TOKYO — For its holiday collection, Shu Uemura has linked with an unexpected, but very well known, ambassador of Japanese culture: Super Mario. It is the first beauty company to collaborate with the iconic 1980s Nintendo video game, and the result is a range of exclusive products and best-sellers in colorful packaging. Yumi Lambert will appear in the campaign.
While Shu Uemura is no stranger to artist collaborations, having recently worked with Takashi Murakami and Ambush’s Yoon Ahn, an 8-bit bouncing plumber seems an unlikely partner for the brand.
“This time we got inspiration from culture,” said Kakuyasu Uchiide, international artistic director for Shu Uemura. “Super Mario Bros. is one cultural aspect that is representative of Japan. It’s also really, really popular overseas.”
Uchiide said he had to approach the collaboration in a slightly different way than before, but once he starting thinking about it, it was easy to find similarities between the two brands.
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“I looked at something behind the Super Mario Bros. game and I tried to find something in common between the video game and beauty. My point of view is that the Super Mario Bros. game is a really simple game. To achieve the goal you have to overcome some kinds of hazards, then finally you will get what you want,” the makeup artist said.
“Sometimes I translate beauty as ‘tao.’ Tao is a path — a makeup path or beauty path. To develop individual beauty, to develop the best application and the best expression for you, I think it’s like a path. You need to try a lot of things and then choose what is good for you. And sometimes you find something that doesn’t suit you, which can be compared to a kind of hazard on your path.”
Uchiide said that as a Tokyo-based brand that represents Japanese pop culture, Shu Uemura is the only beauty company that could pull off a Super Mario Bros. makeup collection. He knows it’s an unexpected pairing, but he said that’s part of why it appealed to him.
“To be creative, we need a different point of view to make women surprised,” he said. “We should provide good surprises through a unique approach.”
Uchiide also feels it’s important for Shu Uemura to work more on emphasizing its roots.
“We already are known as an international cosmetic brand from Japan, but we have to emphasize more the fact that we are from Japan, we are from Tokyo. Other brands in the fashion industry are really proud of where they come from, and of course we are really proud to be from Tokyo, from Japan,” Uchiide said.
“A lot of fashion designers, a lot of creators talk a lot about how Tokyo is a really inspirational city and Japan is such an amazing country, but as a part of Japan and a part of Tokyo, I feel it’s not enough. Sometimes Japanese are too shy to call attention to their roots.”
The Super Mario Bros. collection, which will hit Shu Uemura counters worldwide starting from Nov. 1, includes a full range of makeup products, as well as a specially-packaged cleansing oil, lip balm, eye primer, and other skincare products. Shampoo, conditioner, hair styling products, and tools such as a brush set and a mini makeup box will round out the offering.
Some of the exclusive colors include two sheer pink lipsticks, a pink and a brownish cushion blush, and a subtle, glittery beige version of Brow: Comb, a product that somewhat resembles mascara for your eyebrows. An exclusive eye and cheek palette has iconic Super Mario motifs, such as a mushroom and a star, pressed into the surface of the two blush colors.
Perhaps the most innovative new item is the Dual Stamp-Me Liner, which features a black felt eyeliner tip on one end and a star-shaped stamp on the other end. Uchiide said he hopes customers will have fun with the product, stamping it not only near their eyes, but even on places like their hands or fingers.
“This collection is not so much about creating, but it is about playing,” he said. “I want people to be able to play with their individual style. During the holidays this simple approach to beauty allows customers to enjoy the season more.”
While Uchiide declined to give specific examples, he said there are a lot of Japanese companies he would be interested in collaborating with in the future, and that he is open to working with brands and artists from a range of industries.
“Many people think of Shu Uemura and they think of transparent packaging, lots of colors, a makeup artist brand, cleansing oils, eyelashes, and eyelash colors, but they don’t think of the creative spirit behind the brand,” he said.
“I really want to show what is our spirit, our DNA, our creativity. That’s the only way to realize what Mr. Uemura wanted to do, which was to strive to link art with cosmetics, to link art with beauty.”