I think cosmetics are generally related to class. Beauty is associated with wealth and appearing more beautiful through cosmetic enhancements is a way to climb social ladders. It was my thesis that the Sephora store, with its interactive displays, encouraged people from different backgrounds and cultures to interact with one another more successfully than any Relational Aesthetic art project. I see Sephora as a democratic space where women from any social background can buy the same $34 Yves Saint Laurent lipstick without being intimidated by the exclusive luxury of the traditional department store counter. They do this by displaying all of their products in an “open sell” environment, which means that you can touch every product and sample things without having to interact with a salesperson. They also utilize no-pressure sales tactics and have an open return policy, this combined with special events, DJs, and welcoming product displays, creates a space where shoppers can spend an extended period of time with each other bonding over their shared interest in cosmetic products – I’ve given hugs to strangers in these stores. Cosmetic products are a way for the lower-middle class to participate in the same consumption of luxury brands as the upper-middle class. If you can’t afford an Yves Saint Laurent handbag you can probably afford the $34.00 lipstick.
-Cindy Hinant, interview with Kathy Battista, New York New Wave: Feminist Artists in Emerging Practices, London: IB Taurus, 2019.