Gareth Pugh X MAC: “Makeup as Modern Armor”
Gareth Pugh is no stranger to the wonderful world of makeup. “Every day I wear black eye liner—top and bottom—right in the corners, and I smudge it a little bit with my finger,” Pugh says, revealing that MAC Studio Fix foundation and its Lip Conditioner also make it into his bag on the regular. Still, when we broke the news this summer that fashion’s reigning prince of darkness would be launching a full-scale, limited-edition cosmetics collection with MAC in the fall, it was a bit of a surprise: Pugh isn’t so much into color. “It’s something that I don’t really get to do so much,” he admits, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t up for the challenge. “It was really nice to be able to think in terms of something other than clothing, where obviously color is a very big part of the process,” the British designer says of the 18-piece range of pigments and accessories he’s launching with the mega brand next month. It includes deep burgundy Metal-X Cream Eye Shadows, dark mulberry lipsticks, lavender Lipglasses, and iridescent nail lacquers with blue/violet bases. The range boasts custom-designed lacquered packaging unlike anything MAC has launched before. “I wanted something quite angular and sharp and straight,” Pugh explains, pointing to a black cube he keeps in his inspiration coffers that informs a fair bit of his work. “Even when I was designing my shop in Hong Kong, the idea was to make it look as if you stepped in a black cube, because a lot of what I do comes from that idea—and that black is kind of my thing.” Here, Pugh talks eyelashes, the joy of collaboration, and “adding another string to [his] ball” with a product that has mass appeal.—Celia Ellenberg
What was the creative process like for your first foray into beauty?
It was very much about taking the essence of what I do and making something that could be extreme, but also could be taken down to a beautiful nail polish or a beautiful lipstick—things that work in their own right, rather than just all components of one particular look. We agreed on a loose framework of products that we wanted to do and then, you know, in my studio I have a lot of things that I like to collect, for one reason or another—things that I just kind of like the look of. I am of the thought that things always come in handy at some point, so it was a real opportunity for me to go and have a rummage around. It was just kind of putting it all down, having this big pile in front of me, and choosing from that and laying it out on—not necessarily a mood board, but more so a chart.
Got it. So what kind of things made it onto this “chart?”
Fabrics I have in my collection; a feather from this collection I did that was all gray with lots of headdresses; a butterfly wing that this guy gave me in Paris as a business card; a rock that I bought at a shop in New York… it was kind of a broad range, but not just anything and everything. I was trying to sort of edit the choices of colors before I sent them over to make a nice little story.
Was it similar to putting together a runway collection or vastly different?
I always liken my clothing to modern armor. For me, makeup is very much about that, too. I like the fact that it kind of veils your real face. You can show people what you want to show. Makeup can both draw attention but also make you invisible, kind of like with Daphne Guinness—she always says that her ideal outfit is an invisibility suit, and I kind of understand that. She is hiding herself in the clothes that she wears because she is shy. That is kind of the way I think about what I do as well—with fashion and makeup.
Does this idea of armor factor into the hair and makeup you create backstage at your shows, too?
Before I have any conversation with regards to hair and makeup, we always wait until I have mostly everything in front of me. We sit down—me and my stylist, Katie—and we kind of just talk. We throw up some images and it is just like, things feel right at a particular time and then we take that conversation to [makeup artist] Alex Box or [hairstylist] Martin Cullen. The whole joy of collaborating with somebody is kind of seeing what I want through somebody else’s eyes. It brings a new meaning to it.
You’ve been partial to 3-D makeup at your shows of late. Is there any semblance of that aesthetic in your cosmetics collection?
I really love the lash. It’s made like a normal lash, but it’s my version of a lash, and it is cut in such a graphic way. It’s definitely not a traditional look, but it is a simple idea and it works very well on an eye and functions a little bit like an eye liner. I try to get people out of their comfort zones with regard to what they do.
There are definitely some wearable pieces here, though. How does it feel to create something with a bit more mass appeal?
It is interesting for me to have another kind of string to my ball with things like this that are accessible, but it’s still very much me. I have never seen what I do fitting in with someone’s lifestyle. It is maybe more the opposite, in the fact that the clothing sort of dictates the lifestyle. I would never say that something like this is a compromise to what I do; it is an extension of that, and it just basically means that a lot more people who maybe either want to have a little bit of what I do or maybe don’t know what I do and want to become kind of familiar with it now have an opportunity to involve themselves. I am not going to be doing, like, duvet covers and bed linens anytime soon, though.
So no “Gareth Pugh: the home collection?”
No, unfortunately not.
Photo: Courtesy of MAC Cosmetics