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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Death of High End makeup?


With ELF's Studio line impressing even the harshest of critics, is the writing on the wall for high end makeup? Being a high-end purist, I never fully accepted MAC as 'high end', penalising them for their basic packaging and lower pricing. Yet their monopoly on the 'Pigments' and bright eye colour side of the business could not be challenged, and any makeup lover inevitably soon found themselves with a black compact to join the legions of gold, silver, or shiny laminated plastic in their burgeoning collection.

But now with the prevalence of mineral makeup, which invariably gives bold bright colour and often comes loose, pigments don't seem all that novel. Sleek (at Superdrug), although officially aimed at dark skin, have introduced eyeshadow compacts for under £5 and bring out new editions with a zestful urgency reminiscent of MAC. The Sleek 'Neon' edition gave drugstore buyers their first opportunity to get rich bright matte pressed eyeshadows - and sold out on impact.

Barry M, who previously held the answer to any MAC Pigment aspiration, have now enlarged their collection to include a full range of lipsticks, bronzers and blushers. The pigment jars (the famous 'Dazzle Dusts') have lost their uniqueness as Collection 2000 and GOSH, amongst others, now have very similar concepts. Their elegant NARS dupe bronzer compact and suddenly high price tag (around £10 compared to the usual under £5 price point) hinted that Barry M were ready to pitch their line to makeup connoisseurs rather than the makeup ingĂ©nue. However their most recent addition, the blushers, put paid to this by reverting to type: priced under £5, and packaged in gruesome flimsy plastic. Regardless of the quality of the blusher itself (which is very good actually!) packaging does matter. Enough for me to say that despite the very passable performance (very similar to MAC blusher in fact) I will not be getting any more - they undermine the finesse of my collection. And not in a 'functional' way, but in a cheap skint, 'I don't really appreciate makeup but I do own a blusher and a half chewed mascara somewhere' kind of way.

Into this threshold step ELF. They have organised their range to get the best of all worlds: the cheap nasty packaging is relegated to their £1.50 range, and the smart NARS packaging is lavished on the £3.50 Studio line; the Bare Escentuals sifter jars are adopted for the great ELF Mineral line. ELF have some astounding pieces which I and others have frequently waxed lyrical over. The extremely sturdy and useful ELF Compacts to put your B2M eyeshadows in, the Studio line brushes, Studio line Complexion Perfection (Amazing!!), the plumping lip glaze in 'Fire Coral', the beautiful mineral eyeshadows in 'Royal' (a sober amethyst) and 'socialite' (a taupey silver brown)... These are some of the ELF star products I have discovered so far and highly recommend.

And recently I visited the famous Charles Fox shop in London and realised for myself that Kryolan is cheap and brilliant. Their lipsticks are £5.65 and absolutely faultless: pigmented, lasting, non-drying, flattering. And they have blushers for £4 which seemed too good to be true. I picked up a palette with a selection of lipsticks, a brilliant buy. But, the best item I got was the makeup artist's secret weapon: 'Anti-Shine' loose powder. This was used in the Miss World pageants I was told, and works brilliantly on bald heads too, as used on TV! It is regularly put through its paces and with a mammoth 30g in a tub, the £12 price tag is an absolute steal.

With all my recent cheap but effective finds, if MAC don't have to adopt pretty packaging to be welcomed into the fold, I don't see why theatrical makeup can't easily replace my blind faith in all things high-end. I will always have a place in my heart for NARS and Estee Lauder (probably) but by the same token, I am confident a trip to Charles Fox every now and then can satiate my makeup lust without breaking the bank, and what's more without having to compromise on quality. I also prefer the atmosphere - treated as makeup professional, rather than a gullible spendthrift.

I would urge you all to investigate too! If everyone did, high end might realise they can't get away with quite such a mark-up... We all know that perfume and makeup sales give a fashion house extra revenue to plough into their designer collections (which get them the headlines, which get them the fame); and we all know high end makeup use the money for advertising campaigns or sponsoring events (which get them the headlines, which get them the fame). There really is ultimately no justification for a £20 lipstick. I am all for luxury but in the end it is about the performance. I just wish I'd known there was a solution all along. There's nothing like a credit crunch to make you think outside the box.