Join 3,572 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Resolution of a makeup controversy
August 3, 2010 1:37 AM   Subscribe

MAC Cosmetics and Rodarte partnered to create a makeup collection. Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters behind Rodarte, "were struck by the ethereal landscape and the impoverished factory workers floating to work at dawn in a sleepy, dreamlike state." People started questioning the sensitivity and intelligence behind the naming, particularly a glittery pink nailpolish named Juarez.

A statement (scroll down for the entire collection) was released promising $100,000 by a MAC cosmetics spokesperson and both MAC and Rodarte apologized. The firestorm raged on and the bloggers started dissecting the controversy.

A couple of days ago the John Demsy, president of MAC Cosmetics, and the Rodarte sisters each released a statement after meeting with Mexican government officials and reaching out to numerous charities, stating that they are renaming and redesigning the entire line and that all global profits will be donated to an initiative they're creating to help the women and girls of Juarez.

a recent refresher on the issues facing the area.
posted by nadawi (31 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
I found a nail varnish yesterday called '12 inch gang bang'.

A MAC varnish costs $20 over here - how many hours' wages is that for the workers of Juarez?
posted by mippy at 3:24 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would totally boycott M.A.C, except that they make my favorite Bergen-Belsen lip gloss.

Who are these people that they couldn't figure out this wasn't a good idea? And why do they all make so much more money than I do?
posted by taz at 3:41 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's Derelict from Zoolander!
posted by vitabellosi at 3:45 AM on August 3, 2010


I would totally boycott M.A.C, except that they make my favorite Bergen-Belsen lip gloss.

Are you being ironic? I don't trust my detector anymore.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:52 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, Salvor Hardin. But I know what you mean.
posted by taz at 3:57 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh, man; the writer here makes exactly the same dumb joke as me (at the very end). d'oh! I guess that was a little more obv than I thought.
posted by taz at 4:01 AM on August 3, 2010


ok, good - just checking :)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 4:06 AM on August 3, 2010


Taz: It's a condition of modern life. Get used to it.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:25 AM on August 3, 2010


I'm nearly as offended by their "apology statement": We are truly saddened about injustice in Juarez.... you mean exploited and murdered women that you thought it would be awesome to fashion cosmetics after?! I have never sought out anything by Rodarte. Now I will know to avoid it because it is created by idiots.
posted by haplesschild at 4:26 AM on August 3, 2010


are they going to give those poor ladies gift certificates, too?
even the destroyed want to look fabulous.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:33 AM on August 3, 2010


This is especially painful and embarrassing (for me, anyway) for two reasons:

1. Kate and Laura Mulleavy's mother is Latina and was born and raised in Mexico ( as mentioned in the New Yorker article from Januaryabstract here). The name of their company comes from their mother's maiden name. One would think that having a family member who grew up near where these murders took place would make them more aware of the exploitation and murder of women. Alas, no.

2. Given their design aesthetic and sources of inspiration in previous collections, they seemed as though they would be smarter than this and above this kind of "Derilicte" aesthetic of exploitation. Sadly, no.

Since the Mulleavys are themselves half Latina, you would also think that the color palate would be friendlier to those with a darker/olive complexion. I get that "many female designers are often expected to say that they’re creating the clothes they would like to wear, but Rodarte is more about creating an entire world with a piece of clothing"...but taking your inspiration from a road trip to Mexico and then creating makeup that would wash out most complexions darker than the palest white is really questionable.

The only good thing about this is seeing how many fashion and beauty bloggers are learning about how bad the exploitation of women in Juarez is. The rest of it is FAIL of the most cringeworthy sort.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:45 AM on August 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


Thanks for that info, pxe2000. Looking around, I see that there's a really corpse-like promo shot for the line here ... and I read that their inspiration is Gothic. I'm beginning to worry that it's not just some horrible oversight, but purposeful.

Here's that photo backed up at imageshack, just in case it goes missing or the page goes down.
posted by taz at 5:10 AM on August 3, 2010


Favela as fashion is nothing new in photoshoots and this goes much further, I wish people'd stop trying to be so edgy but that's not going to happen so I'll just get my cringing hat and hope it isn't raining so hard my mascara runs.
posted by shinybaum at 5:48 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This saddens me so much, really thought Kate and Laura Mulleavy would know better, I really held them in quite a high regard.
posted by ellieBOA at 5:48 AM on August 3, 2010


When fashion missteps, it does so spectacularly.

but taking your inspiration from a road trip to Mexico and then creating makeup that would wash out most complexions darker than the palest white is really questionable.

According to the article I read, they took their inspiration from a trip to Marfa, which perhaps helps explain their pale-focused palette.
posted by Forktine at 5:58 AM on August 3, 2010


I would have thought MAC would have known better, given they've been involved in AIDS advocacy and other causes for years.
posted by mippy at 5:58 AM on August 3, 2010


The end result of this will be more knowledge all around so, yeah, it was a fuckup, but I think that they've more than made it right so you know, okay then.

I guess we can all get our hate on but it's hard when the end result will be raised awareness and a new flow of money where it should be going.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:07 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


As mippy says, I thought MAC would have known better. They were one of the first high-end lines - if not the first - to carry a range of colors that match skin tones all along the spectrum. Their advertising, both for the Viva Glam AIDS benefit collection and for the regular line, has been inclusive and aware.
posted by catlet at 6:38 AM on August 3, 2010


The other thing I liked about MAC was not using 'standard-issue' models. I'm Caucasian so I didn't pick up so much on how unusual it was to see non-white faces (I think it's more common in the UK in mainstream magazines) but in my teens it was awesome to see a make-up line advertised by a drag-queen who looked no less like me that the models one normally saw in such advertisements. It made me realise that make-up wasn't an essential part of being a 'normal woman' or a way of trying to pretend to be one of the Beautiful People, but a way of having fun and trying on a persona.
posted by mippy at 6:58 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is the sort of thing which, if done knowingly as a way of drawing attention to these crimes, I'd consider a brilliant artistic statement. A polish named "Juarez"? Imagine explaining that to someone who admires your nails.
posted by hermitosis at 7:07 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A MAC varnish costs $20 over here - how many hours' wages is that for the workers of Juarez?

Well, according to this page, the minimum wage in Juarez, is $54.80 pesos/hour, which is the equivalent of $4.21/hour. That means one bottle is about 4 3/4 hours' wages for the minimum wage worker there.

Contrast that with the US minimum wage of $7.25/hour, at which one bottle is about 2 3/4 hours' wages for the same bottle.

Don't you hate when snark is answered with facts?
posted by hippybear at 7:09 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think that they've more than made it right so you know, okay then.

How exactly have they done this? By saying "Oops!" and throwing money at the situation?

I'm honestly wondering why that's enough to "make it right" since it was a mistake of a pretty epic magnitude. Sure, there's not too much harm done by a make-up line created in poor taste, but I think that an apology and some money doesn't really "make it right." It makes it less bad, for sure, but certainly doesn't erase the ignorance that went into the mistake in the first place. Hopefully more people (including those involved in the production of the line) will be educated about this, but I hesitate to say that they've "made it right."

I mean, it's certainly for the best that they've acknowledge their mistake and are re-doing the line and donating money to help the women of Juarez... but you can't really put the toothpaste back in the tube. Rodarte will, at least for a while, be synonymous with "those idiots with that Juarez cosmetic line."
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:25 AM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the linked articles has the headline. "MAC/Rodarte Makeup Collaboration Names Nail Polish After Impoverished, Murdered Women."

Juarez = impoverished murdered women - and only that? Wikipedia about Juarez:
"Juárez has an estimated population of 1.5 million people. (...)
Juárez has three public and two private universities. The Instituto Tecnológico de Ciudad Juárez (ITCJ), founded in 1964, became the first public institution of higher education in the city. The Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez (UACJ), founded in 1968, is the largest university in the city and has been ranked among the best universities of the country. It has several locations inside of the city like the Faculty of Biomedicine, the Social Sciences Center, the Arts and Engineering Center and spaces for Fine Arts and Sports. This latter service is considered among the best because it recluses nearly 30,000 participants in sports like swimming, racquetball, basketball and gymnastics and arts like Classical Ballet, Drama, Modern Dance, Hawaiian and Polynesian Dances, Folkloric Dances, Music and Flamenco."

The crime and violence in Juarez is tragic. Still, Juarez is home to 1.5 million people, not all of them are raped and murdered female factory workers. Comparing Juarez to Bergen-Belsen is an insult to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps. Also, the death rate in Bergen-Belsen was obviously higher than the death rate in Juarez.

Maybe we should remove products named after other violent areas too, such as New Orleans?

In other shocking news, there's a wine festival in Soweto, South Africa, sponsored by companies such as Samsung. How dare they? After all, Soweto is where street gangs practice "corrective rape" and kill lesbians. They might as well have a wine festival at Bergen-Belsen.
posted by iviken at 10:24 AM on August 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


but taking your inspiration from a road trip to Mexico and then creating makeup that would wash out most complexions darker than the palest white is really questionable.

I'm not defending this stupid move, but MAC is the only makeup company I know that creates shades for the international market. I'm an NC 40 and if I went to India's MAC store, I could buy the NC 40.5 (but they don't have the half numbering here). MAC is the only store I go to for foundations and powers because they have a diverse staff in the stores I've been to (even in a mid size city in Ohio) and people with my skin tone (not necessarily my own ethnicity but it's close enough) can help me.

That being said, this was really stupid. But I don't know their experience of Juarez and I've never been there myself.
posted by anniecat at 10:35 AM on August 3, 2010


This is the sort of thing which, if done knowingly as a way of drawing attention to these crimes, I'd consider a brilliant artistic statement.

This is a missed opportunity for Rodarte and MAC. Before this post, I had absolutely no idea where Juarez was, (sorry, I'm European) now I know a bit more, and I'm disappointed this campaign couldn't have taken me closer. The fashion elite wheels out a potentially brilliant critique of the agendas implicit in commodifying female beauty, reaps a whirlwind of publicity which highlights some important social issues, and then promptly undermines it by backpedalling with mealy-mouthed apologies. It's impossible to believe that the architects of this blatantly narcissistic campaign weren't aware of its implications, particularly when the other nail polish is called Factory. With a bit more ambition, this could have been an effective and provocative piece of promotion, but instead it's a publicity train-wreck which has left the followers of both brands puzzled and angry, and done nothing like enough to bring the real story to the fore. Why couldn't they have had the courage of their convictions?

Once upon a time, it was possible for advertising to have a political agenda beyond selling things. Contrast the way Benetton used human rights issues to fence knitwear in the early '90's, with last year's controversial and tasteless shoot by Indian Vogue. Or better still, compare this storm in a teacup with Hussein Chalayan's mesmerizing Fall 2000 collection highlighting the plight of war refugees, in which living room furniture folded into clothing (14:20). Those of us who work in applied arts should recognize that sometimes, if we're really lucky, the work can have a life-changing impact. It's unfortunate that nowadays even savvy brands like these need to fall back on the shallow consumer aesthetic, without taking the artistic initiative. Maybe the girls at Rodarte aren't that smart, and this really was an ignorant misappropriation, but isn't it more likely that something got lost in translation?
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 11:29 AM on August 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Since the Mulleavys are themselves half Latina, you would also think that the color palate would be friendlier to those with a darker/olive complexion

These are the sisters, and they are not tiny women. But they also continue to work in an industry that and perpetuates a beauty standard of paper thin, tall girls (most of them are just so young, really).

Being able to relate to something doesn't always mean you take action that others might see as more just.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:06 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a girlfriend who likes the colors Uzi, Asphyxia, Jailbait and Trainwreck*, so I have a hard time getting upset about the "Juarez" reference.

Fashion, shock value, jaded anorexics, pithy comment, etc.

(* One of these days I'll be detained at US Customs over my shopping list.)
posted by rokusan at 11:32 PM on August 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Don't you hate when snark is answered with facts?"

It wasn't snark, it was a serious question. But thanks for assuming that I think all Americans are wealthy, there.
posted by mippy at 3:42 AM on August 4, 2010


Also, I would bet all the nailvarnish I own* that not all workers are paid the minimum wage. Believe me, not all of them are in the UK (sweatshops, tips/commission to make up 'shortfall', cutting prices where people are young/unaware/desperate enough) and we tend to be pretty vigilant about these things.


*about four half-used bottles of No7, don't get excited
posted by mippy at 3:44 AM on August 4, 2010


cmgonzalez: That was one of the reasons why I posted the link to Tavi's blog. Many designers create clothing that they would like to see in their own wardrobes, but if the Mulleavys did that they'd be designing for Lane Bryant and Anna Wintour wouldn't even know who they are. (Instead of having them lose weight for a cover story in her magazine.)

Though they're not the target market (or even the target build) for their clothing line, I honestly thought they'd be smarter than this. They might not wear that makeup in real life, but creating a makeup palate for white people and then naming it after towns in Mexico strikes me as kind of tone-deaf.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:35 AM on August 4, 2010


I don't care for the Rodarte fashion. It's purposely dark and creepy. That's what they do. Should I be outraged by their aesthetic in general or only when it invokes a reference that is mainstream? 

What are appropriately sketchy/edgy cities after which a fashion line can be named? Is Detroit OK? Can violent cities in Latin America be more than just objects of our pity and indignant / impotent outrage?

What are appropriate topics for fashion? Are they different than topics appropriate for art? Why?

Alternately...

How dare that industrial / goth / metal band make a song about incest and then sell that song without giving all the proceeds to the counseling and prevention group of someone's choice?

How dare a movie studio set an action sequence in a famously dangerous place without devoting x percentage of the story and/or proceeds to the plight of the disenfranchised in that locale? 

Or, simply: fashion is a superficial art form. On purpose. If your critique of fashion is that fashion is superficial, it may be that it's your observation which is shallow and lazy.
posted by noway at 8:13 AM on August 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


« Older The Space Shuttle is still retiring but a U.S. Sen...   |   "I'll take four oxen and all t... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments