The Palette Bureau


Debra Brock likes eyeshadow compacts like moths like cashmere. But she can give up any time she wants, honest…


I don’t mind a palette. Well, when I say ‘don’t mind’, I quite like a palette, really. Well, when I say ‘quite like’, I…Oh all right. I stalk the Tom Ford website for new releases with the fervour of a One Direction fan trying to find out where Harry Styles is staying the night. If my house were on fire I’d get the child and dog out first, then throw my palettes out of the window at them, shouting “Catch the Guerlain! CATCH THE GUERLAIN!”. My palettophilia is so serious that recently, after booking a long haul flight, my first move wasn’t to make a hotel reservation or order currency, but to check if they had Bobbi Brown at the terminal I was flying from. They don’t. Why is there not a tick box for this on Expedia? How am I supposed to get Navy & Nudes at duty free prices now?


I can pinpoint the moment that palettes became my obsession. I wandered into Selfridges after work one evening and spied a new counter. Bobbi Brown had landed in the UK and the people working there looked, well, normal. Glossy, and well groomed, but normal – a look that I could aspire to, not like the terrifying specimens at the neighbouring counters. I immediately plonked myself in a chair and got a makeover. At the till, as I was about to pay for my Bone, Toast, Taupe and Mahogany eye shadows, the artist mentioned in passing that of course I could buy an empty palette and clip the individual shadows in. My credit card screeched to a halt in front of the machine. Placed before me was a sleek, black palette where I could neatly order my newly purchased, co-ordinating shades. It closed with a satisfying snap, was reassuringly solid in my hand and was immediately sold to the lady with the pop of blush on her cheeks.


If this were a documentary, the foreboding music would be kicking in at this point, for my descent into palette madness had begun. Soon I had sets from Estée Lauder, Lancôme and Guerlain, all impossibly pretty and perfectly formed. I tried to resist, but the limited editions kept coming, and each time I passed on one I feared I’d missed out on the perfect specimen. The palettes started to overflow in the make-up drawer of dreams and were promoted into their own basket. They outgrew the basket and got their own shelf in the cupboard. I’m currently planning a custom built cabin for the garden, with tiny felt-lined shelves that run all the way round it, and air con to keep everything at a constant temperature. Which at this point seems perfectly reasonable.


I laugh bitterly when people ask me if I have a favourite. Ask me to pick a favourite child, why don’t you? (I only have one child, so this analogy doesn’t really work, but still). I love them all. Bobbi still bangs out great palettes with carefully selected shades I’ll always wear. Tom Ford’s are amazing quality – densely pigmented, silky powders that blend like heaven.  Chanel’s Prelude is my most worn – four perfect cool browns that go with every conceivable outfit. Guerlain’s exquisite enamelled Liu palette would pass as an heirloom if a) I had a daughter and b) I didn’t already plan to be buried with it. They’re all jewelled treasures, that I open reverently, remove the little plastic slip cover and sigh over with admiration. This passes for totally normal behaviour round these parts.


I still have my original Bobbi palette. I’m holding onto it in case I ever meet her, in which case I will probably ask her to sign it. If she does, I’ll thank her graciously, then lean in and whisper desperately, “How soon can I get the Holiday collection?”.

Debra Brock

Debra Brock is co-founder of and a contributing writer.

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