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Makeup Artistry’s Landscape Keeps Shifting

“Being a makeup artist is almost like the ticket to the show right now. Before, it was a destination,” said John Demsey, executive group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc.

PARIS — Bobbi Brown is stepping down from her namesake cosmetics label. Digital influencers are lassoing an ever-wider audience with makeup tutorial videos. Chanel, Dior, Lancôme and Yves Saint Laurent Beauté have named new beauty directors to spearhead their color-cosmetics drive in the recent past.

Such shifts are part of the broad changes sweeping over beauty’s landscape — and specifically impacting the makeup artistry industry today. It’s one that has gone through several iterations since the Seventies.

“Being a makeup artist is almost like the ticket to the show right now. Before, it was a destination,” said John Demsey, executive group president of the Estée Lauder Cos. Inc. “Now you start with that and then you move up to be a Tom Pecheux or Pat McGrath or a Charlotte Tilbury, or you go on to become a superinfluencer or a hybrid between the two. There are multiple paths.”

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Pecheux is the most recent high-profile makeup artist making news. This week he was named global beauty director of YSL Beauté. It’s a job in which he serves as the brand’s ambassador in the real and virtual worlds, collaborates in its color-cosmetics projects and conceives looks for its advertising campaigns.

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Pecheux succeeds Lloyd Simmonds, who held the job since June 2010 and helped, through his creative products such as Vinyl Mascara and Vernis à Lèvres, to fire up sales.

In early November, during L’Oréal’s financial analyst conference call, Jean-Paul Agon, company chairman and chief executive officer, said year-to-date makeup revenues  were up 40 percent at YSL — whose beauty license is held by the group.

“He is part of the tremendous success we’ve had,” said Stephan Bezy, international general manager of YSL Beauté, referring to Simmonds. Bezy explained it’s a brand that has been evolving over the past few years.

“We’ve been revamping and injecting a lot of newness in it through new [faces], new photographers. Eighteen months ago, we released our new retail design identity, our new architecture identity,” Bezy ticked off, adding that the label had been moving in a more edgy, youthful and luxurious direction. “For me, it was the end of a cycle.”

Once more, Pecheux has long worked closely with Anthony Vaccarello, the recently appointed creative director of Saint Laurent fashion. “[Therefore] that was kind of a natural process,” said Bezy, of Pecheux’s nomination. “It creates a closer connection with couture, so we thought it’s a perfect move. And he’s one of the best in his category.”

The makeup-artist category is perpetually in flux, at an ever-increasing rate, and with ramped-up responsibilities and competition. In the Seventies makeup artists just plied their trade in stores. Cut to the Nineties, and some were creating their own brands, as well. (Think Brown with her own label and Frank Angelo with MAC Cosmetics.)

Today, makeup artists must grapple with traditional brand-building alongside the numerous effects of the digital revolution. These include the power of influencers, who are swiftly snapping up a share of voice from brands on social media, and new retail channels. It’s also spurred the advent of makeup-artist labels like NYX Cosmetics, now giving more traditional labels a run for their money.

New generations of makeup artists are on the rise, too, including William Bob Scott, Kayleen McAdams, James Kaliardos, Michael Anthony and Patrick Ta.

The pluses of having a makeup artist fronting a color-cosmetics brand remain manifold, according to experts. “It’s all about the human element and the personal connection,” said Hannah Symons, beauty and personal care analyst at Euromonitor International. “It’s such a saturated market. Brands need to differentiate and relate to the consumer, and increasingly that is done by using people, rather than abstract concepts and soulless branding.

“Secondly, today’s consumer is armed with a lot more knowledge than they were 10 years ago, thanks to digital channels. Therefore, they are highly discerning and are looking to experts to help them make purchasing decisions, opening up new opportunities to makeup artists,” she continued.

“The image and renown of the makeup artist is key,” continued Lan Vu, ceo of Beautystreams. “In the past, it was all about the prestige of the brand. Today, as consumers are used to seeing bloggers talk about brands, they tend to place more trust on an individual rather than the brand. Celebrity makeup artists create a bridge of trust between a cosmetics brand and consumers.”

Makeup artists — of the old guard and new — come in many forms, yet space enough remains for them all in the marketplace. “If you look at all these younger [ones], they are sort of a mash-up between an influencer and a makeup artist, because they also drive their own content,” said Lauder’s Demsey. “Even look at Pat McGrath — she’s become an influencer beyond just being a makeup artist.

“Yes, having social media skills in today’s world matters,” he continued. “But [that phenomenon] doesn’t take anything away from Tom Pecheux, who is an amazing makeup artist. When you are running a couture makeup house, you still need the thoughtful eye of somebody who has a strong point of view.”