May 8, 2016

Thoughts on the MAC Vibe Tribe Controversy

I have been debating writing this post for about a week now, but after seeing so much controversy over MAC’s new Vibe Tribe collection I decided to share my thoughts on the collection and the culture appropriation debate.

Before I begin, I really love MAC products and the brand as a whole. However their new collection is something that I can’t get on board with and I’d like to explain why. If you haven’t heard, they are releasing a new make-up collection called “Vibe Tribe” which is supposedly inspired by music festivals such as Coachella.

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of negativity floating around this collection on the internet. Buzzfeed made a video about it and every Instagram post featuring the collection has comments that are full of arguments about whether or not the collection is appropriating the culture of Southwestern Native Americans. People don’t seem to understand the harm of culture appropriation or they don’t understand how this collection could be perceived as appropriating culture.

The Vibe Tribe collection includes two eyeshadow quads, “Call of the Canyon” and “Wild Horses”. It has five lipsticks, Tanarama, Arrowhead, Hot Chocolate, Pure Vanity and Painted Sunset. Arrowhead and Painted Sunset are new shades created specifically for the collection, while Tanarama is a permanent shade and Pure Vanity and Hot Chocolate are repromotes. There are also five lip pencils, Teen Dream being a repromote and Tumbleweed, Caravamp, Desert Evening, and Rio Grande Romance being new. Two new blushes and one permanent one are also a part of the collection, Modern Mandarin being the permanent and Adobe Brick and Painted Canyon being the new items. There are a few other products in the collection like brushes and make-up bags, all of the products featuring a beige, turquoise, coral and brown tribal print.

I can’t be the only one who doesn’t see how this collection is inspired by music festivals, can I? Everything from the product names to the packaging seems inspired by Native American culture, yet MAC claims it isn’t. They could’ve named their new products literally anything else but they chose names like Arrowhead, Wild Horses and Adobe Brick, which don’t have anything to do with music festivals.

It would be one thing if MAC had collaborated with a Native American artist to create this collection, or at least admitted it was inspired by desert tribes, but they didn’t and that is an issue called culture appropriation. Culture appropriation is “the unauthorized use of elements from a culture by members of a different culture”. This is different from cultural diffusion, which includes things like learning another language, eating food from another culture, or being invited to take part in a cultural tradition by members of the culture.

To me this is harmful because MAC is giving white culture the credit for something that is clearly not a part of white culture. This has happened many times in the past with many different cultures. For example, when Zendaya Coleman (an African American actress) wore dreads to an event she was made fun of, but when Cara Delevingne (a Caucasian model) wore dreads it was considered a fashion statement. At music festivals people have worn feather headdresses and bindis as a part of their outfits, not realizing or caring that those things are ceremonial. Society degrades people of a culture for practicing their culture, and then when other people do the same things they are praised for it.

For all of the above reasons, I will not be supporting or purchasing anything from the MAC Vibe Tribe collection. The only way to fix issues like this is to let the company, brand, or person know that what they did is wrong and hope that they get the message for the future.

Thanks for reading this all the way through and I’m sorry for bringing this negativity onto my blog, I just have a lot of thoughts on this collection and I wanted to share them! Whether you agree or disagree with my opinion I’m really interested in hearing and discussing your thoughts about Vibe Tribe. If you do disagree, please explain why in a rational way because I’m always open to new opinions. However I don’t allow blatant hate on my page so keep that in mind as well!

I’ll be back to regular content with the next post!

Xx Katie
Photo from
19 comments on "Thoughts on the MAC Vibe Tribe Controversy"
  1. You are absolutely right! Another example is the Kylie lipsticks that are extremely popular at the moment. Many people complain about their bad product and the bad customer service, I read so many bad reviews, yet as soon as they are out, they are sold out in 5 minutes. We (consumers) have the power to send a strong message to companies, brands etc. Thanks for posting this.


  2. You are absolutely right! Another example is the Kylie lipsticks that are extremely popular at the moment. Many people complain about their bad product and the bad customer service, I read so many bad reviews, yet as soon as they are out, they are sold out in 5 minutes. We (consumers) have the power to send a strong message to companies, brands etc. Thanks for posting this.


  3. I seen this collection in store the other day, and I honestly thought it was a Native American style, but in all honestly I didn't like any of it, and I really don't like the packaging.. I wouldn't be overly offended, just because native American custom outfits are stunning, the detail and colour is incredible... MAC new packaging is ugly. So I hate to be so shallow, but I wont be purchasing because of that lol. But I love the post, can completely see your point, and this is the first one in a while I haven't seen "SOLD OUT" on a lot of things straight away in my local MAC!

  4. I never even knew that Mac had got a new range out but I probably won't be purchasing anything from it anyway after reading this post! The names of the products immediately make me think of native American culture so I don't agree that they are giving white culture the credit for it like you said! Great post and I totally agree with you! Xx


  5. Totally agree with you on this - and good for you on speaking up. Time and time again people point these things out to beauty/fashion brands but they really do seem blind to criticism... It's not just offensive, it's become deeply unoriginal and I hope this trend dies soon xx

    Jasmine Talks Beauty

  6. I agree! The only thing about this that seems music related is the first part of the name of the collection. It's like having a friend make a bad decision, you still love them but you have to wonder what they were thinking.

  7. I haven't seen any of the controversy until reading your post. I used to love MAC but I've really fallen out of love with the brand - it's such a shame that they've done this! xx

    Gemma ♡ Miss Makeup Magpie

  8. I haven't even seen or heard of this new range let alone reading any controversy about it. My thoughts upon first reading is that I see what you're saying but in all honesty it shouldn't really be an issue. Although Mac have decided to miss-name the collection they're somewhat embracing another culture and I'm sure many women would feel strong and proud to see a brand like Mac promoting this. I also feel like nowadays every brand has to be so careful with what they do as so not to offend anyone, there is so many restrictions now and to an extent I feel like it's exaggerated a little.

    I think Mac should have perhaps named it something different instead of trying to bury it under an alternate name and people are sensitive these days to anything in the media so you do have to be careful.

    Good post though, nice to have a discussion about something like this.

    Cultivation of Jasmin

  9. I didn't know any of this was going on until I'd read this, I can see why people are annoyed though the collection definitely doesn't have anything to do with music festivals!

    Lauren Ashleigh xx

  10. I salute you for writing this incredible piece. I actually haven't heard anything of this collection or the controversy until I read your post but thank you for sharing. I completely agree with everything you said. The names of the products immediately make me think of native American culture and it's really a shame that they've done this. I love MAC but I hope everyone is aware of this and not purchase anything from the collection. x

  11. We live in a time when people are speaking out about cultural insensitivities. Years ago no one would've paid attention but because of the uproar, people care. We're making a change & moving forward. I do think MAC could've thought this out better without utilizing, mocking, making a cliché out of Native American culture. I don't think you're bringing negativity to your blog, I think you're bringing awareness to modern issues. :]

    // ▲ ▲

    1. I really appreciate that, thank you so much! I've been trying to learn more about social issues but they make me feel really frustrated which is why I don't often talk/write about them, but this one was beauty related and important to me so I made an exception! :)

  12. This post definitely opened up my perspective on the said range. Although I'm not a massive fan of MAC due to their animal cruelty, I think all brands (especially big ones) must consider culture appropriateness. Thank you a lot for sharing! x

    Paper Hobbit |

  13. I know I'm probably in the minority here... Honestly though, I do appreciate your thoughts and I really enjoyed reading this post, but I just don't see this whole thing as a huge deal... I mean, it's just makeup... Call me ignorant but if someone did the same thing to my culture, I just wouldn't be bothered. Makeup is makeup, if it's good then I will give it a shot. It was interesting to read your post and see your perspective on these things, though. :)


    1. I appreciate your thoughts anyway! :) I also don't think I'd be too offended if someone did something similar with my culture (German) but from firsthand experience I know Native American culture is often made fun of and not taken seriously, so it's a bit of a different situation in my mind.

  14. Oh I totally agree with you. I can't stand Coachella to begin with, it just seems like a bunch of rowdy teens/young adults (although I am young at 26...LOL!) just go there to be seen and wear really skimpy clothes with the feathers. It's just so not appropriate. Thank you for posting this. It's also kinda like when Kylie tries to make herself look as ethnic as possible, and is getting praised for it, but women of actual color hate themselves because they can't look like the Western Caucasian ideal.


  15. I have no idea how they could even justify this as being inspired solely by music festivals, the names alone have nothing to do with music festivals. I mean, it couldn't be that hard to think of product names related to music festivals could it?

    1. That's what I thought! This would have been a really cool collection if it had been connected to music festivals in a more specific way.


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