Why I won't be purchasing anything from the Urban Decay x Jean-Michel Basquiat Collection

Monday, 29 May 2017

Photo credit: Temptalia; goo.gl/djIKQo

Tomorrow the Urban Decay x Jean-Michel Basquiat Collection launches at online and in-store at Mecca Maximas across Australia. It's a collection that has drawn a lot of attention prior to its launch in the US and I've had a lot of thoughts about it in the lead up to the Australian launch. At this point, I've decided I won't be purchasing anything from this collection and I have some strong reasons why.

1. The collection directly contradicts Basquiat's ideology
Basquiat and his work examined and challenged notions of capitalism and consumerism as creating a stark dichotomy between the rich and poor and deepening gaps between social groups in the US. The idea that his art can then be slapped on the packaging of a makeup collection that is irrelevant to Basquiat's life and work undermines everything that he was so outspoken about during his lifetime. This is capitalism at its best, turning challenging and experimental art into a marketing strategy to sell lipstick.

2. Ruby Rose
One of Basquiat's main objectives was increasing representation of women of colour in art and the media, something we still see as a problem today. So who should Urban Decay choose to be the face of this collection? Ruby Rose. The insensitivity of choosing a white woman over the myriad of women of colour the brand could have chosen to align the campaign with the interests of the artist borders on stupidity. It is most definitely insulting and ignorant.

3. Urban Decay's history of promoting drug culture
Urban Decay, from the beginning, have marketed themselves as 'edgy and alternative' in the beauty world and we see that manifesting in their consistent use of drug references in their product names. I don't remember the last time a collection didn't include a name like 'Blow' or 'Shroom' or some other name for a drug or drug paraphernalia. The consistency of this behaviour normalises and sometimes promotes drug culture and drug use to the young consumers that look to Urban Decay as an aspirational brand. The fact that this brand then comes out with a collection honouring a man who tragically died of a heroine overdose at 27 leaves a bad taste in my mouth. At least Urban Decay had the common sense to leave the drug names out of this collection.

While I acknowledge that the Basquiat estate approached Urban Decay to create this collaboration, I would argue that this is in no way the first time an estate has acted in a way discordant to the wishes or legacy of their artist. Additionally, the levels of insensitivity of this collection as a whole indicates that this collaboration offer should not have been accepted by a brand like Urban Decay of all brands.

I can completely understand the ease of saying 'it's just makeup, don't worry about it, it doesn't matter,' but the thing is, it does matter. If my buying power is one of the only things I have to ensure brands act ethically and in accordance with what I believe to be right, then I have to maintain the integrity of that power and boycott the brands and collections I don't want to support. It wouldn't make any sense to disdain a brand's choices and continue to give them my money so, in this case, I won't.

Please share your thoughts and feelings about this in the comments below!

xx Julia

No comments:

Post a Comment