Makeup Artists Changing the Face of Fashion Week
Special to CNBC
Designers aren't the only ones creating trends at Fashion Week.
Makeup artists are lending their own creative touches to fashion shows and are becoming as sought-after as the designers themselves. What's more, their decisions send ripples throughout the beauty industry, and influence what women will buy in the months to come.
"Makeup is an accessory to fashion," said François Nars, makeup artist and founder of Nars Cosmetics. "You buy a bag, you buy shoes, you put on eyeliner, you buy a lipstick, makeup compliments the clothes."
Nars believes there's more freedom for the makeup artist to be independent today.
Nars should know. He has been a leader in the trend, having started started his own cosmetics line in 1994 by selling a collection of 12 lipsticks to Barneys New York. Over the years, he's built his brand into a beauty empire, and his latest achievement was the opening of his first stand-alone makeup boutique in SoHo, which was opened on the eve of Fashion Week last Wednesday.
"Compared to 20 years ago, this didn't exist," he said. "Makeup lines were more abstract, they were just a big name, we didn't know who was behind it. There was no MAC, there was no Bobbi Brown, there was no me, so we've come up with a whole new breed of lines."
"In my case, I take care of the line really well. I overlook everything. If a color comes out, they know it was designed by me, not just by chemists creating colors. It feels personal and that's what women like, there's a face to the brand," he said.
But even mass-market cosmetics companies are now associated with makeup artists with clout, and they are exerting their influence during Fashion Week.
Pat McGrath, a makeup artist who works exclusively with Procter & Gamble cosmetics brands such as Cover Girl, Max Factor and Dolce & Gabanna works on 32 fashion shows per fashion season. She creates each beauty look by "looking at the collection, the shapes, the tones, and [seeing] how we can take the characteristics in the collection and translate it into beauty."
Through collaborative and creative processes, designers, hair stylists and makeup artists work together to create cohesive and inspiring looks for the upcoming season. Prior to each runway show, the stylist coordinates looks for the runway and creates a line-up. At the hair and makeup test, the hair stylist, makeup artist and designer review the collection and collaborate with the designer to create an overall aesthetic.
"Everything works together, the makeup, the lighting, the choice of runway, it all works together to complete a beautiful picture," McGrath said.
But McGrath admits there is "a lot more interest" in the contributions makeup artists make to the shows.
"There are more backstage interviews, there's much more interest from the public," McGrath said backstage at J. Mendel.
The beauty industry is a "critical, influential part of fashion," says Steven Kolb, the Executive Director of Fashion Designers for America.
"When you look at a designer and their collection, the styling and the presentation of that collection is so dependent on the complete look. To have the right makeup and hair, that is an extension of the collection or that aesthetic, is really important."
Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week becomes an arena for new beauty concepts and trends to develop.
"This year, we're seeing the neutral face and bold lips," NPD Group Beauty Analyst Karen Grant. "There's a lot of drama around the eyes."
Still, it traditionally takes a while before these trends trickle down to the average consumer.
First, the looks on the runway will be embraced by the early adopters, smaller brands, and high-end stores. But with consumers and brands better connected to each other thanks to social media and fashion bloggers, the timeframe may become more condensed.
"Tom Ford came out of a niche market selling to Bergdorf, Saks , on top of trend and made a statement launching a lipstick collection when lips weren't that pronounced," Grant said, speaking about Ford's launch of a lip color collection last year.
"A year later, we're seeing a move away from lip gloss to lip color. The trends are not always immediate. Consumers are cautious of what the product is," Grant said.
And these trends move in cycles. In fact, it was the makeup artists in the tents that initially propelled the lip gloss market.
"Lip gloss was in the kid's category," Grant said. "Today, it's a $200 million category because makeup artists showed us how to wear lip gloss and lip color."
"Applicators, brushes, and primer didn't exist before the makeup artists showed us we needed it," said Grant. "A common person can look like a movie star or runway model. There's no more ivory tower, the makeup artist has helped bring down that wall."