Sunday, 12 September 2010

At the Court of Illamasqua - new AW Art of Darkness Collection at the Soho flagship store

Disclosure - products were provided for review

Yesterday afternoon I attended Illamasqua's new flagship store in Soho for a much-anticipated blogger event. The store, on Beak St (no 20 to be exact), is metres from the end of Carnaby Street. It's a large, welcoming space with glittering holographic walls and floors, and is also home to the new Illamasqua School of Makeup Art, the brand's first teaching venture. The store opens on Monday (13th September), but yesterday a horde of bloggers were given first look at the premises and at Illamasqua's new Art of Darkness collection, the second of two seasonal releases this year.

Art of Darkness goes well beyond the usual concept/product format of seasonal cosmetic collections (and certainly blows summer's Body Electrics out of the water). It's an entire fairytale that touches on the subjects of alchemy, immortality, temptation and danger. The scene is a banquet with 13 guests, each one a persona from the imagination of Creative Director Alex Box. Wanton Woman, Wolfen, Faerie, Ceremonia, the Queen of the Gypsies... scanning the promotional material I begin to think I've strayed off the cosmetic highway and wandered into an RPG or cosplay situation. But the thread leads back to the products - the 13 guests (each one exquisitely made up, of course) are all engaged in a quest to create the Elixir of Life, i.e immortality bottled. They don't succeed, but they do manage to come up with some transformative tools that render mortal forms exquisite - "a beautiful array of jewel-like substances", to quote the promo material.

And here they are. Presented in custom packaging with the emblem of an iridescent beetle (great minds think alike), the collection consists of 3 new Liquid Metals, 2 new Pure Pigments, 2 new nail polishes, a Powdered Metal face and body highlighter, a navy blue lipstick (Disciple), an Intense Lipgloss and two shades of Precision Ink liquid liner. The dominant colours are metallic red, blue and green, although gold is also a feature (which ties in with the alchemy theme, with the idea of base metals being turned into gold).

I didn't realise until this event that Illamasqua's colour products are produced by cult pro makeup brand Kryolan, who are famous for their bright, vivid pigments. 

Most high on my wishlist are the two new polishes, Viridian and Scarab. Viridian (blue/green) is especially lovely.

Here is the navy blue lipstick, Disciple. Could this be a new trend?

The three new Liquid Metals, Resolute, Superior and Stoic. These will be available separately, and also in a 4-way palette along with the pre-existing gold shade Solstice.

Pure Pigment in Alluvium (which has gold and pink sparkle) layered over Superior Liquid Metal to create a deep, opaque metallic blue.

Precision Ink in Alchemy. More of a very very dense sparkle than a metallic, and wonderfully long-wearing (it's a polymer-based formula, so no smudging or transfer)

Creative Director Alex Box was in attendance, and after addressing the guests, she went to work creating looks on willing models. Here's one similar to the Wanton Woman campaign concept.

Here's a red and gold devilish character.

While most brands offer blogger-tailored events alongside more traditional press days (if they offer them at all), Illamasqua put bloggers emphatically centre-stage. Addressing the guests, Alex Box explained that the blogger community was first in the door of the Beak Street shop, and that that was deliberate. Bloggers are prioritised because of the strong fit between Illamasqua's ethos and the blogger phenomenon. "It's about passion for pigment, no bullshit, and really getting stuck into the product." She encouraged us to "get out there and stick your fingers in every pot."

Despite her seniority, Box was present a a matter of course and very accessible. I spoke to her and thanked her for the event, and she was extremely willing to chat. I had heard her speak before during a lengthy interview at IMATS but had never met her and was charmed by how open and down to earth she was.

I came away from the event feeling excited and positive. Illamasqua is a brand that's very much still growing, is charged with creativity and idealism and is absolutely bubbling with new ideas. It's primarily an artistic venture, rather than a commercial one (although to run a large retail concern in central London there must be some serious business acumen at play too) and the sincerity and passion on show is a real breath of fresh air in the beauty industry.

The Art of Darkness collection is not yet released, apart from the Precision Ink liquid liners, which are out now. The Beak Street store will open on Monday 13th, and the attached School of Makeup Art will begin courses in mid October.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this - I am always a bit leary of "creative" makeup brands as I fear that they border on the theatrical, and I am so not that. However I must admit that the (few) times that I have stopped by their counter in the Selfridges near me, the MA are charm and helpfulness personified, and just seem enthusiastic about makeup. Great post and pics Jan x


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