Melissa Gibson leads the professional life that aspiring makeup artists dream of. As a Senior Artist for MAC Cosmetics, she travels the world working backstage during Fashion Weeks in London, Milan, Paris and New York. Each season, she usually works two major Fashion Weeks. For Autumn 2015, she worked the London and Milan shows.
MAC Senior Artist, Melissa Gibson
“London and Milan are such vastly different cities makeup-wise,” she says. “Vivienne Westwood and House of Holland are incredibly artistic shows. Italy is about glamour these days. Roberto Cavalli set a standard and tone for the Milan shows of over-the-top makeup and big hair. Each show has its own personality and method.”
She says there is a set system for each Fashion Week. “When we arrive in a city for fashion week, there is a bag of MAC makeup waiting for us at the hotel. These are the new colours for the season and products MAC has been working on. So the first thing we do is go through all the product and put it in our makeup cases.”
She says the head makeup artist who creates the specific look for a fashion show is called a “key”. This makeup artist works hand-in-hand with the fashion designer. And quite often these relationships go way back. Vivienne Westwood has a longstanding relationship with Val Garland. “Two days before the fashion show, the “key” meets with the designer and his styling team to work out the look for the catwalk show. The makeup artist has seen the inspiration boards and the clothing so he or she has come back with makeup that best flatters the clothes.” She says artists call it ‘the pitch’ and it is up to the key artist to convince the designer that this makeup is the best choice for the show in a couple of days. “This can be as quick as 30 minutes or it can take two full days.” Some designers will try out different makeup on models until they get it exactly right.”
What’s interesting these days is it isn’t often the fashion designer who demands changes to makeup looks but the ‘styling’ team. Designers employ freelance stylists to tweak the looks of a collection – often infusing them with a hipper edge. This is most often done by older brands looking to regain some of its appeal with a younger consumer. They might add hats or jewelry. They might roll up the sleeves or tie belts on the hip. And they may very specific ideas of makeup – one of the easiest ways on the runway to change the look of an outfit.
Once the makeup look is approved by the fashion designer, a face chart is created and that is given to each makeup artist working backstage. The ‘key’ artist meets with the entire team and explains exactly what he or she wants the models to look like. “I typically will done one or two shows in a day. It just depends on how intricate the makeup is and how long we have with the models. For some of the most popular models, we can literally have only a few moments to create their look. They are running from show-to-show and are quite often late.”
“What’s interesting about Fashion Week is we show all the big makeup artists that ‘key’ the shows our new MAC makeup. And there are always one or two products that they all gravitate to. They will all pick a certain colour or a product with a certain texture. That is how a runway beauty trend is created.”