Makeup Your Identity

Last Friday, jewelry label Yazbukey’s collection for Japanese-based makeup brand Shu Uemura landed on U.S. soil. After a stellar sell-out in Japan, designer Yaz Bukey expects that the product will have similar success in the West. After all, her career has been nothing but a series of ingenious designs and impressive collaborations. She’s worked with the likes of Zac Posen, Ladurée, Maison Darré, L’Oréal, and Chanel. She is famous for her mastery of Plexiglas, constantly transforming the material into surreal, tongue-in-cheek, pop art-inspired accessories. Her line is splendidly imaginative—the product of a childhood spent behind closed doors.

Bukey’s great, great grandfather was Mehmet Ali Pasha, the King of Egypt, and her father was an ambassador who specialized in the Arab world. As a child, she frequently moved around the Middle East. “We grew up in a very closed [environment],” she says. “Everything was hidden. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, in the ’80s, there were no women on TV.”

Bukey discovered that the only method of escape was to use her imagination. She developed an obsession with Hollywood movies, pouring over images of Marilyn Monroe. She became fascinated by the art of transforming one’s identity, and makeup, which she found in her mother’s closet, became her weapon of choice. “I was trying to reinvent [myself] with the things I had in my hand. This is also what I wanted to give in this Shu Uemura collection. Women should experiment more with makeup, not be afraid of it, and become the woman you want to be through makeup.”

Bukey discovered Shu Uemura long before she became a designer, and developed an affinity for the product while at fashion school in Paris. “When I was studying at Studio Berçot, I used to use the Shu Uemura colors for drawing, for my illustrations,” she says. “I decided that it’s a unique brand and I love the sophistication that is there, and at the same time, [they use] quite unique Japanese textures.”

As with all of her designs, Bukey’s collaboration with Shu Uemura was defined by extreme attention to detail. After 20 months of discussions and design work, the duo emerged with four varieties of cleansing oil, two mousse primers, a powder compact, the “I Love My Shu Shu” eye shadow palette, false lashes, four shades of rouge lipstick, and four shades of nail color. The product packaging is covered with images of Yazbukey’s iconic red lips and mesmerizing graphic eyes.

“Each season when I build up my collection I am like a movie director, choosing my cast and building up the story,” she says. The collection was inspired by an anecdote from the designer’s own life, when she and her friends all fell head over heels for the same man. The campaign tells the story of four bombshells—sexy Yaz, smart Lola, romantic Betty, and daring Tina—all doing their make-up in the hopes of winning Mr. Shu Shu’s heart. The collection, Bukey explains, offers an extensive palette that lends itself to a variety of identities. When asked who eventually wins the competition, she laughs. “Well the winner is me. It’s sexy Yaz.”