This post is not having a dig at the brand or attacking any of the staff. The staff at MAC work really hard and if the company was better independent, compared to now, it's the fault of Estee Lauder management, not the workers who work for them.
Writing this post hasn't been easy as the information pre Lauder is very scarce. People my age and younger won't remember any of this at all. I've got my info from asking on different makeup artists on Facebook who used to work for MAC back in the day. They have managed to tell me what they remember about the company. There are a few makeup forums that have some info too.
|MAC Eyeshadows (current packaging)|
MAC stands for Makeup Artist Cosmetics and was started by makeup artist and photographer - Frank Toskan and beauty salon owner, Frank Angelo in Toronto in 1984. They came up with a studio makeup line that would fulfill their professional needs. Back then, the two were frustrated that there was a lack of color that would shoot well with photography. The makeup was made in their kitchen and sold in their beauty salon. The first customers were models, photographers and fellow makeup artists. Then came the stylists and editors, the makeup brand just grew from there.
|Frank Angelo and Frank Toskan|
The staff were professional makeup artists and over time the brand just grew. Madonna wore MAC's Russian Red lipstick on stage on her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990. Russian Red is still available today, it's a proper old skool color. MAC was the first brand in history to invest in it's staff's training and education. Instead of making sales through traditional advertising, sampling and gifts with purchase, MAC relied on the integrity of it's carefully formulated product line.
Then Estee Lauder came along and decided to purchase a percentage of MAC. In 1998, Lauder bought the remaining shares of the company and MAC was no longer an independent brand.
So you're probably wondering what changed since it got bought by Lauder. A lot, it seems. First off is product quality. I've heard many people saying over the years the quality of the products in going down, especially with the company bringing out all these endless collections. The original price of a MAC lipstick in the 90s was $8, as soon as Estee Lauder bought the company the price went up a lot. If you are familiar with the packaging of the lippies you will know they come in bullet packaging with a plastic turn mechanism. When MAC was an independent brand the actual tubes were made out of metal and not plastic. Plus in the box packaging, the lipstick used to get wrapped in black tissue paper.
MAC still make some great products. I love their eyeshadows, blushers and lipsticks. Plus I'm a fan of their blot powder. Although I wouldn't call the products that they bring out these days pro standards any more. They seem to spend more time bringing out all of these limited editions, rather than concentrating on a good line of permanent products. It should be about quality, not quantity. This once was the case before Lauder, these endless limited editions and often gimmicky collections didn't happen.
The pigments of the colors were just insane and the original MAC brushes were so much better than they are today.
To be fair it's not just MAC that went wrong. I've heard that the quality of Bobbi Brown went downhill when Lauder bought that brand too.
|MAC Lipsticks (current packaging)|
MAC Pro Was Always Free
The MAC pro programme also used to be free. If you are familiar with makeup artistry you will know that MAC offers a programme for qualified makeup artists who are working in the industry. For a fee you can get a MAC Pro Card which gives you a good discount. Back in the day this used to be free. Under Estee Lauder the Pro Programme is now one you have to pay for. Although I did get told by a makeup artist on Facebook that the programme is now going to be free once more.
When MAC was it's own company it used to spend a lot of time giving it's staff excellent and extensive training. They also used to hire staff based on their actual talent, and not just their retail experience. The staff back then were made up of well trained artists who would happily let you play with the testers and not pressure you to buy them. Don't get me wrong, there are some very talented people at MAC, but now under the control of Lauder they seem to put sales experience before talent. Very often if you go to the MAC counters in different places you just get a high pressure sales environment. Estee Lauder seem to put more priority on sales, rather than the products itself. These days they seem to be concerned with hiring mainly sales people and not artists.
Too Much Focus On Sales And Not Artistry
Before MAC was bought, sales goals weren't a huge factor and pressure sales to customers were non existent.
An artist back then could exercise their artistic strengths without fear of getting fired. Focus was on artistry and not pushing paper. The products were so good they would often sell themselves. MAC used to have some great artists working for them and when pushing paper became the main thing they left, with only a few staying.
Back then the staff were hugely talented. Now it's not the same. There are some good people still working for MAC who do have talent, but I have heard and read about people finding the staff cannot do makeup properly, yet they can sell anything to anyone. A number of people have said they have been put off having makeup done at MAC because some of the staff look like clowns.
I've mentioned above that the lipsticks used to be made of actual metal packaging rather than plastic. Did you know that the eyeshadows used to to come in durable screw top pots.
The brushes also used to be far better quality than they are now. Today MAC brushes are still good, but back then they used to be far better.
And finally there is animal testing. MAC sadly is no longer cruelty free, thanks to Estee Lauder putting profit before ethics. The brand now sells in China. If a brand wants to sell their products there, Chinese law requires that the products are tested on animals. It's not just MAC either, but the other Lauder brands too. Pamela Anderson once was a Viva Glam Spokesperson for MAC in 2004 and she actually wrote a letter to the president of Estee Lauder - John Demsey, saying how disappointed she was. Check out her letter here.
To be fair on Estee Lauder, it's not just them as other big makeup companies are just as guilty for animal testing too. L'Oreal is another big company that owns a lot of brands including Urban Decay. A few years back Urban Decay announced they were going to sell in China. Loads of people said they would boycott the brand if they did. This led to Urban Decay changing their mind and they are still cruelty free.
So this is how MAC used to be before it got bought by Estee Lauder. From what I've been told by people who used to work for MAC back then, the company was far better. To me it seems as if Estee Lauder have killed a brand that was once amazing and changed it into something else. I don't remember the original MAC, but it sure did sound a lot better. If only I had a time machine, I could go back and check it all out.
Death by Estee Lauder. RIP MAC x
Note: Image taken from Eating Lipsticks