In an auditorium barely large enough to accommodate my Thanksgiving guest list, I’m watching an ad that’s bringing the 1970s—and all of the era’s nostalgic kitsch—to life. In it, a cheeky blonde with blushed, doll-like cheeks smiles. She’s sitting on a bubblegum-pink bed in a pink bedroom, next to an impeccably coiffed man who’s also flashing an unnaturally bright smile. (Spoiler alert: it’s makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver). “Welcome to the Gucci two-in-one tutorial,” a narrator speaks. The blonde winks as though she’s about to let me in on a secret.
The film goes on to show us how to use the new Gucci Mascara L’Obscur, the launch of which we’re (that’s Kristin and I!) here to celebrate today. Hosted by the Gucci Beauty Network Studios in tandem with makeup giant Sephora, the two-day pop-up gives visitors a chance to take the mascara on a test drive — and perhaps learn a thing or two about how to use it.
For most of us, mascara is our first, erm, brush with makeup. True, as kids, we gravitated toward lipstick or lip balm first, but to me, mascara was one of those products that I could get away with wearing without attracting too much attention. I would quietly fish it out of my mother’s makeup bag, take to our bathroom mirror and apply the color — just a touch, just enough to make my wimpy lashes a little darker, bolder and fuller. I trained myself to be so light-handed that nobody really noticed.
The Mascara L’Obscur is the sort of magic wand I dreamt of owning as a kid. It’s “a buildable, ultra-rich creamy mascara created with the ultimate formulation for customized performances, available in one intense black shade.” In the film, Thomas de Kluyver loads the wand by swirling it around the tube. He holds it tip-up, vertically, and applies it on her lower lid with tiny little strokes, carefully, to avoid smudging the color on her waterline. Wiggling the wand into the roots, he combs through her bottom lashes several times for definition.
Next, the top lash. This time, he holds the wand horizontally and repeats in a zig-zag motion, reloading the brush after each application. He pushes the lashes at the root for that extra lift. We can see the model’s eyes widen and open up. “For maximum volume, allow mascara to dry between coats,” the narrator instructs us while six versions of the model’s smiling faces swirl on the screen in a kaleidoscopic effect.
At this point, her lashes are already enviable. But there’s more. After letting the base coat dry, Thomas uses the tip of the wand to apply clumps of mascara to the top lashes. “You’ve successfully completed your ‘bold look,’” The film ends with quirky commentary about knitting a sweater for this exceptionally adorable little dachshund. (Because, erm, why not, I guess?)
If the dog, or the film, doesn’t make you want to snag your own Mascara L’Obscur, something else in this pop-up will. The 20,000-plus square foot space of the studio houses makeup stations where a professional can help you try out the mascara — plus a rainbow of Gucci lipsticks. Kristin and I take turns getting our glam on for the day.
Sasha, our makeup artist, is a charming, no-nonsense personality hailing from New York. It’s obvious from the get-go that she really knows her craft. (Case in point: she created a bold eye look on Kristin using lipstick). When painting on Gucci’s classic, blood-red color on my awkward pout, she tells me I have incredibly symmetrical lips. Is that, by far, the weirdest compliment I’ve ever gotten about my face? Perhaps.
“Do you want to try the mascara?” she asks. Of course. That’s what I’m here for! She whips out the gold-lidded tube and starts applying it just like in the video. Horizontally on the top lids, vertically, with quick but measured strokes on the bottom set. When she’s all done, she hands me a hand mirror. I can totally see the difference. My left eye is somehow bigger, wider, more open and Twiggy-esque. My lashes look the way lashes do in ads — full, flirty and absurdly long.
Apart from the makeup stations, there’s also a Gucci Guilty diner and a scent bar, where you can try sniff and test out fragrances. I would certainly be remiss if I don’t mention the multi-tiered wedding cake which boasts tubes of lipstick and mascara in lieu of candles. Cute? You bet. And of course, there are so many Instagrammable corners — this is Los Angeles, after all. The Instagram experiences are, no doubt, fun, but to me, the real charm of the event was the excitement that was built around this classic product. I loved the whimsy of that video, Sasha’s killer makeup chops and friendliness — and of course, that cute-as-a-button dachshund.