Inside New York Fashion Week

Twice a year, along with many other makeup artists and makeup and fashion enthusiasts, I turn my attention to the runway shows taking places under the tents in New York City for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week.  I scour the internet looking for inspiration to pull for looks I will be creating in upcoming seasons. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a part of such a huge undertaking.  This year I am lucky enough to get some inside scoop! My friend and fellow professional makeup artist, Liz Washer, had a chance to be an assistant artist on various shows throughout the event.   Liz was gracious enough to share some of what goes on behind the scenes, tips on how we can make what we saw on the runways work for us, as well as some of her highlights from the week with us at MyCosmeticsBag.

Who designs the looks for fashion week? How are they decided?

Liz: I’ve never been privy to this process, but usually the key artist (the one who is hired to create the look and assemble the team) will meet with the clothing designer to go over the collection from Doja Cat Merch Store, what the story is, what the themes are, influences, references, etc. Sometimes extensive storyboarding is involved. The designer may have a specific makeup look in mind, or the artist may come up with something that complements the wardrobe. Usually it’s a very collaborative process. Then the artist will usually sketch out the looks to share with the team, and do a demonstration backstage so everyone knows how to make up the models.

I’ve heard stories about the pace of fashion week being crazy. Is that true?

Liz: I’d say yes, definitely yes, although I was very lucky – the teams I served on for my first season were so well-organized, and we had plenty of artists for the work there was to do. Things got frantic toward the end of our prep time because everyone was doing last-minute tweaks simultaneously – wardrobe, makeup, and hair. And you have to pay attention to the whole model, not just her face, so there was lots of body lotioning, additional cover-up, etc. that happens at the last minute. Sometimes backstage was very crowded with public relations, press, photographers, etc. (especially if a celebrity model was walking in a show), so you had to dodge a lot of elbows. But I never felt like I didn’t have enough time or space to do what I needed to do, and I credit the key artist and the first assistants for keeping things running so smoothly!

How long does it take to get the models ready on show day?

Liz: It varies depending on how complex the looks are. I served on big teams (8+ artists) so I wasn’t as rushed as I expected to be. On average, we did two or three models per show per artist; more if we were also grooming male models because that doesn’t take as long. We generally had about three hours from load-in to showtime. It seems like plenty of time at first, but all kinds of things come up: rehearsals, fittings, last-minute changes to the makeup… that time slips by very quickly, so you have to work fast.

What makeup trends did you see for fall/winter 2012?

Liz: We created a lot of bright, beautiful statement lips: velvety matte reds, bright oranges and poppy corals… really beautiful. (Pantone’s Color of the Year is Tangerine Tango, a luscious red-orange – don’t be afraid of it!) For eye makeup, one look we did a few variations of was a matte smoky earthy brown, blown out to precisely nothing on the top and bottom lid, with a pop of highlight directly on the center of the top lid – so that the inner eye was kept darker (an unusual twist!) This gave the eye an intriguing rounded shape. Complexions varied from very subtle (exposed freckles and natural satin skin) to velvet matte perfection, and for several shows we added a glossy highlight to cheekbones and eyelids.

Sometimes runway fashion does not translate well into real life. What tips can you give for incorporating the show trends into an everyday makeup look?

Liz: I worked a lot of sportswear shows that featured very wearable makeup for the most part, but of course things were bumped up for the catwalk. My suggestion is to view runway shows as a form of performance art – they aren’t necessarily meant to be taken literally by everyday folks, but you can draw inspiration from them and experiment. Picking one feature to focus on is always a good idea – everyone should try bright lipstick at least once! (I’ve been wearing red lipstick all week for the first time in years; it’s such a fast way to look pulled together and chic.) And you can experiment with a smoky metallic eye or dramatic eyeliner without drawing it all the way up to your eyebrows or out to your temples.

What was your favorite moment from working Fashion Week?

Liz: There were several! Working with a celebrity model (who I didn’t even recognize at first) was kind of a trip – I’ve never been so mobbed by photographers before; I had to actually sign a release afterwards! But I think my favorite moment was being part of a brand new designer’s show that turned out to be amazingly gorgeous – so much so that our key artist came backstage afterwards with tears streaming down her face, and the energy in the room was incredible – even the longtime, been-there-done-that pros looked ecstatic, and the applause seemed to go on forever. It was such a privilege to be part of that. I see big things in that designer’s future.

Hearing wonderful feedback from the key artists throughout the show was also such a good feeling – I never felt taken for granted and we all worked beautifully together! I don’t know if my experience of assisting at Fashion Week is typical, but I’m certainly grateful to have it!

What a great account!  I feel like I right there with her!  Start practicing those bright, statement lips and if you want to check out more of Liz’s work, head to

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