Several years ago, Dove rocked the beauty industry with a video illustrating how the industry plays loosely with truth when it comes to models. Although the “photoshopping” of magazine covers and spreads had been common knowledge throughout the industry (and probably known by anyone who had ever used Photoshop), the public backlash created a profound effect.


A number of other people have taken it upon themselves to look further at the issue and its pervasiveness continues to have the same profound influence on our perception of primarily women in the context of contemporary beauty.

The conflict between the beauty industry and our social construction of “beauty” continues to permeate the agenda of culture. It is interesting when the industry takes the initiative, especially when the organisation that is making such a big splash is Selfridges.  For our American readers, Selfridges is what Ari Gold did after he left Entourage.

Selfridge’s audacity and acumen made him and his store legendary in London.  Now they are at it again with the Beauty Project, a “self-critical” look at the beauty industry.  What drew me to this was the window displays.

The Fragrance Lab

The Beauty Lab

The Beauty Lab

Of all the senses, smell has the greatest connection to memory.  Many have shared the experience of walking past someone wearing the scent of a friend, a lover and being immediately transported back to that time and place of happiness.  Additionally, we have the great book, Perfume, by Patrick Suskind, which looks at a man without any scent of his own.  He is unnoticeable.  We have many things that identify us – our face, our voice, our fingerprints – but our scent may be the only one that people remember us by (I seem to smell Benedictus’ pipe smoke all too often.  He complains that I smell like an ashtray full of Chanel No. 5…)

Selfridge is experimenting with something called The Fragrance Lab.  The Lab purports to look at your personality and character, as well as your fragrance preferences to craft the perfect eau de toi.  Having not taken part in the immersive experience, one wonders what they could make for you outside of the realms of the top, middle, and base notes, but the quest for personalisation extends to every aspect of our modern lifestyle.  Maybe we can sated the problem of individual identity through smell.


The Windows

A quick gallery showing all of the windows:

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The Beauty Project runs for 6 weeks until 12 June.  Attached to these visual window projects is a list of speakers covering subjects such as make-up techniques to historical conceptions of being beautiful and ugly.  One of the more interesting and a theme in this particular post is Dove’s discussion on both the positive and negative effects of social media on self-esteem. Self(ie) is the ultimate irony as it asks is this the ultimate expression of self-esteem, or something else altogether? Panellists taking part in the debate include author of the Ugly Little Girl series and Huffington post contributor Elizabeth Kesses, Dr Philippa Diedrichs and Mumsnet co-founder Carrie Longton.

Check out more of the events here