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Q&A with Esteban Cortazar

More than six months after taking over as head designer at Emanuel Ungaro, 24-year-old Esteban Cortazar is busy translating Ungaro's heritage.

More than six months after taking over as head designer at Emanuel Ungaro, 24-year-old Esteban Cortazar is busy translating Ungaro’s heritage of ultrafeminine and colorful clothes to the beauty world.

The young designer fell in love with makeup at a young age: He’d sit and watch his mother, a jazz singer, get dolled up before performances and marvel at her transformation. At 10 years old, the designer went to his first MAC makeup store.

“I knew this was a cool place because I saw all the amazing fun colors, glitter and girls with blue hair running around with outrageous makeup on their faces,” said Cortazar. “I used to have them dress me up for Halloween all the time.”

Cortazar says he has a clear understanding of the quintessential Ungaro woman. “She’s someone who bathes in jasmine oil and lets her hair dry naturally, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be feminine and play with fashion and makeup — there’s just something so easy about her since she’s a natural beauty.”

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MAC teamed with Cortazar to create a limited edition line of makeup for that woman. The collection, which uses lighter textures and softer shades, is inspired by Monet’s water lilies paintings and the colorful, draped gowns from Cortazar’s fall 2008 show.

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WWD: What was most important to you when developing the makeup line?

Esteban Cortazar: I wanted it to have a sense of timelessness and be sure it worked for every skin tone and age. I didn’t want it to be something that’s fashion-y for just right now. I wanted her to have something she could always wear and apply to everyday looks.

WWD: When did your relationship with MAC first begin?

E.C.: At 13, I had my first fashion show at elementary school and since I wanted it to be as professional as possible, I asked my friends at MAC to come help me do makeup for the show. Four years later, MAC officially started working with me at my first New York show.

WWD: How would you describe the new direction of Emanuel Ungaro?

E.C.: It’s about a natural beauty look — it doesn’t mean this woman doesn’t want to be feminine and put on makeup but there’s a certain ease about it all that makes it flow. That’s the type of spirit I want to give to the house of Ungaro and the message I’m trying to share with this new collaboration.

WWD: What did you enjoy most about the collaboration?

E.C.: I had fun talking about who the Ungaro woman is and describing in great detail what her sense of femininity and softness really meant in terms of everything from her makeup to the textures used in the clothing.

WWD: What would you say makes a natural beauty?

E.C.: For me, beauty is not just something that’s external but more about the spirit from within. It’s about an attitude, spirit and a way of being. I’ve always grown up with free-spirited women who don’t take life so seriously.

WWD: If the Ungaro woman would have a routine beauty regimen, what would it be?

E.C.: She’s all about being natural. She loves spending time in the shower. She adores using all types of products and smearing lotions and oils all over body. She loves smelling delicious and mixes all sorts of scents. She accentuates her features in a light, soft way — like the collection.

What do you think is the most important feature on a woman?

E.C.: I love lips and watching them move when a woman is talking — it’s very sexy.

WWD: What’s the one piece of advice you have for women?

E.C.: It’s about being comfortable with yourself. I love to see women more relaxed about their way of life and not so caught up in looking a certain way. Also, being passionate about one’s own lifestyle is very important.

WWD: Do you have any beauty obsessions or secrets?

E.C.: My obsession is bathing in oils since each of them have different therapeutic benefits. I love putting on oil at the beach and running into the ocean since my skin feels so soft afterwards.