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making faces :: marky marc's funky bunch

nothing will get fashion and beauty fans talking, yelling and eventually punching like a designer launching their own cosmetic line. the issue is contentious because of its straddling of the worlds of creativity and branding. it's fine to have a well-known designer come out with a cosmetics line- many fashion houses have made cosmetics for years and the two seem intrinsically linked, both connected to our pining for beauty and aesthetic titillation. the problem for most fans comes up because such "collaborations" generally involve a designer selling the rights to use his name to a company that makes cosmetics and the result is, at best, someone's impression of the designer's style or personality. for months before it launched at sephora in august, the marc jacobs cosmetic line had been a subject of lively discussion, as fans tried to determine the extent to which the man was involved in the actual development process.

in this case, jacobs has outsourced development to experts: his makeup line is made by lvmh, who also own guerlain, givenchy, benefit and makeup forever in the cosmetics industry, plus a little chain of stores called sephora, which makes for a nice distribution system. the official word is that he was very involved in all aspects of the line, but what are they going to say? there are photos of his notes that have been circulated, but really, only marc and probably several hundred people at lvmh know for sure.

certainly the product names seem like they could have come from jacobs, linked as they are to some of his favourite cinematic moments and elements, but does that the products reflect his vision? [also, using movie and pop culture references to name products is not exactly original, having been done sublimely for years by francois nars who took the iconic photo of jacobs posted above.]

having seen, swatched and tried out the marc jacobs line for myself, my answer is: i honestly don't know. the collection has a sleek, modern, youthful feel to it that i associate with his designs, but if i can pick up on that myself, so could anyone else involved in the design process. the other part of my answer: i don't really care all that much. yes, it would be nice to think that designers who value their creativity wouldn't just sell their name to the highest bidder, but such things happen. i was a little more disturbed to hear that jacobs has become the creative director for diet coke.

what really matters to me is how the products work and, having tried out a few items, i'd say: pretty well.

the first thing to catch my eye [so to speak] even when i saw promotional photos, were the collection's eye shadows. they come in palettes of 3 and 7, purportedly the idea of jacobs, but the marketing person in me can't help but think that those sizes are conveniently different than other major brands- although dior has 3-shadow palettes they aren't normally a focus and nars seems to have phased their out- making direct price comparisons more difficult. in canada, they sell for $50 and $71 respectively, which  puts them about on a level with the aforementioned dior and nars.

looking for a moment at the entire array, one thing that appeals to me is that he hasn't skimped on shades for cooler toned complexions. i find that warm-to-neutral shades dominate a lot of lines, but that isn't the case here. i think every one of the shadow palettes is neutral enough that it won't be a deciding factor, but there are a number of purples and icy blues mixed in. i also find that there are a number of colours- tarnished bronze, soft coral- that have been done to death that the line sidesteps entirely. whether or not it was marc, someone did evidently take a serious look at where there was room to be original in terms of colour in the market. [and believe me, there is room.]

i swatched all of the palettes a few times before forcing myself to choose just one to start. i found the quality to be high and consistent pretty much across the board. in the end, i went with the 3-shadow palette called "the punk". i probably don't have to explain that.

it's a combination of a shimmery oyster neutral, a cool orchid purple and a bright red violet. the 3-shadow palettes have the shadows in different sizes according to how much of each you are likely to use. the oyster shade in this case is largest, the red violet is in the middle and the orchid colour is the smallest. i'm not certain that there will end up being a difference in terms of how much i use one of the purple shades versus the other, but i do think it's likely that the most-used will be the neutral. so they got that one right.

the oyster shade could almost have sold me on the palette by itself. it's a sumptuous, richly pigmented frost finish that could be called a light taupe, or a soft grey, or a cool sand [although i wouldn't, as the brand does, call it champagne, because i find it too cool and "dirty" to match that description]... there's a complexity to it that's quite fascinating and the best part is that it retains that on the eye.

the punk shade 1
the hallmark of a great neutral shade to me is when i can compare it to similar items in my extensive stash and not find a match. the light satin neutral shade from guerlain "les gris" is beowner and much less frosted. the shimmery shade from guerlain "les fumes" is warmer and darker. mac "cloudy afternoon" is lighter and a shade warmer- it looks cream in comparison.

l to r :: guerlain les gris, the punk, guerlain les fumes, mac cloudy day [l.e.]

the orchid purple of the palette gave me pause. swatched in store, the colour pay-off was terrible. it seemed dry and powdery, but, once i could actually see the colour, quite lovely. it has a sheen, but it's much less frosted than it's larger neighbour. i figured i'd take a chance that i could work with it, because i really did like the shades in the palette and that turned out to be a great decision. you see, applied with a brush [i've been using a mac 239], this shade becomes a powerhouse. rather than needing to spend time building it up, i've found myself blending it out to reduce the intensity. it applies true-to-pan and adds an incredible pop of brightness to any look.

the punk shade 2
i didn't have anything especially similar to this one. mac "parfait amour" looks similar, albeit darker, in the pan, but in reality, it's much softer and bluer.

l to r :: the punk, mac parfait amour
finally, we have the matte red-violet. i've been looking for a shade like this for a long time and have found that they're rare. moreover, the ones that i have found have had quality issues, which is sadly common for matte purple shades. not this one though. it deposits a lot of colour and the colour doesn't blend away the way some do.

the punk shade 3
the texture is a bit dry compared to the others, but not powdery and not stiff. it's easy to get a lot of colour on your brush and, although it doesn't want to move from where it's applied, it can be blended with reasonable ease.

i didn't do comparison swatches for this, because i really didn't have anything that was in the same range. mac's discontinued "red violet" pigment was, i believe, somewhat similar.

i will warn you that the frost on the oyster shade is intense- intense like frosts from urban decay and dior- the kind that can be a bit aging on the lids. you can soften the effect with a fluffy brush, which i find works better for me, but it's something to keep in mind about the frost finishes for the line in general. on the other hand, if you love frosts, you're going to be well cared for by marc jacobs.

medium application
blended application
what truly impressed me about "the punk" was the lasting power of the colours. shadows fade and purples and blues seem particularly susceptible to it, at least on me, but not these. they stayed well-defined and nicely pigmented for ten hours or so, whether applied full-force or softly. i tip my hat, because my hooded lids give shadows a work out. so for colours to hold up this well is remarkable.

the other item that i picked up was one of the "love marc lip gels", or lipsticks as they are known in my house. although i hadn't really been considering it, i tried the bright berry shade "seduce me" on in store and fell for it. it's a smooth, intense berry pink shade, with just a slight translucency. that trick of making a lipstick that's just short of opaque is something that armani does very well. it allows the shade to meld with your own lip colour, helping to make it a better match for you. you don't perceive the colour as translucent, but you can see the difference when it's swatched.

seduce me
the formula is quite light and applies smoothly. there's a lot of slip to it and you can control the intensity quite well by applying more or less pressure- the slippery texture means that it goes on very evenly regardless. a lot of moist textures have a tendency to feather and the first time i wore this, when i was suffering from allergies and my lips were in rough shape, i did notice some bleeding around the edges. the second time i wore it, i didn't have the same problems, but if you find that brighter shades tend to migrate on you, you'll want to lay down some liner. the lipstick felt very nice on, not at all drying and i wasn't conscious of it on my lips while i was wearing it. the one area where i felt it could have done with some improvement was wear time. the intense pigmentation fades pretty quickly and it doesn't take that long for the colour to disappear entirely compared to other brands.

the lipsticks are priced at $36, which makes them a bit higher than nars, a bit lower than ysl and equal to the rouge dior lipsticks. because of the reduced wear time, i don't know that i'd say they're quite up to snuff. i like how the lipstick feels and i might purchase another if i really like the colour, but i wasn't quite as thrilled as i was with the shadows.

in terms of comparisons, i thought of mac "rebel", a quintessential bright berry shade, but it's deeper and more purple. honestly... it's very similar to "madame batifole". "seduce me" is less bright and cooler, but they are closer than i realised at first. i'd say that "seduce me" is what you should turn to if you don't think you're up for something as bold as "madame batifole", but if you want that fully saturated look, go with the lady. of course, if you really like rich berry-pink shades, there's no harm in having both. i'm keeping the two of them for certain.

l to r :: guerlain madame batifole [l.e.], seduce me, mac rebel
lastly, i got a sample of the "genius gel", the mj collection liquid foundation and have been trying it out sporadically. touted to be moisturizing because of its coconut water base, it's a thin fluid that offers sheer-to-medium coverage. it can easily be built up, but it doesn't require a lot of product to get an even layer to begin with. a lot of reviews have claimed that the foundation is drying, or that if it isn't actually dehydrating the skin, that it clings and emphasizes dry patches in a way that's highly unappealing. it's summer and my skin is crying out for mattifying products, not moisturizers, so i didn't experience the drying effects, but i can sort of see what was meant. personally, i liked the fact that the foundation didn't leave my skin feeling oily, which has been a problem lately. it didn't cling to the flaky areas around my nose that just never get hydrated, nor did it feel "tight", but at the same time, it took my skin from heavily dewy to silky near-matte, so for someone with dry skin, i can't see this working out. my allergy flare-up caused a visible red bump on my cheek, which the foundation didn't entirely hide, but i have to admit that no other foundations did any better.

the lasting power seemed good and i can definitely see this becoming a summer staple for me, if i can get the colour right. since i'm a wee bit darker than usual, the lightest shade in the range "ivory light" was too white and too pink for me. i'm wearing "ivory medium" in these photos, which is on the verge of too dark, or at least, i felt it looked a little dingy in anything other than full sun. there are sixteen shades available, so chances are there will be something to fit most skin tones, if not all.

[note :: i also read in some reviews that there was an unpleasant smell to the foundation. i didn't get a whiff of anything from my sample, but when i tried it on my hand in store, i absolutely did. and it was bad. my normal inclination would have been to think that i might have smelled something else in the store and just thought it came from the foundation, but because others have mentioned it, i can't discount that the product out of the bottle might have a fragrance that a sample, which isn't airtight, lacks. at least it means that the fragrance probably doesn't hang around really long.]

although it's recommended for use with the marc jacobs foundation brush, i got a much better application using my fingers.

my thoughts overall? i'm seriously tempted to grab all the shadow palettes, although there are some that probably would not work so well. i'm strangely fascinated by "the ingenue" a combination of pearl, honey and custard tones that should really be much more boring than it is. i'm impressed enough overall that i want to try some of the brand's other offerings, like their blushes and eye liners. whether it was marc himself or someone at lvmh who came up with the original colours and fun, lightweight formulas we may never know, but what i've experienced has piqued my interest enough that i want to try more.

i'd particularly recommend the products to fans of nars, since i think that the colour selection and the approach bear some similarities that customers of one will appreciate in the other. it's a higher-end line, but there's a funky spirit infused throughout.

the marc jacobs cosmetic line is available at sephora and at marc jacobs boutiques.

the face photos here were taken wearing "the punk" and "seduce me" as well as marc jacobs "genius gel" foundation in "ivory medium". the photos of the blended shadow application and the final photo also have the darker shade of hourglass "exhibition" in the outer corners of the eyes.


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