I had a brush with my beauty destiny this week. Actually brushes – well, Bobbi Brown’s Luxe Brush Collection, to be precise. But these are no standard-issue make-up utensils, there purely to facilitate slick cosmetic application à la the professionals. No, this was a world apart from all that. This was beauty decadence.
For these 10 brushes were made from sleek, dark ebony (compared to the light birch Brown normally uses), with the accenting in 24-carat gold (where the stainless steel bits would usually be) and housed in a chocolate-brown leather and suede-lined box, complete with a similarly soft roll-up travel pouch. The collection will cost £600 ($650 in the US), whereas a standard Bobbi Brown set retails at £240. But ah, the sheer glory of it all.
Personally, much as I love and yearn for make-up brushes (there’s something of the backstage, showtime, creativity and glamour to them, quite apart from their practical uses), I’ve never quite reached the point where I’ve dropped nearly a quarter of £1,000 on them; after all, that’s a night in a swanky hotel or a Eurostar to Paris. Yet with this collection, I’m prepared to do double rather than nothing. It’s worth skipping a trip to the City of Light for. And, if you think so too, it’s worth earmarking the cash for a set pretty quickly, since they are very limited edition – only 1,000 collections will be available worldwide – created to mark the 100th anniversary of Neiman Marcus, the American department store where Brown first launched her cosmetics empire.
Of course, I could be cynical about it. I could say that this brush collection is all just part of the luxurification of the beauty world, now going the same way as the fashion world as it chases its share of the haute consumer dime and champions “heritage” ranges. I could note that, as everything from fragrance to colour cosmetics has gone the way of mass – both in availability and marketing – so companies increasingly feel the need to offer a counter to it all, to seduce us with exclusivity.
Chanel, of course, has always been careful to maintain that air of unavailability. It’s the sort of Hollywood star of make-up – it reflects an ideal of yourself to you and you find yourself reaching out over and over again to grasp it, mesmerised by the possibilities. And Chanel is on to the brush business, too, with a newly expanded range of 13 fancy cosmetic brushes that cover everything from powder to lips. They all come in classic black-with-white- typeface Chanel colours, each with “Chanel” carved into the handle, each in its own little black velveteen pouch, each offering glamour and prestige at your own little fingertips.
Yet I can’t be cynical about this one. For my desire for lush brushes goes far deeper than someone else’s marketing strategy. If the glamour, the façade, the transforming possibilities of make-up capture your imagination (and I fully accept that they don’t grab everyone’s) then the tools that allow make-up artists to ply their trade are truly worthy of a little gilding, 24-carat style.
Bobbi Brown’s Luxe Brush Collection goes on sale in the UK from November exclusively at Harrods, tel: +44 (0)20-7730 1234 ext 4476 to join the waiting list
In the US the collection will be available at Neiman Marcus branches; www.neimanmarcus.com
More columns at www.ft.com/chambers
Get alerts on Columnists when a new story is published