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Beauty at Couture Shape-shifts

Makeup and hair looks might be more radical, but they remain bespoke — ask crystalized by Doja Cat's look.

Forget DIY beauty looks. For couture, they remain made-to-measure, as crystalized — literally — at Schiaparelli, where Doja Cat arrived adorned with 30,000 red Swarovski crystals that makeup artist Pat McGrath applied by hand.

“Couture makeup has been evolving and shifting rapidly in the last few years — in many different directions, all at once,” said makeup artist Lloyd Simmonds. “A lot of these changes and ideas come from the furious pace of social media, Instagram and TikTok, where people from all over, often far from traditional fashion spaces and systems, are free to create their own unique makeup worlds, for themselves and for their legions of followers.

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“This acceptance of previously radical expression in makeup, their intricacies, the elaborate lines, extravagant colors and crystal appliqués, is very couture in spirit and is attainable to anyone who puts in the considerable effort needed to create these looks,” Simmonds continued.

Still, hair and makeup looks for couture shows remain as special as the bespoke clothes, which often take days to ideate and test out.

“Couture makeup should be exceptional,” said makeup artist Lucy Bridge. “It should make an impact and compliment the clothing.

“Many hours of hard work go into the couture designs, so this should be considered when creating a couture makeup look,” she added. “Couture is special. Makeup designs can then be adapted by consumers in their own way, taking inspiration, but making it their own for day-to-day life.” 

Designer Imane Ayissi believes couture fashion and beauty are an exercise of style, giving immense freedom.

“You can have a very realistic approach to makeup and hairstyling or, on the contrary, a very theatrical approach,” he said. “This may not have been the case 20 or 25 years ago, when couture was still very much about the client. But today you can be experimental and creative, with the idea that the looks may not be reproducible in real life, but will always be a source of inspiration.”

Among Ayissi’s favorite and signature materials is natural raffia, since it’s very present in many African cultures. “So the idea was to try to introduce this fiber into the makeup, as well,” he said.

Ayissi worked with Marcello Costa, who dreamt up the eyelashes made of raffia fibers and the concept of work with color matches between the lashes and fashion looks.

“For the rest, we decided to play it simple, but very beautiful, with a smooth skin tone and a not-too-present mouth, to keep the accent on the spectacular and a bit strange eyes,” Ayissi said. “That’s why the hairstyling is quite minimalist, as well.”

For Dior, Peter Philips, creative and image director of Christian Dior makeup, and hairstylist Guido Palau took a cue from the house’s celebration of Josephine Baker and other women of color.

“[Designer] Maria Grazia Chiuri sent me a picture of Josephine Baker, a portrait,” said Philips, explaining that in it, the performer had an after-show smoky eye and glowy skin. He used Dior Glow Forever products to achieve that look.

“I made a very simple smoky eye,” he said, explaining he used Black Bow and a touch of silver color on the inner corner of models’ eyes.

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Also at Dior, Palau crafted three hair looks with 1920s vibes, including finger waves.

For the Jean Paul Gaultier by Haider Ackermann collection, Ackermann was inspired by the punk era, as well as exotic birds and features.

“We wanted to emulate these references into the makeup, with a modern and fresh twist,” Bridge said. “Even though we wanted to bring an element of punk within the makeup it still needed to feel elegant and considered.”

She also set out to create black, spikey false eyelashes in a broken fashion over models’ eyes.

Simmonds’ inspiration for the makeup look at Alexis Mabille came from today — the recent wave of AI art and drawings.

“Alexis said he wanted a color explosion in a nontraditional way, so I thought of how in some of the AI-generated drawings I’d seen, there would be seemingly random swathes of color applied to the faces,” Simmonds said.

So they ended up with four looks — two being simple, monochromatic plains of color applied to models’ eyes, cheeks and/or foreheads. Two involved multicolored touches being added to those color plains.

Graphic coifs topped off the couture at Giambattista Valli.

“Mr. Valli always has a strong point of view for his collections, and the hair that crowns them. This time, it was about pure decadence and elegance,” said hairstylist Cyndia Harvey. “He wanted the girls to look imperial. We collaborated together to create something that felt sculptural, elevated, interesting and modern.”

A lot of trial, error and engineering were poured into the look.  

“We wanted to maintain the soft, silky, expensive-looking element of the ‘bow-like’ pieces made of hair, but of course needed to make sure everything was structurally sound, which takes a lot of preparation — everything from hand-tying the hair ‘bow-like’ pieces and making the large sculptural braids was done in advance, so that we could work as efficiently as possible on show day, as time backstage is always a scarce resource,” Harvey said.

She created two looks: one that was of fanned-out, minimal buns and another that was sculptural, with a sharp ponytail.

Other bold beauty looks were revealed at the couture shows for Miss Sohee, Valentino, Yuima Nakuzato, Gaurav Gupta, Maison Sara Chraïbi and Robert Wun.