This is going to be a different kind of post from me. Before Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture officially launched, I wrote an anti-haul post on it. And in that post, I talked about how I was drawn to this palette because of the colors that I hadn't seen over and over again and—to be completely transparent—the hype. But, like most products, I had to talk myself out of wanting to buy it. And I did so by reminding myself of one important fact: I do not like the formula of ABH palettes. More specifically, I really hated the formula of ABH Modern Renaissance, which made me a pariah of sorts in the beauty community.
As I said, I wrote that blog post before this palette was released. And since then, a lot has happened with Subculture. And so I would like to return to this product and continue the conversation a bit.
There is a significant amount of drama surrounding this palette, which is kind of absurd to me. I have an entire blog dedicated to my love of makeup and my exhaustion with consumerism, so I really shouldn't be surprised to see the aftermath of this palette release, but at the same time, I always come back to: this is makeup. And there are so many things that are more important happening in the world that people should care about, especially right now.
And here's the drama: ABH changed the formula of Subculture to be cheaper than what was in Modern Renaissance (though the price of the palette did not change) and it seems to be one of (if not the number one) worst reviewed products of the year or in recent memory. While it seems a lot about the formula has changed, the most noticeable change is that mica was the top ingredient in Modern Renaissance, and talc is the top ingredient in Subculture.
And consumers have been waiting for certain people to review Subculture before making a decision on it. When one person they don't like says the palette is bad, people have called them liars, all to change their minds when someone they like more reviews it and also says it's bad. And then there are those who are so faithful to ABH and to certain people who praise ABH that they will continue to call those who don't like the palette lairs despite negative review after negative review.
What's interesting to me about this aftermath is that what people are experiencing with Subculture is a heightened version of what happened to me with Modern Renaissance. You see, with Subculture, there is a ton of kickback of powder when one dips their brush into a shadow, massive amounts of fallout when shadow is applied to the lid, and essentially no blendability. And these were all of my complaints about Modern Renaissance, in addition to the fact that I already had all the colors in my collection.
Herein lies the problem and what I wanted to talk about today. It's not unheard-of for a brand to have a bad product. In fact, almost every single brand has had some kind of a flop product. Off the top of my head, Makeup Geek had the Sparklers:
Kat Von D had the Shade and Light blushes:
Becca had the Jaclyn Hill eyeshadow palette:
Too Faced had the Nikkitutorials collaboration:
the White Chocolate Chip palette:
and several other disappointing releases.
And of these flops, Becca and Kat Von D pulled the products off shelves and Makeup Geek offered a refund of sorts. Nothing happened with the Too Faced products, which isn't surprising as the brand seems to not care at all anymore about quality.
With Subculture, however, I personally think it is becoming such a huge deal for two reasons:
- People are (rightfully) disappointed in the poor quality and formula change
- People thought ABH was infallible.
And the second point is the one I would most like to talk about. To be completely honest, I do not understand why Modern Renaissance blew up as big as it did or why people praise it so much. And I understand that I have to tread carefully here because so many people love this makeup item, but that's just it. It's just a makeup item. So I am going to speak freely about it.
Modern Renaissance to me was nothing special. It looked like a combination of the Lime Crime Venus palette plus the warmer shades in the Kat Von D Shade and light eye palette:
I'm not sure if people forgot or just were not as involved in the makeup community at the time, but the Venus palette was crazy popular. It was constantly out of stock and very hard to get one's hands on. And it was very coveted by a lot of people. And then the Lime Crime website was hacked and the brand did absolutely nothing about it, the brand's owner started attacking people to a degree that I think most people had not seen before, and Lime Crime became one of the most boycotted brands at the time.
I had owned Venus for a while before Modern Renaissance was released, but because of the ridiculous hype, I caved and bought Modern Renaissance as well. And believe me when I say that I wanted to love that palette. But I didn't get the hype. And I think that's mainly because I had owned Venus for a while and had access to all of those red and berry tones. So Modern Renaissance didn't feel all that new to me. It felt very much the same as what I had already been using. And since I'm a person who loves to wear a shimmer on the lid, and Modern Renaissance only had three shimmers (two of which looked too similar on my lid), the palette felt more like a companion palette to me, and I already had that in Venus. And I liked Venus better. Because I thought the shadows blended a lot better.
The formula was the other big reason people raved about the palette. The shadows were endlessly called smooth and buttery and silky. For me, they were too soft to work with. They felt really great to touch with my finger, but that feeling didn't translate when I used it on my eyes. Not only did I get kickback in the pan and fallout on my face, but the shadows were so soft that they either blended away or became very muddy on me. I tried so many looks with the palette and hated each one of them, though I loved the same looks I created with Venus. I finally had to accept that Modern Renaissance just did not work for me, and I returned the palette.
But whenever I talked about the issues I had with Modern Renaissance, people told me that I just did not know how to apply the shadows. I am by no means a professional makeup artist, nor do I consider myself close to having those skills, but I have been a makeup user for over seven years, and I have owned eyeshadow from nearly every major brand. And the Modern Renaissance shadows, in my opinion, were incredibly high maintenance. I was told that I needed specific brushes to use the shadows (which, by the way, did not include the brush that came with the palette). I was told that I needed to tap the shadow off on my hand first before applying to my eyes. And I was told that I needed to apply a base of powder first. But here's the thing. I don't need to do that with literally any other shadows in my collection. And they all work beautifully. So why should I have to put in so much effort just to get a very hyped palette to work for me?
Something interesting to note, however, is that I have a few ABH single shadows, including Buon Fresco, which is in Modern Renaissance:
(Buon Fresco is on the top left)
I really love this shadow, and it works great for me. In fact, I love all of my ABH single shadows. I think they are gorgeous. And I have zero issues with them. They perform beautifully, including Buon Fresco, which did not work at all for me in Modern Renaissance.
But I think the reason that so many people feel so strongly about Modern Renaissance is because it was the first major makeup purchase for a lot of people. And a lot of influencers really hyped it.
Let's get back to Subculture:
I read a comment recently about Subculture that largely inspired this post. On the eve of this palette releasing online at Sephora, (it released on the ABH website first), in a discussion about all of the terrible reviews it has received, someone said something to the effect of:
I don't know what to do. The reviews are all so terrible, but this is ABH. I don't want a bad palette, but I don't want to miss out on getting the palette and then be the only person who doesn't have it.
And that's when it hit me, hard in the face, the impact YouTube, social media, and "influencers" have had. It's the same reason why hoards of people attacked those who had negative things to say about the Jaclyn Hill and Morphe palette. Or why people have excused racism and misogyny in favor of a lipstick. When they watch someone online and follow all of their social media accounts, they feel they know that person, and they want to be that person's friend. And when their "friend" says something is great or had a hand in making it, there isn't room for any other opinion. And when several of their influencer "friends" are all hyping the same item, it is like being in middle school or high school and everyone has this one purse or bracelet or whatever and you don't. And so then all of a sudden you want it—even if you didn't want it before—just so that you can be like these people you admire.
But, and I've said this before, no one is going to know that you are wearing an ABH palette and are therefore "cooler" than if you were wearing Wet N Wild shadows. Sure, you can follow some influencer tutorials, and that might give some happiness, but there will always be other products and other tutorials.
What's odd to me is that now, in addition to people being diehard fans of influencers, they are also diehard fans of brands as well. Following the success of Modern Renaissance, a lot of people really felt as though ABH could do no wrong, even though a lot of their new releases were kind of disappointing. Their stick foundations, for example, did not receive stellar reviews, neither did several of their Glow Kits. But when people heard that Subculture was going to be a "sister palette" to Modern Renaissance, I think people just put blinders on and decided that this product was going to be amazing, end of story. And, here's the thing. If Smashbox released this exact same palette, do you think people would have gone nuts for it? I doubt it.
People bought into the brand, the promise that it was a Modern Renaissance sister palette, and the hype. And now there are countless reviews of people saying that Subculture is essentially unusable. There are photos of brand new palettes covered in shadow dust after one use. There are photos of people using the palette with powder all down their faces. There are videos of people trying to blend the colors only to blend them completely away or have the color stick and not move. There are photos and videos of the shadows oxidizing, which, to be honest, I didn't even know was possible. And there are videos of the shadows all but disappearing by the end of a day of wear. And yet, you still have people picking fights, telling those people that they don't know how to apply makeup, that they need to use special brushes (again, that are not the same as the one included in the palette), and that they need to pat the color off first before applying.
And things are not made better by the fact that ABH has remained silent on all of the terrible reviews and that Norvina (who created Modern Renaissance and Subculture) continues to give special attention on social media to those who praise the palette. In response to one person who hit pan on the eyeshadow the first time she used it (and then made a video showing it), Norvina publicly undercut her by saying that anyone can swirl their brush until they hit pan, and asking, "But why would you want to?" The woman who posted the video then received a ton of hate messages from people telling her she could not do makeup, which was not surprising. Because, for some reason, when a brand fandom grows so big that people think they are infallible, there can't be room for differing opinions. And that is absolutely something that should change.
I don't understand why makeup and this community have to be to this way. Think of how absurd it would be if my friend absolutely loved a pair of jeans and thought they looked incredible on her, but I tried them on and thought they look terrible on me, and she got mad and me and said I didn't know how to wear clothes. It's just utterly ridiculous. And just because I say I don't like Modern Renaissance, that doesn't mean I am saying, "I think you look terrible when you wear that palette." Or "I think your makeup looks like crap and not blended because I didn't like how those shadows blended." But that seems to be the way people take it when others say they didn't like a product that someone else really loves. But then that leaves no room for differing opinions.
In all of the Subculture drama, I have to wonder: Did people really want Subculture for the colors in the palette or because it was the newest ABH palette? And I have to say that I think it's the latter. Because, as I mentioned in my Subculture anti-haul post, there are several palettes that have the same or similar color schemes.
On Temptalia, ever-fantastic Christine posted Subculture dupes, made up of MAC, Makeup Geek, Colourpop, and Make Up For Ever single shadows. But my guess is that most people likely aren't so interested in the colors of the palette that they would make their own palette from singles. I think people just like the status of having the hyped palette of the moment. I've even heard someone say that they don't like how the ABH Master Palette by Mario performs, but they like having it because other people wanted it and couldn't get it. And while I try hard not to judge what makes people happy, that way of thinking just doesn't make a ton of sense to me.
I want to love my makeup and use it and feel creative. I don't care about having a collection of makeup items that will expire that some people in the world could not get. That doesn't make me feel special. That doesn't make me feel good. The only product in my collection right now that is hard to get is Colourpop Yes, Please! And it doesn't make me excited that I have it and many other people don't. In fact, it does the opposite for me. It makes me unhappy and mad at the brand that they can't just have an appropriate amount of stock so that everyone who wants that item can get it.
But Subculture has really shown me how much the makeup community has shifted, and it is not in a direction that I like. On the one hand, people crashed the ABH website to buy the palette the day it released—before reviews came out and before it was available to swatch in person at Sephora—which actually seems kind of crazy to me. I can understand that reviewers would want to get their hands on it so that they could produce content with it, but for the casual makeup owner, the need for immediate gratification was so overwhelming with this release. And on the other hand, when the product did not live up to the hype, and instead crashed and burned, a lot of people seemed unable to accept that reality and picked fights with people who posted negative reviews.
At the end of the day, this was a disappointing makeup product for most people, it seems. The brand changed a formula that people really loved, and they didn't tell anyone. The reason they didn't is because they were making a cheaper formula but were not lowering the price of the palette. And since so many people were crazy about the Modern Renaissance formula, I'm sure they knew that would be a really unpopular decision. And ABH made a palette that looked good when swatched with a finger or a brush. I've said before, but that seems to be a top concern for a lot of brands, even above making a good product. The influencers of the world have made "pigmentation" the biggest deal, and if swatches don't look good, people are less likely to buy something. So then we get a palette like Subculture. If you've seen the swatches, they have incredible pigment. But they don't work as eyeshadows because, from what I have seen, they can't blend whatsoever. But ABH was riding off of their success with Modern Renaissance and the blind faith they knew people had in them. I was impressed when Becca and Kat Von D pulled their flop products from shelves, and I'm disappointed that ABH hasn't yet addressed the atrocious reviews Subculture has received.
I also think it's important to take a critical look at how the community got to the place it is now, and to see how it is necessary to have differing opinions about products. It is also critical that as consumers we don't perpetuate hype and consumerism. Because then brands take advantage.