Lipstick Orientalism

So as the summer continues to roll along, new cosmetics collections are starting to pop up. There are a few that I'm interested in (NARS Fall 2008, anyone?) but there's one in particular that caught my eye, and not in a good way.

Lancome has just released their Fall collection entitled Maharani Jewels, based on the colors and patterns of.. you guessed it - India!

While I understand and (sometimes) appreciate the fashion industry's interest in the Subcontinent, I can't help but feel that their strides toward multiculturalism are.. well, a little shallow. And this collection in particular makes me a little more than uneasy. There are elements of the concept that have just flattened South Asian-ness into garden variety exoticism.  

Shade names like Guava Enchantment or Lotus Splendor, Jaipur Spice or Bombay Glow -- they are fixated on the India of the Kama Sutra, incense and spice markets, and Aladdin's cave full of jewels.  I, for one, would love to see an "India" collection that does not harp upon the 'exotic colors' or the "sensuous women with hennaed hands."  

Just tell it like it is.  While the fact that India is a country of over a billion people, the majority of whom live in poverty, is not sexy - I think there is a ton of ground to cover between Saraswati at one end, and the Unscheduled castes at the other:  the two dozen languages, the wildly different looks and colors and features of those one billion.  But I'm not holding my breath.

Until then, we're left with the collection description:
LancĂ´me’s fall collection is inspired by the beauty of the woman, shown through her ancestral gestures and intense eyes.

and an elephant bronzer in the shade Sunny Manorama:

I have so much more to say, but excuse me for now - I have to go practice my mudras.


Truckspotter said...

I'm dumbfounded and want to break that elephant bronzer in two at the Lancome counter.

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