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MAC and Rodarte give makeup an ugly name with their Juarez line

By July 27, 2010 10 Comments

A model shows off MAC and Rodarte's Juarez-inspired makeup collection.

Whether it’s a case of thinking way too far outside the box, or a cheap attempt to shock and awe makeup junkies, MAC Cosmetics has managed to seriously cross the line.

Collaborating with high-fashion label Rodarte, MAC recently unveiled plans to release a makeup collection in September based on life in the border town of Juarez, Mexico.

Just a little trivia about Juarez: it’s not exactly the picturesque tourist trap that typically inspires beauty trends. Besides being home to hundreds of multinational corporation-owned factories, the city is also known as a veritable murder capital.

At the center of Mexico’s drug wars, Juarez’s violence-related death toll is set to reach 6,000 by the end of the month. Hundreds of these homicide victims have been women traveling to and from their job sites.

Call me crazy, but these facts somehow don’t rouse my desire for a new shade of blush.

But let’s go back to the beginning. Last year, Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the designing duo behind Rodarte, took a road trip to the town and based their fall collection on the multitudes of female workers making their way to factory jobs in the middle of the night.

The Mulleavys slapped a sexy name on the laborers (“sleepwalkers”) and whipped up a line of ethereal garments based on their nocturnal procession.

As I previously mentioned, there’s a bit of a problem with this dreamy vision (Besides the fact that it’s grossly exploitative to produce high-end fashion designs “inspired” by workers trudging to factory jobs at midnight). Many of the thousands killed in Juarez have been the very “sleepwalkers” Rodarte claims as their muses.

To be fair, fashion is art and art can be controversial, but who in their right minds thought it would be a great idea to get MAC involved and spew out some inappropriately-named cosmetics?

The company was set to team up with Rodarte and release a collection of blush, lip gloss, eyeshadow and nail polish in such shades as “Factory,” “Juarez,” “Ghost Town,” “del Norte,” and “Quinceanera.”

Drawing artistic inspiration from a town’s aesthetic is one thing. Romanticizing an impoverished city’s laborers to market a line of department store cosmetics is another.

Attempting to associate a deceptively cheery mint-colored polish with the dark reality many women in Juarez face is insensitive and irresponsible. And several beauty bloggers agree. They were the first ones to call the cosmetics company out on their reprehensible behavior.

A sample product from the MAC/Rodarte Juarez collection.

Had MAC and Rodarte intended to draw attention to the horrific crimes in Juarez and raise money for the people living there, I’d be all for it. But it wasn’t until bloggers caused an uproar that MAC promised to donate “a portion of the proceeds from the collection to help those in need in Juarez.”

In addition to the $100,000 they will reportedly donate to charity, MAC will also change several names in the line. Rodarte claims that the collection was simply “intended as a celebration of the beauty of the landscape and people in the areas we traveled.”

That’s all fine and dandy, but a thirty-second Google search would have revealed that there’s plenty more to Juarez beyond the lovely scenery.

Whether it was complete ignorance or a totally tasteless publicity stunt, MAC and Rodarte owe a lot more to the people of Juarez than apology statements and a belated check to smooth things over.

The collection may have been born out of misguided creativity rather than manipulative marketing, but the result was still deplorable and thoughtless. And I prefer my makeup cruelty-free, thanks.

— Michelle Konstantinovsky is a student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and an avid admirer of shiny objects and preteen entertainment. It would be nice if you visited her website: www.michellekmedia.com. Also, she may learn to use Twitter more effectively if you follow her @michelley415.

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