As the temperature took a momentary dip into almost-jacket weather, the feeling of renewal finally hit. It was the second-to-last day of New York Fashion Week, and even with the masks and backstage testing, we’d found our way back to long-lost hellos and standstill traffic and exuberant spectacle (even if Larry David was doing his best to ignore it). There was a parade of clothes to imagine slipping into, or lusting after, in the months to come. And then there were the makeup looks—present-tense propositions for changing things up.
That afternoon, at Rachel Comey’s 20th-anniversary show, a few dozen dancers and models, under the direction of choreographer Beth Gill, filtered onto the makeshift stage. What unfolded was an absurdist take on daily life. A group of people sitting in sad office chairs slumped slowly to the ground. Friends excitedly embraced on an imagined sidewalk. A woman atop a ladder changed her shirt in plain view, a bit like me in my fourth-floor apartment where I don’t yet have curtains. But what particularly stood out was not a grand gesture but a small one: jagged slashes of pigment across most performers’ eyelids, in Day-Glo green or geranium red or cobalt blue.
“With the dancers moving, I thought it’d be beautiful to have this spontaneous flash of color that didn’t feel labored,” explains makeup artist Romy Soleimani, who oversaw the look—refreshing for its no-wrong-way looseness. “In general, I’m feeling this wanting to be kind of expressive and joyful and optimistic.”
That sentiment reverberated across town. It manifested as exaggerated cat eyes at Batsheva, drawn with a retro-Goth energy. At Maryam Nassir Zadeh, the liner skewed colorful and minimalist, while Proenza Schouler showed the power of a monochromatic wash of bright shadow. There were moments of glittery glamour: sultry at Tom Ford, precisely defined at LaQuan Smith. And for Rodarte’s ethereal show, the eye makeup included a handful of mini masterpieces executed by James Kaliardos—a reminder that the art-school impulse can override the usual logic.
Here, a primer on the standout moments, plus the essentials to get things started.
Brushstroke Eyes at Rachel Comey
The cast at Rachel Comey’s spring 2022 performance spanned gender and age and discipline (with downtown dance personalities like Jodi Melnick and Reid Bartelme in the mix). It managed to tap into the New York spirit of the individual, and so did Romy Soleimani’s makeup: bright, painterly strokes that lit up the eyelids. To create the red version, she used a blend of Bobbi Brown matte lipsticks; Day-Glo citrus tones came courtesy of Kryolan pigments, softened with MAC white paint. “That kind of spontaneity just feels very free,” the makeup artist said, encouraging us all to “just scribble something on your eye—why not?” As it was backstage, it’s about a quick gesture, then a dash out the door.
Staged in the atrium of Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, the Tom Ford show closed out the fashion week calendar with requisite flash. The collection offered jewel-like satin coats and sequined separates overlaid with piled-up chains, and the makeup continued the theme. “We’re doing a gorgeous, very dark smoky eye with gold glitter, and putting a little bit of lip balm on it so it goes all sultry,” Diane Kendal explained backstage. The metallic shades varied according to skin tone and outfit; model Soo Joo Park’s glitter skewed rose gold to match her freshly dyed lilac-pink hair. From there, the look came together with diffuse shading, kohl liner, and “lots of mascara—but keeping the rest of the face quite fresh,” Kendal added. The effect was smoldering in a familiar Tom Ford way: “It’s really his woman, isn’t it.”
Retro-Goth Eyeliner at Batsheva
“The look that I try to put together in my mind is always a little bit tough—kind of bringing the darkness to the froofiness of the clothes,” Batsheva Hay said backstage, shortly before her runway show upstairs at Serendipity III. She didn’t have to look far for inspiration, citing makeup artist Francelle Daly’s goth aesthetic as exactly that kind of counterpoint. Daly, in charge of the day’s high-impact black cat eyes, was tailoring each look to the individual model. (The cast was a cross-section of Batsheva’s circle, including Rory Culkin, Busy Philipps, and three Saturday Night Live stars.) A soon-to-launch gel liner from Daly’s makeup line, Love+Craft+Beauty, helped outline the shape; she then filled in with a precision cream liner and set it with black matte shadow. “It’s about having fun and just being your true self,” she added, her own makeup proving the point.
Bright Shadow at Proenza Schouler
We’ve come to expect certain things from the Proenza Schouler lineup—fresh skin and a minimalist poise among them. But that didn’t stop makeup artist Diane Kendal from giving three of the models an unexpected flash of color. Her approach was straightforward and completist: eye shadow (in this case fluoro-red, flame orange, or turquoise) applied in a monochromatic wash clear up to the brow. It’s a bold gesture that’s also coolly modern. There’s no reason not to give it a try.
Artistic Flourishes at Rodarte
For makeup artist James Kaliardos, a longtime collaborator of Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the starting point for a Rodarte beauty look is “not just the fabrics and the dresses of the season,” he said. “Their whole world inspires me.” For the spring 2022 show, Kaliardos recalled how they slipped into a “trippy headspace” during the fittings, which gave the feeling of it being an art class. While most models hit the runway with spare, sun-flushed cheeks, Kaliardos and the designers dreamed up a handful of intricately painted makeup designs. A loose zebra eye (inspired by a jacket in the collection) was created with freehand squiggles using a Nars liquid liner. For a couple of celestial designs, he sketched the outline directly on the face, before filling in with shadows in teal and sunset hues. “It was more about a creative urge than a kind of precision,” Kaliardos said—as if passing on the permission to play.
Colorful Linework at Maryam Nassir Zadeh
Fara Homidi is known for her experimental hand with pigments (as seen in the subtle veils of color across faces at this season’s Eckhaus Latta show). But the makeup look for Maryam Nassir Zadeh was winsome in its simplicity. “Maryam’s show was a homecoming, so we wanted to bring a feeling of wearability with a bit of an aspirational sense to the makeup,” she explained. “We achieved that through subtle chromatic flicks in both the top and bottom of the eyes, while keeping the skin more fresh and raw to balance the color.” One model wore a bright cobalt; on another, a barely detectable pale blue lends a halo effect. It’s something you’d expect on “true New York cool kids in the East Village,” Homidi said—but that’s just the beginning.
Architectural Sparkle at LaQuan Smith
When the runway show takes place at the Empire State Building—a first for the landmark—it’s hard to top the inherent razzle of the place. But for LaQuan Smith, Sheika Daley created a precise, high-shine cat eye that “further embellished the glitz and glamour that is New York”; it also reflected the confidence that models exuded in the designer’s curve-hugging creations. “I had stones flown from all over the world to find the perfect blue and red colors that LaQuan was looking for,” the makeup artist recalled, explaining that the crystals (courtesy of Swarovski) were applied by hand. A lo-fi version using glitter mixed with a fixative will more than suffice.