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7 Runway Moments That Changed Beauty Forever

From the birth of grunge in the 1990s and the anti-beauty statements of Martin Margiela and Alexander McQueen to the celebration of diversity  — these are our favorite beauty moments of all time.

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Getty

From the birth of grunge in the 1990s to the celebration of diversity we see on the catwalks today, the landscape of beauty is ever-changing. Reflecting and reacting against the climate we live in, trends come and go, but there are those standout beauty moments that are etched in our minds forever. Here, we round them up.

Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis SS93

Perry Ellis spring/summer 1993.

It’s 1992 and fashion is still on a comedown from the 1980s — shoulder pads, power dressing, big hair, glam makeup. Then along comes Marc Jacobs with his Dr Martens, plaid shirts and loose slips for Perry Ellis SS93. Inspired by the underground music scene in Seattle, models were sent down the runway with matted hair, flushed cheeks, nude lips and arched eyebrows — it was anti-establishment and anti-glam. “I wanted them to look the way they do when they walk down the street, which is not dolled up,” said Jacobs in an interview with The New York Times. The show was a resounding failure and Jacobs was fired, and yet it was a pivotal moment for both fashion and beauty, ushering in a new mood — one that celebrated counterculture, authenticity and individuality, inspiring generations to come.

Maison Margiela FW95

Maison Margiela fall/winter 1995

In a time of supermodels and super designers, Martin Margiela was all about the clothes and the concepts behind them, cultivating both an air of mystery and anonymity with his white lab coats, ghost labels and famous rejection of all interviews.

His FW95 collection is a perfect example of this, with its introduction of the Margiela mask. Fashioned from hot pink, navy, black and maroon gauze, they stripped their wearer of all identity — the irony of which would have not been lost on Kanye West when he wore a pearl-encrusted iteration some years later. Though commonplace in today’s world, masks would have gone against every cultural impetus of the moment — a time defined by logomania, tabloid news, rap music and celebrity culture. As such, it marked a key moment in beauty and one that feels particularly pertinent in 2021.

Thierry Mugler FW97 couture

Thierry Mugler haute couture fall/winter 1997. Photo: Pierre Vauthey

Thierry Mugler was one of those designers who knew how to harness the power of makeup to tell a good story. For his FW97 couture show, it was the story of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, which culminated in model Adriana Karembeu being transformed into a mutant creature — part animal, part alien — with a feathered headdress, supernatural yellow contact lenses, deep-berry lips, and shimmering blue and green lids. A departure from using hair and makeup as a means of enhancing beauty, Mugler set a precedent for generations to follow.

John Galliano Haute Couture SS04

John Galliano haute couture spring/summer 2004. Photo: Condé Nast Archive

For his SS04 show, John Galliano transported us to ancient Egypt. Enlisting the help of longtime collaborator Pat McGrath, models were transformed into gilded goddesses and Cleopatra-esque queens. Think glittery lids that extended up to graphic brows, supersized gold lashes, shimmering lips, strategically placed jewels and chainmail fragments under the eyes, adorning the ears and accentuating the chin. It was a masterclass in the art of fantasy — one that we’re still very much learning from today.

Alexander McQueen FW09

Alexander McQueen. Photo: Victor Virgile

“I find beauty in the grotesque,” Alexander McQueen once said in an interview. “I have to force people to look at things.” That desire to shock and confront has given rise to some of the most subversive beauty moments in fashion. In particular, the ghostly white faces, bleached brows and huge, glossy, clown-like lips of FW09 crafted by Peter Philips.

There was something deeply perverse about that combination, offset by Guido Palau’s hair sculptures, which he fashioned out of trash. It was a standout moment, one that spoke to anyone who has ever felt ugly or like they didn’t fit in — and one that lives on via the subcultural misfits and club kids of the Instagram age.

Vetements SS15

Vetements spring/summer 2015. Courtesy of Vetements

A disciple of Margiela, Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements ushered in a new mood — one that was all about reference, irony, utilitarianism and a kind of anti-fashion fashion. As for beauty, models were street cast — a reaction to the big models of the moment — and unpolished, with dishevelled hair and angular features. This was about authenticity and idiosyncrasy, defying the homogeneity of the Kardashian era and relentless selfie-culture that was gathering steam.

Charles Jeffrey SS18 menswear

Charles Jeffrey spring/summer 2018.

For his debut solo show, Scottish menswear designer Charles Jeffrey presented a love letter to the London club kids of the 1980s, reinterpreted for the Instagram age. A riot of color and kindergarten nostalgia, models were sent down the runway covered in childlike scribbles, blocks of face paint, crafty embellishments, and fragments of sticky tape. A playful take on masculinity, it set a precedent for designers such as Art School, Eckhaus Latta, Vaquera and anyone else who has followed suit.

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