Chen Man Draws Faces for M.A.C.

“The fashion world in China has definitely changed a lot,” explains photographer Chen Man, the latest artist to collaborate with makeup giant M.A.C. on a limited edition collection. Indeed, since China welcomed its own edition of Vogue in 2005, and hosted a Chanel runway show on the Great Wall in 2008, countless articles have analyzed the expanding presence of high fashion in China. “10 years ago, when China was still not as exposed to the outside fashion world, people learned about fashion mainly through television.”

In her collection for M.A.C., Chen Man addresses evolving Chinese aesthetics, and the struggle between embracing universality and maintaining tradition. Man mixes traditional Chinese colors, such as the royal blue found on Chinese vases, with more modern pastels—sometimes within the same product, as in her “Love Cycle” and “Supersweet” eye shadows. The collection, dominated by swirling blues and sunset-reds, is inspired by and named after love and water. “I wanted to create a collection about the constants in life, the things that don’t change despite how the pace of the world accelerates and our lifestyles adapt,” says Man.

Man was born and raised in a post-cultural revolution Beijing, and began studying Chinese traditional painting when she was just two years old. Since graduating from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Chen Man has become one of China’s most celebrated fashion photographers, shooting myriad covers for China’s innovative Vision magazine, and exhibiting her work everywhere from London’s V&A Museum to the Maeght Gallery in Paris. Man has brought her artistic background to M.A.C., approaching standard products such as eyeshadow, beauty powder and lip-gloss through the lens (no pun intended) of a portrait painter. To Man, makeup is not just a beauty item; it is a form of self-definition and expression. “I see applying makeup as very akin to drawing faces as you similarly have the creative license to exaggerate or conceal features,” explains Man.