Sayonara, Shu Uemura!

If America is having a great retail meltdown, the Philippines is experiencing a beauty pull-out. It’s not exactly a crisis. Foreign beauty brands come and go in the Philippine market, which is struggling to compete with more fast-forward Asian markets such as Japan and Korea. It’s just that the brands that pulled out this 2017 are beauty giants—Lancôme and Shu Uemura.

Shu Uemura x Takashi Murakami, a 2016 holiday collaboration. Photo from fb.com/shuuemura.philippines.

My fellow makeup junkies shed a tear upon hearing the news. Many went straight to Lancôme and Shu Uemura counters to hoard cult favorites before the last store closed.

Shu Uemura’s Power Plant Mall branch, which closed this April

And the last store did close this April. As a Power Plant Mall regular, I watched as Rockwell’s Shu Uemura shop spent their last few weeks holding a closing-out sale. The once bustling counters of supplies slowly dwindled until the last bottle of cleansing oil was sold.

Throwback 2006

Before saying sayonara, allow me to reminisce about how Shu Uemura was a big part of my magazine editorial training. In 2006 I was the assistant fashion and beauty editor of the now defunct OK! Magazine. I was cast into the world of brands, attending parties and events with fellow editors and writers. Back then, bloggers and online influencers had yet to be a powerful force.

Shu Uemura had a lot of memorable product launches. I remember how the beauty girls and I would swoon whenever the handsome Kakuyasu Uchiide, Shu Uemura’s International Artistic Director, would fly in to Manila for a live makeup demo.

Throwback: When I worked with OK! Magazine back in 2005, we did feature on Tim Yap’s quirky home. L-R: A young and naive me, Tim Yap, Frances Sales (who was our managing editor back then), and makeup artist Xeng Zulueta (who was with Shu Uemura that year).

With the help of my colleagues from Cosmopolitan, Seventeen, and Preview, I slowly learned about cult favorites, makeup tutorials, how to choose headshot models, which makeup artists are the best in the country, and how to style products for a shoot.

I organized a lot of memorable photo shoots with the likes of Xeng Zulueta and Jigs Mayuga, two of our country’s top makeup artists who were once part of Shu Uemura under the mother ship, L’Oréal Paris Philippines.

Remember when The Devil Wears Prada was adapted into a movie in 2006? I recall chatting with Shu makeup artists about the scene where Gisele Bündchen’s character made fun of Andy Sachs. Why? She could not recognize the cult product that is a Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Oh, the horror!

“The other day when we were in the beauty department, she held up a Shu Uemura eyelash curler and said, ‘What is this?’” [laughter] Movie clip from The Devil Wears Prada, 2006.

Other Cult Favorites

Like Andy Sachs mid-book, I was no longer on a college girl’s budget. I was enamored by my new job in the fashion and beauty department. I started working on my grown-up makeup kit. Shu Uemura definitely made up a big chunk of my collection.

Some of my current Shu Uemura products, clockwise from left: Shu Uemura Drawing Pencil, Travel Brush Collection, Limited-Edition Eyeshadow Palette, Makeup Pencil Box, Limited-edition Falsies, Cream Eyeshadow, and Eyeshadow Palette.

Other favorites not pictured: glow-on blush, eyebrow pencil hard formula, cleansing oils (the pink variant works best on my skin), and of course, eyelash curler.

The Last Few Years

Even when I went on to become a freelance lifestyle journalist in 2007, I continued to test and feature their products in my articles for different publications such as BDJ Box and Cosmo.ph.

As the years went by, their marketing strategy shifted into more intimate, customer-centered events like secret sales and private tea parties.

In January 2017, as soon as I included the green Skin Clarifying Cleansing Oil in my Cosmo pantone list, I read the news that Shu Uemura is pulling out of the Philippine market.

Viktor Rolf for Shu Uemura 2008 falsies in mint condition. It still has the card from Tessa, their former brand manager. I’ll just save this as a collector’s item.

Where To Now?

One of the major discussions in the beauty forums and blogs is where to get Shu Uemura now that it’s no longer in the Philippine market. I offer the following suggestions:

1. Via pasalubong or pabili. If you have a fellow makeup-obsessed friend traveling to Japan or other countries that carry Shu Uemura, ask if they have the luggage space and time to buy a couple of products for you.

2. Via personal travel. Buy it yourself when traveling to the US, Singapore, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong.

3. Online. There’s a limited stock of Shu Uemura items from trusted online shops like Beauty MNL and Sephora Singapore. Beware of fakes and the black market! Let’s hope they distribute to Sephora.ph soon.

4. Discover other brands. There are many other beauty brands—both international and local—that are worth spending your hard-earned cash on.

Arigato, Shu Uemura PH, for the beautiful memories!

May 9, 2017



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