Backstage at Marques Almeida SS17 with MAC Cosmetics

Wednesday, September 21st 2016 1

The best day ever.

A few weeks ago, I found out that I would be working with MAC Cosmetics as an undercover artist for the Marques Almeida SS17 show at London Fashion Week.

This is a concept that MAC have used in the past to allow someone that isn’t a MAC artist to experience the backstage preparation first hand. But – can you imagine – I was the only undercover artist this season, and to top it off the show was being keyed by Terry Barber. Terry is the UK Director of Make-up Artistry at MAC.

I say “keyed” like I am completely in the know of all make-up lingo, but truthfully I only learned what it meant this weekend. For every show at any fashion week (London, Paris, Milan, New York), a Key Artist will work closely with the designer to create a beauty look that works with the theme of the collection. On the day, the rest of the make-up team will watch the Key Artist demo the look on a model, and then everyone will have to recreate it. Before each model walks the runway, the Key Artist will have to approve the make-up and suggest any revisions before it is perfect.

Terry Barber is one of those names I have heard so much through working in the beauty industry. He is so highly spoken of, and I’ve always found it quite fascinating how someone so well respected is also noted for being hilarious. I was so excited to do the show knowing that he was leading the make-up team, and spent the time beforehand revising all things MAC with help from my friends at the Birmingham store, Amy, Candi and Jo.

So let’s talk about the day…

I arrived to our Brick Lane location about 20 minutes early and took a seat across the road just to wind down and relax before going inside. Who strolled along? Marianne Newman! In case you haven’t come across her, Marianne is the queen of all things nails. Her work ranges from magazines like Vogue and Glamour to brands like Chanel and celebrities like Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne. Despite all of this, she was just lovely and normal and chatty and was working on the show with us that day.

Taking me inside was Claire, one of the MAC Senior Artists. I knew I was going to be shadowing Claire for the day and that she would guide me through my experience. We watched Terry’s demo together and then started to set up our station. And that’s when I began to realise I had really struck gold… she was just lovely!

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This backstage area, they told me, was especially tight. And I must admit that after a weekend of going backstage to shows here and there, it was without a doubt the tightest space I’d seen. Making the best of it, we improvised a cosy and functional station which included Claire perching on her own kit to do her first make-up, ha!

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To top it all off, right next to us was another MAC Senior Artist, Dominic. I’ve met Dominic a few times now because he comes to Birmingham quite a bit, and he is the ultimate person to follow on Instagram for all of the MAC updates. Frankly, I couldn’t believe my luck that I had been sent to work with the party crew. It became clear that these two were great friends and the whole thing was just a scream. Even the models were laughing!

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All of this said, don’t be fooled; the whole operation was a tight ship, keeping meticulously to times and informing our backstage manager when each model was complete. There were 3 eye looks in this show and Claire’s first model had the peachy look. Here’s what she used…

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– Bioderma to cleanse the skin

– Mineralise Lotion all over the skin, giving a massage to boost radiance

– Lip Conditioner, applied with fingers

– Waterweight Foundation to create a sheer coverage (you may know that this comes in large glass bottles, very heavy for a working make-up artist. Claire had decanted hers into smaller plastic bottles and her entire foundation selection fit neatly into one boxy make-up bag.)

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– A concealer palette to go over any areas that needed concealing, especially under eyes and areas of redness

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– Lipstick in Taupe on a 217 brush all over the eyes and underneath them in what Terry requested to be a “kidney shape”

– COMING SOON: pink Extra Dimension Skinfinish all over the eyes

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– COMING SOON: gold Extra Dimension Skinfinish around the cheekbone and at the edge of the eyes

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– Clear Brow Gel to brush the brows upwards

Once Claire had finished her model, Terry checked the make-up and then it was my turn to work. Luckily, Dominic had been next to me working on a completely different lilac make-up look and I’d kept half an eye on him. As it turned out, my model had the lilac look (which wasn’t the one that Claire or Terry had done) so I at least had a jist of how to recreate it.

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I started by prepping my model’s skin, and at this point we were interrupted for all of the models to have a run through on the catwalk. We all went in to watch the rehearsal (it wasn’t full dress, it was mainly to practise in the shoes), and this gave me a chance to have big chats with Claire. You’d think given that this was one of my only opportunities to have a one-on-one with such an experienced, respected artist I would have prepared all sorts of clever questions. But obviously this is me we’re talking about, so a good 80% of the conversation was geared around cats. Before I knew it, Claire was going through her camera roll and showing me her two cats (sisters, for the record). I’d already decided that I really liked Claire, but at this point I realised that I loved her. Rehearsal done (the models had a very complicated interlocking catwalk to navigate) it was back to work with no time to spare.

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My model, Tess, was actually a stylist. The designers had cast half models and half street-style girls which was really cool. Here’s what I used on her, with Claire giving me tips and advice along the way…

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– The same skin prep as Claire

– A pre-made mix of Paint Sticks, made to create a lilac paint that looked like an old shade called French Violet. This was all over the eye

– COMING SOON purple Extra Dimension Skinfinish all over the eyes

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– COMING SOON gold Extra Dimension Skinfinish under the brow bone

Now for the best bit of the day! Claire and I went over to Terry to have my model checked and he said “lovely!” and didn’t have any changes to make. I was over the moon!

With all of the models done it was time for Line Up. This is when all of the models line up in the order they’re about to go onto the catwalk in and you check them head to toe for bruises or any other blemishes and do last minute touch-ups.

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Claire and I, alongside lots of the team, worked our way down the line with our finishing touches. Before we knew it, it was show time.

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Other things that happened as we went along…

– All of the MAC artists took the time to introduce themselves, find out about me and ask how I was getting on. I always say this about our Birmingham team; MAC teams truly are like a big family. I felt so welcomed and part of the team.

– Everyone knew how excited I was to be there and kept offering to take my phone and get photos of me working! They all really helped me to ensure that I got the best possible photos to remember the day.

– I realised that the look we were doing included the NEW COMING SOON Extra Dimension Skinfinish powders that I’ve seen on Instagram. I can’t tell you names or too much detail, but I also found out that I can show you them because we used them in the show. Isn’t that so cool! For the record, they are truly lovely. The consistency is very fine but they give a high-shine finish and look beautiful and ethereal.

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– We all picked at a big buffet that had been put on for us. We had everything from fruit and water to coffee and chocolate croissants. I don’t think you need to ask which combination I opted for.

– Artists used the torches on their iPhones to illuminate the model’s face if it was too dark.

– Cameras were in and out of our every move, it was like being on an episode of the Hills.

– Multi-tasking was the norm, with a model having her make-up, nails and hair done all at once.

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Once the show was over, I cuddled Claire to within an inch of her life, helped her and Dominic to pack up, and hopped into a taxi back to central London with Jordana, Kayleigh, Beth and TERRY! I was delighted because I had some real time to talk with this person I’d heard so much about. And again, although I’d love to say it was all about red carpets and celebrity secrets and all the rest of it, it was actually all about my staff canteen in Birmingham, Neighbours (the Kylie Minogue years), and all sorts of brilliant trivial tangents. I could completely see why everyone loved him so much.

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Of all of the experiences I have been lucky enough to have through starting this blog six years ago, yesterday was the best yet. It was pressured, tight for time, busy… and I loved every minute. I can’t tell you enough how kind Claire was, how lovely it was to have Dom with us, and how much everyone made me feel like one of the team. For me they were all just the best examples of how being successful and important doesn’t mean you can’t be kind, have a laugh and enjoy yourself along the way.

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I’ve always loved MAC, but they’ll hold an extra special place in my heart from now on. Thank you for the best day ever.

Let’s all cross our fingers that they let me go back next season!

www.maccosmetics.co.uk

Find the team on Instagram:

– Terry at @TerryBarberOnBeauty

– Claire at @ClaireMulleady

– Dominic at @Dominic_MUA

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[…] Working backstage with MAC as an Undercover Artist at London Fashion Week  At fashion week, we’re used to seeing backstage stories from so many people in the industry. But, welcoming me with open arms, this season MAC actually let me work on their make-up team for the Marques Almeida show and be a part of the equation. I got to learn from Claire and Dom, the total dream team, and our show was lead by Terry Barber. What an honour. It was one of the best experiences of my career to date, let alone this year. […]

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