The spring 2018 shows wrapped up on Tuesday in Paris, and with them, fashion month has come to a close. Although clothes are still the main event each season, the beauty industry’s presence at the shows continues to grow.
Makeup artist Pat McGrath, for instance, tested out products from her new namesake line at shows including Prada and Marni. It’s also good advertising — the Redken hair products used at Versace, for example, were mentioned across Instagram stories and in related press. Other brands capitalized on the moment by throwing parties, as L’Oreal did for its partnership with Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing on his first foray into beauty. Beyond marketing, beauty as it relates to diversity and the health of models has also come under the microscope in recent years, lending new weight to the messages designers send outside the realm of clothes.
“Social media has pulled back the curtain on the behind-the-scenes process of the catwalk, democratizing the artistry at the shows,” explained Victoria Buchanan, a fashion and retail researcher at London’s Future Laboratory.
Here’s a look at the most noteworthy beauty industry moments seen at fashion month this season.
Helen Mirren walks in L’Oréal’s “makeup-first” runway show
L’Oréal’s “makeup-first” runway show
L’Oréal Paris transformed Paris’s famed Avenue des Champs-Élyséess into a giant runway for a “makeup-first” runway show earlier this week. Spotlighting over 70 different beauty looks created by L’Oréal Paris’s global makeup director, Val Garland, the show embraced age diversity with models including Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren. Highlighting Garland’s work also signaled the rising power of makeup artists and their long-awaited appreciation, said Joyce Lee, the founder of consulting agency Talk to Her.
According to a press release, another goal of the show was to open the worlds of fashion and beauty to the public, echoing the larger industry desire to make fashion more accessible. “It was fun, fresh, and didn’t take itself too seriously, which sums up the beauty industry as a whole right now,” said Faith Xue, the editorial director of Byrdie. Indeed, it provided a new template for other beauty brands to follow in the future.
LVMH and Kering introduce a model charter
Fashion week kicked off in early September with an announcement from LVMH and Kering that they’d drawn up a charter to ensure the health and well-being of models and ban size zero models from walking in shows. The charter insists that female models be a French size 34 (U.S. size 2) or above and male models be a French size 44 or above. Models walking in their brands’ shows must also provide a certificate of health from their doctor and be 16 or older. Industry reactions were mixed, but many believed it didn’t go far enough. As Xue pointed out, there was still a lot to be desired in terms of body diversity at the shows, and when the model Louise Parker documented her traumatic casting experience with Kering company Balenciaga on Instagram, the charter’s limits came further into question.
Fenty Beauty sets a new standard
Soon after effectively winning New York Fashion Week with her energetic Fenty Puma show, Rihanna gave Kylie Cosmetics a run for its money when she launched her new beauty line Fenty. Formulated to cater for “traditionally hard-to-match skin tones,” the brand debuted with an impressive 40 different foundation shades. The campaign was equally diverse, featuring the Muslim model Halima Aden and plus-size model Paloma Elsesser, among others. Launching with so many products is an expensive investment that requires a lot of research and development, “so this is a great step forward in the conversation for more diversity in the industry,” said Buchanan. “It’s cool to see one of the most anticipated beauty brands in the world launch with a message that’s so welcoming and accepting,” said Jonathon Burford, the co-founder and creative director of Beautycon Media.
An image from Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty campaign
Designers spotlight underrepresented models
Another highlight on the diversity front was the designer Maki Oh using only models of color in her show, a nod to her own heritage as a black woman. “Too often we steal from African-American culture and misappropriate it to fit an industry dominated by white people,” said Burford, of Beautycon. “Her show sent a clear message that we need to be more inclusive as a society if we’re going to borrow style, inspiration and culture from each other.” It was a message that designers Carol Lim and Humberto Leon carried into their show for Kenzo, as well, featuring only models of Asian descent.
A willingness to engage with the beauty nuances of different racial backgrounds was also more apparent, according to Xue. “It used to be that all models’ hair — no matter the natural texture — had to look the same,” she said. But this season showed hints that that’s starting to change. At the Coach presentation, for instance, the rock n’ roll inspiration cited by hairstylist Guido Palau involved a wider range of looks than normal. Dependent on the state of the model’s hair, that meant everything from a roughed-up straight look to braids.