rag and Bone and Toms, because it’s very important like I’ve done a lot of work as well cause I feel it’s not the right fit for me."  I can see those two companies, but Maybelline doesn't seem like a "right fit".  However, the draw for Goldcrown was that he would be creating the packaging for their number 1 best-selling item worldwide, Baby Lips lip balm.  I don't think I'd pass up that opportunity either.  And I guess after having completed one successful cosmetic collaboration, teaming up with Sephora seemed a natural next step.

J. Goldcrown for Maybelline

J. Goldcrown for Maybelline

I think it's worth pointing out that for Goldcrown, it's less about selling products and more about contributing to the brand by creating actual art that can be enjoyed by people passing by the business, no purchase necessary.  With the exception of Sephora and Maybelline collections, I find the products bearing his work to be generally downplayed.  For example, while Goldcrown did create a line of shoes for Toms, the emphasis was more on the art he made for the storefronts. 

J. Goldcrown - Toms store in Soho

Or this wall for Space NK in Nolita.  As far as I know there weren't any products to be sold at Space NK with his work, just good old fashioned art.

J Goldcrown - Space NK

I also had the pleasure of seeing one of Goldcrown's pieces firsthand when I was in NYC a few weeks ago to see this exhibition.  We regularly stay at the NoMo Soho and I was positively tickled to see these panels in the dining area.  I managed to snap a few pictures before we left.

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

Of course, because I'm a moron, I failed to look up and witness the ceiling portion...I only discovered it at Goldcrown's website a few days ago.

J Goldcrown - NoMo Soho

One of my favorite anecdotes is how he turned down the opportunity to partner with Apple. Just a few years prior, while selling his art outside of an Apple store, he was told by an employee to move across the street.  Who knew that years later they'd be knocking at his door?  While Apple would seem like a plum job (see what I did there), Goldcrown maintains that such a seemingly big opportunity actually would have eliminated future possibilities and diluted his brand.  Like Murakami, the artist understands the importance of turning one's art into a marketable label.  "I just think when you work with brands that big, you lose your identity and I’ve learn from that as well that it’s really important do work for brands that my name has to be included, not like an artist thing like reason and everything, it’s more because that’s the brand identity and it’s like important, it’s like if you have a t-shirt and it doesn’t have a label that says where it’s from, it’s like they lose their identity and no one knows where to get it." 

However, if you still think Goldcrown is only doin' it for the 'gram, lately his work has taken on a more political stance.  In November 2016 the artist completed several window murals of the Henri Bendel department store in NYC, directly across from the Trump Tower.  (There was a line of purses as well, but I barely even read about those.  Again, the focus seems to be on Goldcrown's art rather than the product).

J Goldcrown - Henri Bendel

In an interview held shortly after the presidential election, Goldcrown explained how the "Love Wall" is moving beyond serving merely as a pretty Instagram backdrop and is helping to spread a positive message of tolerance and unity, notions that lie in stark contrast to the hatred and vitriol emblematic of the Trump era.  It's also a literal opposition to the idea of Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border.  "Going forward, I definitely would like to use the wall to make more of a politically-charged message. I feel a huge responsibility for the message this [artwork] puts out into the world. With the current political forecast, it’s more important than ever to make a statement with my artwork. Love Wall started off as a sort of an Instagram backdrop for beautiful photos. However, now it definitely has taken on a powerful political message...I think that having my artwork across from Trump Tower is some sort of parallel universe meant to be thing. I hope seeing the contrast here on Fifth Avenue gives people hope and faith...the past few days [after the election], it’s been crazy the things that have been coming out of the woodwork. Even kids in middle school chanting 'build a wall,' and saying racial slurs to their peers. It angers me that this country has now taken several steps back with this presidential-elect. He allows people to amplify their racist voices. I hope the Love Wall helps people take a stand against that hatred."  Lately Goldcrown has expanded his oeuvre to include text mingled with the hearts to emphasize the message.

J Goldcrown

J. Goldcrown(images from jgoldcrown.com and instagram)

I greatly admire the style and positivity of Goldcrown's work.  Hearts are not a new motif, and using them to spread any sort of "inspirational" message would normally make me gag.  But rendered in an edgier graffiti style in vibrant colors removes the saccharine factor and makes them much more palatable.  Plus, the urban setting and grand scale make all the difference.  I don't think the bleeding heart pattern has the same impact when reduced in size to accommodate shoes or makeup or bags, but when it appears on a gritty wall in the middle of a bustling city it feels overwhelmingly comforting and peaceful.  It's a reminder that while the world can be a terrible place at times, there's still beauty and love.  And it's just nice to be going about your daily business and be confronted with something positive - I'd rather see a bunch of hearts than graffiti telling me to fuck off (even though initially it would probably make me laugh).1  Finally, hearts are a universally understood symbol that has the capacity to unify people.  As Goldcrown says, "Love Wall has become a universal language. Just like soccer is played across the world and everyone knows the same rules, you don’t need to talk to each other about what hearts represent. They speak for themselves. I truly believe that seeing these walls all over the world brings peace to people’s minds." Along those lines, I wish Goldcrown would lend his talents to Baltimore.  I'm not going to pretend a mural would magically solve the out-of-control murder rate and homeless epidemic, but the city could really use some good vibes in the form of public art.

As for the Sephora collection, I definitely would have preferred to see actual makeup instead of just accessories with Goldcrown's art.  Could you imagine a highlighter or eye shadow palette with all those different colored hearts?!  Additionally, I do think his work is more powerful on a larger scale given the heart motif and underlying message.  Reproducing street art on makeup products can be tricky; sometimes it translates nicely, sometimes, not so much.  Having said all that, even though I think more could have been done with this collection, I always appreciate an artist being brought to my attention via beauty products and having a little piece of their work in makeup form.  

What do you think?  Do you heart Goldcrown's work?  ;)

1.  It reminds me a little bit of John Lennon's reaction to Yoko Ono's Yes Painting:  "It looked like a black canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it. This was near the door when you went in. I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says 'yes'. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say 'no' or 'fuck you' or something, it said 'yes'."

2.  The poor guy would probably get mugged while painting, but hey, it's worth a shot, right?

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Spring 2018 sneak peek: Paul & Joe

As you know, I'm not a fan of cold, dark days so I'm definitely over the 2018 winter season.  With that in mind I thought I'd look forward to some springtime cheerfulness courtesy of Paul & Joe.  While the theme of "April in Paris" is a bit generic and repetitive (see their 2005 spring collection), I do like that they returned to including some text about the collection.

"When the cherry blossoms burst into bloom
along with horse chestnut flowers on the Champs-Elysees
and the leaves are bedewed with springtime rain,
All the colors of the city become more intense and alive with the sparkle of spring.
It’s Paris in April, bursting with color and light.
Listen to your favorite song and enjoy a walk out into town
Paris in springtime is the most beautiful place in the world!"

Paul & Joe spring 2018

I can't say these eye shadows would be very practical - you might get 1 or 2 uses out of them - but the record-shaped packaging is simply adorable.  (And right on trend, as music-inspired makeup seems to be having a moment.)

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe spring 2018

The cat print on the left is borrowed from the Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018 collection, while the other two prints in this set are from the '70s-inspired resort 2018 collection.  I must say I like these two prints better on makeup packaging than clothing.

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018

Paul & Joe resort 2018

Paul & Joe resort 2018

The only print I couldn't identify out of the six was this one on the left.  But the style looks quite similar to one of the pop-up palettes from the spring 2016 collection. The other two in this set are from the Sister spring 2018 collection.  You would think disembodied cat heads would be a little creepy, but if anyone can pull it off, it's Paul & Joe founder/designer and cat lady extraordinaire Sophie Mechaly. That woman really knows her way around a cat pattern!

Paul & Joe spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018

Paul & Joe Sister spring 2018
(images from vogue, paulandjoe.us, and nordstrom)

What's interesting about April in Paris is that it doesn't borrow any prints from the regular Paul & Joe spring 2018 collection, just the resort and Sister lines.  Perhaps they were trying to go with a more playful vibe.  In any case, I didn't think this was anything earth-shattering, but solid and Museum-worthy nevertheless. 

Thoughts?  Did you get anything from this collection?

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Quick blog note

Somee-cardHello, if you're still out there!  Not that anyone is waiting with bated breath to see where I've been, but I figured I'd give a brief update.  My absence was, unfortunately, not the planned blogging break I intended to have, but what I'm suspecting was the flu.  And if it wasn't, it was easily the worst cold I've ever had.  I'm starting to feel better after a week of praying for death, so hopefully I'll be back to blogging in a few days.  Thanks for staying with me. :)  (And get your damn flu shot!)