If designers misread the mood at Fashion Week, the hairstylists and makeup artists were only responding to their misdirection. As much so as fashion, beauty can be a visual medium to channel outrage and political anger, but the mood backstage seemed subdued. There was maybe a handful of red lips — in all of Fashion Week. “Sexiness,” or the suggestion of it, was nonexistent in backstage beauty looks, but maybe that’s the mood in a post-pussy-grabbing Trump world. Instead, the usual words like “confidence” or “fearless” were given as inspiration, but with an opaque implication. “Did Alexander Wang mention anything about rebelliousness?” I asked makeup artist Diane Kendal backstage, in looking at the smudgy, rimmed-black-eyeliner-makeup looks and models who were stomping around in their edgy bowl cuts. “No, more about confidence and fearlessness about presenting yourself to the world,” Kendal said.
Neatly packaged trends have always been more of a tool for marketers and beauty brands, rather than actually representing what is going on backstage in runway beauty — or what will translate to the real world. But if there was one theme for this season, it would have been the individuality, which has been seen now for several seasons. Individuality isn’t an easily digestible trend that you’ll see next year at Sephora, like highlighter. But in essence, it means not using makeup, hot tools, and wigs so that Joan Smalls ends up looking like another version of Liu Wen. It’s about using beauty to enhance, rather than completely chameleon-ize what makes each model unique, so that Lineisy Montero and Mica Arganaraz can keep their curly hair, rather than wear 700 extensions in a Versace show.
The positive effect of individuality is best exhibited in shows with varied casting, such as Ashley Graham walking at Michael Kors, or this season’s Marc Jacobs show with diverse models like Slick Woods, Adwoa Aboah, trans model Stav Strashko. You can physically see how different everyone is. In an industry where you can literally be anyone (even a glowing Alexander McQueen alien with sine wave), it’s a significant statement to put authenticity above all else — especially when the current administration is trying to stifle fundamental freedoms. Perhaps the hair stylists and makeup artists are aiming to show that the beauty is in being yourself. Here’s to what London, Milan, and Paris will bring next. Click through the slideshow for more photos from backstage at New York Fashion Week.