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.
One look at the makeup backstage at Donna Karan transported us to another show entirely, as an immediate déjà vu of Pat McGrath’s hot pink eyeliner and eyelashes at Dior Couture set in. “It gives you intensity of color and graphicness of form,” Charlotte Tilbury said of the technique, which she repurposed as a juxtaposition to all the muted reds, golds, blues, and greens in Karan’s collection. “It’s sunrise, sunset,” the face painter elaborated of the clothes’ dégradé pastel palette, which was meant to reference the light progression over a day’s time (not the Fiddler on the Roof refrain, lest you be confused).
Starting with a blank canvas of MAC Face and Body Foundation mattified with powder in the T-zone, Tilbury drew a blocked-off wing using its Eyeliner in Magenta, dipping a brush into a MAC Chromacake in the same color to paint top and bottom lashes a shade of hot fuchsia. Nails were given two coats of a custom-mixed nude varnish composed of MAC Nail Lacquer in Quiet Time and Cream Delicate, while brows were bleached to keep eyes the focal point of the look (much to models’ dismay).
Eugene Souleiman subsequently pulled hair up to accommodate a series of frosted Perspex headpieces designed by Stephen Jones, although the Wella Professionals global artistic director added his own “romantic, dark-tragedy twist” to the equation. Using the brand’s Ocean Spritz Beach Texture Spray to give strands a shine-free, naturally gritty quality, Souleiman folded a ponytail onto itself to make a flat panel in the back of the head, building “spiky, sharp shards” in the front by setting floating wisps around the hairline with hair spray. “It’s a little bit off,” he decided.
James Kaliardos and Orlando Pita don’t have to look too far to find beauty inspiration at Diane von Furstenberg, where they often reference the designer herself—from her Studio 54 days to her more recent globe-trotting jaunts to the far reaches of Africa, India, and beyond. But for Spring, von Furstenberg wanted something else. “After looking at four different hair tests on four different girls, she turned around and said, ‘Can we do that?’” Pita recalled of the moment Diane decided to make the look more about the models’ individuality and less referential of her own.
“These girls already have these amazing gifts of beauty, so we just want to enhance them,” Pita said of strands that came in center-parted, side-parted, straight, and wavy iterations—all of which mixed seamlessly with von Furstenberg’s colorful, varied collection. There was one curly girl, too, which afforded Pita the unavoidable opportunity of paying homage to the woman behind the brand. “[Katryn Kruger] looks a little like Diane so we’re going to do her hair like [Diane's].”
Kaliardos went with a more uniform makeup look, which started with a base of MAC’s new-for-spring Mineralize Moisture Fluid Liquid Foundation, some slight contouring with its forthcoming Sculpting Cream in Pure Sculpture, and a “ruddy, healthy, punchy” cheek courtesy of its Blushcreme in Tea Petal. “We’re using the same palette, but tailoring the look a little bit for each girl,” he explained of the slightly smoked-out lower lash line that he intensified or pared down with a stroke of MAC’s Pro Chromagraphic Pencil in NC15/NW20 and its Eyeshadow in Antique and Espresso. “It has a slight Indian vibe,” Kaliardos admitted of the dark, elongated shape as he added a few whips of MAC Haute & Naughty Mascara on the top and bottom lash lines and affixed a few individual lashes on the outer corners—which only served to make models like Kasia Struss and Joan Smalls look that much more gorgeous in their own unique ways.
Last season, we sat in on the creative process as Thakoon Panichgul and his crack team of beauty experts—that’s Odile Gilbert on hair and Diane Kendal on makeup—trouble-shot a few different looks before arriving at a keeper for the Fall show. This time around, success was immediate. “We got it on the first take,” a jubilant Gilbert confirmed backstage of the “strict, graphic” hair that stemmed from Panichgul’s Spring “garden, flowers, and birdcages” reference points.
“He brings to me, and I bring to him,” Gilbert continued of the idea sharing that helped her arrive at the collection’s dual-textured style. Starting with a generous application of Kérastase Elixir Ultime Imperial to get a glossy, conditioned quality, Gilbert center-parted hair, smoothing front panels behind ears and using a three-branch iron to create defined waves through the lengths. “When we love, we don’t count,” she said, translating a French-ism while slipping a haphazard number of black bobby pins across the back of the head in a half-circle pattern and gathering ends into a low-lying elastic.
“Fantasy” was the Thakoon directive that Kendal picked up on, a theme that was helped along by mood board images of Mia Farrow in The Great Gatsby. “That’s where the 1930s eyebrow came from,” she explained; ditto the sunken eyes and rosy flush. Dusting NARS’ new-for-spring Light-Reflecting Setting Powder over a freshly cleaned and spot-treated base, Kendal blended NARS’ forthcoming raspberry-hued Blush in Seduction onto models’ cheeks, lining lids with its Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Santa Monica Blvd and blending its Eyeshadow in Bali and Blondie across lids. As for those brows, it was important to Kendal that models’ natural arches were visible, “so your eye is drawn to the dark line,” which she drew on top of natural brows with NARS Eyebrow Pencils in either Jodphur or Mambo. “We wanted that eccentric quality,” she explained of why she chose not to bleach brows or glue them down—a quality the models certainly appreciated.
Maybe it was the fact that last season’s big, sixties-era undone bouffants met with mixed reviews—or that Spring’s general, minimal-minded beauty mantra is spreading. Whatever it was, Orlando Pita kept the hair backstage at Derek Lam incredibly simple—”relatable,” even, he offered.
The technically gifted hairstylist was more inclined to blame the move toward minimal on the wavering economy—”it’s not really the time to be flashy”—not to mention the state of fashion. “There are all these people now who are practical in the way they design,” he said, running off the list of sartorial stars responsible for the marked change, in his opinion. “Raf Simons is at Christian Dior now; Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent—and Jil Sander is back at Jil Sander.” Then, of course, there’s Lam—a master in his own right at the simplicity of sportswear. “Derek wanted something that wasn’t referenced,” Pita shared, as he coated hair with Phyto Intense Volume Mousse, blowing it dry for texture and then coating his hands with its Workable Holding Spray before slicking down front pieces from an imperfect side part. Pita used T3′s straightening and styling iron to create loose waves through the lengths, deconstructing them a bit to ensure that the hair never looked “worked on.”
Estée Lauder creative director of makeup Tom Pecheux was going for a similar light-handed approach, despite using a bounty of product. “The only thing we’re not using is mascara!” he said of the fully made-up face that still managed to avoid looking heavy, thanks to Pecheux’s focus on a “see-through,” transparent finish. Prepping skin with Lauder’s Re-Nutriv Intensive Age Renewal Creme, his trusty bottle of its Idealist Even Skintone Illuminator and the new-for-spring Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Infusion, Pecheux created a base with its Double Wear Light Stay-in-Place Makeup. Contouring with Lauder’s Pure Color Blush in Brazen Bronze instead of a sculpting product, Pecheux moved his focus to the eyes, which were layered with a selection of the brand’s forthcoming Pure Color Stay-On Shadow Paints in Cosmic, Extreme Emerald, Halo, and Steel, a sheer teal/sandy-gold palette Pecheux described as “aqua—like the reflection of sunrise on a lake.” Lips were toned down and arches were beefed up, in accordance with Pecheux’s preference for big, full brows—”I can’t help it,” the face painter joked. As Lam made his way around the room, checking on the pre-show progress, he stopped by Pecheux’s station for a quick hello. “The girls look pretty!” he said. Indeed.