Beauty’s got legs, but they’re not as fast as fashion’s gams at turning on a trend.

In fact, beauty experts say it takes at least six months for the ultrahip — and up to a year for the masses — before runway beauty trends turn up on Jane Q. Public.

Color cosmetics trends — like red lipstick and blue eye shadow, to name two that have trickled down to the consumer level lately — tend to arrive a few months ahead of hair trends, which typically take a little more time to break in, according to top New York stylists. Often, color trends are on consumers’ lips — literally —?within six months, while a hair trend might take one to two years.

And in some cases, according to John Demsey, president of MAC, runways’ makeup looks never make it to the consumer level at all. “There’s just no one-size-fits-all,” said Demsey, whose brand is the new official cosmetics sponsor for Olympus Fashion Week — and which will also support dozens of shows in New York, London, Paris and Milan. The brand has been a longtime mainstay backstage.

“Sometimes beauty runway looks can validate what’s already on the street, sometimes the looks will trickle down to counter next season, and some don’t trickle down at all,” Demsey said. “Certain shows are more commercial, and some are done for the effects and aren’t meant to be literally interpreted. However, we’ve done promotional color collections that have been inspired by looks backstage, and we’ve tweaked other color collections depending on things we’ve seen in our work backstage.”

In fact, how quickly — or even if — a look is adopted largely depends on two things: the type of consumer and the speed at which product reaches the market, according to Betsy Olum, senior vice president of marketing for Sephora USA. The retailer’s New York-based creative team, she noted, is constantly looking at the fashion world, evaluating trends and listening to customer feedback — while working at least six months in advance on themes for the coming season.

When it comes to consumers, Olum perceives a line of distinction between early adopters of runway looks — a relatively small bunch she called “trendsetters” — and a more mainstream audience that prefers to wait until seasonal cosmetics make their way into stores before adopting a look.The smaller, more proactive set of fashionistas, Olum contended, immediately go into the marketplace and sniff out hot-off-the-runway looks from existing offerings. “Certainly the trendsetters see it on the runway, get inspired and go out looking for product that will give them that look,” said Olum.

On the other hand, the rate at which the mainstream adopts a look can depend on when new product reaches stores. “The majority of consumers waits to see what’s new from [a beauty] company before looking for makeup,” said Olum.

Moreover, speed of adoption can depend on the type of marketer. Typically, Olum observed, smaller, more boutique-oriented niche brands “are able to get product out earlier,” which can really help the “It” girls, Olum noted.

And these principles hold true across the globe, noted Anika Betz, marketing director of the London-based Pout. “We saw a lot of pastel shades in the spring/summer 2004 shows last fall, and that inspired us to launch the Knickerbockerglory collection in April [a new range of shades, which includes ice blue, mint, bubblegum pink and lemon eye shadows]. We are also very inspired by the U.S. market, and have recently introduced a matte finish to some of our products due to feedback [from that market.] In the U.K. and L.A., our bright shades are very popular, but in New York, they prefer the look to be toned down.”

According to stylist and salon owner Rodney Cutler, beauty’s pace from the runway to the mall is evolutionary, one that hits several stops before trickling down to the masses.

“What we do on the runway is so strong it will not appeal to the salon client,” said Cutler. “But when they start seeing it editorially in the fashion pages, and when they see a celebrity wear it in a watered-down version, then the trend can take.” He used the frizzed-out hair that appeared at Dior’s spring 2002 show as an example that was “too much” for the mainstream. But when supermodel Gisele Bündchen began wearing her hair in voluminous, wavy locks that summer — a commercial take on the ’do — people grabbed onto it.Frédéric Fekkai noted that the same thing happened with bangs, which debuted on fall 2002 runways at shows of designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Anna Sui and Balenciaga, where they hung like sheets of rain in front of models’ faces. But it wasn’t until Heidi Klum wore bangs that the masses caught on.

John Ruggiero for Bumble and bumble added that Marc Jacobs’ Mod-inspired fall 2003 show and Britney Spears’ cover for WWD’s sister magazine W (both of which are owned by Advance Publications), in which she wore bangs, drove home the big bang trend.

Curly hair, which began appearing on spring 2002 runways, is just now coming on strong in salons. “We’ve been saying that curly, wavy hair is in now for years,” said Cutler. “But just now salons are putting away the straightening irons and breaking out the curling irons.”

Hairstylists agree that beauty magazines validate looks on the runway, since many of the trends aren’t easy sells. And since many consumers don’t have the confidence to step immediately into a trend, it takes seeing it in magazines or on celebrities for the trend to catch on.

Laurent Dufourg, owner of Privé salons, agrees six months is about how long it takes for the fashion and style conscious to mimic a beauty trend. But for the rest of America, a year is usually the norm. “We were doing a lot of straightening and relaxing services in the salon when everyone on the runways was wearing curly hair,” Dufourg said.

Pasquale Ferrante, art director for Cutler NYC who also works for Redken, explained that while it may seem trends come and go quickly, they always come full circle. “First, hair had to be all one length, then there had to be bangs. Now the bangs are getting longer (à la Jennifer Aniston and Charlize Theron), and soon they will get even longer” so that hair effectively will become one length again, Ferrante said.

As for color, a number of companies believe that the runway’s influences can be tracked back before the catwalks are even put up — that is, to influential European textiles shows. Jo Wilby, color specialist for Procter & Gamble, noted that she scours the biggest global shows each year — notably, Ideacomo in Milan and Première Vision in Paris — for the colors, textures and sheens the designers will be working with that season. “Our job is to design color trends that will complement seasonal dress,” said Wilby. “You don’t see garments made at this point, but they [fabrics] create the color stories.”B.J. Gillian, P&G’s official makeup pro, is there to fine-tune shades and help determine what products are best suited to reflect the seasonal mood, such as whether a certain beauty look can best be acquired using a wax pencil or a gel-based item. For Cover Girl customers, said Gillian, “We adapt what we do see on the runways and try to make it goof-proof.” The minute the shows are announced he said, “we have a team that is mobilized” to monitor the collections. “While we know a year ahead what the thread and fabric and dye lot could be on the runway, it is anybody’s guess what it turns out to be and what is chosen.”

Cover Girl operates a manufacturing plant in Hunt Valley, Md., that can quickly make adjustments as needed.

Stephanie Klein Peponis, executive vice president, global marketing at Revlon, remarked there is a confluence of events that Revlon monitors to provide products and shade statements to lure consumers. “Revlon’s role has been to create trends as well as be on trend,” she noted. “The runways really push the edge and allow us endless room to play, which is a perfect complement to what we do. Some of the runway looks are not wearable, but it gives us a huge arena to bring them from the runway to reality.”

Tara Cohen, a product developer at Revlon, added, “We want to take things that are extraordinary out there and take them to her [the customer] to use throughout her day. We are looking at how she can make the application in her life.”

— Andrea Nagel, Laura Klepacki and Julie Naughton, with contributions from Kristin Finn and Matthew W. Evans, New York, and Ellen Burney, London

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