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
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.
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: