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The Big Easy

Hairstylists and makeup artists unleashed optimism on the spring runways, with uplifting splashes of color, superglowy skin and the return of the blonde.

Call it a postrecession beauty sigh of relief. On the spring 2011 runways, there was an ease—and an optimism—to the hair and makeup looks not seen in years.

From cheery brights for lips and eyes to Seventies-inspired hairstyles that harkened back to that decade’s carefree ebullience, a new sensibility emerged, one very much in keeping with how real women want to look—and, as important, feel—today.

“I loved spring,” says Aerin Lauder, senior vice president and creative director of Estée Lauder. “It really appealed to me as a consumer and the way I wear fashion and beauty. It’s wearable and saleable.”

In both the clothing and the makeup, Lauder singled out minimalism offset by bright pops of color applied in a straightforward manner. Gone are complicated looks like an intricately shaded smoky eye in six shades of plum, replaced by less fussy styles like the bold stripe of orange eyeliner that Estée Lauder’s creative color director Tom Pecheux did at Derek Lam. “We’re seeing a new way to play with color. It looks easy to apply, and it’s not as complicated as a really defined eye,” says Lauder, whose favorite look of the season was a Michael Kors moss green sheath. “Women are ready to have fun.”

Pecheux was far from alone in his use of bright color. Makeup artist Lucia Pieroni encircled eyes in a cloud of sky blue at Rochas, while Pat McGrath painted a vivid fuchsia on the lids at Nina Ricci. Charlotte Willer, Maybelline New York’s global makeup artist, blended electric shades of pink and orange for a bespoke lip at Z Spoke by Zac Posen and a bold cherry red at L.A.M.B., offset by a gold eye, and Charlotte Tilbury bathed eyes in lilac at Blumarine.

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“It looked effortless on the face,” says MAC’s global vice president of makeup artistry Gordon Espinet, of Tilbury’s purple peepers. “But what was cool was that she took a color that we would traditionally think of as bridal and overly sweet and she made it look cool.”

The appearance of such colors now is not unexpected. “We are living through dangerous, difficult times, and we need that lift, that something that gets us energized,” says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute. “That’s color. Especially in beauty, color lets you be a kid with a paint box again, giving a sense of abandon and the attitude ‘Let’s have a good time and create.’ ”

Eiseman notes that what feels particularly new this season is the preponderance of unexpected color combinations. “The old rules, like never crossing warm and cool colors, are being thrown out,” she says. “Now, we’re seeing colors being used with their opposites, to create an intensity and make a statement.”

The idea of illumination and metallics was also a dominant theme on the runways—from the strong silver eyes that McGrath created at Prada to the all-over iridescence at Nicole Farhi to the preponderance of blondes on the catwalk. Vasso Petrou, global marketing director of trends and innovation at P&G Beauty, has dubbed this trend “divine tech.”

“It’s very futuristic and innovative, when real science becomes fashionable and creates a new standard of aesthetics,” says Petrou. “This look reflects a modern take on the urban world, where high technology is embedded but still needs to feel intuitive and pleasurable, as with the iPad.” That translates into shine and metallics, she says, noting, “In hair color, it’s about the golden, silver and rose shades, and with makeup it’s a micro iridescence, perfect smoothness, very futuristic.”

Still, it’s a futuristic feeling tinged with humanity, says makeup artist and Revlon global artistic director Gucci Westman, who noticed a definite shift in skin finishes this season. “We all did this sort of exaggeratedly luminous skin, superluminous, almost cyber skin,” says Westman. “I saw it everywhere, starting in New York and ending in Paris. I didn’t notice any foreheads that were powdered. It was a very exaggerated healthiness and luminosity. It looked like all of the girls had an oxygen facial before they went on the runway.”

On the opposite end of the futuristic spectrum was the Seventies redux. “For those of us who lived through the Seventies, in retrospect, when we look back, we recognize what a fun and expressive time it was,” says Carolyn Holba, senior vice president of U.S. marketing for Maybelline New York–Garnier. “Hopefully we won’t make the same fashion mistakes,” she laughs, “but there is that play on the runway that is very reminiscent of the Seventies.”

“The Seventies were a time of optimism,” agrees Jan Arnold, co-founder and style director of CND. “It was idealistic and there was some whimsy. People want to feel good today, and that era was fun and playful.”

Hairwise, that translated into Guido Palau’s frizzfest at Marc Jacobs and his big barrel curls at Sonia Rykiel. Makeup-wise, it meant a more sculpted face. “We saw a lot of the nude face sculpted and shaded to perfection,” says Espinet. “Bronzer was used to structure a face rather than bronze a face. It’s the kind of makeup a man would be blind to, but there’s actually a lot there. It’s about using the skin color and variations on the individual skin color to create a look.”

As seemingly opposite as the looks were, still the common thread remained throughout the season: the idea of effortlessness. “People don’t want to have to spend too much time or effort on their looks,” says celebrity hairstylist and Tresemmé spokesperson Mara Roszak. “It is sexier and more feminine to not look so done,” she continues, noting that she expects the trickle-down infl uence to be quickly felt. “The runway is where we get inspired,” she says. “It’s what celebrities start to wear and what we see in magazines. It’s what women want to look like today.”


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