Part of the fun of being backstage at a Victoria Beckham show is that it’s a family affair. Since the birth of her daughter two years ago, it’s become common practice for Beckham’s soccer star husband to emerge pre-presentation, Harper on his hip. The other thrill is to see the hair and makeup.
Beauty for Beckham is an evolution, much like her clothing design; “she’s still figuring out [that] side,” Guido Palau said, pointing out that she likes a strong look but wants to keep it simple—which is why Diane Kendal’s original orange lip was scrapped at the last minute for Spring’s early preference for the subtle and subdued. In its place were “contours” and “highlights,” two familiar words in New York this week, which Kendal created using a series of Maybelline New York Expert Wear Eyeshadows in Made for Mocha and Nutmeg, powder pigments that carved out the hollows of cheeks and the sockets of eyes with a bit more definition than you’d get from a cream product. Its Eye Studio Color Tattoo Eyeshadow in Too Cool, a creamy silver shimmer, provided a luminescent shine to cheekbones, brow ridges, and the bridge of the nose.
Palau’s look started out “unreferenced” and stayed that way. Operating under the guise that “something just feels right about minimal hair right now” and without a specific era or individual from which to cull inspiration, he went with a dual-textured middle part that was prepped with Redken Guts 10 Volume Spray Foam Mousse to provide a grip to the hair, which was rough-dried with its Powder Refresh 01 Aerosol Hair Powder Dry Shampoo in back and given long, purposeful flyaways. “The hairlines have got to be perfect,” Palau instructed his team as he smoothed down front sections with its Shine Flash 02 Glistening Mist—the better to wear those perfectly crisp, buttoned-up-to-there collared shirts, we imagine.
“I don’t want to create jealousy,” Tom Pecheux said backstage at Altuzarra, “but [Joseph's] definitely in my top three.” The famed face painter was so transfixed with the designer’s Spring collection, in fact, that recollections of the makeup test were a little fuzzy. “I don’t 100 percent remember [Joseph's] exact words [at the test] because I was hypnotized by his clothes,” Pecheux admitted. He did manage to retain a few key objectives, though. “We wanted the girls to be extremely sophisticated and perfect, but in a simple way.”
This translated into a classic Catherine Deneuve-meets-Yves Saint Laurent face treated with MAC Face and Body Foundation and emphasized with a “very French” accent in the form of a navy, not black, stroke of eyeliner. “It’s royal blue, and I think it’s so chic,” Pecheux clarified of MAC’s Technakhol Pencil in Auto-de-blu, which he drew along models’ upper lash lines. “No wings,” he reminded his team of the lines’ elongated ends, which he wanted to be straight rather than turned upward. “I didn’t want any retro feeling,” Pecheux explained.
When asked why minimalism is emerging as an early trend at the shows in New York, Pecheux noted that “you don’t want anything feeling too heavy, because life is anything but light right now,” referencing the American and French elections and the European financial crisis. “In a way, people want to do less.” Paul Hanlon was on a similar tip, as he became one of many voices to reference Helmut Newton’s special brand of nineties-era minimalism this week, which he mixed with clean, precise equestrian- and Japanese-inspired lines. “But it’s very simple,” the coiffing star stressed of the sleek side parts he prepped with Frédéric Fekkai Full Blown Volume Styling Whip, gathered into a low ponytail that he coated with its Sheer Hold Hairspray for a flat-lacquered effect, and wove into what he called a “half-bow,” not a bun. “A bun would’ve been a cop out.”
Hanlon concurred that requests for a certain kind of subdued beauty have definitely been bandied about by designers so far this season—which is a good thing for people looking for an entry point into the world of high fashion. “Sometimes, when there’s a reference in the look, it can be a bit untouchable; when it’s simple, it makes you believe you can be that woman”—a woman, it’s safe to say, everyone in attendance was envisioning themselves as by the time Altuzarra’s finale hit the runway.
The supermodel surprise that caused more than a few oohs and ahs backstage at Alexander Wang last season was notably missing for Spring, save for a catwalk cameo from Erin Wasson. But there was still plenty of shock value in the catacombs of Pier 94. Following the Kristen Stewart affair scandal that dragged her name through the international tabloids, Liberty Ross was getting ready for the runway; then there were those strips of scalp tape.
“It’s severe and simple-looking,” Guido Palau suggested of the pieces of black—and, in some cases, glow-in-the-dark white—electrical adhesive he stuck to slicked-down middle parts. “It looks more futuristic and takes [the style] to another level so it’s not too simple,” he continued of the accessory he added to a classically placed low ponytail that he prepped with Redken Satinwear 02 Ultimate Blow Dry Lotion, adding a slight bend to the lengths with Sultra’s The Bombshell oval curling iron. Enhancing the modern, otherworldly feel were fingers painted with two coats of Dune, the neutral beige that is part of Wang’s latest collaboration with Sally Hansen (which also includes White Out, a sheer alabaster), and about ten sets of bleached brows, purposely lightened by L’Atelier de Laurie’s Laurie Foley, and modeled by the show’s blond closers including Iselin Steiro, Magdalena Frackowiak, and Daria Strokous.
The makeup was “bold, strong, and sexy”—words we imagine Diane Kendal has all but memorized after seven-plus seasons of building up Wang’s signature “boyish” brows and not much else. Her focus was on arches again this season. Using NARS Eyeshadow in Blondie or Bali to create depth and thickness after treating complexions to a slathering of NARSskin Optimal Brightening Concentrate and a light coat of its Sheer Glow Foundation, Kendal dusted the high points of models’ faces with its new-for-Spring Light Reflecting Setting Powder. Simulating a slight flush with NARS Blush in Zen, she continued, contouring lids with its Cream Eyeshadow in Cayenne, a rich milk chocolate. Then Kendal did something that is gaining popularity for Spring: She skipped the mascara altogether, because glossy black lashes “make you look more pedestrian and normal,” she said. And the intrigue mounts.
It was so hot and dark backstage at Prabal Gurung’s Spring show, which took place during New York’s early-September, rainforestlike conditions, that there was literally steam rising in the shadows as models assembled in first looks for rehearsal. Discomfort aside, it was the perfect backdrop for Charlotte Tilbury’s makeup look. “It’s a play on ethereal and haunted,” the flame-haired face painter explained as models like Kati Nescher and Joan Smalls blotted the sweat off of their brows, cheeks, and lips in between makeup brush strokes. That Tilbury had committed to an all-cream palette certainly helped matters. “Cream [formulas] makes it a lot easier,” she explained of the look that was heavy on melted-in contours.
After creating a base with MAC’s forthcoming Mineralize Moisture Fluid Liquid Foundation, Tilbury played with a palette of its new Sculpting Creams in Pure Sculpture and Coffee Walnut, working the emollient, earth-toned tints from the hallows of cheekbones up through the temples, along the jaw line, and through the sockets of eyes. Lids were given a touch of highlighter courtesy of a finger-dabbing of MAC Cream Color Base in Luna, a shimmering pearl, before its Prep + Prime Translucent Powder was dragged through the T-zone to further showcase the architecture of the face.
Paul Hanlon’s hair design was similarly amenable to the conditions. “It’s very nineties but also has a Sissy Spacek, seventies vibe as well,” the stylist said of his center-parted, deliberately flat, no-volume coifs. Massaging Schwarzkopf’s Osis Grip Extreme Hold Mousse into the roots and blowing it out for texture, Hanlon raked “loads” of its Osis Magic Finish Anti-Frizz Shine Serum through the mid-lengths to create separation so strands were “ropelike—skinny and languid.” As a finishing touch, he coated his hands with Osis’ Buff Light Styling Cream to smooth any flyways.
Tracylee’s nail designs were probably the closest thing to the contemporary art movement that compelled Gurung’s collection. “He was inspired by Amy Dicke and Anish Kapoor,” said the Sally Hansen nail ambassador, who was looking at a piece of Kapoor’s work when she devised Spring’s “blood-dripped nail.” Using one of the three latest shades from Gurung’s continued partnership with the brand, Tracylee slicked a trickle of Sally Hansen’s Angel Bite, a sanguine red, onto a sheer cream base. Apparition, a gunmetal gray, and Resurrection, a steely blue, will join the deep burgundy lacquer on shelves next year.
Though it may have been her first solo outing at New York fashion week, former J.Crew designer Marissa Webb’s Spring show was one of the hottest tickets in town for anyone (read: everyone) who has fallen hard for the catalog mainstay’s renewed style sensibility over the past few seasons. This, it seems, was not lost on Webb, who packed plenty of backstage firepower to make sure her feminine, modern-day woman was fully realized from well-coiffed head to toe—including legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown. “The clothes speak for themselves, so the makeup really just complements the girls,” Brown explained, using a dusting of her new-for-spring, ultra-lightweight Retouching Powder topped with the forthcoming Antigua Bronzer to achieve “glowing, beautiful” skin. “I want to market it as ‘rock star’ bronzer because I use it at every show,” she joked of the sun-kissed pigment that she actually created for her rabbi’s daughter, who has very, very pale skin, she revealed (fun fact). Eyes were kept soft and smoky, courtesy of Brown’s Long-Wear Cream Shadow in Bark, while lashes were defined with black mascara and lips were treated to a slick of the as-yet-unreleased Sheer Lip Color in Peachy.
“It feels like a real girl who lives in New York and has great style,” hairstylist Michael Angelo of Wonderland Beauty Parlor elaborated—or “basically how my girlfriends wear their hair on Sunday morning for brunch.” A requisite loose and effortless ponytail prepped with Oribe’s Dry Texture Spray followed, amplified with a little back-combed volume at the crown and finished with a strand of hair wrapped around the elastic for good measure. “There will absolutely be women who can wear this and feel beautiful,” he added—much like the majority of Webb’s collection.