MAC – The Rodarte Collection and Controversy

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MAC and Rodarte Collection photo: we heart this

By now, most of our readers are probably aware of the MAC and Rodarte Collection fiasco. The fashion line (and subsequent makeup collaboration) was inspired by a trip the Rodarte designers took through some of Mexico’s most depressed areas including Juarez – an improvised, factory town on the border that is infamous for a heinous spree of killings (thousands of mostly poor, uneducated woman) and the discovery of mass graves for over a decade. In short, MAC and Rodarte collaborated on a fall makeup collection that was completely ill conceived, offensive and a PR nightmare.

While the issue burned up the internet, wht was quiet on the issue. Last week, we noticed the Thursday Post column over at Pink Sith, and thought it might be in reference to us (we’ve made no secret that we’ve been thrilled to recently receive MAC samples). We’ve been in contact with Pink Sith directly and things are fine between us – she’s a blogger we’ve loved and respected for some time and we wanted her to hear our side of the matter. We also thought our readers might want to hear our thoughts on the recent controversy and why we’ve waited to comment.

And while it pains me to sound somewhat on the defensive for wht – which is not the important issue at hand here – I felt a need to do so when our credibility is called into question. In June, Stef and I were invited to visit the MAC store on Robertson Blvd for a sneak peek at many upcoming late summer and fall collections for the “local press.” When we arrived, we discovered the local press meeting with MAC that day consisted of Stef and I representing wht and a reporter from the LA Times (gulp!)

The MAC reps explained that while we were free to use any images and candidly discuss all the products that they were showing us that day, they asked that we refrain from discussing ANY COLLECTION WE VIEWED until two weeks before the official release of each collection (this included twitter and facebook as well). While we wanted to run straight to our blog and share all the details of the day, we happily agreed to wait for the “Embargo Date” (as they call it) to pass before we shared with our readers.

We were then treated to a pre-release, hands on look at collections including In The Grove, Digi Pop, Dare To Wear, Fabulous Felines and Rodarte (plus a few upcoming September lines). To be honest, while I clearly remember the Rodarte Collection, (visually it was a stunner) the whole experience was basically giddy makeup- induced sensory overload.

There wasn’t time to look at each collection piece by piece, name by name and my notes regarding the Rodarte collection consisted of just these words “very sheer washes of colors”, “an ethereal ghostly feeling,” “pale girls will love it.” As a daily reader of the LA Times, I had read about the situation in Juarez for years. But that day, not knowing the concept behind the Rodarte fashion line, I did not make the connection between the collection and the ongoing brutality in Mexico.

We left the event with a single item from MAC – a new mascara – and a stack of press releases for most of the summer collections we saw in the sneak peak. On each press release was a North American Release Date, which lets us know when we could post about each collection. Rodarte was not included (nor any other September releases) in the press we received.

If you are a reader of wht, you have seen that we’ve been rolling out images and info from that Sneak Peak Day all summer long, just before the collections became available for sale. When the Rodarte fiasco hit the internet, (after I first picked my jaw up from the floor). I couldn’t help but think:
A) How ill advised the whole collection was.
B) How did I miss that?

After reading all the talk online (and a quick talk with Stef), we decided not to enter the fray until the Embargo Date had passed. In fact, we never discussed the issue with our MAC reps, as we were waiting until closer to the release to get any new information or quotes. IN NO WAY was there a GAG ORDER to not discuss the collection issued from MAC. We decided that since we were being treated on a media level on par with the LA Times; we would behave professionally as well. Meaning we would discuss Rodarte after the Embargo Date – much like a movie or book critic may see/read a piece well before publication, they agree not to reveal details until an agreed date – centered around the release date.

Does it mean that we were going to pretend the collection was puppies and rainbows for the possibility of free makeup? No.

In the meantime, the beauty blogosphere and consumers made their voices heard (check out Temptalia’s post for a lively discussion). Additionally, by the time we discovered the Juarez connection, MAC had already issued an apology and vowed to donate some proceeds to organizations benefiting women in Juarez. Next, they agreed to rename a number of pieces and eventually offered to donate all proceeds to charity. In the end MAC dropped the line (and therefore the embargo date) completely. To write a post about the outrage of this collection, now, seems redundant. I have no problem saying MAC stepped in a big pile of mess with this collection – and I can’t fathom how it made it past the spec boards – but it has all been said (much better than I probably could).

Will I think differently about MAC? Not too much. I do not think that there was a malicious intent behind the collection, just a sad ignorance. And I also feel MAC made quick and genuine overtures to try and correct the mistake (looking your way Target!), which I respected. As a matter of fact, after all the outrage, imo they went too far when they dropped Rodarte. Although they have vowed to still donate all projected profits had they sold the collection, I think they could have made a better impact had they repackaged/renamed the collection, included information about the ongoing injustice in Juarez and donated all those proceeds to humanitarian efforts in the area. I’m afraid that now that the Rodarte Collection is dropped, the situation in Juarez will drop from people’s radars as well.

After all, MAC does have long standing philosophy of spreading awareness of and raising funds for other social cause/charities. From the recycling program to VivaGlam products to outspoken support of numerous social causes, I’ve normally admired MAC the company (not just the makeup). I have been satisfied with their response and samples for wht to review or not, I know I will be purchasing a few upcoming pieces from this company. And not feel guilty while doing it. I’m not a shopper that’s afraid to put my money where my mouth is (again looking your way Target) but do not feel (for me at least) a boycott is called for in this situation. we heartsters, how has the controversy impacted your thoughts on MAC?

Finally, as we stated from Day 1 here at wht, every single item we receive from a PR company for review is acknowledged as such. All reviews (regardless of how we received the product) reflect our findings and honest opinions on the items. If a company we love hits a wrong note, we’ll tell you.

Regardless if you agree or disagree with how we handled the controversy (and if our silence offended anyone, we are sorry) – the situation in Juarez remains the same. MAC has dropped the collection entirely, so now what? How can you make (or continue to make) a difference? I greatly admire the beauty bloggers that spread the word on this situation and called attention to organizations dedicated to making a difference. I hope that our readers will be moved to support some of these organizations working tirelessly to bring peace, stability and justice to the women, men and children of Juarez.

Information and Organizations:
Female Homicides in Ciudad Juárez
• Amnesty International, Justice for Woman of Juarez
The Juarez Project
• National Organization for Woman – Stop the Killing of Women of Juarez – includes samples of letters you can copy and send to your local representatives in congress, plus other resources
• More organazations and links thanks to Healing Beauty via Pink Sith; Let’s Make a Longterm Commitment to the Women of Juarez


  • tyna

    Tyna is a former editor of we heart this that worries about becoming a crazy cat lady, reads at least a book a week, checks in at a Flyers fan forum every morning and is forever organizing her closets and drawers. skin tone: NW 20/25 skin type: combination favorite beauty product: eye shadows and lip balms

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  2. I just read through all the links (wow) … I agree with your thought @Tyna that it may have been hasty for MAC to pull out of the collection entirely as they could have set themselves up to do a lot of good in Juarez had they repackaged. Great post on how to professionally handle responsibilities to press, brands and readership.

  3. I completely agree with everything said in this post. I think it’s a shame to turn down a chance to raise money and awareness for this cause my not selling the product. Yes some of the colors needed to be renamed, but this is something that could have been used for good in the long run. Now MAC just looks like a puppy that’s been kicked and feels it needs to hide in the corner. And I’ll be completely honest, I’m a pale girl who was excited for these colors and I am disappointed that I wont be able to purchase something I would use and do good at the same time.

  4. I was actually disappointed that MAC pulled the line, I had hoped they would do what you said, bring more awareness and rename the line. I don’t think they meant to offend anyone and they really did try to make it better. I’d love to see MAC and some of those very outraged bloggers work together on a campaign for awareness for Juarez.

  5. Just to make it clear, MAC is still donating projected profits. Directly from Temptalia’s posting of their press release:
    “This decision will not impact M·A·C ‘s commitment to donate all of its projected profits from the collection to benefit the women and girls of Juarez”.

    I do wonder what projected profits means. I hope it means projected profits had this collection not been so controversial.

    And I do like @tyna‘s idea of releasing it with included information about the ongoing injustice in Juarez. But honestly, I don’t know if anything could have saved this collection.

  6. Well said and well handled. I agree that MAC made a stupid mistake but did make quick efforts to remedy the situation. I also agree that they should have revamped and released the collection to make some money for the cause and bring attention to this issue. Will I still buy MAC? Absolutely…their products continue to amaze me and as a company, I’ve always respected their recycling efforts and voice on other causes and charities, including the VivaGlam line. They messed up, took responsibility for it, apologized, and moved on…I will too and continue to buy some of my very favorite staples that made me a believer of MAC in the first place.

  7. What a shame that this is how it’s turning out! I hope they make it clear what “donating projected profits” means – that seems awfully open to interpretation. And in my opinion, there was simply no need to go so far as to cancel the whole line. I agree with what all of you have said so far – rename and repackage, include information on how to help (as you have so nicely done @tyna) and then not only is the insensitive problem solved, but people are made aware and given options to help. Finally, I thought the pieces themselves looked stunning – my eye was absolutely drawn to the products themselves. I was horrified to see how they made up the models for the photos though, even before learning of the situation – and then of course doubly horrified afterwards. I have no doubt these products will magically reappear in a new line in the future, they are just too saleable, but I also hope the company is very clear on how they are going to help, now that they’ve gotten themselves involved in the controversy.

  8. I wondered about this…I wonder how all the marketing minds at MAC didn’t think this might be an issue.
    From the look of the pics it looks like it would have been an interesting and pretty line. A rose by another name still smells as sweet. Unfortunately, with the name it got we will never know how sweet it is.

  9. I wasn’t offended by WHT not commenting, mostly because so many other people WERE commenting. There were plenty of outlets for concerned readers to express their views and I don’t think WHT owed anyone a post on this. And seeing how a lot of the posts I read degraded into arguing and missing the important point, I’m glad WHT didn’t make any comment at the time.

    It was a stupid tasteless mistake on MAC’s part, but there are a myriad of reasons for a blog’s silence about the issue and taking offense without knowing the details is just silly and will bring your blood pressure up for no reason.

    And honestly? I’m with @melinda. The ads for the collection completely turned me off before I even read the names and knew the inspiration.

  10. MAC made a mistake, I appreciate their admission of such, and it sounds like they’re doing their best to remedy the situation and turn a negative into a positive—yet another reason why I love MAC.
    I do wish they would go ahead and rename/repackage the line and still make it available w/ proceeds going to Juarez charities…

  11. wht–thank you for explaining your course of action regarding the MAC/Rodarte collection. I appreciate your professionalism, and understand your conflict given the comments made by other blogs.

    I agree with @melinda and @lyssachelle–I was turned off by the Rodarte collection before I even knew about the connection to Juarez. The promotional images of the models really turned me off. I would not have bought anything from the collection, even if it had been revamped and been more beneficial to the victims in Juarez.

    However, I am glad that MAC is doing the right thing. The collection is in poor taste, and while it should never have even reached the point that it did, I think that MAC did the right thing by removing the collection but still making a donation.

    Personally, I will still continue to buy MAC products. I love many of their products, and feel that they have acted appropriately to remedy the situation.

  12. Well said. I wasn’t aware of the request to remain silent or that Pink Sith’s update was addressed to any blogger in particular, but knowing what I do now thanks to this post, I think you chose the professional and appropriate route. Personally I am still not a MAC fan (that hasn’t changed from before the Rodarte controversy), but I do admire the level of awareness they have for global community service. I do think they made a big mistake–something must have fallen through in communication or they just gave the Rodarte sisters too free of a rein–but MAC is picking up the pieces, and in an admirable fashion for any business in this economic climate. I personally still hope that they keep the promotional images at least and put those on display somewhere in each store in order to keep their border town-themed “mistake”–and that whole desperate situation the mistake was “inspired” by–alive.

  13. Well said @tyna. I think that you and @stef handled it quite well. Yes, MAC made a ton of mistakes with this. They simply did not think this through. But I firmly believe that there was no malicious intent. MAC is not a perfect company by any means. But they have done some amazing philanthropy. It is s shame that the Rodarte collection had to be scrapped. I believe that they should have still released it with new names and gone in a slightly less inflammatory direction. It could have been a great tool to raise money and awareness. I was aware of the problem in Juarez for years before this happened. It is a great tragedy. But I know that many, many people are unaware of what is happening there. I know that it may seem trite and callous to use make-up as a symbol of the tragedies that are occurring there. And maybe it is. But if it would have brought attention, given a voice where there was none, and raised money to help- maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing. (Just my two cents.)

  14. Well said, @tyna. I think you have to pick your fights. I was thankful that I had two beauty blogs that could be a sanctuary from the drama and debate. There’s only so much one can take, y’know?

    It was like the one luger who passed away while practicing on the luge course during this Olympics. I was horrified that the media kept playing this young man’s death over and over again. It was horrifying and it wasn’t respectful to the family or the deceased. I’m very sensitive to things like that.

    I was sad that MAC didn’t make pamphlets to put in the packaging informing the public of what’s happening there. I certainly didn’t know of what was happening there until I read the responses from Temptalia’s post.

    However, I must applaud MAC. They took everything and dealt with it with a lot of class.

  15. I can’t believe they dropped the collection altogether! They should have simply renamed the products which needed to be renamed. I think that the collection would have sold pretty well, as from what I’ve seen, the colors and products looked absolutely amazing and I’m thoroughly disappointed that I won’t be able to buy them!

  16. Wow! I had no idea this had happened. Sorry you had to feel some repercussions.

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