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Beauty Products as Works of Sculptural Art

By Renée Batchelor

Photograph by Katherine Ang, Styled by Marisa XinClockwise from top left: Serge Lutens Des Clous Pour Une Pelure Eau de Parfum, $214; Rouge Louboutin Matte Nail Colour in Patibaba, $80; Byredo Mascara in Space Black, $70; Shu Uemura Unlimited Glow Breathable Care-In-Foundation, $72.

The origin of vanity tables offers us a glimpse into to why many beauty products today come in attractive packaging.  Originally called toilet tables, they were used in the bathroom and came with a wash basin attached for light washing and the removal of cosmetics. Later, they evolved into vanity tables that were used by both men and women. The men used it to store grooming items like razors, oils and combs, while the women used them not just for storage but also to display their cosmetics, perfumes and hair accessories. While the vanity table is less common in homes today — being often replaced by a bathroom shelf or cabinet — brands still ensure that many of their cosmetics are not just functional, but display-ready.

In the case of a new range of beauty products created by Byredo, the makeup products were designed to appear like a collection of mismatched, but beautiful, items. Isamaya Ffrench, the makeup artist who co-created the products, said, “There's something really beautiful about having all these objects at home. All of them are things that could stand alone on your shelf and look great.” The mascara from the collection comes in a bold, lipstick red shade, with an unusual curved cap. When holding the cap, one is immediately aware of how its curved shape fits perfectly into the palm, making it more ergonomic than a traditional straight cap. Ffrench also designed the wand with tiny bristles to make it easy to bring the applicator as close to the lash bed as possible, for fuller coverage.

For the perfume brand Serge Lutens, chic packaging is a must. After all, brand founder Serge Lutens is also a renowned photographer and filmmaker who created iconic beauty imagery, like Shiseido’s makeup campaigns in the ’80s.  The new scent Des Clous Pour Une Pelure is a spicy, aromatic fragrance that is designed to be unisex. It has notes of orange, clove and nutmeg, for a slightly bittersweet, gourmand twist. The fragrance comes in a sleek glass bottle, with a square body and stylistically grooved cap that has an almost vintage feel. The perfume inside is an almost shocking, electric blue, making it a pleasingly colourful addition to the vanity table.

Japanese brand Shu Uemura combines artistry with makeup, thanks to the philosophy of its late founder. The brand’s Unlimited Glow Foundation is a new formula that contains skincare ingredients like Japanese white peony, for a lit-from-within glow. With an expertise in shade matching for Asian skin tones, the transparent, cube-shaped bottle also makes it easy to colour match at first glance. The brand also cleverly uses design elements to convey the formula of each foundation that lies inside. The frosted bottle is for the semi-matte finish, while the clear bottle indicates a formulation that will have a glowy effect on the skin. 

A pair of Christian Louboutin shoes is more than just footwear, with its lipstick red sole becoming an iconic signature. The brand has since branched out into cosmetics. Its nail lacquers in particular come in daringly different packaging, with a sharp, spiked cap resembling a stiletto. The matte nail polish has a quick-dry formula and a complete set comes with a base and finishing coat to perfect the matte effect. The nail brush has also been redesigned into a rounder shape that mirrors that of the nail, for a more even, one-stroke application. The colour Patibaba is a rich burgundy red that is unerringly chic when worn, with an effect not unlike that of the brand’s stilettos.