Article Archive: October 2011

Pop art

If you had to choose between being invisible or being able to fly for one day which would you choose? It’s a tricky one. Moving about undetected may carry its attractions; robbing a Swiss bank or tracking down an ex lover. But when you think it through properly, invisibility also brings with it lots of potential holes. What about stuff outside yourself that you’d have to carry? Would that be invisible? Would the Swiss bank people see bags of money floating round the room? And an ex-lover, surely you’d be identified by your unique scent. These questions have posed problems for H.G. Wells, David McCallum, Harry Potter and The Fantastic Four (remember Jessica Alda?). So I don’t think we’re going to solve this one, right here, right now. I reckon if you really want to be invisible, there’s no magic or mystery to it at all, here’s what you do….. you just go along to a fashion week and make sure you’re the smallest person there. Works for me.

While I’m usually invisible, everybody else is frantic backstage making models/clothes/hair and make-up appear as visible as possible for their moment. Do you see this skin? Do you see these orange (sorry, coral) blushed cheeks in these pictures above? Are you gettin me????? I’d like to get the hang of those. Getting the “pop” just right is a bit of an issue at home. Tough to perfect alone so until I did I decided to stay off the radar and practice. A cheek like that if done incorrectly can be seen from MARS? Big ask that, enormous ask.

Hannah Murray (the lead MAC Pro make-up artist who created this look for the Jaeger Spring/Summer2012 show) and I talked this over. I said (in my most serious beauty accent) that I may have to claim special dispensation at the Jaeger show because although I’d heard the word used for years I’d really NO IDEA what the word “pop” meant in the context of “look at the way that product makes her (eye, cheek, temples) pop”. Hannah said OK, fair point I’ll explain. “It’s basically when a product imitates the play of light on the face to make your best feature “pop” or stand out.”

So what could I make pop? Weeeeell. I’m not sure really. Wait. Stay there one sec. I’m going to ask….. Well three people have just said three different things to me; “Your eyes”, “Your cheekbones” and “Your clavicles”. My clavicles????? (It seems everyone has a different one.)

I personally like the cheekbones answer. How do I “pop” those? By this stage a large cast of models had arrived and were banked up against the mirrors until eventually Hannah Murray did the decent thing and issued orders. “First cleanse and moisturise the skin (they were using Bioderma Sensibio and several different moisturisers), add eye cream (use your ring finger as it has the lightest touch). Give it a minute to settle. Apply a little foundation or tinted moisturiser to even out blotches (Hannah was using MAC Studio Fix). Alternatively if you don’t want to be messing with tubes or bottles use a face-sculpting mineral foundation and a big brush and put-it-where-it’s-needed to carve out your bone structure fast. ” Great fun.

Next apply your eye make-up (Orange/coral eyeshadow and Plushlash mascara on top ashes only). So to recap that’s foundation and eye make-up BEFORE your concealer. This way you avoid bits of fallen shadow or smudged mascara landing on freshly applied concealer. Next apply concealer where needed. Now for the funner part.

Besides the normal products and items I like to call things in pots and tubes, there are also the commandments of the business: I open my notebook at the start of a show, and close it again a few hours later, and in between, I write things like…. “First up, pinch the cheeks to gauge the most natural flush for your skin, trick” and “apply this coral blush look near a window or standing under a bright light. Applying blush in a dimly lit room can yield Bozo-like results” and “smile in the mirror, and dab cream blush onto the apples of the cheeks with fingers, blending up and out. Swirl a brush in more blush and orange/coral eyeshadow and blend and apply in circular motions, out to the temples.” The other thing about blush application is the brush “A midsize brush (with a diameter of an inch and a half) is best for blush application. Larger ones are difficult to control; smaller ones can create streaks.” So. to summerise: pinch cheeks, find shape, stand near a window with a brush, some blush, a mirror and SMILE!!!

Around this time, things are well under way and obstacles I might encounter at home start running in a loop inside my head. I reckon the day I’ll try this will be the day I wake up with a huge spot. “Cream blushers blend better into the cheeks then powder – although cream will magnify blemishes, so powder is better if you’re acne prone.” And that shine… it’s lustrous and dewy how do I get that? “Use Golden bronze iridescent loose powder to highlight the upper cheek bones and pat MAC Pearl Cream colourbase over and above the cheekbones.”

After a diligent two hour stint, right at the end Hannah explained “if this blend of corals isn’t your colour try light peach or pink for fair skin, terra-cotta or apricot to warm olive skin, and reddish rose or a darker coral for a darker skin tone.” Phenomenal knowledge. OK, what was on the lip? Any of the Plushglass lipglossses.

And what if I make a mistake???? Tone down the intense colour by brushing translucent loose powder over the apples of the cheeks and fix with your fingers with some Golden bronze iridescent loosepowder

Hannah of course relieved finally to see the back of me, told me to add one more thing to my notes. Apparently “none of this will make a whit of difference if you have dry, rough skin. It’s essential to exfoliate with a gentle scrub once or twice a week to remove that dead outer layer. Otherwise your skin won’t be able to reflect light and blush will gather to rough spots and give an uneven tone.” Together we finished our chores. I closed my notebook as the models were ready to hit the ramp. She continued to do “touch-ups” I moved to another notebook to start sketching/noting the clothes.

So that leaves….. I ran back to ask Hannah about highlighting clavicles… “if the body needs a boost of radiance, apply a body moisturizer with a hint of glimmer. Mac Strobecream work s well. I then asked finally about oil-based body shimmer “most formulas slide around and don’t stay put. If you apply one to your chest everyone you hug will twinkle.”

On my travels to Paris, I’ve since found Chanel Sheer Brilliance in Golden Apricot, it gives a sheen that dries nicely because it’s got silicone as one of the ingredients (look out for that). Gives the illusion to cheekbones and clavicles that you could hang your hat from them. So never mind your Oceans Fourteen, I’ve got the makings of a handy little gang here with tricks that’ll make your eyes, cheeks and clavicles pop. All they need is a leader.

Jonathan Saunders – The new skirt length

I’ve wanted to post these Jonathan Saunders shots for ages. Firstly because this is my favourite beauty tool in my make-up bag – a MAC small angle eyebrow brush No.263 (pic above). Dipped in a little MAC Conrete shadow, it’s the best for giving colour and structure to eyebrows. Secondly I remember the evening I took this shot vividly, it was windy with lots of rain as I slipped inside a huge office building to safety, (Two Kingdom Street in Paddington, London). Security was tight – very tight but I think they must have guessed my secret love for a) Scottish born talent Jonathan Saunders and b)the slanty brow brush because some lovely person had kindly called ahead to ask if I could go upstairs. It was easy to see I was excited when I spoke of him, I’d butterflies, like that feeling I get just after I’ve had a good run outdoors. I’ve always loved Jonathan Saunders’s printed textile work. There was only a lift ride to go.

The doors opened to Jonathan Saunders’s entire team preparing, a surge of creative energy and voices spilled out from the room. I searched in my bag for my notebook (it keeps my fingers extra busy, otherwise I’d be pinching myself repeatedly). It stresses me out sometimes when I’m in the presence of genius. Will I do their talent justice? Capture their whole season’s ideas in just a few short hours? I took a deep breath and standing in front of a model whose eyes were closed, I shot Paul Hanlon spraying hairspray and then drying it through a special blue cloth. ‘You don’t get that nasty glossy shine when you diffuse the heat through the cloth’ he said. Right then, no problem. Suddenly it seemed a bit easier.

Backstage etiquette dictates that hair is done in one section of the room while make-up is done in another. At Jonathan Saunders a bank of brightly lit mirrors sits in a row between the two. This area teams with activity, Paul inspects each model’s hair before sending her/him across to make-up. For the hair Jonathan Saunders and Paul Hanlon have agreed on identical perfection. It’s important for hair and make-up to be subtle and clean so that the garments get the attention.

Then it was the turn of one of MAC’s key make-up artists Lucia Pieroni to work her magic. Lucia has worked with faces like Scarlett Johannson, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston and Cameron Diaz. She’s especially well known for being able to give models that ‘fresh faced glow’ and for two hours I trained my camera on her. Each model was going to get the same treatment, because they all had to look identical so over the course of two hours Lucia and her team brushed a base of MAC Studio Sculpt SPF 15 Foundation and MAC Studio Finish Concealer on each. Two hours of putting MAC Invisible Set Powder on twenty six T-zones. Two hours of watching Lucia contour cheekbones with MAC Bone Beige Sculpting powder blended with a 129 brush. Two hours watching as she painted clear lipglass super high on the cheekbones and beside the eyes.

At one point she blended MAC Ground Work paint pot all the way around the eye and into the socket to get a large area looking a honey brown tone using a 217 blending brush. Then she lined the water line and lash line with a coffee eye pencil from MAC.

And finally when I thought she was nearly finished, impervious to the microphones and the scrum around her, she took the time to calmly explain the entire look. She’s such a professional. The make-up was a ‘sculpted monochromatic nude face in honey browns, and it was all about the eyes and more importantly the eyeLASHES!’ The magic ingredient? MAC Zoomblack, Zoomlash mascara – several coats TOP and BOTTOM! Oh and her secret tip “Dab a bit of clear lipglass on the centre of the eyelid AND for a super-glossy creamy nude eye finish with Clear Brow Set on the eyebrows.’

And as ponytails were wrapped in paper to keep them smooth and safe during the two-hour make-up marathon. Models who were finished hair and make-up plus those who hadn’t even started yet were drifting very quickly towards…

THE SHOES! Models always have to try the shoes on with their own clothes and break them in on a practice walk on the catwalk. I had to be quick so that they wouldn’t disappear but what was wrong with my hands? Don’t know. Couldn’t feel a thing, they were dead from shooting beauty shots for two hours. But forget my hands, because they were not really important. What was really important were THE SHOES!

And of course I just kept getting closer….

And closer….

I’m not even going to start to tell you about how many butterflies these three tone leather laced ones gave me up really close. Have you been trying to figure out who the designer is yet? Can you see the reflection in the floor? Yup, they’re all by Christian Louboutin and they’re all very, very dreamy.

Especially luxurious in red velvet.

Or in this shade of blue velvet they kind of radiate light outwards like pairs of darting Kingfishers.

And lemme tell you, they may look super high in this shot but they’re super sturdy to walk in. Seriously! (I asked).

As for the gold pair – I LOVE the explosion of reflections in them.

And just to double check the comfort of these shoes I scrambled down next to Kirsi Pyrhönena to ask her. Up close I liked her clever layering of two length jackets (it was an early hint back in February to the menswear-for-women trend which is going to be very popular this season) and her dark skinny jeans giving her floral shirt a little hint of rock ’n roll (I’m all for that) but I was here to ask about THE SHOES – she’s worn quite a few as it turns out so she spoke to me with passion. She loves Christian Louboutin’s shoes and I smiled when she said that she was sitting down so ‘I don’t scuff the soles’.

And finally Christian Louboutin’s shoes got to meet Jonathan Saunder’s prints. His instinct for a grown-up slant on fashion is right on the money for this season, something he’s been perfecting for many seasons. In the space of three weeks many other designers were thinking the same, but Saunder’s bye bye urban girl, hasta la vista new woman was very much to the fore. Grown-up, fresh and smart looking, how many skirt lengths are there in this picture? Pencil skirts outline the female form, and are teamed with jackets neatly belted. And what about the two skirts on the left of this picture? Is that the IMPOSSIBLE 1940’s skirt length? No-one has done it for aeons and now it was back. (Hallelujah!)

Everything in Jonathan Saunders’s fashion language is precise, neat, well-mannered and well-fitting. Taken separately the collection was made up of a host of small indulgences, his skirts and jackets in the most vibrant prints when seen together are as irresistible as a box of highlighter pens. LOVE them!

This collection has a sense of optimism and charm. He’s captured the essence of modern chic and made it his own using his own distinct print vocabulary. Even the mans’ knitwear is charming (to be honest I very much covet that) and it hints at the feminine.

And not forgetting the waist. Belted or strung with a ribbon, the defined waist is the new woman signature.

The exposure of little skin – arms in sleeveless dresses, calves stretched by Christian Louboutin chunky-heeled shoes makes a nice change no?

At least it meant less hours for Lucia Pieroni and her team. Concealer was mainly confined to the face where MAC Studio sculpt concealer – just enough to take out any natural redness in the lip was followed by a tiny amount of MAC Myth lipstick patted on delicately with fingers.

Yes fashion is a whole bunch of talent: shows, things I love, things I don’t understand and it’s good to have an opinion on it. I like reading Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn especially, I mostly agree with what they say. They’ve both name checked this Jonathan Sunders collection – Cathy Horn most recently in The New York Times in a feature about The Five Things You Need For Fall. I’d better go now before I get complete fashion fever and go all Rachel Zoe on you. I just want to thank the entire team from the bottom of my heart. Believe me when I say being able to spend time backstage at London Fashion Week with these Jonathan Sunders prints was a little bit magic!