Give Me Liberty of London Interview with MAC’s James Gager

March 18, 2010
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Here is an illuminating insight into the creative process of  the hip and heritage fusion that is MAC Give Me Liberty of London. A Q & A with Jame Gager, Senior Vice-President and creative director of MAC, reveals the genesis and development of the collaboration.

MAC and Liberty of London are both iconic brands that promote quality, value and beautifully designed products. When and how did this collaboration with Liberty of London develop?

I’ve been watching Liberty for quite some time and have seen the brand evolve over the years. When they started over 100 years ago, they were an iconic English company synonymous with luxury and great design; Liberty was a bastion of British classicism via their beautiful prints and distinctive department store. They have grown into a very cool brand that has collaborated with designer labels like Comme de Garçons and personalities such as Kate Moss. Liberty is upping their own ante in terms of fashion, but remaining true to the brand’s English heritage with their products and prints. Liberty doesn’t have their own makeup line, so I wanted to partner on a project that spoke to both the brand’s modernity and global authority. I thought it would be really interesting to see what MAC would look like dressed up in a Liberty print.

The MAC Give Me Liberty of London design is based on William Morris’s Strawberry Thief print from 1883. What appealed to you about it, and did you make any changes?

MAC was allowed to cull from the vast Liberty archives to select this print as the inspiration for the collection. As we wanted something that would be exclusive to MAC, Liberty graciously agreed to rework it for us. We collaborated on the colours of the print and of course the package design and print placement. By combining Liberty’s heritage and history with MAC’s distinctive sensibility, we were able to take a print that was over 100 years old and modernize it in a way that I think will resonate with customers worldwide.

The collection is so beautiful and fun for spring – how did you integrate the print into the packaging and accessories?

I’m particularly proud of the packaging. To begin with, it is all white, which is unique for MAC. White speaks to a reawakening of everyone’s sensibilities for spring. We took the pattern and embellished it on our compacts, some of which normally have clear windows. Instead, we inserted opaque windows so the print is more visible. We used the motif on different parts of the packaging and, to create variety, deconstructed it by taking the flower or the bird and showcasing them on select pieces. We also decorated the nail lacquer bottle which, for our recent Hello Kitty collaboration, was a coveted item. And we designed Liberty makeup bags using the same beautiful print in a tongue-in-cheek way by highlighting a very large flower from the print as the zipper pull. All in all, the MAC Give Me Liberty collection has a remarkably fresh, springy look to it. Even if you don’t know what Liberty is, you want to own these pieces because they are so unique and special. It’s evident that something original has taken place here in terms of the collaboration.

Can you tell us more about the campaign? What was your inspiration for the shoot? Who did the makeup? Which photographer did you use?

The inspiration was all Liberty and all London. The shoot took place in London. Miles Aldridge, a very talented English photographer, shot the visuals, and Charlotte Tilbury, an English makeup artist, designed the makeup. The idea was to capture the spirit of the famous Brit wit, bohemian chic girl. Katy England, another famous Brit, styled the shoot. She also designed the outfit worn by the model, using many Liberty prints and turning them into an over-the-top ruffled dress. We also had a couture hat and scarf made using the MAC Give Me Liberty of London print as well as other prints.

With the MAC Give Me Liberty of London collection, we aspired to capture the spirit of this dreadfully chic, cool English girl, sitting on a chair, decked out in all the British regalia. She’s a Liberty freak and a MAC addict; she can’t get enough of either brand. The chair she’s sitting on is covered in a Liberty print and she’s dressed head-to-toe in Liberty – her tights, dress, hat and even the wallpaper and drapes are made from Liberty prints. We’ve captured an outrageous moment, but within that, the visual portrays a young, adventuresome, fashionable spirit because unless you’re an insider, you may not realize all these Liberty details. It is sophisticated and quirky.

Liberty of London is synonymous with England. How do you think the collection will translate to America and other international countries that may not have an awareness of the brand?

Even though Liberty is synonymous with London, I think that the print and the products we choose are incredibly engaging, young, friendly and have a lot of style to them, and will relate to customers globally. There is something universal about the British wit and bohemian chic that this collection encapsulates. It’s the unstudied style of Sienna Miller or the Spitalfields market, or the grit and glamour of Portobello Road. She is the young, swingy, London girl that is unstoppable as she meets up with MAC in 2010. She’s the girl that men want to sleep with and women want to be friends with. She’s beautiful, smart, has a great sense of humor, and is totally, effortlessly cool and worldly.

The Liberty brand seems to be reinventing itself by working with musicians, artists and designers. MAC has always been famous for its trendsetting collaborations. How integral are the worlds of art and fashion to you?

For MAC, and for me personally, art, fashion and beauty are inextricably linked, and they seem to be merging even more these days with each one playing a major role in influencing the other. At MAC, we always have our eye on what’s going on in regards to art and fashion, and try to bring it into our universe. It’s critical for our customers to be excited when they visit a MAC store; it keeps them coming back to see what we’ll do next. For us, it isn’t just about makeup anymore.

In closing, I understand you’re enjoying spending time in London. What is it about the city that appeals to you?

Unfortunately, most of my time in London is spent in photo studios. But I do try to spend at least one day wandering around the city, which I find re-energizing. I love the people. I think they’re totally eccentric and friendly. London cuisine is having a really interesting moment right now – it is more worldly and global than ever before. And the shops – they are just beautiful. They’re quirky but really well done. There is an energy about London that I don’t really find in any other city. Even though I love New York, London is an entirely different animal. It has a prim and proper quality but also a down and dirty, bohemian cool factor that I personally connect with. Londoners aren’t afraid to be who they are; they’re not uptight fashion divas. There is room for everybody, from the conventional great old couple in their country tweeds to the young kids on Portobello Road.

London is just a cool place.

Source: MAC Cosmetics Singapore


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