August 28 2014

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“I Think We Could Do A Lot Of Fun Things In This Space.” Matthew Williamson Enters The Beautysphere


The designer-makeup trend is picking up steam. As brands like Burberry and Tom Ford prove that there is plenty of opportunity for well-loved fashion houses to build strong relationships with beauty consumers, more and more runway regulars are putting down their needles and thread in favor of eye kohl and lipstick bullets. You’ll have to wait until August for Marc Jacobs’ highly anticipated full-color collection with Sephora, but Matthew Williamson’s first foray into face painting—an exclusive eye-shadow palette in collaboration with Benefit cosmetics that includes miniature tubes of its They’re Real! Mascara, Lip Gloss in Inferno, and Cheek Powder in Gimme Fever—arrives at the retailer later this month. “It just really seemed like a good fit,” Benefit’s global makeup trend artist and brand authority, Maggie Ford Danielson, said of the partnership between the two companies, which has yielded the new, The Rich is Back! makeup kit. “[We're both] going after the same goal—fun, vibrant, exuberant, colorful, not shying away from bold, bright names, packaging, and edginess. It felt like a great sync-up.” “I liked the energy of Benefit,” Williamson adds. “It’s not about serious, exclusivity. To me, the brand is optimistic, energetic, and irreverent, and is not taking itself too seriously, like my clothes.” Here, the British designer talks to about the “gear change” that was responsible for his critically acclaimed Fall collection—and that just might signal more makeup moves to come.

How involved were you in the specifics of this collaboration? Did you know you really wanted a palette, versus a range of individual products? Was there a directive on your end to include these specific colors, this mascara, et cetera?
Yes and no. I certainly didn’t get involved in the technical aspects of it, as you probably gathered, but yeah—I had sort of the idea, the concept of the seventies, the beginning of Benefit—it was sort of an ode to that. That’s the era I’m most attracted to. I was a kid in the seventies, watching my mom with fashion and makeup, so I guess in my head it was about expressing those elements.

So, presumably, that’s where the fun disco-era packaging comes from?
I actually sent a number of prints to Benefit, and I expected them to pick one, and they picked them all! It’s now a kaleidoscope of my favorite prints over the last fifteen years.

Those fifteen years have seen a lot of fashion shows. Has beauty always been an important part of your runway formula?
It’s funny. Well, it’s not funny. It’s interesting. I’ve always been a bit scared of makeup in that it’s…I’m not an expert. I make clothes. So over the fifteen years that I’ve been working in fashion, I’ve become slightly more attuned to what I want to express. But it usually centers around “less is more.” I never want a really intense [beauty] look for a runway show, because I don’t want to look back at it in years to come and go, “What?” I kind of like it being a relatively blank canvas. That said, I’m thinking of not doing that for September. I remember my first show, in 1997, I did a look with [makeup artist] Mary Greenwell, and she did a really beautiful sort of rose above the eye area, and I’ve been kind of thinking about that.

Is this shift a reflection of what you’re doing with the collection?
Oh yeah, definitely. I want to challenge myself with the look a little. Without giving too much away, it’s definitely a gear change that I am going through creatively. I think [my Fall show] was a…departure is the wrong word, because it still had the essence of the girl that you think of when you think of Matthew Williamson, but there was a gear change there, and I hope in September it’s a much bigger shift, and that includes the makeup. I am conscious of trying to look at things in a different perspective.

Do you see this as a small step toward a bigger beauty influence for your brand?
I would love it to be a step toward that, because this is a way that we can get our name and our brand a much wider reach. When we collaborated with H&M a couple of years ago, that was similar in a sense—that it pushed our brand way further than we could. As an independent brand, we can only grow so much. But I’d love to move into the world of makeup.

It would make a lot of sense. You have a great sense for color.
I think we could do a lot of fun things in this space.

Are there certain makeup elements that you think are iconic for their ability to enhance a woman’s beauty?
I was talking about my mom, and that she was someone who, obviously, when I was a little boy, I was fascinated by her process of getting ready. She would make her bath a ritual. I would sit on the end of her bed, she would sit at her dressing table, and she would prepare for the next day of work. She went into this zone and did her nails and filed them. And I was so curious and intrigued by this process. And nothing was left to chance. She put her earrings out, and her lipstick. And her suit jacket matched the shoes. And she was kind of my muse for many years—and still is. But to your point, I guess her nails—her nails were always gleaming. You’d never see her without nail polish.

Maybe you and Benefit should do a nail-polish collection next.
[Looking toward Ford Danielson] Let’s talk!

Photo: Courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics

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