When you buy something new – shoes, a bag, foundation – you usually discard the box. That is unless you’re New York illustrator Blair Breitenstein.
Yesterday, during my daily Insta scroll, I paused on a Chanel box featuring a glamorous madame with big lips and even bigger sunglasses. Cute! My internal dialogue exclaimed, an artsy new collaboration with Chanel Beauty? Just the thing to add to my already obscene stash of beautiful packaging! But alas, this was no new collaboration. Rather, Breitenstein had simply taken a sharpie to the cardboard house of Chanel’s new Water-Fresh Tint (which, for the record, is fabulous) and painted her signature portraiture atop its waxy paper.
“Weekend plans: create a bronzy look with @welovecoco Les Beiges Water-Fresh Tint. #doodle #giftfromchanel (Ps. I drew on the package with a Sharpie! This is not available in a store near you 😝)” she wrote on Instagram. Yes, those glorious, painterly sketches just the creative aftermath of some casual doodling by one of New York’s most exciting fashion illustrators.
Breitenstein, more commonly known as @blairz, has made quite the impression on the fashion and beauty world with her bold, contemporary sketches of Prada plumes, Pat McGrath lashes and Karl’s cat, Choupette. Offering a fresh, novel perspective on fashion (and fashion illustration which tends to skew towards the highly romanticised), Breitenstein brings a sense of expressionist whimsy through quirky, abstract strokes anchored in black ink and washy watercolour. Her girls always “feature big lips, big hair and big lashes”, a kind of artistic signature which has seen her work with the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Prada and Oscar de la Renta. “Fashion illustration leaves room for a viewer to interpret the clothing and use their imagination a little bit. It gives you a chance to see clothing in a different context,” she once told Vogue US. It’s exactly this, this idea of seeing something as prosaic as makeup packaging in a whole new light and rendering it with newfound beauty, which initially drew me to her boxy, Chanel artwork. Breathing life into something that was destined for the bin, Breitenstein’s painterly take on “rubbish” is living proof of one woman’s trash being another’s treasure. It makes you stop and think, and makes a wonderful case for personalised expression and upcycling, a shining, beautiful example of creative reuse.
But above all else, it validates my box hoarding problem. Now just to find a Sharpie and some watercolours.