MAC Rodarte Collection Ignites Juarez Controversy

Sunday, July 18, 2010

If you're a hardened MAC fan, then you're probably already well aware of their limited edition, Mexican themed collection, with designers Rodarte, scheduled for release in September 2010.

Like many, I get the scoop on the latest MAC collections from Specktra.net - a haven for all make up (especially MAC) and beauty lovers. Details of the Rodarte collection were released a while back, but it took one glance at the promo images available to decide that nothing from this collection was going to flatter my skin tone and therefore my money would be staying firmly in my wallet. I didn't give the collection a second thought and life went on.


 Rodarte's 'ghost-like' imagery, do little to stem the eerie connotations that are being associated with this collection.

Controversy aside, I'm not impressed with the the first sneak preview of the collection, which in my opinion reveals it to be rather dull and one of the worst to be released by MAC so far in 2010. Can you say B.O.R.I.N.G?!

However over the past couple of days, I've been forced to take a much closer look at this collection due to the uproar its affiliation with the northern Mexican city of Ciudad Juarez has created. Ironically I read up on the infamy surrounding Juarez a few months ago after hearing it mentioned on a crime documentary. It was only after I had googled a couple of articles that I made the connection that this was indeed the same Juarez that is now in the centre of a publicity storm created by a cosmetics company.

Juarez is an impoverished Mexican factory town notoriously known for the disappearance of hundreds of women who have been raped and murdered with little or no response from the police. With victims as young as 12 years old, to date the estimated murder toll is speculated by authorities to be approximately 400, however local residents suspect the murders stand at an estimated 5,000. Most of the cases remain unsolved dating back to 2003, and remain so today.

Most of the young women are employees at the border town's factories, known as maquiladoras, and disappeared on the way to or from work. Underpaid and working in grim conditions, and often subjected to sexual harassment, life in Juarez is undoubtedly far removed from many our daily lives. Activists have been applying constant pressure on Mexican police, who have shown little response to calls demanding an investigation into the murders, allegedly because the victims are poor women.

Juarez has grimly been hailed the “serial killers’ playground” due to the lack of urgency and action displayed by the Mexican police to reprimand those responsible for these crimes. The Juarez murders have also been highlighted on the big screen:  In 2006, Jennifer Lopez starred in,“Bordertown,” a film loosely based on the murders, alongside Antonia Banderes, playing a reporter who investigates the rapes and murders.

Sombre and saddening, yes? So why would MAC and Rodarte display such insensitivity by naming eye shadows and lipsticks from the collection which clearly use the awful working conditions in Juarez as inspiration. A nail polish called "Factory", eye shadows named "Bordertown" and "Sleepwalker". These leave me and many more feeling uneasy.

The criticism that has ensued has forced both MAC and Rodarte to release the following statements
From M.A.C:

We understand that product names in the MAC Rodarte collection have offended some of our consumers and fans. This was never our intent and we are very sorry. We are listening carefully to the comments posted and are grateful to those of you who have brought your concerns to the forefront of our attention. MAC will give a portion of the proceeds from the MAC Rodarte collection to help those in need in Juarez. We are diligently investigating the best way to do this. Please be assured that we will keep you posted on the details regarding our efforts.


From Rodarte:


Our makeup collaboration with MAC developed from inspirations on a road trip that we took in Texas last year, from El Paso to Marfa. The ethereal nature of this landscape influenced the creative development and desert palette of the collection. We are truly saddened about injustice in Juarez and it is a very important issue to us. The MAC collaboration was intended as a celebration of the beauty of the landscape and people in the areas that we traveled.

Now call me a cynic, but I find it extremely hard to believe that whilst sat around the boardroom discussing the naming of the products, that the plight of the overworked, underpaid factory workers and numerous unsolved rapes and murders failed to be mentioned. To name a nail polish  "Juarez", was a bold and irresponsible decision and I refuse to believe the parties involved where unaware of its history.

On a side note, when I think of Mexico, I also think of a vibrant country, full of rich culture. Not the bleak, grim imagery that Rodarte appears to have picked up on. Really? You travelled to Mexico and all it inspired you to do was create stark, corpse like imagery that evokes sadness and a bleak existence? You can do better than that surely. Unless the Mulleavy sisters were staying in a disused shack bang in the middle of the desert, then forgive me if I don't embrace their 'inspiration' with open arms.

I'm well aware of the drugs cartels, poverty and gangster killings that wreck havoc in parts of Mexico, but don't capitalise on tragedy and sadness and then feign ignorance when shit hits the fan! What next? A collection called MAC Genocide, taking inspiration from the mass murder of 800,000 people in Rwanda with special LE lipsticks named 'Hutu' and 'Tutsi'?!! Make up is supposed to be fun and inoffensive, yet the thoughtless lack of respect and compassion shown by MAC shows this multi million pound company in an ugly light that make up just can't cover up.

I'm inclined to believe that MAC thought they'd take a chance and be a little reckless in the hope they'd be viewed as being edgy and daring. However, this has backfired terribly and only bought a sea of bad press to their doorstep. Whilst I appreciate their efforts to diffuse the situation by offering to donate a portion of the proceeds from the MAC Rodarte collection, I don't think this is good enough. 

It's also not to late for the product names to be changed - the collection is not due for release until September. Who in their right mind would want a lipstick named "Ghost Town" or an eye shadow named "Sleepwalker" now knowing where it had stemmed from?  MAC are now well aware of the outrage this has caused and demands for the product names to be changed are increasing. We're not demanding the return of a much coveted MSF here, it's a little more serious than that. This collection has been the cause of hurt and anger and it's not even on the counters yet. MAC still has the opportunity to show it has a social conscience, whether they'll choose to display it remains to be seen.

MAC is the backbone of the Estee Lauder empire, generating millions in profits every year. I doubt that their annual sales figures would dip precariously enough to raise concern if they decide to donate ALL profits from the Rodarte collection to charity. This is coming from the company behind Viva Glam, the MAC Aids fund established in 1994 to raise awareness and support men, woman and children suffering from H.I.V/Aids globally. To date, sales from their Viva Glam lipsticks have raised well over $150 million and if a minute fraction of that can be raised by donating all proceeds from just one of the 536 limited edition collections that MAC now release every year, then that can only be a good thing.

Let me make this clear, I'm not trying to tell you to what to spend your money on, nor am I telling you to boycott MAC - that's your prerogative to decide. If you purchase from this collection, then a fraction of your money will still be be going to charity, however I'd much prefer if all of it was going to help the women who need it. To sit here and and say that I'll be boycotting MAC would be an empty act of defiance as I had no intention of purchasing from this collection anyway. However, if my post has informed you of the extremity, trauma and fate which so many women have fallen victim to in Juarez, and has subsequently made you think for just a moment, then I have achieved something.

MAC have undoubtedly (although perhaps not intentionally) raised awareness of the inhabitants of Juarez and put the disturbing and harrowing crimes that are (still) taking place in this Mexican city on the map. I hope positive action can be taken from this, as awareness is indeed the beginning of change.

For more information on Juarez, please view the following links:


If you would like to make a donation to help aid the fight for victims of  human rights abuse:

I'm not alone in voicing my opinion on the MAC and Rodarte collaboration. You can read the following beauty blogs to see what they also have to say:



31 beauty lovers have sumthin to say:

LMD__its love said...

Very informed post, im loving how we are all taking a stand!

Lu xo
www.makeuploveer.blogspot.com

Scarie said...

I was appalled when I read about this collection, donate ALL the profits MAC, there might not be that may profits though, can see this collection ending up in CCOs, I won't be buying, but not out of principle , more cos I;m on a makeup diet!

Makeup Savvy said...

Such a well written post - You made so many great points.

Fee x

Aleksis said...

They made a big mistake naming things after a gruesome Mexican history when they took their trip through Texas, not Mexico. Like hello, did you not think we'd spot that?

Get Lippie said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent post.

Jennifer said...

This is very well written and I'm glad you posted it. Personally I'm disgusted by this whole situation. It really does seem like there was no sensible thought behind it. Just look at the model- this is the type of "inspiration" that they gained from being there (it's clearly negative) and then they take it and try to capitalize off it? I'm just having a hard time making sense of all this. In the very least, at least this has raised awareness of an issue that I don't think enough people knew about until now (I wasn't aware of it myself), and I hope more gets done from now on.

Essjay23x said...

A great post. In the sense that you have written so well about such a serious and sensitive issue. Thank you, I'm sure this memorable post is going to get a lot of us thinking.

Amina said...

excellent post! first of all I've been avoiding specktra so i won't be tempted to get anything.
This collection is so boring. Even the beauty powders will barely show on lighter skintones.
Like you when I think of Mexico, images of a beautiful,vivid,rich culture comes to mind, not sleepwalker and "ghostly" images.
The naming is sooo wrong on so many levels!!I truly hope they'll change the entire collection

Jo said...

Excellent post Yinka. Very well written with some fantatic points. I will be boycoatting the collection.

xx

LionLovingTiger said...

Great post Yinka.x

Charlie said...

Excellent post and thanks for the link.

britishbeautyblogger said...

fabulous post...so many great points.

Leanne OCD said...

Great post! Thanks for highlighting the issue.

mizzworthy said...

I love this post - and I love the passion and thought that has so clearly gone into it. I really hope all the posts we have written tonight raise awareness - ass you say, this is not really about boycotting MAC, or Rodarte, but rather pointing out the faults and thoughtlessness in their handling of this issue, and what thay should do to correct that. And perhaps that they can learn from this debacle for future collections...

Michelle Chai. said...

Excellent post, the best one I've read about this controversy at the moment. Well done for helping to raise awareness, you've made some really good points. Hopefully MAC sort this out and pull some good out of it all!

Perfectly Polished said...

spent all night reading all these blog posts! yours is very well written and so detailed, im so pleased we are all raising awareness on this topic! I find the images so creepy :(

im a MAC lover and im disapointed in how they have behaved. i think they need to have some thought and i agree they must of discussed their inspiration and names of products. its sad that they are making money from others mis fortune. I think they should donate ALL the profits from this collection to charity. I would of not bought any of this collection anyway to be honest i think the makeup looks yak...who wants to look like a corspe??

you can read my view here:

http://bit.ly/baiPm6

www.perfectly-polished-nails.com

X

Danielle87 said...

WOW I'm glad you posted this story. If I had never taken the time to read this I would have been one of the ignorant ones to purchase from this collection not knowing the history behind it. Hopefully MAC will do something and change the names of some of the products in this collection. Even after reading the history though, I strongly doubt that I would buy something from this collection. I just wouldn't feel right. It would be like I'm part of the problem or I'm making the situation that happened ok. SMH I'm disappointed in MAC for this one smh

FabDiva20 said...

Informative post! I'm not getting anything from this collection either since it doesn't suit my skintone.

yummy411 said...

you are awesome! thanks for posting! i agree.. change the names, donate all the proceeds to them.. ugh shameful to all involved in the 'creative' process in this!

theotherworldly said...

In bad taste or not, it has ironically served that community in Mexico by casting it into the spotlight. Not intended but don't throw the baby out of the bathwater and crucify MAC for this. Instead, concentrate our efforts on asking MAC to do more about it.

If MAC was smart they'd claim that they were trying to bring attention to Juarez.

Helen (Nice Things) said...

This is such a great post.

It's no secret that I'm not a MAC lover but this is just abhorrent. I really think that their apologie are too little too late. It does make me worry that this will sell out faster than usual now though as people want something that is not only limited edition but also classed as contraversial.

LaaLaa Phoenix Monroe said...

Yinka, beautifully written, researched and approached. Don't even get me started, some of these subjects touch deeply home to me.

This collection was not at all thought through in my opinion, true it is not too late to change but there are other ways of raising awareness to such tragedies like Illamsaqua did with the Sophie Lancaster tragedy & like Helen (Nice Things) pointed out people will want to buy as unfortunately controversy sells, but in cases like this it's quite sick and cold hearted in my mind.

Sami said...

Well said! I'd heard a bit about the Rodarte/MAC debate on Twitter but didn't fully understand the severity of it until reading your post... I'm so glad that beauty bloggers are takng a stand... and personally, i'm not too keen on the collection - it doesn't look wearable, especially for darker skinned girls.

Sami xx

Susan said...

Wonderful post. I have written about this travesty on my blog too:

http://susysmakeupbox.blogspot.com/2010/07/mac-rodarte-controversy.html

Hopefully MAC and Rodarte will wake up and realise that the only way to get out of the hole they have dug themselves into, is to donate all the money to charity.

Monique said...

I think you make some really valid points and they are true. I completely agree with the inappropriateness of choosing the names in the collection. However as a former resident of El Paso I can see where they are coming from with the color scheme. Being a woman of color this collection is not very flattering to me, but the colors chosen for this collection are considered beautiful by some people and especially in the El Paso area. Also I am new to your site and really loving it!!

Erica said...

Knowing about the truly terrifying and sad situations in Juarez, I'm not planning on making any purchases from the Rodarte Collection. This is an excellent post by the way, it reminds me that makeup is supposed to be fun and artistic, not grim and ghostly.

SEIRAN-晴- said...

I have said plenty of what I needed to say about the insensitivity of MAC regarding this collection on my blog. Honestly, this is just... disgusting and classless. MAC is supposed to be edgy, daring, and sophisticated. Rodarte x MAC =/= sophistication, but more like a glamourization of the flawless zombies. Then the connotations of the names are also really... strange >_>
Just because you change the names, that doesn't mean you change the appearance and the overall connotations behind the products themselves. Rather than being just plain dull and lifeless, I'd say it's insulting.

m_aguilarp2000 said...

Love your post! Great info. But I want to add something a little interesting. And the truth is that the Juarez situation is well known worldwide because of the media and also, because of a movie. And as you well said, special reports from Mexican and american sources. But Juarez is NOT the city with the highest fimicide rates in Mexico. But the most known. Unfortunately. And the statistics DOES NOT talk about a SERIAL KILLER. Which basically dont exist in Mexico.Those dead rates are DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Like it hapens in the US. In fact the rates in L.A per capita are way higher than the crime (women victims) in Juarez.

Neko said...

I haven't been following MAC collections lately and totally missed this, but after reading this post i have to say I disapprove of a collection that seems to be inspired by and celebrates exploitation. I will probably not buy mac cosmetics again, not just this collection.

Indijana said...

I'm completely disgusted by this collection, as I'm sure many people are. What I don't understand is why people don't talk about the fact that Rodarte made their clothing line look as bleak and deathly looking as that promotion picture of MAC. Or the fact that it was their 'inspiration' in the first place. I think both MAC and Rodarte royally F-ed up! They should both find a way to right their wrongs (if that is even possible in this case). It seems that Rodarte is getting off easy and I don't like that...

amanda said...

An amazingly written post but I really want to know why is naming those products 'ghost town' and 'factory' wrong? I've been trying to find that but no one has a reason other than "it's discusting" I honestly think this is a snide little way to make Juarez's issue better known. Obviously as you said the names are questionable and no Doubt they couldn't have not know about the history. I for one am looking into this issue but I have a new feeling about Mac in that they really aren't all bimbos and scientists but they may just have a crupt mind in there.
And even if they aren't donating everything they are donating something which is better that nothing. Also they have created new people intrested in the subject and willing to donate to the charitys.
My opinion is that maybe Mac should have made a description that was less sugar-sweet Texan road trip type and more into the heart of the issue and the collection

 

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