I attached a photo to the top of this review, but let’s be honest: by now, you know what the ABH Subculture palette looks like. I’ve never owned a palette like it. The colours are autumnal and eclectic and moody, and as soon as swatches were released I felt an uncontrollable pull to it. A pastel neon (?) peach and a mustard yellow with an army green? I know a lot of people have spoken of it as lacking in cohesiveness, but it’s one of the palettes I look at and feel inspired.
If you’re reading a review of the Subculture palette at this point after release, you’ve presumably encountered the cycle of hype and backlash. In 2016, everyone had fallen deeply in love with Anastasia’s Modern Renaissance palette, including my belated love affair earlier this year. It was near perfect as a warm toned palette, unafraid of red and pink shades, and excelled at both mattes and shimmers. A good palette to that captured the zeitgeist. They had a good line of solid hits. Brow products relied on by experts and amateurs, interesting highlights, successful limited edition eyeshadow palettes…people were primed to love their products. Then came Subculture, teased for months, leaked pre-release…and the backlash was deafening. And the backlash to that backlash was even worse. And where did we land on this palette? Well, I think it’s been decided that personal opinions are not unanimous. Let’s talk about mine.
No matter how much you love a brand or their products, they are not a person. We do not need to defend their actions; we do not need to rationalise for them. When a product is critically panned but you still enjoy it, it doesn’t mean their experience is less valid. So I ended up really loving this palette, and I have no issues with the shadows being overly powdery or kicking back an excessive amount of powder. I can still acknowledge the ways in which this palette is imperfect! Certain shades don’t show up true to pan (most notoriously Edge, which does not satisfy my yearning for a mustard colour) and others need specific kinds of brush (Cube needs to be applied with a finger, lest you lose the pink iridescence completely). My pan of Roxy has a little bit of kickback, and I can understand how certain batches might be prone to kicking up even more.
Subculture is absolutely not the easiest palette in the world to use. Modern Renaissance had its drawbacks with over-pigmentation and fallout, but the colours blended well and applied with ease. Subculture sits in a different realm. And yet, of all of my many, many palettes, it is one of the few that I pick up and look at and feel interested in. I can start with a colour and move to something else and never feel uninspired, because the mix balances quirk and utility. It is not a “for everyone” palette, but it is a great one for me.
In fact, even for the subtle everyday looks, I’ve found the colours in Subculture to work nicely with my new purple hair. I like working odd shades in subtle ways, and it’s satisfying to me that this is a palette suitable for that or for high level drama.
Here’s a close up of that specific look, an example of something I’ll throw together in a few minutes with Subculture. I think that’s important to contrast with the instagram theatrics this palette lends itself towards.
Want to try mustard with khaki and lavender? Go for it. Peach and berry and lime? Sounds like a smoothie, but delightful on the eyes.
Because of my surprisingly positive experience, it won’t surprise anyone how tempted I’ve found myself by the more recent Prism palette. There’s been a lot of controversy over the similarities between the two palettes and their shade ranges. Here’s just one of the many, many posts comparing the two, with the general consensus being that only one is really necessary to achieve the same kind of looks. Certain shades in Prism appeal to me more – the dark metallic green, the metallic lavender, that neon yellow green – but the overall aesthetic feels more alienating to me personally than the recognizably grunge vibe of Subculture. I do wish that the definitive shades performed better (specifically Edge and Cube), and I might cave and buy Prism at some point with a voucher, but I’m one of the few people without buyer’s remorse.
All that said, I’m always trying to be conscious of my blatant consumerism and need to acquire more more more. For me, being “better” would still be a troubling quantity of makeup for most people. This is me calling myself out – this time, my purchase of a known trouble inducing palette worked out for the better, but my purchase didn’t hinge on that factor and returns are not an option here. Think your things through.