Rewind to 2003 and here’s exactly what Benefit’s vibe was. It’s very, very different from now and Jane & Jean Ford, the founders of Benefit, sold their controlling stakes in the company to LVMH twenty years ago, handing over the running of the brand to Jean’s daughters in 2008. Sadly, Jean died last year aged 71.
The box is very, very bashed – 17 years hasn’t been kind to it, but the contents are pristine. For the first time ever, I opened one icy lip creme and one frosty eye powder. Really, we are swinging back to the days when Benefit was known for novelty items such as the Bathina range which was all about Hollywood style glamour. I can remember exactly when it launched in the UK as well as being in the PR office with all the products laid out in the same fittings as the shops so you could see all the colours. The same PR looked after Hard Candy (remember Lickable Body Powders?!) so their office looked like a stand-alone beauty shop. In fact, being on the ground floor, they did have a lot of passers-by dropping in to try and buy.
So, here’s the line up. Icy Orchid Lip Creme, Icy Petal Lip Creme, Frosty Tourmaline Eye Powder and Frosty Amethyst Eye Powder.
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Did you know that Benefit has been in existence since 1976? I don’t think I did! It began in San Francisco as a store called The Face Place selling ‘quick-fix’ make up products and quickly developed a quirky, vintage style that has been relentlessly copied. Benetint, which has been a continuing best seller, originated (so the story goes) as nipple tints for exotic dancers. As soon as it found its feet, Benefit (which didn’t use that name til 1990) has been a masterclass in commercial activity – Jane and Jean were all of the fun but hardcore businesswomen who seized opportunity at ever turn and ran with it. In present day, it’s lost the soul, but still has some amazing products – They’re Real Mascara would have to be in my top 3 best ever mascaras.
So, here’s Icy Orchid, opened for the first time in 17 years. There’s a bit of ‘sweat’ on it but it smells exactly like make-up did then before vanilla got into everything – a kind of sweet and flowery fragrance with a heavy drop of wax.
And here’s Frosty Tourmaline. There’s no smell whatsoever and it’s retained its integrity as a loose sparkle powder. It reminds me of the little Molton Brown pots from their South Molton Street store back in the 80’s (which also housed a vegetarian cafe!) and weirdly, because I had never wanted anything more than a pot of that magic, there is no mention that they ever produced any make up on their history page so for a moment I thought I’d imagined it. So, I think this is my oldest Benefit product, although I know I have a shell shaped eye shadow somewhere (She Shell?) and something else that’s quite special that I’ll dig out in due course. It’s a very different brand now and I don’t have much to do with them at all any more – they didn’t come out well in the BBC documentary, Beauty Laid Bare – minimum wage for factory works and yet all that budget for influencer jollies. But, nonetheless, I do think of it as one of the true beauty ground breaking brands that carved themselves a huge piece of the beauty market with never-seen-before creativity and a fun-and-pun attitude.
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