Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week, you won’t have been able to escape the buzz around the beauty look that make-up artist Pat McGrath created for John Galliano’s masterpiece Margiela Artisanal show in Paris. A truly immersive, theatrical mise en scène, it was a snapshot into the artistry and gritty glamour of life in 1930s Paris. Whilst commentary around the show has heralded the return of fashion as art, the art created backstage has been no less hyped—the beauty community has officially gone wild for the mannequin skin crafted by Pat and team.
The relationship between McGrath and Galliano is a special one, going back to the early 2000s when their collaborations for his Dior shows were no less iconic than what we saw in Paris last week. “John’s ability to push boundaries and be creatively daring is something I admire so much,” she says. “His vibrant creative spirit is contagious, and this latest show was no exception. From our initial briefing, John guided me through an extraordinary blend of cinematic, historical and futuristic elements, setting the stage for our creative collaboration,” McGrath adds.
“This show took me back to some major backstage beauty moments we’ve had together over the years, like his collections for Christian Dior in the ’90s, where I first introduced crystallised lips, a signature look that we later revisited in the 2000s and eventually inspired my Pat McGrath Labs Crystal Lip Kit. And the Haute Couture spring/summer 2004 collection, where I created a three-dimensional look featuring intricate paper brows, custom chain-lined appliqués, metal lashes, and vibrant multi-coloured glitter.”
Now back home in New York, absorbing the storm she helped to create and speaking exclusively to Vogue, McGrath says: “My phone has been on fire since this show. In my 35-plus years of beauty I have never, ever seen a reaction like this. And it has blown me away how people have had such an emotional connection to these looks… it is one of the great pleasures of my life to be able to inspire in this way.”
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She’s talking about the make-up artists and beauty aficionados in their thousands who have posted TikTok and Instagram videos attempting to guess how exactly McGrath created that porcelain-like finish on the models’ skin—and the products she used to do it.
“The super sleuthing of everyone online has been so joyful to see,” she says.
“We truly pushed ourselves artistically and technically when creating this make-up look, and it means so much to me to have that recognised. Watching everyone experiment with different products to try to recreate our look has been incredible.”
So… what was it? “I wish I could tell you that it was just one product, but unfortunately, to create that perfect, hyper-reflective, glass-like finish we needed to play with several different ingredients—including water and different gel-like masks—as well as [different] artists’ techniques. That’s what really delivered the perfect porcelain-like finish John was looking for,” says McGrath.
“I love being an alchemist—my brand is centred around creating products and formulations that have never existed before. We’ve been working on one formula in the lab for some time now, and while I was backstage for Margiela, I combined several products for the show, including face masks—yes, one was cucumber! – and the perfect amount of water,” the make-up artist explains. “The technique was the most challenging piece of the puzzle—making sure we could achieve a reflective glass finish without tampering with the make-up underneath. I understand that people don’t want to mix a tonne of products and buy an airbrush machine. We will soon drop one product that will give you the perfect glass finish. It’s not quite ready, but it’s coming soon,” McGrath says, coyly. Saying that, the reaction to the show has accelerated the timeline of a future product launch her team is now scrambling to bring forward.
And what if we wanted to distil this mask-like luminous look into the everyday? “Skin Fetish cheek balm is ideal for creating a dewy, glass-like cheekbone finish,” she explains. “Play with just the balm or the highlighter and build up your shine. The Serum Foundation delivers a serum-like finish with great coverage and buildable glow. Setting with the Blurring Powder will also give a beautiful mask-like finish. The glass-skin effect is so transformative. I want people to be able to experience that surreal luminosity in their daily beauty routine. To feel confident, empowered and illuminated from within.”
This Friday, McGrath will be posting a product-by-product breakdown of how she created the Margiela look on her TikTok. “Because don’t forget, there was a whole make-up look under there before we applied the top layer,” she notes.
This article first appeared in British Vogue.