Monday, 22 July 2013

Cosmetics A La Carte


This year sees beauty brand Cosmetics A La Carte reach its 40th anniversary. To celebrate, they held an exhibition tracking their journey from the flower power and Biba makeup days of the 70s to the more natural and sophisticated application of the present.

Only on for one weekend, the exhibition was showcased in four parts:

Part 1: Motcomb Street – A History
In the early 70’s two cosmetic chemists, Lynne Sanders and Christina Stewart discovered they both were inspired with the vision of make-up empowering women with a chance to be the best version of themselves whatever their age. So in 1973 Cosmetics A La Carte was born and the Motcomb Street shop was opened.

Here customers were encouraged to try and have fun with the make-up before they bought. Something we now take for granted and expect, but in the 70s was practically unheard of. They also gave customers advice on colours and created looks to suit their personalities and style.

They soon were  featured in publications such as VOGUE, Marie Claire, ELLE and Volt, and quickly built up a celebrity following with Biba founder Barbara Hulanicki preferring their foundation to her own, choosing Gold, a shade still available in the range today. Princess Diana becomes a fan in the 80s for their pink and clear lip glosses.

Part 2: Bespoke Beauty
Cosmetics A La Carte was the first of their kind to deliver tailor made options to suit every customer’s needs. In 1973 they created a hypoallergenic lipstick for fashion designer Bill Gibb and shadows for the Jaeger collection. For Grace Jones, they created a purple lipstick and a full black powder when she asked to look exactly like the boutique’s black cat. A La Carte became the first cosmetics boutique to provide a range of foundation especially for African and Asian women.

In 2003, Lynne and Christina (herself recovering from breast cancer) collaborated with 12 celebrities to create 12 bespoke pink lipsticks for a breast cancer charity. Concerned with the sun, Danni Monogue’s contained an SPF; Yasmin le Bon wanted her pink to be more of a red with a yummy chocolate flavour and Vogue editor of the time Kathy Phillips wanted a pink with a fashionable lilac tinge. £2 from each lipstick sold was donated to BCR.

Part 3: Iconic Moments
Four art monoliths by artist Alex Noble portrayed the Cutting Edge of Reality which reincarnates some of A La Carte’s most memorable moments inspired by Grace Jones, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga and the late princess Diana.  The cosmetic inspirations were:

Candy lipstain as worn by Kate Moss on the cover of VOGUE May 2000 ‘Fashion Meets Art’. 
Nude Toast lipgloss a favourite of the late Princess Diana.

Flush Blush and Bubblegum lipgloss as worn by Lady Gaga on BBC Breakfast News.
Black powder worn by Grace Jones for her iconic album cover of Nightclubbing

Part 4: The Culture of Colour
Taking you through the cultural decades, the exhibition displayed wall illustrations by fashion art students Neda Ghafouri, Andrea Krawcewicz and Josh Bristow. An amazing wall art timeline flowed like a river and was created by Madeleine Lithvall.  Pinned to the wall were Illustrations of earlier makeup looks included Louise O’Keeffe’s Glamour Pop, 70’s Retro and Natural sketches whilst videos took you through the applications on how to achieve these looks.  Artistry by Sam Shepherd included using acrylic and machine embroidery for a tactile dimension to his makeup watercolours. Making a splash were the dramatic photographs by Armin Weisheit bringing you up to date with present makeup looks created by Nora Nona.  Stylist Samson Soboye and hair by Barbara Jablonska.

Curated by beauty and fashion curator Ryan Lanji, the COLOUR AND CULTURE was an exhibition for all beauty lovers to enjoy plus you had a chance to try out the makeup at the well stocked beauty station. The exhibition was held at the Gallery Redchurch St in East London in May.

Still looking glamorous, A La Carte continues to offer make up advice and stocks an extensive Ready to Wear range with Made to Measure customised options.  At the beginning the cosmetics were manufactured in the shop’s basement, but popularity brought the need for a larger laboratory and a larger creative team. Close by in Battersea Lynne collects the products for the shop on a regular basis.

A La Carte Boutique is at 19b Motcomb Street SW1X 8LB

By Karen Grace
Personal Shopper & Image Consultant for Frumpy to Funky  

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