My Ultimate Cosmetics Archive

by PJ on Tuesday, January 22, 2008

in makeup,What do you think? Beauty topics and thoughts

(my trusted beauty database)

A while ago, I wrote about Biteki, my favorite beauty magazine. Today, I am focusing on an element of Japanese cosmetics magazines such as Biteki and Voce that makes western equivalents pale in comparison.

With Biteki, four times a year, it has a grand seasonal makeup catalog (March for spring, June for summer, September for fall, and December for Holiday). The feature is about 30-page long for spring and fall and slight shorter for summer and Christmas.

Voce, another top cosmetics magazine in Japan, does things similarly. For example, in the seasonal makeup catalog from the February 2008 issue of Voce, you will find, under each brand:

(Givenchy spring 2008 collection
in spring 2008 makeup booklet,
Voce, February 2008, p. 28-29)

1. clear photos all the new items and shades
2. names of the products
3. all the shade names/numbers
4. retail prices in Japan
5. whether they are limited editions
6. promotional image
7. all the products featured in the promotional image
8. a short description and analysis of the collection

Obviously, you don’t really need to understand any Japanese to enjoy browsing the catalog.

Even though I do like the booklets that both Biteki and Voce do now, I slightly prefer Biteki’s old way of presenting the seasonal collections, as they used to have a lot of actual-size photos of the items. Packaging is as vital for me as the actual products, so knowing the actual sizes of products can be very helpful.

(Right: Ayura Lip Retouch Compact
Left: actual-size photo on Biteki March 2005, p.53)

The past catalogs might seem less useful, but, for me, they are just as important. I often refer back to past catalogs to confirm when a certain item was released, whether it was a limited edition, and whether a certain shade is a repeat in a new packaging. I also go back to previous catalogs just to reminisce past collections and to trace a brand’s evolution. I have been buying/subscribing to Biteki ever since its debut issue in May 2001, so what I have, right at my fingertip, is an archive of all the seasonal items from all the major Japanese and international brands in the last six and a half years. The size of the archive will only grow bigger.

(Chanel fall 2001 collection,
from Biteki September 2001, p. 50)

On a related note, twice a year, usually in May and October, Biteki does a seasonal base makeup feature/catalog, focusing on the new primer/concealer/foundation releases.

(part of the fall 2007 foundation feature,
Biteki October 2007 fall foundation booklet, p. 28)

Some time ago, a friend asked me why beauty magazines in the west simply don’t do this. Obviously I don’t really have an answer, but I have some speculations.

1. There is very little competition in the west. In the US, I think Allure is the only major beauty magazine. In the UK, we don’t really have any. In Japan, there are very major ones like Biteki, Voce, and Maquia. They are not obscure magazines. In Japan, they are the Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar in the beauty world, and there are other less major ones. These magazines strive to be the best and offer the most comprehensive information, and the readers are the ultimate winners.

2. The relationship between cosmetics companies and print publications seems different in the west. It appears to me that it is either that the magazines only want to cover new releases selectively or that the cosmetics companies don’t want the readers to have full information of the lineup and the release dates from magazines.

3. I have sometimes come across articles implying that many aspects of the cosmetics industry in Japan are at least a decade ahead of the west. Perhaps this is one aspect of it, even though it is not all about the cosmetics industry itself. Maybe there will be more thorough seasonal makeup release coverage…in some years’ time. (But, at lease in the UK, we need to have that beauty magazine first!)

For me, in a way, it doesn’t really matter whether western beauty magazines will do anything similar. They will not be covering all the Japanese brands that are popular all over Asia, and, in my opinion, cosmetics magazines in Japan have been covering western cosmetics brands better than western magazines…

Other Beauty Phenomena:

Seasonal Beauty Sale in the UK

“Can I return this, please?”
(It depends on where you are.)

“Would you like some samples?”
(How can you get just a bit more?)