The sum on the delivery note was a cool pounds 300. We oohed, we aahed, we stretched our eyes, we wondered if there had been some mistake in the reckonings of the exchange rate from Swedish to English. But no, the Face box of tricks, containing four eyeshadows, two blushers, a highlighter, two mascaras, two nail varnishes, a brow fixer, a lipliner, three lipsticks, three make-up brushes and a powder puff, does, indeed, come to pounds 298.50. Imagine our incredulity when we discovered that the box alone - a construction of plastic-covered wood - costs pounds 85. This was, undeniably, a rip off.
Face Stockholm was founded by a mother and daughter team in 1980. Its USP is colour; fun for the Swedes, who until then had had to make do with taupe and griege, but less so for us, with our wealth of cheap and cheerful ranges. "I'm not impressed, to be honest," said one beauty insider. "You won't find Face in many beauty editors' bags. It's easy enough to test the quality; just stroke an eyeshadow with your finger and see how silky it is. That's what you're paying for."
But supposing you do want to stockpile Face lipstick (pounds 12 a pop) or nail varnish (pounds 9) or any other product. A dedicated make-up box, as opposed to bag, is remarkably hard to find. That does not, however, mean that you have to pay pounds 85. Head to Muji for a multipurpose lunch box (made, bewilderingly, out of the same plastic that NASA uses). It contains moveable dividers and its lid is equipped with grips that could usefully hold makeup brushes. An artist's paintbox from Cowling and Wilcox costs pounds 31.98 and is more stylish yet. In blond wood and measuring 12in by 8in, it contains two layers which are intended to hold tubes of paint and brushes and are thus perfect for lipsticks and eyeshadows.
If, however, you want to treat yourself to a made-to-measure, elegantly designed, boxed, make-up set, (and why on earth shouldn't you?) go to the Philosophy counter. Their Colouring Book is an investment buy at pounds 125, but contains 10 eyeshadows, four blushers, five lipsticks, an eye pencil, a lip pencil and seven make-up brushes. All fit satisfyingly into their respective compartments and, bought individually, would cost more than pounds 300 (with the proviso that, in the book, the eyeshadows and lipsticks come in slightly smaller quantities). The palette is refillable.
Alternatively, the Custom Colouring Book, at pounds 80, allows you to choose your own shades of eyeshadow, blush and lipstick. But back to Face. It seems so unSwedish to charge a patently absurd amount for an empty box. Whence did this rogue price point come? I think we should be told.