COMO, Italy — MAC Cosmetics brought an unusual pop of color to this small, lakeside city on May 13, when the beauty brand — part of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. — held its fall 2014 European trend presentation at the Teatro Sociale, steps away from the town’s ancient cathedral. The surprise appearance of American designer Zac Posen underscored the importance of the event for MAC, which has two decades of close experience with the fashion industry.
Posen spoke about his relationship to the beauty world and alluded to, without directly confirming, a new collaboration with MAC. “Beauty is confidence, something that comes from inside. You can’t hide behind makeup — makeup brings out what’s inside,” he said.
Europe is becoming more important for MAC, which has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan here; in Italy alone, it opened eight new doors in seven cities this year, bringing the total to 30. “We feel that there’s an opportunity to make the brand more accessible, without outpacing our distribution,” said MAC Cosmetics global brand president Karen Buglisi Weiler, adding that MAC was specifically targeting second- and third-tier cities for growth, and an estimated 40 percent of new doors worldwide are now in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region and India.
Aside from increasing distribution, MAC has been promoting its in-store makeup artistry services to a wider base of customers. “Service really defines us,” Buglisi Weiler said. “So we’re going to take a more aggressive strategy in the future of letting people know what we do.”
Key to this will be amplifying the message through MAC’s main advertising tool, social media, but also educating its hoards of new makeup artists through a boot camp that the company kick-started in India, where local staff had flagged a gap between the company’s image and the quality of in-store service. To bring it up to par, MAC began having new hires work with established artists and trainers during grueling week-long sessions.
“It’s an intense effort.…You do makeup, wash it off. Do makeup, wash it off. That was the concept of the boot camp,” said Buglisi Weiler. “I can tell you that there was a dramatic increase in skill from one year to the next when this happened.”
Julie Van Ongevalle, vice president and general manager for MAC in the EMEA region, said passion and attitude were key attributes the company looked for in new employees, many of whom grow with the brand over years.
Given MAC’s presence at 23 fashion weeks a year — the brand keys 25 percent of an estimated 800 shows — there is plenty of room for career building. At Wednesday’s presentation, several of MAC’s international directors of makeup artistry took the stage to illustrate key runway trends, with live demonstrations on models.
Gordon Espinet, MAC’s senior vice president of global artist training, development and makeup artistry, stressed that a more “real” look is a major undercurrent in makeup right now. To that effect, James Molloy, director of makeup artistry for the Asia-Pacific region, described an “off-color” trend reliant on tawny shades — polluted pink, dirty khaki, dull rust, to name a few — which enhance a woman’s natural looks without drastically altering her appearance.
Terry Barber, director or makeup artistry in the U.K., went on to explore the “streamlined” trend, a kind of grungy nod to old Hollywood glamour. “Everything has to look like it was done quickly” in small gestures, Barber noted, citing “knowingly clumpy” mascara as an example. He also spoke of vivid color liner as a fresh “reinvention of the season,” no longer relegating the wearer to looking like she was “probably in an Abba tribute band.”
The season also emphasized “reflection,” for instance, the contrast between shine and matte, with subtle dabs of gold, pewter, copper and silver used to create balance and symmetry in the face, said EMEA director of makeup artistry Baltasar González Pinel. Meanwhile, executive director of makeup artistry Lyne Desnoyers delineated an “unprocessed” trend that focused on priming and highlighting, making “skin part of the entire makeup.
Discussing nail innovations, artists Keri Blair and Marian Newman presented a range of new “transformation” polishes that can be applied directly or over existing coats of color, modifying their shades.