Edited to add (again): View MAC's response to the issue HERE.
Stupid companies seem to be in abundance lately. First it was the heavy-handed and overreactive threat by G+L to sue a blogger, and now Rodarte and MAC have decided to join in and create their very own scandal. Will the controversy never cease?
MAC has collaborated with designer brand Rodarte to release an upcoming collection called Rodarte, which they claim is inspired by the etheral beauty of the towns that border USA and Mexico. In particular, they named two of their nail polish colours Juarez (a pale pink) and Factory (a pale green). These two names in particular were at the forefront of much backlash, as people accused MAC of exploiting the controversy and violence there for their own profit. In particular, Juarez and Factory were really offensive to many girls, because Juarez is pretty much a poster child for violence, drug crimes, cross-border trafficking, and border-town factories, and a lot of the violence is female-specific(apparently female homicide is particularly high, as is rape). Also, the police are corrupt (stories abound of people being mugged in Juarez by the police), these crimes have little to no response. If you want to know more about Juarez, here's an 8 mins audio segment on NPR radio called "Juarez: A City on the Edge", a link kindly passed to me by Tsunimee, a Youtuber I follow. If you prefer to read, there's also an NPR article on it, called "Whos Killing the Women of Juarez?"
MAC's response was to quickly issue an apology, and they also said they would donate some of the proceeds to charities in Juarez. Of course, this is where opinion splits, there are people who applaud it, and people who feel that the response is inadequate. Both these posts have valid points.
As for me, I'm somewhere in between. I don't believe MAC when they say they weren't trying to exploit the associations of the border towns in their collection. I mean, this is the age of controversial product names. NARS has Orgasm and Deep Throat, Benefit has Thrrob, and once a makeup artist with his own cosmetics line went on MakeupAlley to ask what we would think of a lip colour called Adulteress (fortunately, it was nixed, as most of the girls had a bad response to it). So I don't believe MAC, of all brands, with their hip-and-edgy image, wasn't trying to join the fray. I'm sure they were aware of the controversy. I mean, look at the promo image:
Skinny, emaciated girl looking like she's on the brink of death, check. "Exotic", Mexican-inspired clothes, check. Black rings around the eyes and deathly-pale lips and face, check. I don't know about you, but that sure looks like they're trying to exoticise the image of the impoverished factory girl! And I hadn't noticed it until Styrch pointed it out, but there's a ghost in the photo as well - the outline on the left is the silhouette of a woman, and the way the cloth drapes suggests she's wearing the same clothes as the girl. That just creeps me out - the way the girl looks like she's backed into a corner, combined with the way the ghost seems to be staring at her, just gives me the heebie jeebies (but then again I'm one of those wimps who don't like to watch ghost movies). I don't believe they can put out an image like that and say they didn't mean to stir up any controversy at all. That's a load of bull.
And it gets even worse if you look at the items in the collection. In addition to Juarez and Factory, there's a lipstick called Ghost Town, that's white, and one that's called Sleepless, that's a "light grey taupe", for that chic abused factory worker look. And they're even promoting lip erase, a concealer for the lips that's used to block out your natural lip colour so your lipstick is more true-to-colour on your lips. I know it's a permanent item in their line, but including it in this collection is just bad taste. Yeah, now we can buy Lip Erase to look like a murder victim! And don't forget Bordertown, a mineralized eyeshadow that's black with red, blue and silver veining - so you can get a badly punched up black eye, just like the victims of rape and violent crime! And of course don't forget the pigment named Badlands, or the eyeshadow called Sleepwalker - I guess being raped and abudcted on your way to work in a factory must feel like a dream, huh? Is this what MAC and Rodarte means by the "etheral" inspiration of Mexico? I really don't know how MAC and Rodarte can claim that they weren't aware of the connotations with a straight face. Everything, from the promo pictures to the product names to the colour selection, looks very deliberately done. I know that the whole concept behind the colours and the names is a bit deeper than simply exploiting associations - I know there is this whole sleepwalking, etheral theme behind it as well, but it doesn't negate the bad associations nonetheless, and I think the companies were capitalizing on it. They wanted this. They made it happen. They wanted the buzz. They just didn't want to look bad in the ensuing discussion.
In light of this, I feel that MAC's response - donating some of the proceeds to charities - is horribly inadequate, but it's the best they can do for now. They really should pull the collection altogether, but that may not be possible, given that the Rodarte collection is a collaboration with the Rodarte designer brand, and that Rodarte was really the one who came up with the entire concept. You can read about their "inspiration" here, and they have deconstructed US$4000 designer dresses based on this whole border-town concept. Style.com reports that Rodarte was "interested in the troubled border town of Ciudad Juárez; the hazy, dreamlike quality of the landscape there; and the maquiladora workers going to the factory in the middle of the night." The whole bit about the factory workers inspiring the collection is in there - its not just supposed to be about etheral sleepwalking, they did in fact see those factory workers and think "Hey, it's great to do a collection on them!" And they did have Juarez particularly in mind. I don't know about you, but somehow that just strikes me as being really insensitive.
MAC, doing a collaboration with them, was probably contract-bound to imitate their concept for the makeup line too. So it would be hard for them to get out of it. In this case, I suppose the only other alternative is to donate the proceeds. It's not ideal, but I guess this is life. I personally feel that MAC should have gone one step further and donated ALL the proceeds to the charities, along the line of their Viva Glam lipsticks, instead of a measly unspecified "portion". That way, at least they wouldn't be profiting from any of the controversy they've created.
On a last note, I'm also surprised that while everyone is heaping criticism on MAC, while Rodarte - the collaborator and original designer that originated this whole fiasco - got away with it. The fashion press didn't give them a very hard time about their disgusting collection, and some even called it "beautiful", and as far as I know, Rodarte, unlike MAC, isn't donating any money to the associated charities at all. It just saddens me that Rodarte would stoop so low to get "inspiration" for their clothes, and MAC had to follow suit. I've never heard of or bought anything Rodarte, but now I don't even like or want to buy anything from them, and MAC has been tainted by association for collaborating with them. What are they going to come up with next, a Nazi-inspired collection with a red, white and black eyeshadow trio called Swastika?
Edited to Add: Looks like I'm not the only one feeling outraged. Here's a list of posts, compiled by Tsunimee, that other bloggers have made on the MAC Rodarte collection: LINK.