Along with Terry de Gunzburg’s new haute couture beauty venture, By Terry, discussed in the last column, which is perhaps the most high profile and exclusive of the current custom beauty lines, there are some others worth having a closer look at.
Shu Uemura is a true artist-entrepreneur and one of the most inspired and fascinating figures in the world of beauty. He always seems to come up with ideas well before his contemporaries, and products he originated become inspirations to other companies. Something you saw first at Shu Uemura begins to proliferate years later in countless other lines. But some of his ideas have yet to catch on. Years ago, for example, Uemura opened a restaurant that served delicious food which also promoted beauty and health. He has also worked closely for many years with the world of traditional medicine on the principle of inner-outer beauty.
Shu Uemura’s current beauty coup is the Shu Uemura Atelier Factory in the Venus Fort shopping center in Tokyo. Similar in some ways to the By Terry concept, Shu Uemura’s venture does something truly revolutionary and makes custom makeup financially accessible. As always, he puts the focus on the product and not its packaging, on the individual client and not the sales pitch.
Customers can bring in color samples of old lipsticks or eye shadows, a scrap of fabric, or whatever they like and arrange to have makeup products customized to match. For not much more than it would cost to buy one of these items from the already extensive line of Shu Uemura products, you can get a blush, eye shadow or lipstick made for you personally in just a couple of hours. Factory workers, technicians and colorists go about formulating and matching behind a glass wall, in an expansive space designed by French architect Henri Gueydan. Gleaming white surfaces and lots of glass are brightened by magicians’ beakers full of brilliantly colored pigment. It is a futuristic fantasy, a dreamland for the makeup aficionado.
The Atelier Factory operates by appointment. Each customer gets a consultation of up to 30 minutes, but only one product may be ordered per session, as it takes time to produce these custom items. In one day, only around five foundations, 10 eye shadows, and 15 lipsticks are produced. You can get any color you can imagine and probably some that you never knew existed.
There are a few other companies around the world that offer custom makeup: Prescriptives, for example, has long based its makeup line on the idea that foundation should perfectly match skin tone, and it is possible to have foundation customized personally at a moderate cost. Prescriptives products are nicely formulated, and the lipstick color range is always satisfying, with divisions into skin tone allowing a certain degree of personalization, if not customization. Cosmetics a la carte offers pricier customized makeup in all categories.
The By Terry and Shu Uemura approaches truly break new ground. While the By Terry products will appeal primarily to the upscale customer and perhaps slightly older customer, Shu Uemura continues to make beautiful, top-quality makeup an egalitarian option for clients of all ages and incomes. What will he come up with next?