Illamasqua is a makeup brand that presents itself as created for artistic or theatrical use but sold directly to the consumer. They are a recent addition to the makeup landscape, but they’ve already created several highly conceptual collections. Their creative consultants include Dave Vanian from the seminal horror-punk band The Damned and Anja Huwe of German New Wave band X Mal Deutschland. Illamasqua’s spring collection is titled “Toxic Nature.” From the Illamasqua site:
“In retaliation against the genetically modified society that plunders it, the landscape has issued forth a torrent of hybrid shades. Corrupted hues glister amongst muted tones – extreme, intoxicating versions of their original selves.
This is an atomic-botanical environment where survival is key and camouflage by colour is the path to existence.
We scoured the abandoned toxic wastelands of the world to create an eclectic selection of corrupted hues for the eyes, lips, nails, face and body. Flitting effortlessly from poisonous pastel to hazardous neon, this cataclysmic mix of brave new tones take your look to the outer limits of nature’s palette.
Become a herald of the new age of Toxic Nature with uncharted night-time make-up.”
This apocalyptic imagery is starkly out of place among other makeup collections that tread well-worn paths between tropes of spring flower gardens and other pastoral imagery. This takes the expected spring pastels and recasts them as “Mould”, “Delirium” and “Radium.” The images that accompany the copy show women with painted doll-like faces posing in a smoggy wasteland. The makeup application closely resembles that of Japan’s Ganjuro Girls: a subculture devoted to taking the all-American California girl look to garish extremes, with darkly bronzed skin, harsh white highlights, and heavily exaggerated features, especially the curvature of the eyeshadow contouring and the semi-circular eyebrows. Why take this approach to sell peach nail polish and orange lip-gloss?
First, Illamasqua is cashing in the subcultural capital of consumers who grew up listening to The Damned or X Mal Deutschland or any number of other alternative bands. These consumers have traded in their Manic Panic and skateboards for VWs and Jeffrey Campbell. They probably aren’t in a position to sport green hair and ripped bondage clothes in their daily lives anymore. Some of them may be lucky enough to have creative jobs where a small amount of subcultural signals are tolerated–one tattoo peeking out, a nose ring, a discreet stripe of pink hair—but most of them have to pay the bills, and that means looking more like the boss.
So Illamasqua gives them an outlet. That office-appropriate beige nail polish isn’t beige, it’s “Bacterium.” For the wearer, the secret pleasure of the subversive apocalyptic narrative allows them to reaffirm their formative roots in punk, goth or whatever alternative culture they once felt at home in. The surrounding tale that accompanies this makeup is gothically nihilistic and (hopefully) off-putting to the consumer who wants a more naturalistic (read: normal) appearance. These colors aren’t just muted spring shades. Through the narrative, they become as threatening as a safety pin through the nose, even if it’s only the wearer who is aware of the intended menace.
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