If a backstage beauty novice were to study the rumpled waves and the seemingly makeup-free faces from the past few seasons, one might say there was much ado about nothing. And they wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. T magazine dedicated 679 words online to the meaning behind “meh.” Not that I blame them for the on-point piece that explored the wave of “non-hair” that recently swept over all four fashion cities. I, myself, have dedicated countless words to justifying the complexity of wash-and-wear hair and explaining why strategically applied concealer constitutes a cosmetic trend. Designers, as mane master Guido Palau explained to a group of editors during the Spring ’15 shows, are often attracted to the nuances of beauty—like an intentional bend in otherwise straight strands or a hint of shine that quietly reveals character. “It’s not about something big or explosive right now,” said Palau of the multiple iterations of finger-combed curls and scraped-back ponytails that were so prevalent on the runway last season (and so many seasons prior). For so long, the hair and makeup on the catwalk only dared to whisper, with only the occasional outburst (i.e., the over-the-top aesthetic belonging to people like Vivienne Westwood, Gareth Pugh, Sarah Burton, Karl Lagerfeld, or Kate and Laura Mulleavy) to break up the quiet. And the fashion powers that be had a point: There’s something incredibly chic and covetable about a woman who is so confident in her clothes that she doesn’t bother to look in the mirror or brush her hair. Not to mention, you look a hell of a lot younger the “less you do on your face,” noted makeup artist Pat McGrath. For a long time I thought, Why try? Not caring is so much cooler.
Then there was Fall 2015. “We got to do stuff that we’ve been held back from, to be really honest,” hairstylist Eugene Souleiman surmised at the end of the season.
“I think sometimes people are scared, and then all of a sudden they see one thing dare to happen.”
Things got off to a relatively slow start in New York, London, and Milan. Sure, there were plenty of memorable moments: the bejeweled lower lash lines at Rodarte; the stringy strands at Alexander Wang; the ebony lips at Giles; and the mannequin-like curls made to look like molded plastic at Missoni. But like the finale of a fireworks display that produces millions of triumphant bursts all at once, we had Paris. It was in the City of Light that beauty took a turn for the bolder. “It was nice to see really crazy makeup,” said McGrath of graphic shapes drawn around eyes, three-dimensional embellishments adhered to catwalkers’ complexions, and faces gilded with gold leaf. “I think sometimes people are scared, and then all of a sudden they see one thing dare to happen,” McGrath explained.
And it seemed those that threw caution to the wind and really went for it were the ones that won over editors. “When I got into fashion, the idea was about a fantasy—[beauty] really wasn’t about reality in the ’80s,” said Palau. “You had a dream.” And that rebellious and daring spirit was rekindled for Fall ’15. The message that designers like Riccardo Tisci, John Galliano, Rick Owens, and Hedi Slimane sent was loud and clear: Let’s give ’em something to talk—and Instagram—about.
Once the novelty and social media buzz wear off, however, how does this newfound creativity affect what real women will be buying at the counter? As someone who rarely does more than air-dry her hair and doesn’t reach for anything other than lipstick and mascara every morning, I will fully admit that oversize septum rings and kiss curls (both seen at Givenchy) aren’t at the top of my must-try list. And though Tisci hinted after the show that the face jewelry would indeed be for sale, the house confirmed that only the necklace and earrings sported on the catwalk would make it into stores. (But it won’t be long before someone knocks them off, as the beauty world has its own equivalent of Forever 21 and Zara.)
“You could glue three crystals under your eye,” said makeup artist James Kaliardos of how to translate the bedazzled lash lines at Rodarte into the real world. “We should really sell [the handcrafted rhinestone-studded strips]. Swarovski, where are you?”
As for the abstract étoile scrawled on the outer corner of catwalkers’ eyes at Anthony Vaccarello, the Cara Delevingne-inspired tattoos freehanded onto foreheads and fingers at Giamba, and the gothic lips at Giles, we’ve already started to see these ideas creep in red-carpet looks and Coachella ensembles. And this is well before cosmetic giants made these concepts digestible for the masses. The same goes for hair. Unfussy textures aren’t going anywhere, to be sure, but the rather “done” updo has already made a significant resurgence. “If you have the desire, you will manage to do it,” said Palau, who admitted to being pleasantly surprised by the technical skills he’s witnessed everyday women exhibiting on YouTube.
“And if you’re not prepared to fall on your face and make a mistake, you’ll never go anywhere, you’ll never do anything interesting.”
And major players in the beauty business, such as Sephora, have already fully embraced trends such as contouring, temporary ink, and nail appliqués—all of which were once considered too complicated or aspirational for average consumers. “We encourage our clients to dare to play, to incorporate color, to take beauty risks,” said Amy Abrams, Sephora’s director of merchandising. “And as the retailer, we live by the same mantra when considering new brands and products in our stores.”
And lest we forget that a decade ago editors scoffed at the idea of nail art being anything but a passing phase. Now, intricate designs are as ubiquitous as Kim Kardashian West in the front row. Another, more recent example: Just last year I mentioned clumpy lashes to beauty brands, and executives rolled their eyes. Post-Prada and Rochas Spring ’15, both Maybelline and L’Oréal have developed mascara formulas for getting the look. “It stands to no reason that hair should inspire, the makeup should inspire, everything should come down from the top of the pyramid and spread out—and it always does,” said Souleiman. “You have to start up there and do something new. And if you’re not prepared to fall on your face and make a mistake, you’ll never go anywhere, you’ll never do anything interesting, because you’re too fucking scared.”
With Hillary Clinton announcing her presidential bid for 2016, I think it’s safe to say that women aren’t shy creatures of habit content to sit back, cross our legs, and behave. We’ve time and again demonstrated that we’re a gender with some serious balls. A little face bijoux or a tube of black lipstick certainly isn’t going to frighten us now.
—Amber Kallor, Style.com