Soy happy about this new Fresh cleanser!

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

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

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

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

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

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

Blair Breitenstein, Meow in Miu

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

Blair Breitenstein, Oscar de la Renta

Blair Breitenstein, Met Heavenly Bodies gala

Blair Breitenstein, Chanel

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

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

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

Blair Breitenstein, Chanel glasses

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

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

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

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

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

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

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1968

  Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1965

Blair Breitenstein, Vogue 1965(images from instagram)

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

  Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

Blair Breitenstein

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

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

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

Blair Breitenstein, Complimentary Colors

Blair Breitenstein, Ode to Pat McGrath

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

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

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

Blair Breitenstein

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

Blair Breitenstein(images from instagram)

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

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

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

Fresh Soy Cleanser illustrated by Blair Breitenstein

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

What do you think?

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Macaron madness! Lancôme vs. LM Ladurée, round two

Mum.macaron.smackdown.poster.2pp

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

LM Ladurée vs. Lancome

"What have we here?"

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

LM Laduree vs. Lancome

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

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

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

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

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

Lancôme Le Teint Macaron set

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

LM Ladurée summer 2018

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

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No shrinking violet: Erdem for NARS

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

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

NARS Erdem

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

Molly Ringwald by Sheila Metzner, 1984(image from thegloss.ie)

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

NARS Erdem

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

NARS Erdem

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

Erdem store(image from 10magazine.com)

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

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Night Garden palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

NARS Erdem Fleur Fatale palette

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

NARS Erdem lip powder palette

NARS Erdem lip powder

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

NARS Erdem blotting sheets

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

NARS Erdem

Even the plastic overlays are brimming with flowers.

NARS Erdem

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

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

Erdem for H & M

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

Erdem for H&M

Erdem for H&M(images from femalemag.sg and mr-mag.com)

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

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2018

Erdem spring 2017

Erdem spring 2016

Erdem spring 2015

Erdem spring 2013

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

Erdem spring 2012

Erdem spring 2010(images from vogue)

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

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

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