x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Make-up puts its most fashion-forward face on

Julia Robson explains why make-up has been uncharacteristically subdued over the current catwalk season

Backstage at the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac Spring-Summer 2010 ready-to-wear show in Paris on October 6.
Backstage at the Jean-Charles de Castelbajac Spring-Summer 2010 ready-to-wear show in Paris on October 6.

There haven't been many major make-up "moments" on the catwalks over the past few weeks. There was a subtle one at Christian Dior, where the designer John Galliano paid homage to Lauren Bacall and her signature trench coat and Hollywood red lips. In Milan, it was at the usually barefaced Prada, of all places, that scarlet lipstick popped up. Here, clothes paled into insignificance and it was all about bags, shoes and very, very shiny red lips.

Clearly, Pat McGrath - who also painted the pouts of the 44 models at Dior - practised here first. The beauty industry doesn't ride on the back of designer fashion; we all know it's the reverse. The big make-up story in Paris actually happened off the catwalk. Tyen, the Vietnamese art director of Dior Cosmétiques - who has kept LVMH ticking over nicely with sales of lipstick and staggering imagery for the past 30 years - was given his own exhibition and a thank-you party at the Palais de Tokyo by his employers. (Fashionistas in Paris were furious at being ignored while big shots such as Bruce Willis and a host of paparazzi-friendly Hollywood cronies were invited.)

Most designer labels, if they don't already reap the rewards of perfume and make-up licensing deals, make it themselves, like Chanel or Dolce & Gabbana. Elsewhere, shows were sponsored by beauty giants such as L'Oréal Paris, which is great because it means you can often slip backstage and meet superstar make-up artists or celebrity brand ambassadors such as Cheryl Cole, who is the latest "because I'm worth it" woman.

Cole's hair, fashionably big and shiny, did the silent talking, of course. Although she didn't reveal any beauty secrets, she did let out that she had spent her first earnings on a Balenciaga jewel-encrusted sweater and a pair of Brian Atwood shoes. Get her. What I did glean from McGrath at Kinder Aggugini in London was how to put purple glitter on a base to achieve a youthful look and to use brown rather than black ("with quarter lashes on the lower lid for added innocence"). Magical.

The other gadget used backstage by the truckload, apart from Elnett hairspray and YSL's Eclat Instantane, was dry shampoo. Charles Worthington's Front Row Dry Shampoo in particular, I noted. It turns out that the reason for the apparent void in runway make-up trends has a lot to do with the fact that the trailblazing make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury is not around. After doing three shows in London (Julien Macdonald, Jenny Packham and Pringle), she slipped away to prepare for the birth of her first child.

It's a bit different from last season, when the 35-year-old redhead, who has Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Kate Hudson, Victoria Beckham, Drew Barrymore and Kate Moss on speed dial, clocked up 33 shows (including Zac Posen, Pucci, Moschino, DKNY, Mulberry and Matthew Williamson) and still managed to blog for Style.com, the fashion industry's online oracle. I remember reading this with interest because she had just launched a make-up line, myface.cosmetics, silently backed by John Frieda, who has made squillions from his Frizz-Ease and Sheer Blonde products.

Tilbury initially developed the range for the catwalk and private clients. Until last week I refused to give in to the hype that has surrounded it, but I couldn't refuse the offer of a makeover, if not by the creator then by her number two, Maria Garcia, who usually heads up Tilbury's catwalk team of 20. "Women are always asking Charlotte if they should have Restylane, Botox or a facelift and she tells them: 'No, darling, update your make-up,'" said Garcia as she transformed me into the nearest I've ever come to looking - well, certainly feeling - like a model.

Myface.cosmetics is based on the idea that anyone can be a rock star on MySpace and a celebrity on YouTube, so why not have "celebrity skin"? I suppose Tilbury can claim some right to this, painting the faces of so many famous beauties for magazine covers and the red carpet. So, not your average make-up, although I'm not convinced that Dior's Tyen should feel too worried just yet. Tilbury's range is great fun, slickly packaged and inexpensive. It features new shades every six months and will soon be available in the Middle East, I'm reliably told (the US and Europe for now).

And finally, for those who like to keep up to speed with make-up lingo, you'll want to know that "sync" is the new "blend".