Fashion, make-up lines inspired by Ciudad Juarez spark apology

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The U.S. cosmetics company MAC, owned by Estee Lauder, and fashion house Rodarte have apologized for a controversial make-up line with product names such as ‘Quinceanera,’ ‘Ghost Town,’ ‘Factory,’ and ‘Juarez,’ making reference to the border city wracked by ongoing drug-related violence and a wave of killings of women.

The MAC make-up line of lipsticks and nail polishes was set for launch this fall. It was created in collaboration with Rodarte, founded by sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who are part Mexican and have said their recent clothing collection was inspired by Ciudad Juarez. MAC Cosmetics and Rodarte came under criticism in recent weeks for names in their collaborative make-up line. One lifestyle blog called it ‘horribly wrong’ and ‘tasteless,’ noting that the product line refers to the Juarez maquiladora factories where women work for meager pay.

‘Juarez is an impoverished Mexican factory town notorious for the number of women between the ages of 12 and 22 who have been raped and murdered with little or no response from police,’ said The Frisky.


Writer Sarah Menkedick, who lives in Mexico, made this critique: ‘In a sweep of total insouciance, for chic U.S. women, ‘Factory’ is an abstract consumable concept, a shade of mint frost, whereas for Mexican women in maquiladoras, it’s a sweaty, oppressive place where they’re frequently harassed, threatened, raped, and killed.’

The make-up line was created in conjunction with Rodarte’s latest fall/winter collection, presented earlier this year at New York Fashion Week. The L.A. Times fashion blog All the Rage noted that ‘the designers were inspired by the idea of workers in Mexican maquiladoras walking half-asleep to the factories in Juarez, after dressing in the dark.’

If the dresses shown in the photo above don’t strike you as how a sleep-deprived worker on the U.S.-Mexico border might be inspired to dress, you’re probably not alone. Below is a photo of two working women from a recent exhibit on photography in Ciudad Juarez by the newspaper El Diario de Juarez, previously featured on La Plaza. has photos of the collection and the Mulleavy sisters’ explanation on the Juarez and maquiladora influence on their fashion line. The lifestyle blog Jezebel argued: ‘Rodarte has done collections inspired by Japanese horror movies (they made dresses dyed so that they looked like they were bleeding), but there’s a huge difference between aestheticizing fictional violence and aestheticizing real violence.’

In response to the criticism, MAC said in a statement posted on Facebook on Friday that it will donate all global profits from the limited-edition make-up line to a ‘newly created initiative to raise awareness and provide on-the-ground support to the women and girls in Juarez.’

The statement came after a meeting in Mexico City between MAC officials and representatives of Mexico’s commission on violence against women, the cosmetics company said. ‘MAC executives reiterated their deep regret and reinforced that it was never MAC’s or Rodarte’s intent to minimize the suffering of the women and girls of Ciudad Juarez.’

The MAC and Rodarte companies said they would be renaming the products.

Violence against women remains a critical social issue in Ciudad Juarez. In January, a prominent human rights activist named Josefina Reyes was shot dead during an attempted kidnapping, sparking protests.

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Top: Montage of designs from the fall/winter 2010-2011 Rodarte fashion line, inspired by Ciudad Juarez. Credit: Modo / Bottom: Two women in Ciudad Juarez. Credit: ‘Las Otras Batallas,’ El Diario de Juarez.