April 21 2014

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Pared-Down Perfection, Backstage At Narciso Rodriguez


The beauty buzz at the Spring shows thus far has been largely about a return to simplicity. With a few notable exceptions, it’s been all clean skin and unfussy hair that is without reference and purposely devoid of too much glamour (read: volume). But after Narciso Rodriguez’s winning show, now seems like a good time to point out that while all the minimalism may seem like a newfound, palate-cleansing idea, it does indeed have a reference point in Narciso Rodriguez, the longtime king of understated chic.

“It’s vintage Narciso—and Calvin,” Shiseido artistic director Dick Page pointed out of the phenomenon that he, too, was partaking in backstage at Rodriguez’s Spring show, with a bare face and a glossy lid. Page, who met Rodriguez when the latter was working at Calvin Klein, has been painting faces for the designer for years. “Without being super conceptual about it, we’re doing nothing,” he explained of the makeup look, which, to be fair, was as barebones as it gets. Skin was given a slight highlight with Shiseido’s Luminizing Satin Face Color in Soft Beam Gold, brows were brushed up and filled in using its Shimmering Cream Eye Color in Sable and Caviar, and lips and lids were coated in its Benefiance Full Correction Lip Treatment for a shiny flash of gloss. “It just felt right,” Page said. “The girls have to belong to the clothes and the collection; that’s the most important thing.”

Paul Hanlon’s center-parted strands, spritzed with By Byron Spirulina Hairspray, had “structure, sophistication, and shine,” which felt similarly right—a testament to the wunderkind’s skills as it was his first-ever Narciso show. “I’m very honored. I’m a big fan,” Hanlon said of the opportunity to replace Eugene Souleiman, who had been the third piece of the Rodriguez-Page trifecta for quite some time. “I’ve always been aware of who [Narciso's] woman is,” Hanlon confirmed, adding that to him, “the history is important.” So he dug into the archives a little bit, while adding his own updated touch in the form a hint of disheveledness achieved by “shaking” the hair out so it fell “very sporadically” before models hit the runway. Deborah Lippmann’s impeccably buffed nails finished the look—by which all other pared-down beauty looks this season will heretofore be judged.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri /

The Nails That Were Built With 200 (Wo)man Hours


As we stagger through day six of New York fashion week, the nude nail—or no nail—movement is gaining steam with each passing show. But that hasn’t stopped the industry’s nail artists from flexing their creative muscles. Michelle Huynh’s spiel at Rodarte yesterday started much like many similar spiels have gone since the weekend. “We created a base with two coats of Frosting Cream and Desert Suede, which we followed with a glossy topcoat,” the CND manicurist began. But it ended quite differently. “Then we mixed those two colors with Chocolate Milk, painted a piece of wax paper, let it dry, and topped that with a matte topcoat,” she continued—at which point our ears perked up. “We cut the paper into strips,” she explained, demonstrating how the microscopic slivers were then crisscrossed on top of the nail and glued down by another coat of the band’s Super Shiny Topcoat, which was slicked on underneath the paper pieces, not on top of them, so there was a “glimmer” from the different textures playing off one another when models walked down the runway. Not your average nude nail, to be sure.

Photo: Courtesy of CND

More Dungeons & Dragons, Less Kim Kardashian, Backstage At Rodarte


“A modern-medieval face” is what the tip sheet James Kaliardos was passing around to his team backstage at Rodarte said, but there was more to it than that, of course. “The collection feels Dungeons & Dragons to me, not Joan of Arc,” Kaliardos elaborated, referencing the austerity of old religious paintings and “getting rid of the Kim Kardashian look—forever.”

That meant skipping those familiar, heavily bronzed contours and focusing instead on a paled-out complexion that was treated with NARS Skin Optimal Brightening Concentrate and a light-handed application of its Sheer Glow Foundation just in the center of the face, “because once it gets on the cheeks, it actually looks like foundation,” according to Kaliardos. There wasn’t much visible product on the face at all, really, save for NARS’ Triple X Lip Gloss, which was swathed onto mouths and eyelids and applied through girls’ brows as well, including show-opener Jessica Stam’s. “Can you fix me,” Stam beseeched Kaliardos, who added a little fullness, too, at the model’s request.

Odile Gilbert was working off the proportions of Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s designs. “When they showed me the clothes, I thought [the girls] needed something long,” Gilbert said, referring to the hair, which she made “strict and straight” to accommodate a dragon earring cuff clipped onto models’ left ears. “It’s like the girls are shaved,” she explained, slicking strands with Kérastase Ciment Thermique for a pre-blow-dry polish, and dividing them into three sections: two in back—one hanging straight down over the other—and one in front, which was combed all the way over to one side and coated with its Elixir Ultime for added shine.

The finishing touch came from the most conceptual neutral nail we’ve seen this week. “It took 200 man-hours,” CND manicurist Michelle Huynh said of the three-dimensional polish-on-polish basketweave tips that showcased a blended base of its varnishes in Desert Suede and Frosting Cream. Nude, it turns out, doesn’t necessarily mean boring.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri /

Poor Little Rich Girls, Backstage At Marc Jacobs


“I was bored with my hair,” Ruby Jean Wilson said nonchalantly backstage at Marc Jacobs, explaining why two months ago, she decided to cash in her dark brunette locks for a rooty, white-blond dye job. There’s no way she could’ve known that the color would land her both opening—and closing—duties on Jacobs’ Spring runway.

“A lot of the girls are based on [her]. Sometimes a girl comes in and becomes Marc’s muse,” Guido Palau admitted, explaining the impetus for the beauty look—which also included a nod to that original peroxide-blonde, big-browed icon, Edie Sedgwick. “She’s a punky New York girl, for sure, and she might be a little rich,” the Redken creative consultant continued, further describing Marc’s woman this season, who got a severely deep side part and a ton of texture thanks to a generous helping of Redken Guts 10 Volume Spray Mousse Foam, its Refresh 01 Aerosol Hair Powder Dry Shampoo, and a new product called Quick Tease, which Palau described as having a quality between “a fiber and a spray.” The coiffing star added a touch of volume to the back of the crown—”not like Amy Winehouse, though that’s not the point,” he clarified—and gathered the lengths (some of which had been dyed Ruby’s precise shade of platinum or a contrasting matte black courtesy of Laurie Foley), securing them into a low ponytail. “I love your hair. It’s gorgeous,” Jacobs told a newly raven-haired Irina Lazareanu as we worked the room, checking on models’ progress.

François Nars was given the same Edie directive, which could not have been better timed considering his brand’s recent collaboration with the Andy Warhol foundation. “Everything is a coincidence,” Nars joked of the crossover that saw him on familiar ground. “This is more updated,” he said of this particular sixties homage, careful not to use the word “modern,” which “doesn’t mean anything,” as far as he’s concerned. “I took out the hardness of Edie’s look and kept the freshness,” he elaborated, prepping skin with his Sheer Glow Foundation and forthcoming Radiant Creamy Concealers and paling it out with his new-for-spring Light Reflecting Powder. Sculpting lids with the neutral shades from his Duo Eyeshadows in Key Largo and Portobello, Nars lined the upper lash line and the outer corner of the lower lash line with his Eyeliner Pencil in Black Moon, drawing a similar stroke through the crease—or “the banane” (a banana line), as they say in French—which he set with the onyx pigment from his Duo Eyeshadow in Pandora. Brows were beefed up to Edie proportions with his Single Eyeshadows in Bengali and Bali before Nars treated upper and lower lashes to multiple whips of his Larger Than Life Volumizing Mascara. Poor little rich girls never looked better.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri /

Rock Chicks Unite, Backstage at 3.1 Phillip Lim


When NARS national makeup artist Francelle Daly and Phillip Lim started talking about the beauty look for the designer’s Spring show a few days before it happened, they were keeping it light. “We were looking through the clothes, listening to Nirvana,” she recalls of the test shoot. “Then I remembered myself as the music girl, going to Lollapalooza,” Daly continued, which is when the lightbulb went off: clumpy mascara.

“It’s modern grunge—without the grunge,” she explained of the “sophisticated” face-painting effort that began with a base of NARSkin Luminous Moisture Cream topped with its Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer and a spot treatment of the new-for-spring Radiant Creamy Concealers where needed. Contouring cheeks ever so slightly with its Bronzing Powder in Casino, Daly brushed brows up and started in on those eyes. Working NARS Eye Liner Pencil in Black Moon into the lash line, she turned to her trusty tube of Larger Than Life Lengthening Mascara and pretty much went for it. “I hand-clumped them myself,” she effused of the chunky effect of curling the lashes, applying one to two coats of glossy pigment, letting that dry, and then adding eight to ten more swipes.

Paul Hanlon followed suit with a matted-down side part and an exaggerated, volumized, almost retro rock ‘n’ roll quiff on one side that was rendered positively contemporary thanks to copious amounts of TIGI Queen for A Day Thickening Spray that he heated into sections as he blow-dried to create a frothy texture. “Make it really flat on the sides or else it looks like a bit of a joke,” he instructed his team on how to keep it current, poring over the minutiae of every last hair.

Lim ordered up a nail moment, too, courtesy of Essie celebrity manicurist Michelle Saunders. “This is the half-and-half nail,” Saunders exclaimed of dual-colored tips painted on one side with Chinchilly, a mauve gray, and Brooch the Subject, a cappuccino, on the other. It was a far cry from the chipped black polish of true rock chic, but that was kind of the point.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri /