Thursday, November 2, 2017

What I'm Not Buying: Pat McGrath Labs Mothership Palettes

Pat McGrath Labs has released three "Mothership" eyeshadow palettes at a whopping $125 each. 

And I won't be buying. 

Pat McGrath is an unbelievably influential makeup artist, and since she first started her brand, I have wanted to support it. However, I haven't found anything from the brand that I have wanted enough or that I have felt was special enough for me to justify the cost. 

The price point of these palettes is in line with Natasha Denona, so I would just like to compare the two brands a bit. 
  • Pat McGrath has been called "the most influential makeup artist in the world" by Vogue
  • According to Natasha Denona's website, Natasha Denona is "an internationally renowned makeup artist and trendsetter." I couldn't find any other source discussing Natasha Denona's influence as a makeup artist. 
  • Pat McGrath Labs palettes cost $125 for 10 shadows. 
  • Natasha Denona palettes cost $129 for 15 shadows. 
  • Pat McGrath Labs palettes have incredibly lux packaging. Several reviewers have commented on the quality, heft, and luxurious nature of it. 
  • Natasha Denona palettes have some of the cheapest packaging that I have personally seen. I would not call the packaging luxurious by any means. 

While I would have a difficult time paying that kind of money on any eyeshadow palette, I personally feel like it makes more sense for Pat McGrath's brand to have a luxury price tag than Natasha Denona. 

With that said, $125 is a ton of money to pay for an eyeshadow palette with 10 shades. On the Pat McGrath Labs website, you can buy all three of the Mothership palettes for $300 and save $75. Spending $300 on three palettes blows my mind, and I just really feel like there are so many other eyeshadows that can be purchased at a lower cost instead.

With that said, price is relative. With the "discounted" price of buying all of these palettes together, the price comes out to $10 per shadow. Makeup Geek foiled shadows cost $10 each. Natasha Denona palettes come out to $8.60 per shadow, and, for comparison, Colourpop Yes, Please! comes out to $1.33 per shadow. Tom Ford eyeshadow quads come out to about $21 per shadow, and I own two quads. All of that is to say that price is relative. Singles are typically more expensive than palettes because you are paying for the convenience of selecting your own shadows and not being at the mercy of whatever is in the palette.

Let's look at the palettes.

There's Mothership I:

Mothership II:

And Mothership III:

A few things to note about the palettes. There's a variety of finishes, including matte, shimmer, high shine, and glitter toppers. Xtreme Black is repeated throughout all three palettes, and Astral Ghost Orchid is repeated in Mothership II and III. So, even if you were to buy all three palettes, you would be getting 27 different shadows, not 30. 

Let's look at swatches.

Mothership I

Mothership II:

Mothership III:

Yes, there are some really shimmery and sparkly colors in these swatches, but it is also important to keep in mind that swatches provided by the brand are nearly always unreliable. There are certainly pretty colors here, but I don't feel like they are all that unique. Even the "special" shades aren't especially unique, and I feel like suitable replacements could be found in single shadows from brands like Makeup Geek, Coloured Raine, and Colourpop (let alone indie brands like Fyrinnae and Notoriously Morbid). 

These palettes, like all of Pat McGrath Labs products, seem most appropriate for editorial looks, which is also how Pat McGrath Labs advertises the products:

For professional makeup artists who specialize in editorial looks, I'm sure these palettes could be a worthwhile investment. But even then, from what I have seen in reviews, there doesn't seem to by anything all that special about these shadows that they can create something that significantly cheaper shadows couldn't also achieve. 

The color schemes of all these palettes remind me of Kat Von D Saint and Sinner:

As well as Metal Matte:

The color schemes also remind me of the Make Up For Ever holiday palette from 2015:

As well as the Make Up For Ever holiday palette from 2016:

Mothership I has similar tones to NYX Wind:

And Mothership II and III have similar tones to NYX Earth:

I started the post by discussing comparisons to Natasha Denona, and that's because I do believe that with the Mothership palettes, you are absolutely paying for the Pat McGrath name. Just like in my Tom Ford quads, I'm paying for the name. It's nice that the quality is also great (unlike a lot of Dior and Chanel quads and palettes), but if we are being real, the quality isn't so spectacular that it justifies the cost when there are alternatives like Colourpop and Makeup Geek. The Pat McGrath name means something to me, unlike the Natasha Denona name. And that is just my own personal opinion. That is not at all to imply that Natasha Denona is not a talented makeup artist. And clearly the brand she created makes some stunning eyeshadows. But for me personally, the name alone is not worth me paying an insane price. 

I would eventually like to get something from Pat McGrath Labs because of the respect I have for Pat McGrath as a makeup artist. But, I am also a smart(er) consumer at this point, and I only want to buy things that would be additive to my collection or are truly unique or special. And I haven't yet found anything that meets my own criteria. I was happy to see that these Mothership palettes have very lux packaging, because for the price, they absolutely should. From what I can tell, the packaging blows Natasha Denona out of the water (but then I think brands like Tarte and Too Faced easily do that) and is better than Tom Ford, Chanel, or Dior. If I was a professional makeup artist, I can see how owning one of these palettes would be satisfying. As a makeup enthusiast, the product itself is not so special for me to justify the cost and adding it to my collection. 

Personally, I am most drawn to Mothership II. It has the warmest color scheme overall (which is my personal preference), and it has tones that I really enjoy, like gold, green, and pink/mauve. But when I look at the colors in this palette, there is not a single shadow that I don't already own. 

Mothership I has, in my opinion, the least interesting color scheme. There are a few pops of interesting colors (like the blue), but even then, it's not difficult to find a nice blue shade. For the exception of the NYX Earth palette, all the palettes I listed above have a shimmery blue. The color scheme leans way too cool-toned for me to personally be really excited over, but that is just personal preference. I think this palette has the most "dupable" shades, and I think it would be pretty easy to replicate this palette at a cheaper price.  

Mothership III also has a color scheme that I find interesting, and I suppose out of all three palettes, this one has the most unique shadows, but I still feel like I already have all these colors. The three colors I find most interesting—the cranberry, olive, and blue—remind me of Fyrinnae shadows:


Aztecs Gold:

And Because Cats:

I'm not too fussed with the duochrome shadow that is repeated in two of the palettes, Astral Ghost Orchid, because I have suitable replacements throughout my collection. And I probably don't even need to mention how unnecessary it is to have the matte black shadow repeated in each palette. It's interesting to me that Pat McGrath chose to include these shadows in each palette, because it tells me that the brand assumes that most consumers will only be purchasing one of the palettes. And since some of the shadows are meant to be layered over a black, it makes sense to include that shadow in each palette. What's nice(ish) about this is that it is kind of a deterrent from feeling the need to buy all three. 

This is something that I have noticed a lot in Pat McGrath Labs kits. A kit will include five or so products (making the price very high) and the only thing that will be different from kit to kit is one product. So if you want to buy more than one, you will be buying a lot of excess. I'm not a fan of kits in general and find that to be a really obnoxious practice, but I think it does curb the idea to buy everything just because. It almost forces a consumer to practice a "healthy" habit of selecting the one item that they like the most and that being the only one they own. 

One final thing I would like to touch on is a huge positive: the inclusivity in the shade selection. When I look at all three of the Mothership palettes, I truly see shades that will work for an array of skin tones. I don't find this surprising, however, as Pat McGrath is a woman of color. This is something that I have really noticed, which is that the brands that have the most inclusive shade ranges are owned or creatively directed by people of color. 

I personally prefer to support brands that value inclusivity, compared to brands like Too Faced that released a palette that could only work for the lightest of skin tones, the White Chocolate Chip palette:

I'm interested in keeping an eye on Pat McGrath Labs to see what they come out with in the future. I certainly think the Mothership palettes are beautiful, from the packaging to color selection to quality. The price point for these palettes is hard for me to justify, especially when there are so many cheaper alternatives. I've always felt that there is a lot to like about Pat McGrath Labs, but they haven't yet put out a product that is practical enough for my daily life. And they don't necessarily need to. I think it's kind of cool that this brand is so editorial—and it also saves me money. The bottom line is that I already have all the colors in the Mothership palettes, so I won't be buying. 


  1. Mothership I looks alot like the UD Gwen Stefani palette as well.

  2. I started out with the blue palette and fell in love upon first application. I did not plan to buy all 3, but after I played with the blue, I immediately ordered the purple and after playing with the blue some more, bought the green. I figured I should get them while the Sephora sale was still going on. I used to own some Makeupgeek duochromes, but these knock those out of the water. I've never gotten so many compliments on my makeup before Pat McGrath and I own some pricey stuff. I'm looking forward to her next release. I don't buy everything from a brand just because of the brand, I've gotten smarter and know what I like so I stick to that. I am thrilled to own these, they are certainly not for everyone, you have to like bold colors, you have to like sparkly things on your eyes. I'm not a youngster anymore, pushing 50 actually, but Pat McGrath can make these aging eyes look good. As to the black shade in each palette, it is essential to smoking and changing the look of every shade in there. And yes, if some only chose one or two palettes it would be a shame if the black wasn't included. I never used the black shade in my other palettes but for PM Labs, it has become a staple.

  3. Great job on discussing the palettes. I bought the Motherhood 3 palette and I love it. Colors are just so beautiful and rich. I don't own anything like it and I have tone of palettes.

  4. I'm thinking that the colour payoff may be similar to yaby cosmetics pearl paints eyeshadows? Have you tried these? I have the viseart palettes as well as the yaby eyeshadows and I'm thinking though these are beautiful eyeshadows from Pat McGrath, not really sure if it's adding anything into my kit I have already

  5. goodness you articulate exactly what's in my head. I want to try the FORMULA that I keep hearing so much about but when I look at any of the palettes, non of the colors are unique enough for me to rush to buy it. Same with the Natasha Denona palettes were come off even more basic. I should probably just mosey on over to Sephora and satisfy my curiosity by swatching them. Since you wrote this article, has there been any Pat McGrath releases that have peaked your interest in purchasing something?