Backstage Beauty: Here’s How Makeup Artists and Hairstylists Backstage Get the Runway Look

by Chinea Rodriguez

September is like Christmas for all things fashion and beauty, starting with New York Fashion Week. On the streets editors, buyers, influencers, bystanders and more soak in the scene, maybe hoping to get captured by street style photographers en route to their next show. On the runway as the music starts up, a hush falls over the crowd and the catwalk clears, trends are declared, iPhones are whipped out to capture models walking down the runways in next season’s looks. Their hair perfectly coiffed in whatever manner the design calls for to complement the look, sleek and straight or undone and effortless and everything in between. The makeup is a similar story, bare skin, bright eyeliner, glitter and more captured on moodboards and recreated on models to pair with a look. Backstage everyone is working together to bring a vision to life. 

We had the opportunity to go backstage at a few NYFW shows to see it all come together. From start to finish the teams backstage walked us through how they got the runway look. 



Skin Prep

We started off at Collina Strada, where the theme was sustainability and designer Hillary Taymour treated showgoers to a farmer’s market. Taymour’s outdoor runway lined with tables of colorful fruits and vegetables and tie-dye frocks and pieces made from headstock fabric called for natural beauty with a twist. Backstage models of all ages and sizes darted between hair and makeup in brown robes, show preparation included a heavy emphasis on skincare. 

A team of makeup artists began by gently cleansing the skin with makeup wipes, they followed up with serums from Grown Alchemist and then layered up on moisture with a few spritzes of facial spray, moisturizer and a bit of heavier skin cream. Anyone whose skin needed extra TLC was treated to a Zitsticka acne patch. Before makeup artists lightly touched up skin with concealer, the last step of skincare prep was a facial massage. The makeup look of neon eyeliner on the nostrils, vegetable slices reminiscent of those sliced sheet masks as an accessory and strips of neon false lashes. 




Our next stops, Sandy Liang and Maki Oh with makeup artist Rena Takeda. At Sandy Liang the 60’s inspired look called for clean skin prepped with Shiseido serum and brows groomed with clear gel with graphic silver liner just above the crease. Takeda walked us through the process of using a silver Shiseido shadow and layering a highlighter with fine pressed glitter on top with a dense brush. 



Later at Maki Oh there were a few different concepts Takeda walked us through the moodboard which featured 90s era pics of Lil Kim and Missy Elliot to name a few. One universal theme in the makeup was punchy colors used in unexpected ways. Some models had cream blush in shades of pink/orange and purple/blue blended along the cheek and temple. For another group of models, Takeda and team lined lips with dark burgundy liner and bit of gold at the cupid’s bow or red with a bit of orange and filled in with a clear Shiseido gloss, a high fashion take on the beauty trends of the 90s. Another group featured clean skin and colored brows and lashes, some pink and some blue, Takeda explained they used a primer and a few layers of pigment and colored mascara to achieve the high impact color. 




Models dart back and forth from hair to makeup in the process of getting runway ready, hot blow dryers going off every few minutes and hair spray in the air as the team works, a scene not unlike the busiest of hair salons. Hairstylists have an arsenal of products but sometimes you just need one good tool to get the job done, Ursula Stephen who led the hair team at Maki Oh molded a models baby hairs with TRESemmé gel and a rat tail comb, to complete one of the looks for the night, a “dominatrix” braid that swung down models’ backs. She then worked on a models’ natural hair with a pick comb and a bit of product while some models were outfitted in wigs with flipped ends. 



At one of our stops, Social-Work, the hair lead Janelle Chaplin, explained that the choppy jet black bob to match the collection and graphic liner makeup look was actually achieved with wigs, a bit of work with scissors and hair spray from Original Mineral, the hair sponsor for Social-Work and Collina Strada. Under the heavy black bangs peaked out a plastic visor which Janelle explained was actually for haircutting but fit the look perfectly. 

Wigs and clip-ins also came in useful at a few other shows. The team at Sandy Liang led by Dennis Lanni piled on the hairspray to achieve that 60s look on voluminous blonde wigs decorated in barrettes and bows.

Then they’re off. Models are styled and dressed, the music starts and the show begins. 

Photo Credit: Sandy Liang, Social-Work, Chinea Rodriguez

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