Since we’re opening the doors to the Alcone Archives for this blog journey, we figured the best place to start is with us. As the “Our Story” page on our website explains, Alcone Company was founded in 1952 by Alvin Cohen, who saw the need for a specialty store that could serve the city’s thriving creative and theatrical industry. In addition to providing various production-related materials, he catered to showgirls and other performers who needed professional makeup for stage and screen. We know that eyelashes and theatrical makeup were the products “du jour” of that era, but precisely what did a vintage Alcone sell? And when, why, and how did professional products change over the years?
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, it probably means that you’re as obsessed with makeup as I am. If that’s the case, then please join me on a little trip through time. While it’s impossible to touch on every single product, here’s a small glimpse of what was on our shelves of many yesteryears, as guided by our catalogs and the vintage makeup products stored in the Alcone Archives.
THE LATE ‘60s
This is Alcone Company’s oldest surviving catalog. For many years, the catalogs had a technical section (called Paramount Theatrical Supplies) and a makeup section, which in this book was only 7 pages. The brands that stocked the shelves at this time were Stein’s, Max Factor and Mehron. Foundation types were in three categories: grease paint, pancake and liquid. Because these were all “theatrical” lines, the foundations had shade names that referred to character types. Some of my favorites are “Robust Juvenile,” “Middle Age” and “Spinster.” It’s worth noting that Max Factor’s theatrical makeup line was completely different from their commercial line, not only in shade names but also in appearance. Without having to keep up with changing consumer trends and tastes, the packaging remained largely unchanged since the ’30s.
Some popular items from Max Factor’s commercial line were also available at Alcone. The brand’s Mascara Wand was a fairly recent innovation then which utilized a metal spiral applicator and was also refillable. It was available in this catalog in 6 shades: Black, Black-Brown, Brown, Blue, Blue-Green, and Jet Gray.
The catalog survived, but unfortunately, the cover did not.
The same makeup brands were still the key players in it, but there was one notable addition. H.S.G Cosmetics was a New York-based “toiletries” company founded by Henri S. Gompes in 1927. According to the catalog, this brand was popular with “theatre and movie professionals” and was acquired by Alcone in 1969 to offer quality cosmetics to customers “at exceptionally low prices.” Just more evidence of Alvin Cohen’s forward-thinking and business savvy as having “in-house brands” is commonplace in our industry today, but this was almost 50 years ago. H.S.G. Cosmetics offered a full range of products including rouge, eyeshadow, lipstick, “crayon lip liners” and “mascara cake,” which was available in blue and green in addition to brown and black.
By 1973, more theatrical brands appeared in this catalog like Bob Kelly Cosmetics, created by the master wig maker and makeup artist of the same name. Ben Nye Makeup was created by the legendary Hollywood artist, who was also the Makeup Director for 20th Century Fox. Kryolan, used “extensively by professionals throughout Europe,” was also added to Alcone’s offerings. This catalog was the grand entrance of Aquacolor, the brand’s “cake makeup” foundation, which is still a top seller. However, due to changes in stage lighting, application techniques, and modern formulations (not to mention the wide array of bright colors and metallics), it’s more widely used today as a face or body paint.
It’s also worth noting that the catalog entry states that Kryolan was recommended to Alcone by makeup artist Richard Corson. A Brooklyn native, he was the foremost expert on theatrical makeup and also authored the book “Stage Makeup,” considered by many to be the “bible” of professional makeup education. Even back then, suggestions from the pro community were the key drivers for bringing in new products and brands.
It’s now 1976, and more new and modern products were in the Alcone Company catalog. An example is Max Factor Ultralucent Waterproof Make-Up, which was formulated to achieve a more dewy, translucent finish to the skin and was advertised by the brand as the “first waterproof, weatherproof, perspiration-proof makeup.”
It’s also fascinating to see some of the minimalistic metal makeup boxes that pros used to carry their makeup back then.
According to this catalog, there weren’t any new brands taken on, but each one had increased its offerings because the makeup section was now 17 pages. In notable product-entry news, it’s the first time Mehron Metallic Powder is listed along with its companion, Mixing Liquid. At the time, this cult product was only available in Silver and Gold, unlike today’s 6 fabulous metal options.
An adorable Alcone Company tote bag also debuted in this catalog, donning a smiley face and our ultra cool ’80s logo.
This year’s catalog shows how in just a short time, there were some big changes in the professional makeup industry. One was that the Mallardi family now owned Alcone Company. Another change was the arrival of the newest professional brand created by television makeup artist Joe Blasco, consisting of 56 foundation shades (not including the theatrical and character shades) as well as the brand’s still very popular neutralizers and concealers. The Pearlized Overlay Sticks were notable product additions from Bob Kelly, which were shimmering creams sticks that came in Gold, Silver, and Blush. This concept is still on the market today, except now we call them highlighting sticks.
It’s also the last catalog that mentions H.S.G. Cosmetics.
By the time this catalog arrived, Max Factor had discontinued its theatrical line of makeup. However, the demand for the Pan-Cake and Pan Stik products remained strong in the professional industry, and both were still available at Alcone Company, but in 10 shades only.
The newest brand to join this catalog was Mark Traynor Beauty with the Face Lift Tapes and Isometric Beauty Band. These products give an instant, temporary lift to the face for a more youthful appearance. Both are still hugely popular today.
By 1993, the Alcone Company catalog no longer had a technical section. It was up to 84 pages and only contained products for “straight,” character, and special effects makeup, along with a variety of tools and accessories.
Brand and product offerings expanded to meet the growing professional community’s demands, especially with the opening of the retail store on 19th Street in NYC. Two brands created by legendary Hollywood makeup artists, William Tuttle and RCMA (by Vincent Kehoe), offered a wide range of foundations shades (Tuttle with 62 and RCMA with 72), which was something the commercial market was still well behind on at the time.
Also new in this book was Visiora, a professional makeup line developed by Christian Dior in 1978 for film and television, and T. LeClerc Powders. The catalog states that these powders were made available after frequent customer requests, especially for the “Banane” shade. It also notes that these brands were “Imported from France.” While this may not seem like a big deal today because of the advances in global trade, it was very impressive back then.
This edition of the catalog has many new additions like Il Makiage, from makeup artist Ilana Harkavi. Professional artists coveted these eyeshadows and blushes for their supreme color payoff, smooth texture, and the extensive range of 108 shades. Cinema Secrets, created by film and TV makeup artist Maurice Stein, was another addition to this catalog which included the star products, Ultimate Foundation and Makeup Brush Cleaner. A series of loose setting powders by New York makeup artist Adele Fass was also available in this catalog. This collection was made up of 10 shades in warm tones from very light to deep, preceding the explosion of yellow-based powders that would come along soon after in the consumer market.
Another exciting new addition to this catalog was the Viseart Eyeshadow Palettes. While they’ve achieved cult beauty status in both the professional and consumer markets today, this was over 20 years ago. At this time there were only 3 versions, one being the Neutral Mattes (back then called “#1 Basic”). The others were “#2 Tendence” and “#3 Metallic,” neither of which are available today.
It’s also the first catalog in our archives to include Joe Blasco Punch-Up Powders, delicate shimmering powders in Pearl, and Gold. These powders are still a pro favorite today, especially for when a subtle highlight is more desirable than a “strobe” effect, but now they’re called Hi-Tone Intensifiers.
With the advent of digital, the last edition of our printed “pro” catalog was in the latter 2000s, and by this time it was 199 pages. There were now some pretty significant evolutions in the professional industry, starting with Alcone Company’s new product line 3rd Degree. While I haven’t included special effects in this post, I would be remiss in not mentioning it because it was such a game-changer for the wound creation arena.
Make Up For Ever, created by makeup legend Dany Sanz and Japan’s luxury professional brand Koh Gen Do were now available at Alcone. It was also an exciting time for our local pro community because some new brands in the catalog were from artists who were also longtime customers. Sheila McKenna founded Kett Cosmetics to fuse airbrush technology with professional makeup to meet the demands of HD head-on. Eve Pearl used her Emmy Award-winning expertise to create Eve Pearl Beauty, and Roque Cozzette launched Cozzette Beauty with a line of exceptional brushes and tools that were also ethically sound.
Here we land back into present day where the Alcone tradition of supporting artist brands continues. Our current website includes RMS Beauty from seasoned pro and clean beauty originator Rose-Marie Swift, and Kevyn Aucoin Beauty created by the late legendary artist. One of the newest brands to take the professional makeup world by storm, Danessa Myricks Beauty, is there too. It just goes to show that artist innovation shows no sign of stopping, nor does the growth of this exciting industry that we’ve been fortunate to be a part of for over 65 years.
Thanks so much joining me on this trip through “makeup time” and I hope to see you again soon, here in the Alcone Archives.