Beauty Fatigue Part III
I’ve written twice before on the subject of Beauty Fatigue, and I’m doing so again because it’s back with a vengeance! There’s definitely a vibe – Hayley has a feature here and Adorn Girl has one here! If we’re all feeling it, it’s definitely happening.
Fashion Week has just passed and I barely noticed it was happening. I’ve seen a few pictures on Instagram, virtually nothing on Twitter and certainly absolutely zero on Facebook which are the main channels I use. Something about the excitement and fun of it has broken.
I did get some invitations to go backstage and see make up and/or hair looks being done but this is such a common PR practise now that it’s not new enough, relevant enough or exciting enough to catch the interest of readers. From a blogger’s perspective, it’s an exchange of your readership for access to an over-crowded, small room where nobody wants you anyway. You are in the way no matter where you turn, you’re getting exactly the same pictures and information as everyone else the brands could manage to squeeze in and in amongst it all are some fraught make-up artists just trying to get a decent face on a tired model.
Beauty brands are huge sponsors of fashion week – without them paying for a backstage presence, it’s absolutely the case that some designers could not afford to show at all. So in a sense, the beauty industry runs a large chunk of fashion week.
Fashion or beauty editors generally get backstage and front of house which is just as it should be. If you never see the work you’ve watched being carefully applied (and believe me, a lot of creative work goes into the beauty look for a designer) in context and on the runway, then as a fashion editor, you’ve little to work with in connecting the two. And anyway, making FROW marks you out as a ‘serious’ critic rather than some upstart girl with a blog. Beauty bloggers aren’t (and probably mostly don’t) supposed to mind this disconnect because the beauty brands sell it as a privilege to be anywhere near a backstage. I’m not trying to say that one type of editorial is better than another, but what you will notice is that with no context (sometimes you never even see the clothes or the hair that are supposed to go with the make-up looks), backstage beauty just becomes a beauty brand advert.
Some brands really get it (MAC, in particular), but others are just all about a frantic cramming of the backstage area to generate as much blogging/vlogging/snapchatting/Instagramming of the experience as possible and the designer could literally be anyone. Marc Jacobs said an interesting thing recently in ES Magazine, “There were places and reasons why street style had integrity and now, it’s about dressing up to take a selfie to put on the internet. It’s about going out so you can stay home and write about it. There’s a disconnect that’s weird.” And it’s exactly the same for beauty.
Beauty isn’t about beauty any more – it’s not about any kind of relatable concept (remember how bloggers used to be the ‘relatable’ ones?). The main complaint I hear is that it’s now about being a brand mouthpiece and the absolute irony of brands now searching for ‘authenticity’ when they’ve been so quick to envelope true authenticity and smother it dead is lost on nobody. Beauty now is about image distortion that bears no relation to the core of the person and it’s about a sense of value that comes from presenting what you have, particularly if a brand has sent it. When your feeling of value relies on likes and whether a brand shows their embrace by sending products, you need to realise that the fall will be long and painful. And, that fall is on the horizon. Because…beauty fatigue.
We have lived in a fast and furious frenzy of beauty social media – brands have backed this horse and beaten the heck out of it to the point that we’re now on the very cusp of the tipping point. Which is a bit unfortunate for all those brands who invested heavily in social and only social. It’s the most common thing I hear amongst bloggers and vloggers – that it’s been seen, it’s been done and they’ve been pushed to the brink of saturation.
It felt fine at the time – suddenly, all the attention on real women views and citizen journalism in beauty. In fact, it was lovely. It was so lovely that everyone wanted to do it and then when they did, it all started to look the same. And that’s when people switched off. I’ve been scooting about the web to research this – finding features where commenters really want to be heard about their disappointment with social media (blogs and vlogs in particular) to the point that one small feature alluding to the fact that perhaps our ‘real woman heroes’ might be in the financial grip of a brand or seven, that literally hundreds of people express their anger. One quote sums things up quite well, I feel. “The industry just pumps out product after product to ride a hype that will die out five minutes later…I just can’t bring myself to care about it”.
That sentence should feel terrifying to brands and blogger/vloggers alike. A lot of people really just no longer care. The funny thing is that I see exceptionally high-number, busy beauty Facebook Groups where chat is lively, photos are rubbish and everyone has something to say – kind of how like, you know, blogging used to be! That desire for real is still there but the desire for brand built bloggers is not. Some brands who scout new talent can give a launch pad in the short term – the realisation that bloggers/vloggers are as dispensable as their newest mascara is only just beginning for those involved. Bloggers/vloggers aren’t chosen for their unique perspective or smart writing/presenting, but for their potential ability to shift product. And that is a WHOLE other thing to talking relatably to women about beauty.
So, if, like Marc Jacobs suggests, we’re now looking at a landscape of people getting ‘ready’ for Instagram like it’s a first date, and going out to then stay in and throw it back into the internet ether to show how exciting life is, what’s the next level of this? Because only living on line is no fun in real life.
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