The Makeup and Style of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty

Posted on April 04, 2015 under Thoughts

When I was in London last weekend, I had the chance to see Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Victoria and Albert museum (for free, thanks to Aisling‘s membership). I’d heard incredible things about the exhibition from those who had seen it at the Met in New York, and I was incredibly excited to go.

It did not disappoint. The exhibition was unbelievable – so well-curated and presented. Alexander McQueen was a visionary and his work speaks for itself, but the presentation of the exhibition was incredibly tasteful and atmospheric, lending itself to enhancing the garments without distracting from them.

No photos were allowed inside of the exhibition hall, but Aisling bought the accompanying book and I have some pictures to share from that, which I hope will help to capture the feeling and scope of the show.

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For someone who is incredibly interested in the creation of an aesthetic sense of self, I found the show absolutely inspiring. McQueen’s imagination seemingly had no limits, something that’s obvious when you wander through room after room of extravagant, wild, and ultimately beautiful clothing. I’m reminded of when my friend Ashley said that “looking at textures, patterns, and colors in runway clothing is a great source of inspiration; I like thinking about how to recreate a certain mood.” All the pieces displayed throughout the exhibition were indeed incredibly moody, and I think would lend themselves well to beauty inspiration.

Aside from the idea of translating clothing into makeup looks, there’s also the hair and makeup itself. The book is chock full of beauty inspiration, from the soft and ethereal to the almost grotesque. There’s something for everyone, makeup-wise. I often love runway makeup for the same reason I love haute couture collections: there is no constraint of “wearability”, which allows us access to some of the most unrestrained creativity and artistry on the planet.

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I love this graphic cut crease. I think it could be translated into a more wearable look!

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I love these overdrawn black lips with the center not filled in – there’s something so unexpected about the fleshy colour in the center of the harsh geometric black.

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Another very wearable look – a 60s-style modular cut crease.

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I adore the shiny blood-red lips that go far past the natural lip line. It’s so animalistic. This makeup is the definition of “savage beauty”. I love that idea that if makeup and femininity are so tied up in each other, this look is about femininity going out of bounds, refusing to adhere to expectations.

There was a piece in the book about the makeup of the Alexander McQueen runway shows, which I found fascinating. It read almost as a visual analysis that you’d find in an art history or film class, deconstructing the makeup choices, their symbolism, how they contributed to the collections they were a part of, and what these choices say about femininity.

The show was amazing in itself, but as someone who obviously has quite an interest in beauty, I found it particularly inspiring.

The show is on at the V&A Museum in London until August 2. Tickets cost £17.60 (free for V&A members) and can be booked online. If you have the chance to go, I heartily recommend it – you won’t regret it.

Bleu Majorelle, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue, and Barry M Damson

Posted on April 01, 2015 under Reviews

In January, my friend and I went on a quick jaunt to Marrakech, a bustling, vibrant city unlike any place I’ve ever been. When my mom saw my pictures from the trip, she described the city as “a riot of colour and pattern”, which is perfectly accurate.

My favourite place we visited in Marrakech was the iconic Jardin Majorelle, a secluded oasis in the heart of chaotic Marrakech. It was designed by Jacques Majorelle, who wanted to create the garden and onsite Berber Museum to display the rich culture and history of Morocco.

Throughout the gardens, there is an abundance of a vivid, electric blue, known as bleu Majorelle:

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In the mid-20th century, the garden fell into disrepair. It was then purchased by Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Saint-Laurent became so taken by bleu Majorelle that it became one of the most iconic YSL nail polish colours.

Although luxury beauty lines were created to be more accessible and affordable to the average human than, say, a YSL dress, upwards of $30 for a single bottle of nail polish is still rather steep.

Luckily for those of us who, like Saint-Laurent, have fallen in love with the unrivaled dynamism of bleu Majorelle, there are two drugstore options for this amazing colour. Good old Sally Hansen and Barry M always have our backs!

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My first flirtation with this glorious colour was this summer, when I picked up a bottle of Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish in Pacific Blue. Like Yves Saint-Laurent before me, I had never seen quite a colour before. (Yes, I did just compare myself to Yves Saint-Laurent. I know.) In the months that ensued, I probably wore Pacific Blue at least a third of the time – which is definitely not an even distribution when you consider how many nail polish colours I have!

However, tragedy of tragedies, Pacific Blue got reformulated – and this resulted in a drastic change in colour. It is now darker, sheerer, and slightly shimmery. It’s simply not the same dreamy, striking blue I fell in love with. I love a good cobalt as much as the next person, but what if I want a bleu Majorelle dupe?

Enter Barry M, a UK drugstore brand known mainly for their amazing, long-wearing, beautifully pigmented nail polishes. When I first arrived in Glasgow and went to Superdrug, I immediately noticed that Barry M had what appeared to be a dupe for Pacific Blue. However, it wasn’t until about a week ago that I broke down and finally bought the Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint in Damson. (Incidentally, the colour does not resemble that of damsons at all.) Normally I would never knowingly buy a nail polish shade that’s a dupe for one in my collection, but my bottle of Pacific Blue isn’t getting any more full, and at this point it’s irreplaceable.

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Barry M Damson on the left, Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right.

Are these exact dupes? To my extremely discerning eye, no. Damson is bluer and a tad deeper, whereas Pacific Blue has the slightest hint of purple and a lighter, creamy quality that makes it so magical. Damson is a beautiful colour, but when I look at them side by side, on my nails rather than in a photograph (where they look almost exactly the same), Pacific Blue still has some sort of special quality that I’m drawn to. Damson is a gorgeous colour, and very similar, but it seems to me to be a colour that’s more dupeable.

I know that this is just me being picky. To the untrained eye that has not had months to fall in love with Pacific Blue, the colours are indistinguishable; and, indeed, photographed they’re essentially the same. I’m not saying I don’t love Damson, because I do, and I think it may just be the closest dupe I’ll get with a formula that I enjoy. (Essie’s Butler Please is supposedly a Pacific Blue dupe, but I am not fond of the Essie formula. Blasphemous, I know!)

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Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the left, Barry M Damson on the right. In this picture I think you can see that Pacific Blue is just the tiniest bit lighter and creamier than Damson.

In terms of application, they’re very similar. They both go on beautifully, without any hint of streakiness or globs in the formula. Pacific Blue looks slightly more even and opaque after one coat, but I usually give it two just to be on the safe side.

They both dry relatively quickly, though Damson ends up being a bit shinier than Pacific Blue without a topcoat. (With a topcoat, the slight edge it may have in this imaginary competition vanishes.)

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Barry M Damson on the left and top; Sally Hansen Pacific Blue on the right and bottom.

I’ve never had a problem with the Xtreme Wear brush, but I will say that I do prefer the Barry M brush. It’s just that much slimmer, making it easier to navigate around the edges of nails. However, the wider, flatter Xtreme Wear brush is still very compact and easy to use, and definitely one of my favourite nail polish brushes!

The two polishes wear very similarly: without a topcoat they’ll chip in about three days on my nails; with a topcoat they’re still pristine a week on. That’s firmly within the range of “acceptable wear” for me, and it doesn’t tip either one ahead of the other since they both perform admirably.

The major downside to Damson is, of course, its lack of availability outside of the UK. Nail polish can’t be shipped internationally, either, so once I use up both Pacific Blue and Damson I’ll need to move onto something else – or fly myself over to the UK to grab another bottle of Damson, which seems unlikely. (That would be one expensive bottle of nail polish!) However, if you’re in the UK and lusting after a colour like Pacific Blue, give Damson a shot. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close – and it’s beautiful.

I suppose Pacific Blue is singular. It’s a colour that I’ll need to let go of, however, and Damson will do a fine job at filling that electric blue void in my heart.

(And in case anyone was wondering, my bleu Majorelle-esque eyeliner is Annabelle’s Lapis.)

Sally Hansen Hard As Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Polish retails for $3.49 for 0.4 fl oz, or $8.73 per fl oz.

Barry M Gelly Hi-Shine Nail Paint retails for £2.99 ($5.59 CAD) for 0.35 fl oz, or £8.54/$15.97 per fl oz.

Harry Potter Studio Tour: Focus on Beauty

Posted on March 30, 2015 under Thoughts

I was in London and Brighton this weekend to visit Aisling – and also to be a tourist, because duh. I’ve only been to London once before, in October, and there is just so much more to see there, always! (I’ll be back one day, mark my words.)

Amongst other things, we went on the Harry Potter Studio Tour, which is absurdly overpriced but absurdly awesome for the hardcore HP fanatics out there. (Aisling and I certainly fall into that category.)

One of my favourite parts was the hair and makeup station – it was so incredibly illuminating to see the wigs and all the products the makeup artists used!

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It’s obvious that some of the characters were very heavily kitted out with wigs and artificial facial hair (Dumbledore, Snape, Hagrid, Lucius Malfoy), but there were others who I was surprised to learn were wig wearers – Molly, Arthur, and Ginny Weasley, for example. Not that I necessarily thought they were all natural gingers, but I guess I assumed they just dyed their hair for the roles!

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The sticky note on the mirror says “We ♥ Dan if he does not pick his scar off!”

It was so much fun trying to spot products and brands I recognized – I see Laura Mercier, Lancôme, MAC, and lots and lots of stage makeup brands. And falsies galore! I suppose it makes sense that false lashes would be used, but it does make me laugh to think of a witch putting on individual lashes in the middle of a wizarding war.

I think I was a bit surprised at how many “normal” and recognizable products were used here – although, in retrospect, I shouldn’t be. Although there’s a lot of costume makeup, scars, prosthetics, and weird facial features there are plenty of characters who just have the faces they were born with. I suppose it’s especially funny because you never really think about cosmetics in the wizarding world – I don’t think there was a single mention of any sort of makeup in any of the books! I can’t imagine Hermione applying blush.

You guys know I love seeing people’s makeup collections and how they organize it all, so I adored this part of the tour. It’s like peering into someone’s vanity, but on such a large (and more interesting) scale. I feel a newfound feverish desire to find out what products are used on different movie sets now!

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And because she’s my favourite, Luna’s wardrobe. God bless her soul.

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I was very enthusiastic about this!!!!

(All photos by the wonderful Aisling Brock!)