Is Prada Beauty Here to Popularize the Ugly-Chic Aesthetic?


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“Ugly is attractive, ugly is exciting,” said designer Miuccia Prada in a 2013 interview. Famously known for wearing no makeup and starting every morning with a glass of hot water, and despite this (or perhaps because of it), Prada is one of the creatives behind an exciting new makeup and skin care line that launched in the U.S. in mid-January. If you like the idea of beauty that isn’t quite glamorous, is not quite relatable, and is beautiful in spite of itself, come to Prada Beauty.

The brand’s first beauty line launched back in 2000 under the same name, but primarily focused on skin care. It offered single-use skin products and lip balms in silver-foil packets. “Cold cream packaged in what looks like a condom wrapper?” fashion critic Cathy Horyn mused at the time. This time around, the collection is bolder, more vivid (and refillable), with sleek silver casings (some with a touch of gold) that are weighty in the hand. There’s no hint of the soft, no-makeup makeup, Glossier aesthetic that has dominated the current beauty landscape.

Lipsticks are matte only. As Prada Beauty Global Creative Makeup Artist Lynsey Alexander explained to L’Officiel USA, “The predilection for the matte mouth has been a characteristic of the Prada catwalks since the first show in ’88.” The lipsticks come in two formats: Hyper Matte, meant to recall the subtle crosshatch texture of the brand’s Saffiano leather; and Soft Matte, intended to emulate Prada’s swishy, smooth Re-Nylon fabric. The lipsticks are vibrant, with an intense finish and color despite being formulated with only three pure color pigments (versus most other lipsticks, which have up to 12, as Alexander noted in the same interview). The Granato shade, an eye-catching red-pink, is a particular favorite of Alexander’s, who favors wearing the shade with a “freshly scrubbed bare face” for contrast. The only hint of a gloss comes from a pistachio-colored lip balm.

More than 27,000 fabrics exist in Prada’s library, and Alexander combed through these to create eye shadow quartets whose colors recall memorable patterns from previous collections. The brand’s signature preference for ugly-chic colors is apparent, so don’t expect a typical smoky eye. According to the brand, three neutral colors are paired with one standout or “eccentric” color like a chartreuse, but it’s the contrast with prettier colors that makes it work: “Like a muddy brown that becomes extremely elegant when paired with the pink of a satin ballet slipper,” Alexander told L’Officiel USA. It’s not sparkly, because “Mrs. Prada hates glitter,” she said to WWD this past summer. But there are metallics and shine. To get the correct mix of ugly-chic colors, Alexander also worked with the brand’s Global Creative E-Makeup Artist Inès Alpha, who created colors on digital models as well as digital makeup looks. It’s one of the line’s many techy flourishes, combining the physical and digital into a “phygital” mash-up.

Ever current, never safe, Miuccia Prada does not have to personally use makeup to engage with the question “What does beauty mean today?”—as she and co–creative director Raf Simons recently asked in WWD. This new line lets you formulate your own answer, with makeup to turn you as beautiful or ugly-chic as you wish.

Monochrome Hyper Matte

Prada Monochrome Hyper Matte
Credit: Courtesy of Prada

Monochrome Soft Matte

Prada Monochrome Soft Matte
Credit: Courtesy of Prada

Dimensions Multi-Effect Eyeshadow

Prada Dimensions Multi-Effect Eyeshadow
Credit: Courtesy of Prada

 Lip Balm

Prada Lip Balm
Credit: Courtesy of Prada

A version of this story appears in the February 2024 issue of ELLE.

Headshot of Kathleen Hou

Kathleen Hou is ELLE”s Beauty Director. Previously, she held the same title at New York Magazine’s The Cut. She’s appeared in publications such as New York, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue India, Forbes, and Allure. She was also a co-founder of Donate Beauty, a grassroots beauty donation project started during the COVID-19 crisis, which donated over 500,000 products to over 30,000 healthcare workers across 500+ hospitals. 

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