Things That Make You Go “Hmmm”: Estee Lauder Violet Underground (Fall 2012)

I had an unusually busy August and September, so I missed the announcement of Estée Lauder’s fall color collection, a limited edition range of eye shadows and eyeliner, lipsticks and glosses, and nail polishes called Violet Underground.

Yes, Violet Underground. Because of all the purple shades.

Oh, you thought I said Velvet Underground. As in: the profoundly influential proto-punk, art-rock, New York-based band of the late 1960s. “Venus in Furs.” “Heroin.” “Sister Ray.”

I’m sure you already knew that they appropriated their band’s name from a book about non-traditional sexual practices.

What does Lauder actually say about this collection’s raison d’être? Here’s Tom Pecheux, the brand’s celebrity makeup artist:

“We created a dramatic fashion look with a touch of fantasy. Inspired by glam rock, women can play dress up with color and become a character that encompasses mystery, opulence, sex and confidence. It can transform her world.”

Oh, glam rock. That’s more early-1970s. The New York Dolls, right?

Sex and confidence…with a side of androgyny and a dash of decadence! Very Estée Lauder, right?

“Personality Crisis.” Exactly.

Come to think of it, most of glam rock’s major player were men, weren’t they? I think so. Well, at least the colors in the Violet Underground collection seem loosely inspired by glam’s costumes and visuals. (Just don’t ask me what Gary Glitter is doing these days. Really, don’t.)

Let’s take a closer look at Violet Underground’s Pure Color Five Color Eye Shadow Palette. This is the star of the collection and the piece that bloggers seem most excited about.

The shadows are embossed with a zig-zag, lightning-bolt motif.

Ah! Very clever, Lauder. I see what you did there.

Now I’m the mood to re-watch Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

Do you think the average Estée Lauder customer is fan of Bowie’s classic early-70s work?

Sure! Why not?

Or maybe she just wants an eyeshadow palette with bright, bold colors from her favorite makeup brand and she isn’t too worried about the pop culture references.

I know, I know. Every brand is free to revamp its image from time to time. Why shouldn’t Estée Lauder borrow a few ideas from her younger sister MAC or that weird little kid named Illamasqua who lives down the street?

“It can transform her world.”

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10 thoughts on “Things That Make You Go “Hmmm”: Estee Lauder Violet Underground (Fall 2012)

  1. The model does look a bit shocked! I sort of love that Estee Lauder is using this material for inspiration and I’m sure the bulk of the references will fly under the radar for the average customer. I wonder if they considered “Violet Femmes”….

    1. Someone really does need to do a “Violet Femmes” collection!!
      Judging by the comments/reviews on the EL site, not to mention most of the blog posts I’ve quickly read, most people really aren’t concerned with the cultural references (as inappropriate as they may be for the brand). Leave it to me to be bothered by the incongruity…!

  2. Cogent arguments. Velvet Underground were not Glam. But of course there’s that more recent film about Glam, Velvet Goldmine. And women were not so much a part of of the ethos. Unless you count the BBC’s watered-down (but still kind of fun) Rock Follies.

    1. It’s confusing, isn’t it? I think of Lou Reed’s solo career as glam, but not his years with the VU. And I did love “Velvet Goldmine” (which takes its name from a lesser-known Bowie song)… but this kind of context-free pastiche just annoys me. (As you can tell.)

  3. I was working makeup retail not so long ago and I do think there is a definite move at Lauder to get edgier with their colors and attract a younger audience. In fact that seems to be the exact word sent down to their associates about their seasonal color collections over the last several years. I say more power to them.

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