Taking Berlin by storm, MAC cosmetics kicked off its three-day global trends presentation Monday night with a mini-performance by outré rapper Brooke Candy, who is celebrating her second collaboration with the company.
In the largest iteration of the biennial event so far, the beauty brand and its 150 guests from 35 countries, a mix of industry professionals, bloggers and journalists, whirled though the city — from iconic gay club Schwuz, to cutting-edge art spot König Galerie, to power plant-turned-venue E-Werk.
“Berlin is such a perfect city for MAC because it’s so culturally artistic, so fashion-driven — I still feel like there’s this kind of underground,” explained Karen Buglisi Weiler, MAC Cosmetics’ global brand president, in an interview with WWD. “And when I think about MAC, I think it was founded kind of as a underground brand, so it culturally makes sense for us, and I think that’s one reason why we’re doing so well here.”
Germany is now MAC’s top country in Europe, and in the top 10 for the brand. MAC has more than 100 doors here and is expanding, particularly in tier-two and tier-three cities, a strategy in use throughout the continent, said Buglisi Weiler, referring to MAC’s European business as “very, very healthy.”
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Innovations at the company are also robust. At an eye makeup workshop on Tuesday, artists showed off new technologies at play, including Spellbinder eye shadows. The ionized metallic loose pigments are held together in velvet waves by a magnet in the packaging, and are scheduled to launch in October. Bouncy Soft Serve pastel shadows are based on the cushiony cosmetics that are a standard in Asia.
Also catching eyes were two new mascaras. Pro Beyond Twisted Lash, which has a patented star-shaped fiber brush and a flexible wand that can be bent up to 90 degrees for ease of application, launched last month. Instacurl, featuring a wand that can be twisted into a more curved form by turning its handle, hits counters in August.
“With MAC, it’s always about the wand,” remarked veteran Hollywood makeup artist Bruce Grayson, surveying the developments.
Isabelle Rovner, vice president of global product development, collections and collaborations, would opt to disagree. She explained that the formulas of super-lightweight fast-drying Instacurl and mousselike Pro Beyond Twisted Lash also benefit from the recent changing of a policy, which said MAC could only develop mascaras within the labs of its parent company, Estée Lauder.
“Unfortunately, I have to admit, our formulas were kind of boring,” said Rovner. “So we went outside and did it.”
MAC’s Autumn/Winter 2016 multimedia global trends presentation pulled from catwalk looks in Paris, New York, Milan and London. Senior MAC makeup artists recreated them onstage in Berlin in front of a packed crowd of attendees.
“It’s not necessarily about the newness, as much as the newness is in the execution, or in the attitude,” said Gordon Espinet, MAC’s senior vice president of global artist training, development and makeup artistry, who leads the presentation. He noted that fashion and makeup were becoming much more synergistic, some times to contrasting effect.
Espinet also told the crowd that though social media-captured street styles were having a strong influence on fashion and beauty, there was also a backlash backstage against the photo-filtered and carefully contoured faces that fill up Instagram feeds.
“It felt empowering that a woman could actually look like a woman, and not like a map,” quipped director of makeup artistry Terry Barber.
One top style was the strictly defined lip in red, and deep purple tones or “prune and maroon,” as director of makeup artistry Romero Jennings called them. Strong lips were formed precisely with layers of MAC’s highly pigmented Retro Matte liquid lip color, sometimes with clear gloss on top.
Another standout was the diaphanous pastel clouds of color diffusing from eyes to cheeks, what Terry Barber described as “psychedelic chic” and “modern blur.”
Those bright hues caught the eye of Vasudha Rai, beauty director for Harper’s Bazaar in India.
“You know India is all about color but the ironic thing is that women don’t wear a lot of color on their face,” said Rai. “I’m very inspired and I would like to inspire my readers also to wear color on their face because Indian women have beautiful skin.”
MAC, which has 40 points of distribution in India, is highly visible and popular said Rai. But, she pointed out, the brand is considered masstige, while high-end niche lines like Charlotte Tilbury are becoming hot.
With 110 markets around the world and around 90 collections a year, MAC has become a global fast-fashion beauty retailer. This year alone brings pop culture references from Trolls dolls and Star Trek to singers Selena Quintanilla and Mariah Carey. These collaborations drive store traffic and social media, but differentiate the brand from the growing arena of niche cosmetics in sometimes unwelcome ways, said MAC senior vice president and group creative director James Gager told WWD.
“If I could be a predictor, I would say maybe for MAC the world of collaborations needs to pull back a little bit, because I think it’s maybe O.D.-ing, not just with us but with the world,” said Gager. “And maybe we need to get back to a little bit more of our real claim to fame, which is artistry and skill sets, which is what some of the niche brands are really focusing in on right now.”