Enamoured: Revlon's 80 year reign and the power of nail polish
Enamoured: Revlon's 80 year reign
It's hard to believe but beloved beauty brand Revlon has been one of the leading beauty pioneers for a massive eight decades.
In honour of reaching this amazing milestone, they’re putting on a retrospective entitled Enamoured: 80 Years Of Revlon.
It will showcase their ground-breaking innovations and examine the development of the beauty industry as wider changes in society affected women and their make-up habits.
Curator Ryan Lanji has been tasked with bringing the company's heritage to life and he has delved deep into Revlon's archives, as well as commissioning a whole host of fine art and installations inspired by the brand for the exhibition.
Sofeminine sat down with Ryan to find out about the show and why nails continue to be such an important and integral part of women's beauty regimes.
What is Enamoured about?
Enamoured is an eighty year retrospective of Revlon’s empire as well as an opportunity to show the possibilities of beauty, fashion and art in the same room.
It’s an opportunity to fall in love with beauty hosted by one of the pioneers of the beauty world.
What will you be showing?
We will be showing pieces of history from Revlon’s archives - vintage products, some of the most iconic advertorials.
We’ll be looking inside the mind of Charles Revson who was the pioneer behind Revlon enamel.
Many people don’t know that Revlon was the inventor of the modern nail enamel. It was him and his brother Joseph along with a chemist, Charles Lachman.
We’ve also commissioned creatives in the capital to showcase their artistic interpretations of Revlon through the various mediums they work in.
Bobby Patmore is a print and installation artist who has created a large-scale installation using over 2,000 bottles of Revlon nail enamel.
Lorna May Wadsworth is a contemporary painter who has constructed a giant portrait of Charles Revson painted with nail enamel.
Fashion designer Alex Noble - who you might know through his work with Lady Gaga - has built bespoke mannequins for Jenny Longworth’s ‘Drip dresses’ which fuse beauty with fashion.
How did you come to be involved in the show?
In 2011 I curated an exhibition called Nailphilia, which showcased all the top nail technicians in the UK. It displayed their nail art as works of fine art and it gained worldwide attention.
Revlon heard about the show and asked if I would like to curate their retrospective, and of course I didn’t even have to think about it! It was such an honour to be asked.
To be able to dive into Revlon’s archives and discover things about the brand, and it was also interesting following on from Nailphilia to have one subject for all of the artists to tackle.
What do you think about Revlon’s legacy in the beauty world?
Revlon is the footprint that every beauty brand tries to emulate. They were the first company to ever put beauty advertising campaigns in magazines.
Advertorials such as their ‘Fire and Ice’ in the 1950s remain to this day a defining image in the history of the beauty industry.
Revlon showed women that beauty wasn’t just red nail enamel or red lipstick, it was an opportunity for them to express themselves through their moods and favourite colours.
It gave women the opportunity to express themselves in an artistic way.
While curating the show, did you come across some surprising things about the brand?
The first thing I thought was really interesting is that nail enamel is actually based on car paint - it’s actually highly flammable material, but it’s been modified to stick to the nail bed, have pigment float within the bottle and not chip or crack.
Not only that, but I learnt that Charles Revson first conceived the idea of having your lips match your fingertips.
Rumour has it that he was in a restaurant and saw a woman lighting a cigarette and to his distaste they didn’t match - which is brilliant because in today’s day and age to not match is the current vogue.
Revlon have been the force behind many beauty trends, can you explain some of these to me?
First and foremost Revlon was the pioneer behind red nail enamel, the two colours that they are most famous for are Revlon Red and Cherries In The Snow, and they are a number one seller even to this day.
Within the first ten years of their business they established the first range of nail colours that were ever available.
They were the first brand to release two nail polishes each year to compliment beauty trends. Just as men were excited about cars, women would look forward to each season’s new colours.
Revlon brought the American look to the world by using US models, they also began looking at beauty as a worldwide phenomenon and asked people from different backgrounds and ethnicities to endorse their products.
It was about diversity, as long as the women were examples of glamour, beauty and confidence. Past celebrity spokeswomen include Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Halle Berry, Julianne Moore and Jessica Alba.
How do you see beauty brands such as Revlon progressing?
Enamoured is a perfect example of progression within the beauty industry, because they’re allowing themselves to think outside the realms of beauty.
They’re taking collaboration to its most visceral levels. They are thinking with a more artistic flare in terms of their branding and they continue to produce products with boundless creativity.
Is it true that the Louboutin red was inspired by Revlon Red nail enamel?
It can never be proved whether it was Revlon Red or another brand, but the fact remains that it was a red nail enamel that inspired the iconic soles.
Why do you think the beauty industry and the general public have become suddenly more obsessed with nail colours and nail art over the past few years?
I honestly believe that it’s because of social media and everyone sharing ideas and designs on the internet.
Also because it’s an art form that we have on the human body - Just as tattoos have become more popular in the past decade, people seek a medium of self-expression and nail art is another manifestation of personality.
It’s the creativity and the ability to have an original idea on your fingertips, which has been inspired by the world around us. There’s nail art based on fashion trends, art work, personalities.
Celebrities have obviously contributed to the trend - nail technicians have been supported by celebrities such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Jessie J.
Nail art is an inexpensive expression of personality, which allows us to emulate the style of our favourite stars. Our fingertips are a moodboard - they’re like a human Pinterest!
So do you think social media now plays a big part in the beauty world?
Yes - there’s no doubt in my mind that it does. We see beauty through technology now.
If someone in some obscure part of the world comes up with an original nail art idea it can be shared with the world via Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and Pinterest so it’s able to reach a worldwide audience.
It allows someone to use that idea on their own nails and so the idea grows and expands and it mutates into something else.
I really like that there’s a luxury to nail art, but it’s not like a designer brand - it’s an affordable and achievable for everyone.
In nail art there’s no rich or poor, you don’t need much money to do it and the satisfaction that you get is wonderful.
When someone comes up to you and says: “I love your nails” and you think about how difficult it was to do your right hand - there’s a sense of happiness there.
Is Enamoured open to the general public?
You’re going to have to be quick to catch the show, however it opens from 30th November to 2nd December from 10-6pm at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden.
Admission is free, but if you don’t get a chance to see it over the three-day run, social media users can follow the action on Twitter by following @RevlonUK and @RyanLanji and we will be using the hashtag #ENAMOURED.
What do you hope the beauty fans will take away from Enamoured?
I hope that beauty fans will be captivated by the huge history Revlon is putting on show, as well as the new and innovative art works that will on display to celebrate their 80th birthday.
It’s a historical exhibition and the first time a beauty retrospective of this scale has ever been executed. Throughout the entire thing I just want people to be inspired, captivated, and above all else enamoured.
Enamoured: 80 Years of Revlon will run from November 30 to December 2 at the London Film Museum, Covent Garden, 45 Wellington Street, London WC2E 7BN.
Entry is free. Find out more at www.facebook.com/RevlonUK.
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