Marc Jacobs is loyal. To himself, to his collaborators, to his brand, to his routines. (He refuses to cave to pressure to move his show venue downtown, staging Wednesday's Fall 2020 presentation, as he has for the past several years, at the Park Avenue Armory.) But when it comes to the beauty looks he carefully dreams up with his team of legendary hair and makeup pros each season, he's honestly a bit manic. Overarching themes of Marc Jacobs beauty tend to be a more-is-more approach with a whole lot of look — but not always. He's also been known to go for no-makeup makeup, no-hair hair and no-nails nails (see: Fall 2019). So heading backstage for Marc Jacobs to report on beauty is always a bit like a game of roulette: Will it be a joyful, inspired triumph that makes us all appreciate what makeup can do or an awkward, widely-panned case of tone-deaf cultural appropriation? Who's to say!
For the designer's Fall 2020 show, it was decidedly (thankfully) the former. Makeup artist Pat McGrath created more than 100 distinct makeup looks for the runway — which featured a whopping 90 models and 50-plus dancers — many of them reimagining and riffing on beauty classics, like black eyeliner, red lipstick and fresh-faced skin. The majority of models wore some form of the classic black-liner-red-lipstick combo, with no two of them looking the same. "We're doing a lot, but we're giving just basically two items, in a way: black pencil and a red lipstick," said McGrath of the looks during a backstage interview. "But then in a way, no one can look the same, so it's a real play on individuality, everyone looking individual."
"There are wings, there's smokiness, we're doing everything, just playing with looks and coming up with ideas that work on every girl, but really in a completely individual way," added McGrath. She estimated that there may be "five different lengths of wings" or "10 or 12 different ways of smoking eyes, from light smoke to really super, super strong, dark editorial smoke" on display. "It's really an exercise in individuality and timelessness. The fact that a black pencil and red lip is timeless, isn't that amazing?"
McGrath and her team relied mainly on Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner in Blacquer for the looks, working with a variety of different red lip colors from the brand. And it wasn't just the women in the show who had their faces painted with reimagined takes on classic makeup staples: "There's boys and girls, we treated them as a whole ensemble," explained Palau. So yes, the men wore makeup, too — a very Marc Jacobs move.
As for the nails, manicurist Jin Soon Choi mimicked the hues of the lip colors, painting models' nails with either red polish or leaving them bare and buffed.
The hair similarly represented a wide array of looks from different eras. When asked if there were any specific muses that served as inspiration, hairstylist Guido Palau (for Redken) responded, simply, "hundreds." He described the variety of styles — again, each one distinct for every model and dancer — as nodding to the '90s and the '60s, as well as "the way a girl might wear her hair today."
"It's past, present and future women that [Marc] loves," he explained. "You'll see girls with ponytails, deep side parts, there's a lot of scarves in the hair and black headbands... there's a richness to the women and a realness to the women."
A handful of models wore wigs, while others wore hats or accessories that added impact to the looks. "We were there for like, two or three days with [Marc], so he would dress [every model] and then we could create the look with him. He has a very strong point of view, it was like almost working with a director in a way. The show is very filmic," noted Palau. "What's so great about this show is that there's a woman every woman would like to be; Marc is so great at creating that fantasy in fashion and in beauty. These are hairstyles that you can kind of appropriate yourself."
None of these themes — celebrating diversity of beauty, drawing upon "real women" as muses, defying the gender binary, experimenting with colors, tones and textures for both hair and makeup — are new to backstage, nor to the Marc Jacobs runway. Last season was an over-the-top ode to individuality with a slew of different beauty looks; for Spring 2019, Palau and his team buzzed nine models' heads, cut blunt bobs for 15 and dyed roughly 37 of them in a wide array of tones from pastels to inkwell hues. On the Spring 2018 Jacobs runway, makeup artist Diane Kendal created eight different cat-eye looks, prompting me to write, "Who knew there were so many different ways you could use eyeliner?" This season, there were plenty more — too many to count in the bustle of backstage, at least for a math-phobe such as myself. It was a joyful, inspired triumph that makes us all appreciate what makeup can do, indeed.
Click through the gallery below to see more beauty looks from Marc Jacobs's Fall 2020 show.
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