THE BEAUTY BLACKOUT



The Eyes of Tom Ford Collection - Part 2: An In-Depth Review of the Private Shadows


So you may have wondered, after reading Rachel's post, whether I managed to resist the temptation to buy any Tom Ford Private Shadows of my own. Or maybe you've just suspected I've been keeping it on the down-low. If you guessed the latter, you're right and if you guessed the former, I'm gonna assume this is your first time reading The Beauty Blackout. I have no self discipline when it comes to makeup, especially makeup of the Tom Ford variety. And yes, I confess I have not been immune to getting sucked into the Tom Ford Private Shadow black hole that I'm sure some of The Beauty Blackout's readers have become familiar with.

*At the time this post was originally published, I was already 19 Private Shadows in deep. By March, I'd acquired another 5, and by May, I guess I finally figured I'd been putting off updating this post long enough. So here you are: one long-ass review of 24 of Tom Ford's 30 Private Shadows.

In this post, I'll be discussing my thoughts on the Eyes of Tom Ford collection as a whole. There will be plenty of pictures - pan pics and swatches - as well as (hopefully) helpful reviews of each of the shades I own. I'll explain why I didn't buy the six remaining shades - God knows I've swatched and debated them thoroughly enough. Ideally, this post will direct you towards the standouts in this collectiom. For those of our readers who are also diehard Tom Ford junkies, I own most of the eye quads (permanent and dc-ed), all of those awesome wet/dry duos, all the cream shadows except Illicit, the Warm Eye & Cheek palette from the 2016 Winter Soleil collection, and the Soleil d'Ambre Eye & Cheek Palette released for Spring '18. So if you need comparison swatches, just give me a shout.

The Private Shadow collection was divided into five different finishes, each including six different shades. This post has been organised accordingly.

A Beauty Blackout Revelation:

Before jumping into the shadows, we should probably draw attention to the (brilliant) finding we stumbled upon - namely, that The Eyes of Tom Ford Collection appears to have been inspired by the cinema. Who could possibly have guessed with the addition of two brand new mascaras called, respectively, Shutter Lash and Fullscreen Mascara?

Perhaps, it isn't so unsurprising in light of the fact that Tom Ford is quite the cinephile himself - some of our readers may know that he is even an aspiring auteur. In 2017, we saw the release of Nocturnal Animals (and - kudos to us - both managed to stay awake for roughly the first 20 minutes of it.) Our point is that the creative team at Tom Ford has attempted to slip in stealthy allusions to films and/or filmography while naming the products in this collection. Naturally they are no match for us. Who is when it comes to stealthiness? Therefore, in this post, we have endeavoured to reveal the inspiration behind the shade names*, reflect on how much they are reflected in the actual product, and (hopefully) give you a bit of a laugh.

*where possible.

The UltraSuede Shadows

As a huge fan of Tom Ford’s matte eyeshadow formula (which, admittedly is mostly limited to the Cocoa Mirage quad but whatever), I was initially incredibly disappointed when I first swatched the UltraSuede Private Shadows. I don't know if it was the particular testers that were left out at my counter (which I was the first person to swatch, natch) or if the inconsistent formula is due to a more general, quality-control related issue. I am leaning more towards the latter because, based on (admittedly anecdotal) information, it seems that the UltraSuedes were a let-down for a lot of people. I ended up buying five out of the six shades: two online and three from my counter. I was pleased with all but one of them, the dud being Blonde Venus.

Unless you're addicted to TF (I sympathise) and/or you own the Cocoa Mirage quad, I’ll go out on a limb and say that you can probably give all of the UltraSuedes a skip. If you DON’T own Cocoa Mirage and are in the market for lovely, everyday neutrals, it’s sort of a no-brainer: just buy Cocoa Mirage instead**. You get way better bang for your buck for starters: 10g of product/per quad vs. a measly 1.2g per single.

Second - unlike the UltraSuede shadows - the Cocoa Mirage eye quad is a safe bet. In terms of quality, you can rest assured knowing that it's worth the cash you handed over. Meanwhile, a few of the UltraSuedes were inconsistent in terms of quality. In the official ad copy for The Eyes of Tom Ford Collection, the UltraSuedes are described as “completely matte, no pearl”. To be fair, that description isn't incorrect. However, in my experience, the UltraSuedes are certainly not the same formula as the mattes in the permanent quads, which I think are a tad inconsistent anyway. The Private Shadows are less powdery, and have, in general, a denser, creamier texture that can be built up to near-full opacity.

As someone who’s long been hoping for a cool brown + taupe Tom Ford quad made up of just mattes, no glitter shades (Orchid Haze currently functions as the ‘cool’ version of Cocoa Mirage for me), the UltraSuedes wera the finish I was looking forward to the most. They didn't wow me straight off the bat but, after I finally bit the bullet and ordered my own, I found they grew on me quickly. I use either Vertigo or Starlet as a crease shade almost everyday. Did I need these shadows? No. But I'm the type of person who doesn't differentiate much between my needs and my wants. As a general rule, I get what I want, although it may not be what I need. Onto the shadows.


01 Naked City

Upon my first attempt at swatching it, Naked City, was so unmemorable that I couldn't possibly have said anything substantial about it or else I'd have been guilty of embellishment. The tester quite literally left no impression on me (as in, the surface was so hard and dry, I wasn’t able to get enough pigment on my finger to swatch it properly.)

Along with Blonde Venus, Naked City was the last Private Shadow I bought/intend to buy. When I opened the box to swatch the shadow, it was with some trepidation and I admit that I steeled myself for the worst. Buuuut....it wasn't bad. At all. In fact, Naked City is an absolutely lovely take on alabaster, with a hint of pink in its undertones. The texture is A+ and it swatched like a dream - smoothly and with zero skipping.

Top to bottom: Naked City, Blonde Venus

As for the inspiration behind 'Naked Victory', our investigation has pointed us towards a certain 1948 film noir, set in New York City. The plot (in brief) involves two detectives investigating the death of an attractive blonde model named Jean Dexter. The apparent suicide turns out to be....cue suspenseful music....murder. Miss Dexter, we learn, was subdued with chloroform and then drowned in her bathtub on a hot New York summer's night. Tagline of the film: "The Most Exciting Story of the World's Most Exciting City." Any Londoners here? What do you make of that bold claim?

02 Blonde Venus

Blonde Venus is the name of a 1932 Josef von Sternberg film, in which Marlene Dietrich stars as a mother by day and a moonlighting cabaret singer by night. What's up with the moonlighting? Fair question. Well, it turns out that Dietrich's character is the sole breadwinner of her family of three - responsible not just for taking care of her young son, but also for footing her sickly (and incredibly ungrateful) husband's medical bills.

After becoming the mistress of a wealthy playboy - that would be Cary Grant, of course - tensions escalate and Dietrich's character struggles to reconcile her conflicting roles. The film certainly sounds (melo)dramatic but how does the eyeshadow hold up?

Meh sums it up. Blonde Venus, the private shadow, is a shade or two darker than Naked City. It's a warm sandy beige, not quite a tan. Compared to Naked City, the texture was abysmal. Chalky, hard and almost impossible to pick up any pigment from despite several firm finger swipes. As for the colour pay off, let's just say it's hard to discern much but from what I can make out, the state of affairs is pretty darn dismal. My advice: give Blonde Venus a skip. (There are other opportunities for moonlighting in this collection.)

Top to bottom and left to right: Naked City, Blonde Venus

03 Vertigo

Vertigo is, of course, the title of the best film ever made, so we shouldn't need to give you a synopsis. Just go watch it if you somehow haven't done so already. As in, go watch it, like....NOW. Ahem.

Given the above, it should come as no surprise that our expectations for Vertigo (the Tom Ford eyeshadow) were incredibly lofty. One might even say....vertiginous. Excuse the pun.

Amongst the UltraSuede shadows, there were a couple I absolutely wanted to love - namely, Vertigo and Dark Victory. Why Vertigo? Well, it only happens to be my favourite film ever made, although you probably aren't too surprised to discover that random fact of the day. Vertigo was, from the very beginning, in my top three 'definitely gonna buy' shades from the Eyes of Tom Ford collection.

However, on my first trip to the counter to check out the Private Shadows (yes, I was there on the day of their release in Singapore, and I also arrived 20 mins early. No shame), I was beyond disappointed with both Vertigo and Dark Victory. ‘Swatching’ them was all but impossible. Even with a firm shader brush they simply refused to spread smooth pigment upon my skin, instead just kicking up alot of invisible dust.

Not one to be deterred so easily, I made several return trips to my regular Tom Ford counter to revisit the entire collection, particularly the less impressive performers I had encountered the first time around. (Yes, those would be the UltraSuedes.). My last return trip was yesterday, as in actually yesterday. I am sorry to report that the state of affairs did not seem to have improved although Vertigo perhaps merits one last visit (to your local TF counter, not necessarily in Singapore.) Yesterday, Vertigo performed marginally better than it had on previous occasions. There was actually visible pigment! On the downside, the texture was very powdery once I’d worn off the top layer with the pad of my finger, and yet still I really needed to swipe hard several times. Vertigo is a cool very bluish grey. I’m absolutely in awe of the rich, densely pigmented swatches that several bloggers and/or vloggers have posted on the Internet of Vertigo. However, my experience with Vertigo has been absolutely the opposite. (EDIT: SEE BELOW.)

Edit: I ordered Vertigo early this morning. I just couldn't resist its allure, and you know, it really is the exact same shade of grey as Madeleine's suit is in the film. Fair enough?

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Vertigo has arrived and so I'm back here to deliver the verdict, as promised. I am thrilled to report that Vertigo (at least the one I received - no promises about all batches) is fantastic. Rachel and I had our eyes on Vertigo as soon as the shades were released and we can't lie - it was one heck of a bummer that it turned out to be such a dud. At first. Then, one might say, I witnessed the transformation of a pedestrian Judy Barton into a mesmerising Madeleine Elster. (If you're confused, you clearly ignored our advice to stop reading and watch the damn film. Do it.)

However, the swatch pictured above is two firm finger swipes of Vertigo, and you can see that it's densely pigmented, creamy and opaque. It's a fantastic cool shade for defining the crease (shadows like this are hard to find these days). I retract my criticism about the tester at my counter, but I will note that the disparity in quality is probably something to keep in mind. Tom Ford and Estée Lauder - you really need to get on the quality control wagon.

04 Starlet

For collection purposes, I had to buy at least one UltraSuede, initial misgivings be damned (I couldn’t walk away without buying a shadow from each finish in the collection. It would have been antithetical to my approach to makeup.) Starlet ended up being my pick. It seems appropriate too as the shade name sums up the UltraSuede theme - old Hollywood. After my initial, nightmarish swatch season, there was no ambiguity in my mind - Starlet was the strongest performer of the mattes (in my opinion.) Therefore, Starlet was going to come home with me. Fair enough?

Anyway, moving on to the shadow itself: Starlet is a more than serviceable neutral fawn brown with a smooth, if ever so slightly dusty, texture. It works well for defining the crease. Yes, the colour itself is rather generic, and I would definitely not call this a must-have shade - while it works great as a crease and transition colour, it's very dupeable. Unless you’re a fanatic, you can skip this. It is a workhorse shade though.

The closest dupe to Starlet is the upper right shade in Cocoa Mirage (henceforth CM No. 2). Starlet is warmer while CM No. 2 has a cooler cast and is slightly darker. The latter is also smoother and softer in terms of texture.

05 Dark Victory

Dark Victory is another Hollywood classic, a 1939 film starring Bette Davis as a hedonistic, horsey heiress who is rather improbably diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, and given eight months to live. Derisively billed as a weepy melodrama for the ladies - the "mascara was running freely" at the premiere, said the then New York Times film reviewer - Dark Victory ended up being a hit.


It was a film that was capable of truly capturing one's emotions - a characteristic that Dark Victory, the Tom Ford eyeshadow, is utterly incapable of doing. I really have nothing good to say about this eyeshadow (important note: keep on reading...), although I will say that Humphrey Bogart looks awfully fine in that photo up there.

But back to the makeup - I have always firmly believed that there is no such thing as owning too many matte dark brown eyeshadows. They are simply indispensable. This made justifying Dark Victory easy peasy, before I even swatched it. My experience at the counter was not great, i.e. consistent with the rest of the UltraSuedes. However, once I gave in and ordered it, I discovered that....you can probably guess what's next....Dark Victory was, in fact, a victory. I use this shade frequently - it's an incredibly versatile cool medium-dark brown with hints of grey. Perfect for defining the outer v. I would even go so far as to say that Dark Victory wins the award for best UltraSuede. Yep. I'm glad I gave in.

06 Nightcast

Should I start with the Ford shadow or the film that inspired it? Film, you say? That's what I thought. You don't want to miss this one, btw.

Nightcast is the name of an evidently rather niche Swiss film from 1997. Why niche? Well, we know little besides the fact that its plot involves "a secret military project" in which "a dying police officer is turned into a dark avenger, with the power of 10 men and the emotional bandwidth of a small child." That's actually the official synopsis from IMDB, by the way. And yes, I too suspect that the synopsis is probably the work of Google translate, butchering the original German (yes, this is a German film, from that part of Switzerland) into barely comprehensible English.

I have long considered Switzerland a pretty sketch country - if you want my detailed thoughts, feel free to get in touch, or just leave a comment below - so I don’t mind the fact that the ominous black darkness of Nightcast (the film) sits in strong juxtaposition with the picturesque alpine landscape and annoyingly prosperous GDP per capita of the Switzerland we are more familiar with. Oh, leave a comment if you too have gone on a school ski trip to Switzerland, only to end up with a fractured ankle three days in, and nothing else to do but (not) eat their disgusting fondue.

Okay, the shadow. (This just feels a little anticlimactic but oh well...so was my Swiss ski trip.) Nightcast was the only UltraSuede shadow besides Starlet which had a good texture, almost opaque finish and an acceptable level of pigmentation. But, I mean, really, at the end of the day, it’s simply a matte black eyeshadow and I, for one, have a gazillion eyeshadows meeting that description, most of them just-as-good performers as Nightcast, if not better. So I skipped this one. I will, however, be looking for the film on Netflix.

Verdict: If you must buy an UltraSuede, buy Vertigo or Starlet. But if you’re looking for matte neutrals and don't yet own Cocoa Mirage, I strongly recommend buying the quad over a bunch of the UltraSuedes. You’re almost guaranteed to love Cocoa Mirage. NO guarantees about the single shadows.

The Suedes

The suede finish, which is supposedly new to the Eyes of Tom Ford Collection, is described as a “demi-matte with subtle pearl.” Quality was consistent for most of the shades with a couple of notable exceptions, which were the ones I, erm, bought anyway because: Tom Ford, limited edition, Pokémon mindset, etc. Read on to find out the full story on the Suede shadows.

*The shade I did not purchase was actually a strong performer, if a little too reminiscent of the orange hue one's skin takes on with regular use of Jergens self tanning body lotion.

01 Hush

Hush is a bone-coloured shade with a faint pink tinge that makes a fantastic base for the rest of your eyeshadow (qualifier: if you fall within the N10-N25 range of the spectrum). It’s a great one-and-done shade for those mornings which are basically a race against the clock. Sweep Hush onto your lids for a simple, polished effect. On me, it’s a shade or two darker than my skintone so the effect is muted rather than jarringly bright.

It has a fabulous finish - the lack of shimmer makes it perfect for daytime use (no matter how stuffy your office dress code is.) Yet while Hush isn't overtly shimmery, it also isn't a flat matte - it has a soft, subtle sheen that brightens up eyes and just makes you look fresh. (You didn't hear it from me, btw, but Hush is perfect for anyone going for a ‘no-makeup ‘makeup look.)

As for the inspiration behind the shadow, there's no doubt in our minds that it's a reference to the 1998 psychological thriller 'Hush' starring a young (pre-GOOP!) Gwyneth Paltrow, and a wonderfully campy Jessica Lange. Lange is the devious, controlling mother-in-law (are there any other types of MILs?) of Helen a.k.a. Gwyneth. There's a bit of an Oedipal complex thing going on because evil-MIL Martha doesn't want her son and Helen even sharing the same bedroom. Martha is willing to put up with conjugal relations - for the sake of the family estate - and Helen provides a convenient womb for the desired heir to be incubated in. Martha doesn't seem to care about a spare because once the child is born....well, we won't spoil it for you. Rachel's a fan of the film, I haven't watched it but I should note that it got absolutely panned by the late Roger Ebert who called it "...one of those Devouring Woman movies where the villainess never plays a scene without a drink and a cigarette, and the hero is inattentive to the victim to the point of dementia." I'm game to watch just to see if it really is that bad.

Of course, the name could also be a reference to the way you'd say "Hush!" to a particularly noisy popcorn-eater in a movie theatre. We're going with the film interpretation though.

02 Burnt Suede:

When I swatched Burnt Suede at the counter, it was absolute love at first swipe. Trying it on at home the next day , I confess that I had second thoughts. I wondered if this was one of those eyeshadows. You know - the ones that swatch beautifully, but look like nothing on your lids. I am happy to report that I was wrong. I suspect that I was initially underwhelmed partly because of Burnt Suede's texture, which is unbelievably creamy. It is definitely not the type of eyeshadow you can pack onto your lids firmly with a shader brush. Well, at least not without some heavy duty primer, and I don’t do eye primer. It's an elegant, discreet wash of cool taupe that feels as expensive as its price tag is.

Oh, I also think Burnt Suede makes a wonderful crease shade, IF you don’t mind branching out beyond non-mattes for that area (rules, schmules, I say). And I am not kidding about the texture. As soon as I swatched Burnt Suede - and it was probably the first or second shade I picked up - I told the SA at the counter, “yep, I’m getting this one” - zero hesitation. The texture was what sold me, I admit, but the colour, albeit understated, is simply lovely - a neutral taupe with a touch of mink-like grey. While Burnt Suede may be muted and best suited as a wash or to add soft definition to the crease, its simplicity is what makes it a must have. I don’t think you can go wrong with this one. I reach for it almost everyday.

By the way, we couldn't find any films related to the name 'Burnt Suede'. Since Tom Ford loves recycling the same words in product names (Haze, Smoke, Violet, etc), we're thinking it could be a new perfume or cologne. Any takers?

03 Loveshade:

I picked this one up purely because it was one of the stronger ones in terms of formula. Loveshade is quite a warm pink, bordering on coral, and definitely not the kind of colour I frequently gravitate to wearing. Nevertheless, balanced out with a palette of neutral beiges and soft browns, it can be incorporated into a warm take on a neutral eye. I'm sure there are many other ways to wear Loveshade more dramatically however I prefer to use it sparingly, mostly because I’m not quite sure pink eyeshadow is the best look on me. In terms of texture, I would rank Loveshade up there with Burnt Suede, as one of the highest performers of the Suede shadows. It has an ultra-soft, creamy texture that is a pleasure to work with.

I have no idea what the film/cultural reference is with regard to this shade either. Two in a row is a little embarassing. If you have any ideas, please do comment below.

04 Agenda Rouge:

Again, Agenda Rouge swatched better after I'd plonked down $34 for it (as opposed to the three times I tried it out at the counter.) I'm generally wary of red eyeshadow but Agenda Rouge is a wearable muted plummy red, with cooler rather than super-warm undertones. It has a hint of burgundy in it. Generally, I find the warm reds and oranges that are currently on trend extremely unflattering (lab rat-like, to be blunt) but I find myself reaching for Agenda Rouge quite often. Texture-wise, it kicks up a touch too much powder but it's nothing I'm particularly bothered by. This was one of the riskier shade for me, but I'm glad I took the chance of lookinh like a lab-rat and gladder still that I don't resemble one wearing it.

Agenda Rouge sounds exactly like the name of a film. Spoiler: it's not. 'Agenda' is the French term for 'diary'.

That is all.

05 Videotape:

Videotape was a rollercoaster ride of a shade. It went from must-buy to ‘oh my god, they have the tester but no stock!’ to '..oh, this disappointing to ‘I think I’m getting it anyway’. As things currently stand, I really like Videotape. I am glad I bought it and I think if you’re on the fence about this one, chances are you’ll end up really liking it too. Part of me thinks that Videotape would have worked better as a sateen - if it had more of a soft, creamy finish, it would be almost perfect. However, Videotape straddled the middle of the Suedes in terms of quality. As you use it and get deeper down within the pan, the texture improves noticeably but at first, it doesn’t seem completely even. This is made more jarring by the seemingly random decision to add a smattering of shimmer particles to the mix. While they aren’t very visible on your lids, the shimmer certainly shows up in the pan and in swatches. The colour is gorgeous though, albeit one that is going to pull more reddish or purple-y depending on your undertones.

On me, this is a cooler, plummier brown - it has the faintest trace of red in it but by no means is it pronounced. However on people with warmer undertones, Videotape could end up making the skin appear sallow and unhealthy looking if you aren’t careful. I've really grown to love this one and I think, in general, it’s one of the colours everyone should strongly consider getting. While I would prefer it sans glitter, it isn’t very noticeable so I can live with it.

I assume this is a reference to Sex, Lies and Videotape, which is a film everyone has heard of that was directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1984. I, however, am a cultural philistine and have not watched it nor do I have any great desire to. Here's my patched-together synopsis: Ann is married to John, who is having an affair with her sister Cynthia. Ann's the quiet type and isn't willing to let herself go quietly. When John's old friend, Graham, shows up, all their lives change. Graham likes to videotape interviews with women. In fact, this turns out to be a fetish of his. I confess I stopped reading the review here and so that's all I have to give you.


06 High Rise:

Between High Rise and Agenda Rouge, I think Agenda Rouge is the more unique shade. However, neither shade showcases the Suede formula at its best. High Rise is harder in terms of texture, although it is workable and just requires a firmer, more precise brush. I picked up High Rise at the same time I bought Vertigo and of the two, I prefer Vertigo. Honestly, I really had liked High Rise every time I'd swatched it, although given the $34 price tag, I confess I was insufficiently wowed to actually fork over the change. But when I take a leap of faith - as I did with Vertigo - I leap high and so High Rise came back home with me as well. I don't regret it.

This ended up being a surprisingly unique colour that I don't own any dupes of (neither does Rachel). High Rise is a deep smokey cool purple, with enough sooty grey to mute the colour down to a true neutral - perfect for a sophisticated daytime eye, a smokey night-out eye, name the occasion really. One quibble: High Rise could be improved in terms of texture - it was drier and less smooth than the other Suedes but anyone with a decent brush and an understanding of the basics of blending should be fine.

HIGH-RISE (2015) stars Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, the newest resident of a luxurious apartment in a high-tech concrete skyscraper whose lofty location places him amongst the upper class. The film is set in a luxury tower block during the 1970s. Featuring a wealth of modern conveniences, the building allows its residents to become gradually uninterested in the outside world. The infrastructure begins to fail and tensions between residents become apparent, and the building soon descends into chaos. Annnnnd, into my Netflix queue it goes (no judgement, this was pre-Hiddleswift Hiddleston, 'k?)

Overall, High Rise was a solid performer, I think. And as for caving in to High Rise, I will reiterate: the film was filmed before Hiddleswift ever happened. (Because obviously that's what counts in the context of the eyeshadow.) End of discussion.

The Sateens

Described as “a lustrous pearl with a glowing sheen” we were incredibly impressed with the Sateens. Read on to find out why.

01 Exposure:

Under the fluorescent department store lighting, I somehow ended up deciding that Hush and Exposure were too similar to merit buying both. I was so wrong. While Hush is an ecru - an ecru done to near perfection but a basic ecru all the same - Exposure is a shimmering ballet-slipper pink. It isn't as practical as Hush, but that’s a silly distinction to make when Exposure is really all about delicacy. See that sheen on the surface of the shadow? No? Yeah, I wish I were a better photographer too but hey, I try. My point is that Exposure is probably the shade in the collection where we see Tom Ford really examining cinematography from the perspective of a director - not a dilettante. And look, I’ll admit it, the man is talented (although that should be news to no one and especially not me, considering how much money I’ve dropped on his products).

Exposure is beautiful. It’s like that rare photograph, which you managed to capture that one time when the sun, setting just behind you, hit exactly the spot where you wanted it, when the background receded softly into the shadows, and - for one brief second - you had perfection in a single frame.

If we follow this line of interpretation (which I admit is what’s most convenient for me - all the more reason to stick with it), then it isn’t a problem that typing ‘Exposure’ into IMDB doesn’t yield any plausible sources of inspiration. Exposure is a reference to the composition of a still frame, a photograph. Perhaps it’s a reference to the nakedness of fame itself. Maybe - I know you were waiting for this - it’s a reference to the 2016 cop-thriller, Exposed, starring (and directed by) Keanu Reeves.

You can skip ahead at this point but I warn you: when a film gets a 5% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and gets panned mercilessly by critics the way Exposed was….you want to know the lowdown on it. A little on the backstory from Wikipedia:

“The original story was a surreal bi-lingual drama, reminiscent of Pan's Labyrinth and Irreversible, that focused on child sexual abuse, violence against women, mass incarceration, and police violence committed under the pretense of the state's authority. However, the executives at Lionsgate Premiere thought they had been sold a Keanu Reeves cop-thriller. To increase the film's potential box office, during the editing process Lionsgate changed the story's focus to center on Reeves' character, and changed the film into a crime thriller. Gee Malik Linton is the director of the film, but is listed under the pseudonym of Declan Dale."

As if that wasn’t terrible enough, here’s how Exposed was summarised by top audience reviewer on Rotten Tomatoes, Dann Michalski:

“Excruciatingly boring and pointless, Exposed is a terrible film. Keanu Reeves stars as a police detective who’s investigating the death of his partner, who turns out to have been dirty. The performances are bland and lifeless, and are made worse by the slow pacing and rote directing. And for some reason half of the film is in Spanish, which is rather disjointing and makes the different character plots seem disconnected from each other. Extremely monotonous, Exposed is a complete waste of time.”

At this point, you probably are wondering if you really want the Tom Ford eyeshadow. Yes, you do. Exposure is far better than Exposed. Forget about Detective Cullen having “allegedly sexually molested a young ex-convict with a broomstick.” (I know - it’s hard). Exposure is not grimy and weird and Keanu Reeves-pervaded. In other words, we didn’t need to tell you about the bizarre film - our first interpretation is probably correct - but….how could we have left you bereft of the depraved and corrupt Detective Cullen? Go ahead, it’s on Netflix. Yes, we’re watching too.

02 Moonlighting:

Moonlighting is one of my favourite shadows in the collection and I can’t think of anything I own that is quite like it. It’s a pale goldenrod shade of yellow, with a gleaming sheen. There’s nothing bright or brassy or loud about it at all. Moonlighting is essentially a paradox within a shadow, much like the term ‘moonlighting’ is itself. 'Moonlighting’, of course, typically refers to working an extra side job at night, usually in secret. This stands in contrast to the literal meaning of the word which conveys anything but a sense of stealthiness. Instead, it brings to mind a clear, almost freakishly well lit night, where one’s every move is under scrutiny.

The inspiration behind Moonlighting is probably the 1980s TV show of the same name, which starred a non-bald Bruce Willis. Plot summary taken from IMDB: “After being cleaned out by her no-good manager, model Maddie Hayes is about to sell one of her few remaining assets, the Blue Moon Detective Agency - until snarky employee David Addison (non-bald Bruce) talks her out of it, saving his job and launching a new career for her.” We didn’t watch it, don’t plan on doing so, how about you?

In the pan, Moonlighting is definitely a yellow - not nearly metallic enough to be a gold, and lacking the red tint that characterises a copper. It looks like it might be a strange shade to wear but once I swatched it, whatever tiny doubts I may have had disappeared. Moonlighting was a firm ‘yes’ from the get go. And - here’s a happy ending for you - I absolutely love the way that it looks on my lids. It’s isn’t metallic, nor is it a yellow. There’s something about yellow eyeshadow particular, that appears to make otherwise adventurous people shy away. Most people I have recommended Moonlighting to were sceptical and the vast majority have ignored my advice (to their detriment, I’m sorry to say).

But Moonlighting is more like the colour of sun-warmed golden flax, stacked up in bales on a bucolic afternoon. On darker toned skin, Moonlighting is beautiful as a subtle wash across the lids; on paler, warm-toned skin, it could also function as a highlight. This is a standout shade from the collection in my opinion and I highly recommend it. And, it's really wearable. Seriously.

04 Iris Bronze:

Iris Bronze is one of the quieter shades in this collection, and on my first trip to my TF counter, I ended up deciding to skip it last minute. My main worry was that it would be too sheer in terms of pigmentation. (It’s a soft muted brown but my brain processed that as = SHEER!!!). Anyway, I regretted that decision the moment I got home, and pored over the pictures I’d taken on my phone. If you love your neutrals (especially browns), Iris Bronze deserves your attention.

Interestingly, the name itself seems to have a rather unlikely reference - ‘Iris Bronze’ is a hybrid variety of iris (also called ‘Iris Bronze Perfection’, or simply ‘Dutch Iris’.) Unlike the colour ‘iris’, which most commonly indicates a violet or bluish-purple hue, the Iris Bronzes found in nature are a supposedly spectacular mix of bronzed purple and deep amber petals.

With regard to the shadow itself, I’m not sure I see much ‘purple’ in it. The bronze and amber tone definitely dominate but like the flower (that we think) the shadow is named after, Iris Bronze has an almost ornamental quality to it. It is gorgeous packed onto the eyelids, with Spice Cream Eyeshadow as a primer. The texture of the Sateens is so soft that you really do need some sort of grippy base for them to adhere to. Luckily, Tom Ford’s amazing cream eyeshadows all do double-duty as eye primers too. So go ahead, buy whichever shades/duos you’ve been eyeing. It’s all about practicality, remember.

Anyway, I came to my senses and ordered Iris Bronze online within the next day or two. I’m warning you: these shadows are crack in a cute little compact.

05 Smoked Opaline:

Although Smoked Opaline doesn’t have the most impressive texture amongst the Sateens, it’s still a good eyeshadow and non-optional for fellow lovers of khaki greens and smoked olives. We’re not sure what the fim reference here is to be honest, and believe me we googled. We do know that the film industry is often accused of glamorizing smoking in films (we can’t say we disagree). And looking at the titles that have been referenced so far, you’ll see a plethora of Golden Age film noirs and cop-detective thrillers. Two genres in which characters tend to be smokers. So let’s say that ‘smoked’ refers to smoking, which - fun fact: was not banned from NYC movie theatres until 2003 and is still allowed in ten states*.

Turning to ‘opaline’, a quick Google search reveals that the term refers to ‘a colour of glass that isn’t white’ (presumably because of the gross ash residue left by smokers). Sound plausible? No?

We say, go and get the shadow anyway.

*As of June, 2013, the 10 states with no official smoking ban are Alabama, Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West, Virginia, and Wyoming.

06 Silver Screen:

As someone who owns many grey eyeshadows, of all variations, I was ready to pass on Silver Screen. That resolve disappears the moment I glided my finger along the tester. Instant change of heart. Texture-wise, this may be the best sateen in the Private Shadow Collection - it is fabulously smooth, highly pigmented and lustrous. I showed it to the SA who was tentatively watching my friend and I swatch in a state of frenzy. He informed me that - get ready for this - the counter had never received any stock. (They didn’t have Videotape or Firesign at first either.) Now, as far as I’m concerned, leaving testers out when you don’t have the product in stock is the makeup equivalent of blue-balling - you just don’t do it. It’s not nice to get someone all excited, to get their hopes up and then be like, ‘nuh uh, sorry, none for you.’

Whatever. I went back home and did what any self-respecting makeup junkie would do: ordered it online. No waiting for stock indefinitely. And when it came, Silver Screen did not disappoint. It’s a gorgeous silver-grey tinged with cool blue, and it has a sheen that can only be described as expensive - gleaming, lustrous, and oh so rich. The inspiration should be self explanatory here: the shadow fits perfectly with the glamour associated with the ‘silver screen’. It’s perfectly named. And no, I don’t own a single dupe of it.

The Other Sateen Shadow


03 Infrared

Infrared is a Dorito orange colour on my skin and just wasn’t my thing although it swatches great once again.

To put a fairly complicated scientific concept as simply as possible, infrared radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore invisible to the naked eye. Infrared light can however be felt by humans as heat even when we cannot see it- although short infrared waves are not hot at all and quite handy for use in a plethora of everyday objects- this is how your TV remote works.

I have a feeling Tom Ford considers himself above such lowbrow entertainment as television (has he never watched The Wire??), so let’s assume this shade is instead a reference to infrared photography.

(TL;DR people: skip ahead. We understand.) From Wikipedia:

“in infrared photography, the film or image sensor used is sensitive to infrared light….wavelengths used for photography range from about 700 nm to about 900 nm. Film is usually sensitive to visible light too, so an infrared-passing filter is used; this lets infrared (IR) light pass through to the camera, but blocks all or most of the visible light spectrum (the filter thus looks black or deep red)...When these filters are used together with infrared-sensitive film or sensors, in-camera effects can be obtained; false-color or black-and-white images with a dreamlike or sometimes lurid appearance known as the "Wood Effect," an effect mainly caused by foliage (such as tree leaves and grass) strongly reflecting in the same way visible light is reflected from snow There is a small contribution from chlorophyll fluorescence, but this is marginal and is not the real cause of the brightness seen in infrared photographs.”

The Vinyls

Described as “very highly pearlized” with a “metallic chrome finish”, the Vinyls were perhaps our favourite out of the five finishes in the Collection. If only half the colours hadn’t been bright purples and a particularly vivid shade of teal, we’d have bought the lot. Save the brights for the UltraSuedes next time, k?

01 Body Double

Body Double is a silvery taupe, not nearly as metallic as I’d expected it to be based on certain online swatches (coughBeautylishcough). Like all the Vinyls, it swatched beautifully and had me at hello (pigment!). As the undertones are very neutral, Body Double should work on most skin-tones. It does look quite different depending on your skintone so if in doubt, swatch in person. I still say, throw caution out the window, buy it anyway. It’s definitely in my top three shades in the collection.

As for the inspiration behind ‘Body Double’, what else could it possibly be but an allusion to Brian de Palma’s 1984 film (same name - you guessed it.) From what I’ve managed to glean from Wikipedia and IMDB, it’s a rehash of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Why anyone would bother to rehash Rear Window is beyond me. Why mess with perfection? And sure enough, the reviews for Body Double are absolutely merciless. The film is panned in the Daily Telegraph as as being notable for its “apparently willfully bad lead performance from a virtual nobody, entire scenes openly plagiarised from Alfred Hitchcock, walk-on appearances from genuine adult film stars, and a sequence in which the aforementioned desperate housewife (played by Melanie Griffith) is skewered on an enormous safe-cracking drill.” Yikes. If that wasn’t enough, Melanie Griffith’s housewife is also a nymphomaniac.

Now, I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes but...this seems right up Tom Ford’s alley. It’s cohesive with the previous film references we’ve pointed out. In any case, we could be wrong - perhaps Tom Ford is just referring to the use of body doubles on film sets. But...I don’t think so. We know Tom Ford fancies himself something of an artiste, an auteur. We know that Body Double is pretty cohesive in terms of theme with the films we’ve referenced above. So my money is on the Brian de Palma reference.

Don’t let the safe-cracking drill put you off though.

02 Warm Leatherette:

I bought this at the same time I bought Body Double i.e. my first trip to swatch the Private Shadows the day the collection was released. And I can tell you that Warm Leatherette was not met with universal approval as a shade for me - quite the converse. It was a purchase made out of pure stubbornness. “Yes, this extremely warm brassy shade of orange gold will be just fine on me!” My friend just sort of shook her head and shrugged. (My friends know me well.)

After trying it on at home (extensively - I love this one), I don’t think Warm Leatherette is too warm after all. If you’re cooler-toned, I suggest pairing it with neutral taupes and soft browns for a daytime take on the smokey eye you’d wear island hopping between Santorini and Mykonos. (As one does.) The gold in Warm Leatherette isn’t blingy either, it’s bronzier and if you can wear Honeymoon or Golden Mink in the Eye Quad range, you can def do Warm Leatherette.

Inspiration for this shade has got to be Grace Jones’ 1980 studio album. According to some random contributor on Wikipedia, Warm Leatherette “represented a departure from Jones’ earlier disco sound, moving toward a new wave-reggae direction.” We prefer disco - helloooo, Studio 54 - but ok, Wikipedia person, we’ll go with it. New wave-reggae it is.

06 Blue Velvet:

Out of the Vinyl shades, Blue Velvet strikes me as the odd one out in the group. Beautiful eyeshadow, don’t get me wrong. But its texture is nowhere near as smooth and even as the other Vinyl shades; it’s less pigmented; it doesn’t blend out by itself the way the other Vinyls seem capable of doing.

Embarrassingly, I thought that the film reference was to Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, a mistake which I was informed of only about 24 hours ago. I did think it was a rather out-of-place film to refer to, given its very PG nature.

Well, turns out there is a film called Blue Velvet, you may have heard of it. It’s by David Lynch, and it’s billed as “a hallucinogenic mystery-thriller that probes beneath the cheerful surface of suburban America to discover sadomasochistic violence, corruption, drug abuse, crime and perversion.” Given that sunny little synopsis, I feel fairly confident in saying that Blue Velvet is a more cohesive fit with Tom Ford’s stylistic oeuvre than a charming story about a little girl who loves horses.

The Other Vinyls

I’m a neutrals person at heart and these are bright so I just passed on them. Photographic though is sort of calling me - it’s got maybe the best texture in this group, I think. (I’ve swatched it like half a dozen times - the SAs def think I have issues!) Peacock blue-green, stunning. If you wear those shades regularly, I recommend picking this one up.

03 Violet Vinyl

Violet Vinyl swatches like all the other Vinyls, save Blue Velvet (i.e. we can’t fault the formula). In contrast to Purple Reign, it’s cooler and lighter although by no means muted. As for the inspiration behind the name, no amount of googling turned up any film/photography references to 'Violet Vinyl'. We did, however, come across plenty of photos of - literal - violet vinyl records. Maybe some of our more musically-inclined readers may know of any significance such a shade of vinyl could possibly have? What records go “violet”? is it like going “platinum” but slightly less impressive? Or should we refrain from belabouring the metaphor?

Anyway, Violet Vinyl is a lovely pink-purple, more of a lilac than deep violet, and has the smooth finish and even texture typical of the better Vinyl finish shades.

04 Photographic

Photographic is another exceptional Vinyl - I can’t tell you how tempted I’ve been to buy this shade, how many times I’ve revisited my counter and stared at it longingly, despite knowing full well that I would never, ever wear it. It’s a peacock-blue, with a twist of teal that keeps it hovering somewhere in between blue and green. It’s a shade meant for a more daring person than I myself am. It deserves to be worn boldly (there isn’t really any other way to wear it, to be honest). It’s incredibly ‘photographic’ and perhaps that’s why I want it. Who doesn’t want to show off a stunner in front of the camera in this day and age? But for $34, I couldn’t possibly buy an eyeshadow only because it photographed well*….I mean, the very idea. Preposterous!

*What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be too surprised if I do end up buying Photographic.

05 Purple Reign

Oooh, a pun, from the illustrious Mr. Ford? Well I never. Unless I’m missing something, this has to be a play on the title of the iconic 80s Prince-led film, Purple Rain.

Per IMDB: “ A victim of his own anger, the Kid (Prince) is a Minneapolis musician on the rise with his band, the Revolution, escaping a tumultuous home life through music.” The Kid must navigate the glittering club scene, rival musicians, and love “while trying to avoid making the same mistakes as his truculent father. But another musician, Morris (Morris Day), looks to steal the Kid's spotlight -- and his girl.”

This one is a vibrant royal purple- it’s strikingly similar to the purple used on the album cover of Purple Rain, as well as that purple jacket Prince wore in the movie. So let’s just call this shade “Prince Purple” from now on to avoid any confusion. Also I think I just made a connection. Royal purple…. Prince’s signature color?? Get it?? I did. 33 years late (but better late than never.)

The Paillettes


A.k.a. the ones we were worried about (as glitter-topper haters.)

Spoiler: We did not hate the Paillettes. Well, with an exception or two.

paliettes-1


01 Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura is a complex shade that suffers from being slightly inconsistent in finish and blendability. Like Videotape, it does improve significantly once you get further into the pan, and the end result is truly eye-catching - spangly blue microglitter that shift colors over a base of plummy purple. The sparkle is intense though, so the contrast of the blue glitter against the reddish purple base is quite dramatic.

Perhaps, the shade is inspired by the classic camera obscura, or the ‘dark room’ if we go by the original Latin. A camera obscura can be a scene viewed through a pinhole, blocking everything out. It can also refer to the camera obscura boxes that were used in 19th century photography to expose materials sensitive to light to the projected image..

There are several movies bearing the title Camera Obscura, none of which have gotten very good reviews. The most likely seems to be from 2003, which accordingly to Kevin Thomas from the Los Angeles Times is “a L.A. neo-noir raised to an insufferable degree of artiness.” Yup sounds about right. (Remember, we both watched Nocturnal Animals...well, 20 minutes of it.)

You may not want the lowdown on this film but we’re going to deliver it anyway because it is too good to deprive you of. The hero of Camera Obscura is Jimmy, a photographer with an artistic temperament, who takes on a job with the LAPD as a crime scene photographer. Long story short, Jimmy has a lot of trouble comprehending the “true horror of the crime scenes” (what exactly did he expect??) So Jimmy did what any of us would do if confronted with such sickening brutality: he “starts to beautify the crime scenes, by changing the composition, lights and lenses, and shooting the victims in surreal and living poses.” Btw, we are just shamelessly quoting/paraphrasing the IMDB synopsis now because we can not possibly improve on it. It isn’t long before Jimmy notices that “in his pictures, the victims don't look dead anymore and ultimately Jimmy convinces himself that through his camera he can make the dead come alive again.”


02 Breathless


It was hard to find much actual information about the story behind Breathless - most information about the name was just gushing essays on the French New Wave film directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Essentially, we gather that Breathless is one of the most romantic films of all time and that Jean Seberg’s wardrobe in it is simply perfection.

Breathless the eyeshadow is a muted but shimmery antique silver - it’s softer and creamier and more easy to layer than the glitter shades in the quads. I love Breathless although I have heard some people complain about duds. You can see from the condition of my compact that its probably my most used private shadow to date.


03 Fire Sign


Fire sign is the door that is present in every cinema (indeed, its presence is sanctioned by the law itself). The door with the fire sign above it is the same door that provides the popcorn-crunching filmgoers with an exit route in case of…..you guessed it….FIRE. It leads you out of the cinema, of course, out of the darkness and out of the plot and back into humdrum reality. There’s nothing clever I can really say about this one, other than this: IT’S THE BEST OF THE PAILLETTES. I guarantee. Sorry for the cap locks. This swatches amazingly. If you’ve ever wished that you could have that copper glitter shade from the (very sadly) discontinued Cognac Sable quad in your possession, say hello to Fire Sign.


04 Tempête Bleu


Tempête Bleu is - no, not another French New Wave film - but a very gorgeous, eye-gougingly expensive cobalt-blue shade of matte alligator leather. The material is so rare and expensive that Hermes only produces one or two of their iconic Birkin handbags a year in the coveted tempete bleu material. Fancy!

Does the eyeshadow hold up to such lofty standards? Yes. Tempête Blue is stunning - a glittering sapphire with an brilliantly violet irisdescent shift. It’s impractical, sure. (How many of us wear blue eyeshadow all that often? With gliter?) But we dont't believe in practicing a life of practicality as you might have observed if you're a regular teader of this blog. Tempête Bleu is wonderfully impractical - who cares whether you wear it? It's so pretty we'd be perfectly happy just sitting there with the compact open and gazing at it adoringly. Get this one.


05 Emerald Sun

I had such high hopes for Emerald Sun but every time I swatched it, the result was the same. It was like crumbled nori, flaky and dark seaweed green with enormous chunks of glittery pigment stuck together. I’ll stick to VB’s Charred Sapphire for now. I’ve seen almost no good swatches of Emerald Sun so I’m assuming its a true dud. Be warned, people. The name is beguiling, but the crumbled nori look is not.

Unsurprisingly, I ended up buying Emerald Sun anyway. This is probably the weakest Paillette shadow (other than Black Onyx, which I have no imminent plans to purchase, thanks for asking). It's a charred green, almost blackened, and has chunks of glitter in it that verge on gritty. BUT it is pretty when incorporated into the right sort of look - and all that sooty black makes it wearable too. (I do recommend using a generous amount of primer if you don't want your face to be covered with seaweed green glitter fallout by the end of the day.)

As for the inspiration behind Emerald Sun, we found no film with that title except a frighteningly low-budget 2006 ...something. We can’t really tell you anything more detailed than that because there is such an absolute dearth of information on The Emerad Sun that the IMDB page looks like this:

# The Other Paillette

06 Black Onyx


Black Onyx is the last shade in the Paillette range and you’d think Tom Ford would have ended it with a bang. Instead, Black Onyx ends up being the item that is by far the least worth spending your hard-earned money on of this collection. Why is it that this supposedly ‘black’ shade is the lightest of the Paillette range? It’s positively insipid in terms of pigment. Don't bother with it. No clever hidden film reference exists, to our knowledge. Black Onyx is just lukewarm - not like a good hard-boiled film noir. It's insipid. Flabby. Blah.

A Final Word about Quality Control

On a final note, I think it's worth drawing attention to Estée Lauder's recent quality control issues. Subpar formulas, inconsistent batches and poor packaging have been an issue in the last few Tom Ford collections - here with the Private Shadows, as well as in the Boys & Girls lipstick launch and the permanent shade Lip Color shade extensions. We also noticed a lack of quality control in the 2017 Fall collaboration with Victoria Beckham. As the parent company of these brands, I think Estée Lauder has a responsibility to get these problem under control ASAP. Although I ended up pretty lucky with my picks from the Private Shadow collection, several friends had very different experiences. So to all my fellow Tom Ford junkies out there, just keep in mind that you're buying these shadows at your own risk. If you live
somewhere where the return policies are friendly, knock yourself out. Otherwise, exercise caution before handing over the old CC.



Have you picked up any of the Tom Ford Private Shadows? Any plans to? Which ones caught your eye and - more importantly - which films will you be adding to your Netflix queue ASAP? Let us know in the comments section below! (We **love** comments, btw.)

--Emily & Rachel