By  on September 10, 2010

Not too long ago, in the rarefied world of high fashion, a model was either art or commerce. The former was often edgy, androgynous, difficult for the general public to relate to and the darling of fashion editors and designers; the latter, curvy, classically beautiful and sexy, a staple of Victoria's Secret and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Then, during the fall collections shown last spring, the two worlds collided. Uberdirectional designers like Marc Jacobs and Miuccia Prada, designers who are considered the harbingers for those in the know, sent down their catwalk a parade of models who are as celebrated for their curves as they are for their cool factor. Their presence signaled a distinct shift in the prevailing fashion winds. Gone was the minimalist, androgynous aesthetic that has dominated in the recent past, replaced by a return to a sexy, sophisticated femininity and all that it implies—big hair, bold makeup, bodacious curves.

Beauty companies have responded in like. For fall, beauty—with a capital B—is back. Dramatic makeup, statement-making hair, ultrafeminine fragrances—these are the elements that feel most au courant now. As Madonna Badger says in "The Return of the Bombshell," "Who wants to see a depressing skinny girl with no boobs who looks like a boy? There is a luxury in voluptuousness." This issue, our annual guide to fall's most important products and trends, is chock full of just that.

Take "Cold Fusion" which features a breakdown of the season's seven key product trends. From sultry makeup to skin care that sounds as if it came straight out of a sci-fi novel, pop-culture-infused products to items that allow users to replicate cutting-edge salon and dermatological services in the privacy of their bathrooms, these are the products that will send even the most jaded beauty maven rushing to stores—and seduce her to open her wallet.

After all, who doesn't love the thrill of discovering something new? For the past 20 years, the beauty business has thrived thanks to entrepreneurially minded individuals who have expanded the industry's collective universe — to wit, makeup-artist brands, dermatological skin care, artisanal fragrances, professional hair care. But where retailers once enthusiastically embraced independent brands, today there is a wariness when it comes to taking on the untested. As beauty financial editor Molly Prior was told while reporting "The Founders' Club," "There is no rising tide anymore for entrepreneurs."

Color cosmetics counters are experiencing a rising tide, though, thanks to big-name makeup artists like Tom Pecheux, Dick Page, Peter Philips and Aaron de Mey, who develop products and shade stories for Estée Lauder, Shiseido, Chanel and Lancôme, respectively. In "Beauty Incognito," we sent our undercover shoppers out to test the makeup artists'visions, and determine how well they translate from the magazine page to the makeup counter. The results were resoundingly positive—in fact, the only bad news for our reporters was that so many of the products were sold out. All hail the return to beauty!

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