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making faces :: limited patience

guerlain made a $62,000 lipstick. because they can.
i've always been a music lover, but when i was younger, i was a lot more on the ball about finding the newest, the most ground-breaking, the most exciting releases out there. unfortunately, since the music i love most can be hard to find [this was before the days of digital downloads where often you couldn't even find a clip of an album to listen to before you bought. you relied on descriptions that often read like dada poetry], this was always a time-consuming challenge. on top of that, you were on the clock, because artists frequently couldn't afford large pressings, meaning that there were very few copies to be had at all. there was a definite sense of excitement in the hunt. my ancestors fought to survive for thousands of years so that i could distill the instincts that kept them alive and use them to pursue copies of objects with recorded sounds that likely resemble the sorts of things they heard in their nightmares. eventually, my enthusiasm waned, not because i loved music any less, but because there was an increasing focus on releases in ridiculously limited editions- less than a hundred copies worldwide, most of them sold in europe before people like me even knew they existed. producing in such small quantities isn't about saving money- it's either the same or more expensive to make under a certain number of copies- it's about creating a desired object. only thirty people might ever get to have your release, but hundreds of people will long for it, imagining what it might sound like [again, remember this was before the age of widespread digital downloads]. even if they did manage to get a copy of the sounds, they would be reminded each time they heard it that they didn't have the original. oh, the shame.

you could argue [many do] that micro-runs of a vinyl, cd or cassette release [i fully expect self-destructing downloads to become a thing] are about creating an objet d'art: taking something that would normally be mass-produced and making it into a unique piece. after all, the allure of many of these micro-releases is that they are beautifully packaged, often by hand, with original art or casing that borders on the sculptural. if you've ever seen a copy of zoviet france's just an illusion, you'd know that such presentation can be breathtaking and can give you something to contemplate while listening to the music at the heart of the release.

others would say that such releases are still just music packaged for sale in the same way as every other cd/ lp/ cassette and that severely restricting the number of copies available feeds into the bourgeois culture of the collector, where those with the financial means to secure releases that are often more expensive, or who have connections that allow them privileged access to the manufacturer/ artist, are able to develop enviable collections while the lumpen musical proletariat are left in the cold. i have to say that i've seen that in action more than i'd like: people who own simply for the sake of owning, who take pride in the fact that what they have is out of the reach of others, without feeling any deep affinity for particular releases. [and this doesn't even touch on those who collect limited items solely to resell them at an exaggerated price, because capitalism.]

the point of this lengthy introduction about music is that if i grew tired of pursuing limited gems from tiny record labels or individual artists who were at personally and emotionally invested in what they were doing, there is no way i'm going to put up with that sort of nonsense from a multimillion [or multibillion] dollar cosmetic company. because the creation of extremely limited items by companies on that scale is entirely about feeding the culture of the collector and about building hype for the brand in general.

that's not to say that i oppose all limited editions in cosmetics. i used to really enjoy seeing the seasonal collections float in and out of mac cosmetics displays, but those collections used to dally for months and i could pick up a few items at a time, often over multiple trips. more recently, however, mac seems to have drastically reduced the inventory they're willing to carry and rather than reduce the number of collections they have per year, they've sharply cut the number of units available. new launches changed from being a great excuse to visit the store that week to a launch day [ha! as if products last a whole day!] stampede reminiscent of the world's busiest wal-mart on black friday. it's driven me away from mac in recent years [which is observable if you look back through the four years i've been doing beauty posts here], because it turns something that should feel fun into something that feels dirty.

THERE IS A POINT TO THIS, I PROMISE. AND SWATCHES AND PICTURES.



other brands have limited seasonal items but most ensure that they order enough to keep them available for the season. sometimes, items sell out, but mostly, there's no reason to panic. it disturbs me a little, however, that i see "micro-editions" creeping like weeds further into the market. bite beauty have decided to do a special lipstick release, one colour a month, at sephora this year. the first shade lasted less than a day on the sephora web site [in the u.s.- it apparently never launched in canada, although it is supposed to at some point]. tom ford released a collection of fifty lipsticks, a combination of new shades and reissues of popular discontinued shades, available in limited quantities, for a limited time and only in a couple of countries. brands like nars, marc jacobs and urban decay have taken to offering massive "vaults"- a large group of permanent items packaged together in a limited edition box set. don't even get me started on le metier de beauté.

as someone who lives in a country that isn't particularly well-served by a large number of brands [even given our proximity to the united states], these marketing traps are more irritating than exciting. [don't fool yourself into thinking it's about money: the sales of a single item in a small run mean nothing to a company the size of nars, urban decay or chanel. special limited edition items are entirely about marketing and the creation of desire.]

i've been thinking about this subject a lot recently because, to my surprise, i saw that mac had a number of leftovers from a fall collection that had seemed interesting, but which i'd given up on since it was limited and i'd been distracted around the time that it launched. unlike other limited collections [which, unlike single items, do make a meaningful difference in the company's bottom line, but which are every bit as irritating], this one didn't have a celebrity fronting it, wasn't tied to a film, stage show or entertainment franchise and it didn't exist to promote new formulas. dubbed "artificially wild", it had a retro-nineties feel to the colours that seeped right into the construction of the collection itself: it was an honest to god collection with a unifying theme and a colour palette and solid, basic products. it reminded me a little of some of my all-time favourite mac collections: cult of cherry [fall 2008], spring colour forecast [spring 2010], fabulous felines [fall 2010] and surf baby [summer 2011, the only one i actually reviewed here. i swear sometime i'm going to do a "retro review" of all those collections].

returning to "artificially wild", one of the things that struck me about it was how daring the earthy, muted palette looked after a glut of bold shades [from mac more than anyone]. everything is subdued- there isn't a single outlier in the entire collection, which- and this is something that cosmetics marketers don't seem to grasp anymore- makes it easier to picture the colours used together. getting people excited about sixty individual items is fine, but if you don't try to pique their interest by suggesting combinations, those customers will grow weary of the limited edition runaround even faster than i did.

it turns out that when i'm offered a mac collection that strikes me as well-edited and different from a lot of what i see on the market- i'm every bit as interested in diving in. unfortunately, since mac have backed off their former policy of accompanying launches with face charts showing the products in use, or having artists do collection-centred makeovers on launch day, it dampens the response and, apparently, leaves the company with a bunch of inventory at the end of the year. sigh. i feel so lonely sometimes.

yes, yes, there are swatches and such to be had, i'm not going to force you through a rant like that and not show you pretties. i'm not a monster. [yes, you are. for years it said "i was the monster hiding under your bed" at the top of this blog. -ed.]

figuring that i couldn't depend on the products hanging around that much longer, i went whole hog and bought four eye shadows and two blushes. behold!

l to r :: marsh, natural wilderness, stony, artificial earth, pink cult, next to skin
simon approves of featuring a photo of simon.

the eye shadows are all satin in finish, which is an immediate selling point for me. i love something that's more than matte but less than frosted [well, really, i like having variety, but that's a given]. what's really impressive is that every single one is a knockout in terms of quality. they are among the best shadows mac has produced in years. that's saying something because the satin finish is a tricky one to master. satin eye shadows are prone to poor colour payoff, so finding four of them that all knock it out of the park like these do deserves a salute.

the shades are also risky, because with one possible exception, their the sorts of colours that a lot of people will find, well... ugly.

"marsh" is a very appropriately named swampy green with yellow-brown undertones. you could say it's an army green, but to me it really does look like the bog in back of my grandparents home, where the bullfrogs sang at night. it's a decidedly warm green and even though it's not especially deep, it does have a sort of autumnal darkness about it. basically, the warmer and more muted your colouring, the better this is going to look on you. it will pull yellow and green tones from the eye, for certain.

"natural wilderness" is described as a "dirty mustard golden nude". each word of that description gets less applicable as you go from left to right. it is a dirty-looking colour and it is mustard yellow. i can see golden, at least from a certain point of view. nude... i think that word just got leftover from an earlier version. it's a dark ochre, a mix of yellow, brown and grey that is exceptionally friendly on a lot of skin tones and against a lot of eye colours. a lot of people will look at this shade and think "hell no". don't be one of them. in fact, if you're going to pick just one of the eye shades, this is the one.

"stony" is the one shade i can see having a more universal appeal. it's a warm grey with yellow-brown undertones, so while neutral, it's definitely going to be one for ladies with some warmth in their complexion. it's the most shimmery of the four, although it's certainly not a full-on frost. it has a burnished lustre to it that makes it lively for such a sombre colour. extremely versatile and worth a look because warmer greys can be tricky to find at this level of quality.

"artificial earth" is certainly the most original shade of the bunch. it's almost a little difficult to understand. there's a soft mauve base, a mix of pink and light brown with just a hint of purple. there's also a gold sheen that adds dimension and complexity. it's a lighter shade, which i believe will shift according to the tone of the skin underneath it. on me, it looks decidedly pinkish. on cooler complexions, i think it will look a little more purple. on warm complexions, i suspect it will pull almost peach. this would be my second choice of colour to recommend, and i recommend it highly. the formula on "natural wilderness" is a touch better and i think the colour is just a little more versatile, but "artificial earth" is a complex stunner you can get away with every day.

honestly, though, in case i haven't made it clear enough, i love every single one of these.

and the love doesn't stop there, because i'm likewise taken aback by the two blushes i bought.

l to r :: next to skin, mac strada, pink cult, rbr gracilis
"pink cult" is a sort of dirty muted pink with a matte, but not dusty finish. it's been featured in a few limited collections and each time i've meant to get it, but i've tarried too long. the "dirtiness" comes from a faint grey tint that underlies the happy, warm pink shade. it's not dissimilar, but a bit warmer and brighter than rouge bunny rouge "gracilis".

l to r :: pink cult, rbr gracilis
"next to skin" is a really fascinating choice, something that, unfortunately, is going to be limited in appeal to those with lighter complexions. i'm around nc15 in mac terms, nars siberia, urban decay 1.0, ysl 10, dior 010... you get the idea. i had no trouble getting the powder to show up on me, but anyone much deeper than i am is going to be wasting their money. that said, for me, it's a fantastic choice. it's a neutral beige with a slightly cool, greyed lean. it's the sort of thing to use when you want a sculpted look without added colour, it's a phenomenal contour for fairer skin with surprisingly good colour payoff. applied as a blush, it'll make the cheekbones more prominent.

i compared it to mac "strada", which is lighter, cooler and pinker. "strada" is one of my all time favourites, but i have to say that the quality of "next to skin" just blows it out of the water. 

l to r :: next to skin, mac strada
here's a look at the products together- including both blushes ["next to skin" as a contour and "pink cult" on the apples of the cheeks].  i also applied mac "perfect topping" as a highlight/ finishing powder. it's another limited item that's been brought back as part of their new "lightness of being" collection, a soft shimmery light beige pink, not entirely dissimilar to hourglass "dim light". 



the look is rounded out by tarina tarantino "sparkling ammunition" liner, a shimmery olive green and dior "new look" diorshow mascara. speaking of pleasant surprises, i decided to give this formula a try even though diorshow had left me unimpressed and let me just say i'm happy i did! the lipstick is hourglass "fawn", a colour which absolutely shouldn't work on me, but somehow does. i have no idea about anything anymore.

surprisingly, all of these products remain available on the canadian mac web site. i say, vote with your money. tell mac that rather than seeing endless tie-ins or new formulas rushed to market six times a year, it would be nice to see them invest more time in solid, high-quality colour collections with products will be using for years to come.

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