Heading backstage for Marc Jacobs's Fall 2017 show at the Park Avenue Armory, I was... nervous. After what I viewed as a massively offensive misstep last season in the hair realm (a refresher: dreadlocks on white girls, oof, no), I was concerned that perhaps the designer might once again turn to appropriating — rather than celebrating or honoring — some aspect of a cultural or ethnic group. And truth be told, the moment I heard someone mention that the theme of the show would be a nod to the evolution of hip-hop, I was even more concerned. After all, calling something "hip-hop" is oftentimes a euphemistic code for copying an element of black culture; I had immediate visions of problematic white girls with cornrows. But blessedly, that was not the case. In fact, Jacobs made a point of celebrating the individuality and diversity of the models in his show — and the casting was, indeed, diverse.
Though many of the models had yet to arrive for my early 8:15 a.m. call time, I was able to confirm that the casting included Winnie Harlow, Slick Woods, Jamie Bochert, EZ (a Korean model who notably just got a bleach-blonde buzz cut for Alexander Wang's fall show), Amilna Estevao, Lineisy Montero, Adwoa Aboah, Kendall Jenner and Natalie Westling. Jacobs also cast at least two transgender models, including Casil McArthur. The designer has historically had fairly diverse runway shows, but Thursday's casting stood out as being especially varied, at least from a racial, ethnic and gender standpoint.
But, as was made clear during Jacobs's spring show, a racially diverse group of models does not negate the opportunity for offensive appropriation. So, I was relieved to see that the looks dreamed up by the beauty team — hairstylist Guido Palau for Redken, makeup artist Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty (this season marked the first time the designer chose to use his own makeup brand for a show) and nail artist Jin Soon Choi — in collaboration with Jacobs all seemed to celebrate the models' diversity without co-opting or exploiting any one aspect of it.
"Marc had watched this documentary called 'Hip-Hop Evolution' [on Netflix], and so it really inspired him to celebrate street culture," said Kendal, explaining the genesis of the minimalist makeup look. Again, the models themselves were integral to determining the looks, which varied from one to the next. The one constant was that every model had a glowy, dewy complexion, which came courtesy of a mix of Marc Jacobs Beauty Under(Cover) Perfecting Coconut Face Primer and Glow Stick Glistening Illuminator (one of my personal favorite cream highlighters). Then depending upon the model, Kendal may have warmed up the cheeks with a hint of blush or enhanced the eyes with a heavy rim of black eyeliner. Many of the darker-skinned models also wore a deep, eggplant lip color, which Kendal created by mixing black and red (Marc Jacobs Beauty Le Marc Lip Créme Lipstick in Blacquer 000 and Blow 210, respectively). "We did treat each girl individually to try and celebrate that feeling that they're girls out on the street, enjoying themselves," she said.
As for the hair, Guido's job was fairly easy this time around. That was because most of the models wore hats, with only a bit of their natural texture peeking out from beneath. "I think like 99 percent [of the models] have a hat," said Guido backstage. He described the exaggerated silhouettes of the caps as "a nod to the street, but also sort of a nod to couture." Again, the focus was on individual style. "It's individual, but [the show overall] has a strong style statement as well because of the hats giving a kind of uniformity even though there are many different shapes and sizes," he said.
The nails were where the real lewk came in: Each model received a set of squared-off tips from Jin Soon's team, which was working frantically backstage to get all of the models done. Using Marc Jacobs Beauty nail polish, the team created a variety of different looks, ranging from simple nude to deep burgundy with graphic gold nail art to the designer's name emblazoned across the fingers with custom gold appliqués. "[Marc] always likes to show variety, but this time is even more special because the collection is sporty and inspired by hip-hop," said Choi.
Overall, the beauty look wasn't a show-stealing one for Jacobs's fall runway. And you know what? That's just fine.
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