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Major Tom

Tom Pecheux’s philosophy is simple: to make women look beautiful.

Tom Pecheux formed his makeup philosophy when his good friend, supermodel Stella Tennant, came to him in tears, pointing at her makeup look from a previous show.

“Look what they did to me,” he remembers her telling him. “They made me look so ugly.”

From that day on, Pecheux vowed to put beauty first, creativity second. “A model, no matter how beautiful, isn’t a blank canvas,” says Pecheux. “You have to maintain a person’s dignity. I put beauty first, then creativity.”

That philosophy—simply making a woman look and feel beautiful, be she model or mainstream beauty shopper—has catapulted Pecheux into the elite ranks of makeup artists whose influence spans the editorial and runway universes to impact the real world, too.

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Editorially, Pecheux’s handiwork can be seen monthly in every major magazine, with top photographers such as Mario Testino and Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Season after season on the runway, he’s the go-to choice for veteran designers like Jean Paul Gaultier and Ralph Lauren and cutting-edge up-and-comers such as Joseph Altuzarra and Prabal Gurung. And he’s already made his mark on Estée Lauder, where he was named creative makeup director in late 2009, with a chic sensibility that has proved to have great commercial viability, too.

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“He loves women, and when you really love women, you can make them look and feel beautiful,” says Jane Hertzmark Hudis, global brand president for Estée Lauder. “Our faces want to have their faces done by him,” she continues, referring to brand spokesmodels such as Hilary Rhoda and Liu Wen, with whom Pecheux traveled to China for the launch of Lauder’s signature Pure Color line last November. (He also created a limited edition color collection called Metamorphosis just for China. Launching now, execs expect it to sell out like his debut collection, Blue Dahlia.)

Pecheux’s goal at Lauder is to “create products I can embrace and play with in my fashion world. And, of course, for women!”

One of his latest ideas, Orange Crush, shows his knack for making a runway look work for the makeup counter. It all began backstage at Derek Lam last season. “It was at the beginning of [my relationship with Estée Lauder], so we were missing certain products,” he recalls, like an orange eyeliner, which would have easily created the orange burst around the eye he wanted. Instead, Pecheux improvised, using lipsticks and lip liners to get the look. Hertzmark Hudis came to see the show and raved about the look, and Pecheux shyly explained to her: “We don’t have that orange yet in our basket.” Immediately, Hertzmark Hudis put the wheels in motion to get an orange color trend ready for spring, and in April, Orange Crush will enter Bergdorf Goodman.

“He is a visionary with creativity and a connection to fashion, which was extremely important to us,” says Hertzmark Hudis. “And the fact that he absolutely loves and adores women and has great respect for Mrs. Lauder and Aerin Lauder and the family is amazing. He has an extra eye and sense for color that is forward looking and [ultimately appealing to] fashion shows and beauty editors and photographers.”

Where is that vision taking makeup—and beauty? To get a sense of what inspires Pecheux and his creative process, WWD Beauty Inc asked photojournalist Michael Nagle to go behind the scenes with Pecheux during the New York fall 2011 collections. Here, the multifaceted results.