Friday, September 10, 2010

Blog 3: Commodity as a Spectacle

"The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life. The relation to the commodity is not only visible, but one no longer sees anything but it: the world one sees is its world. Modern economic production extends its dictatorship extensively and intensively." -Guy Debord

What I take from this is, in relation to makeup, the spectacle is whatever has taken over as the dominant brand in a certain industry. Whatever sells the most and is used the most.

The spectacle in the makeup industry would be MAC Cosmetics. MAC, a division of $6.3 billion cosmetics giant Estee Lauder, got credited in the company's last annual report for being a significant reason for the parent's 13% net makeup sales increase ($274.8 million). Amped-up sales from MAC's Small Eye Shadow, Studio Fix, Lustreglass, and Pro Longwear Lipcolor products alone contributed $70 million in revenue.

MAC has made more revenue than any other beauty brand on the market. It is used by both makeup artists and regular consumers alike and receives high praise from many of its consumers.

With single shadows ranging from $11-$15.50, lip gloss and lipstick $14.50-$16, and foundations and concealers upwards of $30, the products can get a little pricey. Even a regular face powder brush can set you back $52.  But these prices are just for the regular permanent items. Limited edition items can cost well over $100 on sites like eBay if you are not lucky enough to get them when the collections are first released.

But even with these prices and the many limited edition collections that come out each year, is MAC really the end all be all when it comes to makeup? Is it worth the hype?

Even though MAC is an expensive brand compared to drugstore products, it actually one of the least expensive department store products. Even though MAC’s lip gloss can be as much as $16, companies like NARS and Make-Up Forever charge $24 and $20 respectfully. Even those are cheaper than Dior and Chanel who charge $29.50 and $36.30 for their lip glosses.

In terms of quality, many loyal users of the brand who have been with them for years say MAC’s quality has deteriorated. It seems as the brand grows, it takes a toll on the quality. Some have even said MAC does not care about the customers anymore, they just care about getting as many products out as possible and making more money. Which seems to be true with 30 limited edition collections that came out in just this year alone, many of which received not so favorable reviews.

Below is a picture from a makeup artist’s blog where she swatches the shadow Plum Dressing by MAC.

On the left is the one she purchased in 2005 and the one on the right is one from this year. The pigmentation in the shadow has greatly diminished and she mentions that the application of the shadowed has worsened as well as the formula is not as smooth as it once was.

Even with these faults, MAC is still pushed as one of the best makeup brands and is one of the highest selling brands out there. Even though there are other brands, both more expensive and less expensive, that rival and could even beat MAC as the better brand. This just goes to show that the more a brand is forced on people, the more people will buy the hype.

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