Curtains for the window to the soul
Perms, tints and falsies from Japan dress up the eyelash in a myriad of colourful new ways
BARBARA RIGHTON | August 27, 2007 |
If a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Tripoli, some fashionista on Canada's West Coast is bound to cause worse this month by simply batting her eyelashes. That's because Holt Renfrew's Vancouver store has a popular new boutique, the country's first Tokyo Lash Bar, which is the retail outlet for the Japanese makeup line named for famed makeup artist Shu Uemura. It is importing the longest, thickest pair of false eyelashes known to womankind -- more outrageous than the mink-and-diamond-encrusted fringes Madonna wore on her Confessions tour last year, the half-inch-long feathered falsies are as bushy as the underside of a yak. "They are not for everyday," cautions Montrealer Natasha White, the Canadian director of marketing for Shu Uemura.
Eyelashes as fashion accessories first became a craze in Japan two years ago. To bring its line to the U.S., Shu Uemura opened its first eyelash bar in Manhattan in late 2005. In Canada, girlfriends in groups of four or five have been lining up for a pair of Uemura's falsies since the Vancouver Holt's opened the Tokyo Lash Bar last spring.(A second bar will open at its main Toronto store in the new year.)The trend has also spawned a slew of salon services, including eyelash tints and perms. For the latter, aestheticians use a small plastic roller to apply a perming solution on lashes, producing not a wave but a curl similar to the one women get by using eyelash curlers. Perming costs about $60 and lasts about three weeks.
Long flirty lashes have long been synonymous with feminine beauty. Cartoon character Betty Boop batted them famously in the 1930s, as did Twiggy in the '60s. But trends come and go. Explains Toronto-based makeup artist Diana Carreiro, "In the '80s and '90s, many women got used to more natural makeup. Now fashion's gone back to the 1940s. Think Rita Hayworth or Bette Davis. Big brows. Big lashes. Full-on glam."
White also credits the Asian influence for the new popularity of false eyelashes. "Asians are big on them because their lashes tend to be very short," she says. "Now that everything Asian itself is trendy, the look has come to the runways." Gucci, Cavalli and Valentino all featured voluminous lashes in their fall 2007 shows. Other makeup companies offer their own versions, but Uemura is the czar. White says his 26 different false eyelashes are currently the top-selling category in a cosmetics line that offers 460 products at more than 330 stores worldwide. Uemura got his start in Hollywood movies, transforming such stars as Shirley Maclaine into Asian beauties for My Geisha, before Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall started buying his products for off-screen appearances. More recently, Jennifer Lopez donned his fox-fur eyelashes for an Academy Awards appearance. Madonna followed suit with the mink-and-diamond version.(Uemura will duplicate them -- yes, in real mink with real diamonds -- for US$10,000.)
If falsies or eyelash perms don't appeal, there is another option, at least in the U.S.: surgically implanted eyelashes that will grow every bit as long as the most outrageous falsies. For US$3,000 per eye, pioneering Boca Raton, Fla., doctor Alan Bauman surgically removes hair follicles from the nape of the neck and sews them into the eyelid -- where the hair continues to grow and needs to be regularly trimmed. Bauman claims his procedure is "the new frontier of cosmetic surgery," but other doctors are not so sure. Dr. James Oestreicher, an oculoplastic surgeon and associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Toronto, is not interested in discussing them. "Transplants don't work very well," he says flatly. "False eyelashes work well."
They're also, as it turns out, more enjoyable. The fun isn't in fiddling around with glue and tweezers in the privacy of one's bedroom. At the Tokyo Lash Bar, stocked with lashes in browns and blacks as well as cherry red and tangerine orange, women sit on barstools within full sight of passersby on Granville Street and have their lashes professionally applied by one of the bar's four makeup pros. The cost varies between $19 and $65, but Shu Uemura reps will put them back on seven more times for free "before gluey build-up becomes too much," says White.
Still, Uemura says the more demure lashes in his line look like the wearer's own -- as long as they don't come unglued. Cautions the artist himself, "Nothing looks more unnatural than false eyelashes that come unattached."