When it comes to subverting traditional standards of beauty, no one does it quite like photographer Steven Klein. Over the course of his career, he’s shot editorials that explore the dark side of plastic surgery, featured men wearing high heels and prosthetic pregnant bellies, and brought the world of S&M to the mainstream media long before "Fifty Shades of Grey" existed.
He’s also done magnificent things with cosmetics on film: For instance, he captured Kate Moss in makeup so pale she looked like a ghost, and shot Juliette Lewis covered in disco ball-levels of glitter for W magazine. So, when we heard that Klein would be partnering with Nars on an upcoming cosmetics line — and throwing a twisted, haunted house-like party at Alder Manor in Yonkers to debut it — we knew immediately that it wouldn’t be for the faint of heart.
Editors were shuttled to the historic mansion just before sunset, and although we were kept waiting on the patio for some time before entering, we were given a few hints as to what was going on behind closed doors: an LED sign on the lawn flashed the message, "Remember, Satan was the first to demand equal rights," and an incessant banging sound boomed from inside the house. Before long, we were able to roam free inside Klein's dark world of sex and violence — and it was awesome.
What we found while exploring the mansion's installations, which were designed with the help of Etienne Russo, went a little like this: There was a spooky, drained swimming pool with lifeless masked mannequins on the bottom; a recreation of Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" video, complete with male models wearing fishnets and heels while wielding machine guns; a grating, wall-sized projection of Klein's "Killer Heels" film, featuring a toy car getting smashed by a model in stilettos; a cloud of fog rising up from the bottom of a spiral staircase; and, perhaps most terrifying of all, a nearly nude man staring us down from behind a pane of frosted glass, with a neon sign reading "Full Service” glowing behind him. Each room was more chilling than the last — the ominous mood only enhanced by a masked man playing piano in the foyer — but thankfully we were able to exit onto the manor's lush, serene back lawn (and a fully stocked bar) to recover.
As the evening progressed, Nars's and Klein's VIP friends — including Alexander Wang, Anna Ewers, Andreja Pejic and Stephanie Seymour — rolled in, as did a fabulously dressed crew of goth, gender-bending scenesters. Guests were given a sneak peek at the product line, and although details are hush-hush for the moment, you can expect a high-gloss, rich color palette, plenty of shimmer and tools that could easily be confused with whips and other S&M gear.
The Steven Klein for Nars collection won’t hit stores until the fall, but its launch party will probably haunt my dreams long past its release.