Helmut Red Gives Good Face
Last night’s Eran Shakine opening-turned-Helmut Red lipstick launch at Nolita’s Openhouse gallery brought together several disparate parties to celebrate art, beauty, and the spirit of collaboration. “The art came first,” curator and feminist author Periel Aschenbrand insisted, referring to a selection of original work from the Israeli painter, which, along with vintage cosmetics ads, covered the walls of the downtown Manhattan space. “My thing is to have limited-edition, exclusive work from photographers, artists, designers,” she explained of House of Exposure, her newly launched Web concept boutique that was having its unofficial launch party.
While the art may have come first, the makeup on display came in a close second. “The beauty element was supposed to be promotional,” Lipstick Queen founder Poppy King explained of Helmut Red, the glossy crimson pigment that has taken on a life of its own and that she created at Aschenbrand’s request to help inspire Shakine’s work. The third part of the equation, Jenny Shimizu, brought everything together. “It’s women-empowered,” the nineties supe said of the trio’s intentions—with the lipstick, the Helmut homage, and the relationship they have cultivated with Bantwana, a nonprofit that works to improve the life of women and children affected by HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. “We feel really committed to [them],” Aschenbrand pointed out, explaining how a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Helmut Red (inspired by her own admiration for Helmut Newton—his book White Women specifically) would benefit the organization.
“The sad thing is, I never got to work with [Newton],” Shimizu lamented as she stood underneath imposing nude images of herself shot by Mark Seliger, holding—and wearing—an oversized version of the red lipstick that has been attributed to the famed photographer (Shimizu admitted that she doesn’t really wear much makeup, save for a cream blush that Bobbi Brown personally picked out for her). But that hasn’t stopped her from aspiring to embody the kind of woman Newton often portrayed. “We want to represent strength and beauty,” she said of herself and her cohorts. “The lipstick is only an extra additive to what we are inside…women you don’t want to fuck with.”
Photo: Courtesy of House of Exposure