Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Let's Talk About It: The Big Palette Rush

I'm fully aware that this post is going to look more than slightly ridiculous in light of the next one, which will be a review of Pat McGrath's Mothership: Subliminal palette. I still think it's worth talking about, because palettes are a big part of current makeup conversations, both negative and positive. Younger consumer seem to think that palettes became a thing with the launch of the original Urban Decay Naked Palette in the summer of 2010. This is not quite accurate, of course. There've always been makeup palettes, big and small. While "always" in my case is the last thirty years that I've been wearing makeup and can describe from personal experience, makeup palettes have been here much much longer:

 Max Factor 1967, three years before I was even born
A multitasking palette from 1965

I love palettes. Always have. As a teen I had a large drugstore one, kind of the equivalent of those noname mega palettes people were buying on eBay over a decade ago (or the current Coastal Scents and their ilk). I also had a couple of adorable  St. Michael sets, a Marks & Spencer brand known for embossed tin packaging and pastel color stories. The shades were comically wrong for me, but they gave me the push to start doing makeup on my friends, several of whom had the right coloring for those pinks and lilacs. I had incredible fun doing that.

As far as I can remember, my mother was not a palette person. She favored duos or trios, and never had more than a couple of those at any given time. Browsing through vintage makeup books in my collection I'm reminded that we weren't always supposed to build layers of transition colors and use three separate shades in the crease alone. 'the 80s weren't that big on blending, either, but that's a topic for another day. My own approach to eye shadow was using two (three max) colors at any given time, the dark one mostly on the mobile lid and outwards, the lighter from the tear duct and up on most of the browbone. Using a quint or a quad didn't mean applying all the colors at once (If you're a millenial it can't make much sense, right?).

I didn't own a proper Christian Dior quint until my very late twenties (I did have a couple of Dior duos; one is still alive, well, and sees regular use because the quality, shades, and pigmentation are still superb). The following Dior ad from the fall/winter 1988 campaign (remember when there were only two makeup seasons/collections a year?) featuring the inimitable Susie Bick  pretty much embodies that style (and might be the reason I must have every blue Dior quint they release. It's seared into my brain.

Musing on palettes of yore also reminded me that Inglot did not really invent the "Freedom System". Other brands probably also had similar setups, but back in 1988 or early 1989 I decided to get a "create your own" duo of Revlon eye shadows. You'd buy the pans and the lady at the counter would pop them in a plastic compact. I needed something that would have fitted in a small makeup bag, so in my eternal wisdom I picked two colors: a satin/shimmer olive green and paired it with a matte hot pink. Now you know all my secrets.

I'm realizing I've been drifting off the subject of real actual palette and the shelf space they take up in stores, individual collection, and mental wishlist (and rabid coveting list, of which I'm just as guilty). When did they become the must-have of all must-haves? In the  early aughts (2003, I think) Chanel launched their Jeans de Chanel collection, with an eye shadow palette (a quad, really) as its star. I'm guessing it was a pre-fall release  that was available starting July that year, but I waltzed into my local Blomingdale's to buy it in early September, because I thought it'd pop  up nicely against my planned outfit for our anniversary dinner. There were no availability issues and I bought the quad and the matching liner, rejecting whatever else was in that display*.

During that same period Lorac was still a makeup artist-led brand (do you remember the lipsticks that were all named after Carol shaw's favorite celebs?). They had two eye & face palettes that to me are still iconic. The Snake Charmer (which I've bought soon after starting the blog even though it was on the market for over a year at that point. Funny how makeup marketing wasn't all about urgency) and the Croc Palette. You can see both in the photo at the top of the post. They're still as amazing. And what about really BIG palettes? Why didn't Cargo The Runway palette (2009) cause a mass shopping hysteria? After all, that was already in the new era that in my opinion was ushered by both MAC and their endless limited editions (at the height of the crazy it seemed like every four weeks. Then everyone stopped caring), and Bobbi Brown's whose original Chocolate palette (July 2006 for the fall collection) was really the first mass palette stampede I can remember (please correct me if it happened before).

Speaking of Bobbi, mega palettes were one of those items her super pro artists used on events (nowadays some are available to the public on a seasonal basis). MAC artists also had them in one form or another (right along with the bad attitude). I don't think I've seen a non-store brand (even Neiman has them), not made in china 500 colors that no one needs, or non-holiday drugstore  humongous palette until the last few years. Lorac Mega Pro is an extrapolation of their regular Pro palettes (the success might have caught them by surprise at first), and most of us have seen them being hyped to the moon and back on YouTube and Instagram. Not that Lorac is the biggest or worst offender here.  "Luxury" brands that have never been seen before outside the internet, Established brands that had the liquid highlighter go to their heads, brands releasing the very same shades again and again, upping the cute factor on packaging and lowering the quality, and we shall not forget: limited edition collaboration with celebrated online personalities that your mother has never heard about**.

All of that comes with a  clear message: Buy it. Buy it NOW. It won't last and then you'll cry. And you won't have this never seen before rose gold eye shadow that will never be released again (until next month. And have we told you that it's a LIMITED EDITION? Go! Go! Go!

Which brings me to the reason of this post. I love palettes. The ones at the top are a small glimpse of my collection. From Wet 'n' Wild to Chantecaille, Juvia's Place to Guerlain and everything in between. The thing I resent is the deluge of poorly thought and designed products that are marketed by people whose job is to sit in front (or behind) cameras and tell us to go shop now, before the next thing comes along, that you need another twenty eight eye shadow palette that offers the very same colors you already have "because they tweaked the formula and now it won't shed glitter into your cleavage" (remember how that glitter was the best thing ever two palettes ago?).  In most cases it's no longer about makeup, passion for innovation or technique, and it takes away a lot of the joy I feel when seeing a new collection and analysing how it relates to what we've seen in the most recent shows, as well as historical makeup moments, and  eternal fashion and beauty icons. There's still a lot to love (I owe you an in-depth overview of the entre Man Ray collection, which is exactly why I love makeup-in-context so much), and Pat McGrath has brought back artistry to choosing colors and textures. It's just the rest of them that make me cranky.


  • How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years?
  • What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them?
  • YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you?
  • Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not?

* Chanel gets me every time. Right now I'm bemoaning the fact that Jews don't do Christmas and we only do Hanukkah for the children, since the Le Singe de Leon highlighter in Or Rose and the new Jardin De Chanel Blush in Camelia Peche have ensnared me. Yup, just as I was ranting about the limited edition ludicrousness. I'm a Chanel sheep.

** I want to be clear that my issue about collaborations is with the brands and the crap they produce, not with the marketing personalities that front them. I have a lot of respect to those among them who have game and can hustle, because I absolutely lack the talent. If I have a bone to pick with them is about knowledge and intellectual curiosity, but it is not something I'll discuss in public because they're also people with feelings, sensitivities, and mothers who read everything that is said about them.

So let's talk about it. What say you?


  1. How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years?
    I always been a eyeshadow / quad and quint whore. I was collecting Guerlain, Lancome, Dior and Le metier de Beauty palettes. And then Sephora started opening stores in my city and suddenly I realized I could have a 15-20 shades for the price of a quad! I went from a snob to a believer LOL. Seriously I still like my LMDB and some of my Dior (but it's been a while since i've been tempted by a Dior quint) Guerlain eyeshadow have also been less impressive in recent years. So now Juvia's place Viseart, Colourpop and unfortunetly Natasha Denona have been my favorite eyeshadows. I guess the love of the packaging have left for the love of the actual content.
    But yes I feel like Colourpop is the new MAC with its never ending new releases.

    What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them?
    colours make me excited and lemming for a palette, I'm now a youtube junky and my favorite youtubers are usually not that ''big''; Stephanie Nicole, Jackie Aina, RawBeautyKriti, Emilynoel83, LaurenMayBeauty are my favorites and of I cannot buy anything before my bible Temptalia review it.
    I might not be 100% ok with Temptalia reviews but if she give a C to a product that I like ex: MUG Tuscan Sun eyeshadows I still understand her point of view.

    YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you?

    None I never buy something because it was a collaboration, I purchased some collaboration because it has stellar review. I do not care of the face representation it, I only care about the Quality.

    Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not?
    Some brand just dont interest me, Hourglass leave me cold, Kate Von D, YSL, Mark Jacob, Benefits, Huda, Clinique, (and dont be mad at me) but even Fenty Beauty can't get my attention. Why? I don't know! It is not the price, reviews are usually good on some of their products, when i'm at Sephora I just swatch and walk away.
    My take away from this palette craze is that more people are buying, when I was 15 I was the only one wearing makeup, foundation was a must with my acne problem and I soon discovered I need more dimension in my face so blush and mascara soon follow. But now a days I see more and more teenagers wearing makeup and all purchased by more and more generous parents. Because let face it, my mom wasn't buying me makeup but nowadays parents are more and more willing to purchased makeup for there children. But not far any price and if it come with a childish pink packaging (that looked like our barbie makeup) the better because hey we don't want our kids to grow to fast, right?

  2. Ahh palettes, they can be so lovely! I am staring at the Chanel highlighter as well, I do not need it but it warms my Leo heart.

    How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years? I am overwhelmed by the barrage of palettes. I've come to the point that the palette really has to wow me, to be exceptionally pretty for me to consider buying it. It would be nice if MAC released some palettes without half the colors being from the permanent line. No I am not buying 35 shades of orange either. I confess that I purchased the Viseart Golden Hour palette partly because I liked the shadow names but I knew I would enjoy the colors - although I was a bit heavy handed when I first tried them, I was ready for my Turandot debut.

    What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them? The colors have to be beautiful and in a format that is useful for me. I have a weakness for red lipsticks but if the formula doesn't work for me and it's not the right tone, I won't buy. I'm less likely to buy if it is a limited edition that has a "sell out" hype around it, I can't be bothered to sit online all night to get something. If it's there when I can great, if not, I am absolutely sure something new that I'll like will come out eventually. Of all the Youtubers I follow, I would take a second look at something Stephanie Nicole would recommend, Tarababyz as well and of course Lisa Eldridge. I may not still buy because I have my own preferences (I've found that I can disagree greatly with reviews) but whatever they recommend will get my attention and consideration.

    YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you? I like that the ones I mentioned can direct me to brands I haven't considered and give opinions on products that I'm already interested in but ultimately it's my experience that is more important than their endorsement because the items have to meet my needs and makeup ideas.

    Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not? Hmm Perhaps Too Faced, I just have not been happy with the products and I have low tolerance for food scented makeup. Other ones I'm just not interested in for a variety of reasons - most youtube "beauty guru" makeup lines, Morphe, KKW, etc.

    We are suffering from "musthaveititis" rather than purchasing a palette because it is exceptional and useful. That's one rule I am trying to stick with - if I buy it I must use it...but that Chanel lion...lol

  3. Oh wow, I never thought I would come across someone who loves palettes as much as me! I remember the Lorac Snake Charmer and Croc palettes (which I longingly coveted, being unable to purchase them in New Zealand).

    I am an avid collector of palettes and also remember creating my own Revlon duo - the colours I picked were lavender and plum.

    I love that the quality and choice of palettes has gone up over the years. I think I have slowly come to the realisation that some are too big to be useful (too much choice and not portable). I have the Bobbi Brown Artist Lip Palette which has 54 shades, and while it’s amazing I never use it as it’s impossible to touch up on the go. Small and well edited is the way to go.

    I have loved the increased choice in neutral palettes in recent years - although the trend has been a bit overdone there is something to be said for an excellent quality, workhorse palette of shades that will see you in day in and day out. I recently purchased one such palette from the By Terry holiday collection.

    I do fall for the limited edition craziness at times (having recently bought Charlotte Tilbury’s Smokey palette amongst others). What makes it exciting for me is the promise of a great look all in one place - I have so much makeup that I’d never manage to rummage through so many single products, so I can start each day choosing a “look” rather than a product. (I fully realise how silly it is that the solution to having too many products is to buy more products... and I work in marketing so go figure!)

  4. Love your blog.

    Large palettes don't appeal to me. Glitter is my middle name, I like 4 color palletes. Maybe five. No more.
    Suqqu has been calling my name.

  5. Love this post, love your blog.

    Up until a couple of years ago, I bought a lot of palettes from the usual suspects, and more than a few on your recommendation. I still have a lot of Chanel, Guerlain, Dior, Clinique, Cle De Peau, Le Metier, Chantecaille... but due to space constraints and general shame about hoarding, I've operated on a one-in-one-out principle. This has led to my family and friends getting unexpected gifts of barely used makeup.

    About two years ago, I hit burnout on pretty much every brand. What with the constant limited edition/exclusive hustle, to iffy quality control even on some Chanel quads I picked up, to realizing I have all the colors already either in older palettes or singles. Not chasing after fireflies has left me better able to enjoy what I have, and eliminated another source of stress, which is always a plus.

    Consider me out of the palette game entirely until something truly spectacular comes along.

  6. How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years? I always been a eyeshadow / quad and quint fangirl, particular brands I adored are Lancome, Chanel and Dior in no particular order. The latest brand I fell in love with was the Le metier de Beauty palettes. They are so beautiful, silky and functional!
    My latest must-have release I adore is Urban Decay's Naked Heat Palette.

    What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them? Colors and exquisite textures are what draw me, I trust what you and Stephanie Nicole have to say.

    YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you? Not important at all, I care about quality and if it's usable.

    Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not? Some brands just don't interest me, Hourglass never seems to work for me. I adore Ellis Faas eye colors, staying power and wearability; but her applicators are very tricky to use and I wind up with a lot of wasted product. Although, I ADORE her 101 red, and have purchased a few tubes of it to date. I just can’t justify purchasing the shadows - they are too tricky to get the hang of.

  7. How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years? I’m feeling burnt out, too (and that started way back with MAC Ripe Peach). I’ve actually never loved large palettes, because I’m picky enough not to like every shade, and that always bugs me. I also tend to avoid brands who do the majority of their marketing via YouTube personalities, because I don’t trust them. So the MAC Ripe Peach debacle way back essentially changed my taste in makeup: I stick to smaller brands who don’t promote themselves in ways I dislike. It’s how I found Chantecaille and By Terry and Rouge Bunny Rouge and Suqqu: via bloggers and Youtubers who do this because they love makeup as much as I do.

    Like you said, I don’t begrudge people who do this as a job! In fact, I think they’re amazing and savvy. But I’ve also watched too many people’s credibility disappear when relationships with brands started becoming more important to them.

    What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them? The most recent palette I bought was the Jouer Skinny Dip palette because Temptalia raved about it. I think it was the only palette I bought this year. Hate the name, love the eyeshadow. I also trust the two Youtubers others have mentioned - Stephanie Nicole and Tarababyz - and while I don’t rush out to buy everything they endorse, they are able to put things on my radar. I also tend to watch smaller Youtubers who review high end products and have the collection to be discerning. I care about color and texture and uniqueness in my collection, so I completely ignore the constant rereleases.

    YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you? I don’t watch any personalities. At all.

    Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not? Oh yeah. No more MAC since Ripe Peach; I still use an eyeshadow in Brule and their eyeshadow primer, but I’ll buy them from a Nordstrom or Ulta. And I know enough to know that Chanel eyeshadows don’t work for me, but that’s because I’ve tried quite a few quads and disliked them, not because of burnout. I also avoid companies who name products with deliberately provocative names (for years that’s been Urban Decay, but some Nars products come to mind as well; Too Faced is a more recent offender. I will not buy anything from Too Faced.)

  8. I'm very late to this post, but I feel compelled to answer the questions. :) I have been thinking recently about how palettes seem to have taken over the makeup scene.

    How do YOU feel about the palettes of the last couple of years? I have always been a small-palette (duo, trio, quad, quint) person. A few years ago, I bought the Urban Decay Naked 2 palette and, although I loved the colors, I found it extremely annoying to use because it was so bulky. I tossed it and replaced it with a couple of quads filled with my favorite single Urban Decay colors.

    Nowadays, my largest palette is the Marc Jacobs 7-pan Lolita palette, which is compact enough to toss into a makeup bag.

    What makes a collection exciting for you? What and who can make you buy them? I'm slightly embarrassed to admit it, but celebrity advertising seems to work very effectively on me! I bought Nars products when Tilda Swinton appeared in their ads, and again when the Charlotte Gainsbourg collection was released. I also bought my Marc Jacobs Lolita palette and Velvet Noir mascara after seeing a picture of Winona Ryder wearing those products.

    I also tend to fall for pretty packaging. I am more likely to buy a product that I wouldn't otherwise notice, if it comes in extra-special packaging. The YSL seasonal collections, and Cle de Peau holiday palettes come to mind. The Nars Man Ray collection is especially tempting at the moment. Chantecaille products are frequently on my wish list.

    YouTube and Instagram personalities who are not Lisa Eldridge: how important is their endorsement to you? I am not at all interested in brand collaborations with Internet beauty personalities.

    There are a few people I follow online who have taste, style, or coloring similar to my own, and I do pay attention when they mention a favorite product, or better yet, when they create a look that I like. But these are just regular people, not "internet famous" personalities.

    Have you stopped buying or even testing products from certain brands? Why or why not? I'm one of those people who is kind of fed up with companies using deliberately provocative product names (sexualized names, drug and alcohol references, or profanity), or unnecessarily suggestive advertising. So I have started to avoid Urban Decay, Nars, Too Faced, Tom Ford, Charlotte Tilbury, and Wet 'n Wild, among others. I'll make exceptions (most frequently for Nars) if there's something I really want. Because I do appreciate the artistry and the quality of some of those brands. But I've just recently become aware of how pervasive this type of provocative marketing has become, and it bothers me because I have young teen relatives who are beginning to shop for makeup. I don't like that they are bombarded with these types of references every time they shop. We should be able to talk about makeup without mentioning sex or drugs or bitch-this-or-that "AF" at every turn!

    And then there are brands that just don't resonate with me. Some that come to mind are: It Cosmetics, Lorac, Tarte. i just find them boring. I think I probably require either luxe packaging or some sort of inspiring reference or style icon to draw me in.



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