May 17th, 2017
The collaboration between fashion designer and make-up artist can be the defining element of a collection. Legendary partnerships – like Val Garland with both Vivienne and McQueen, Pat McGrath with everyone – can catapult the clothing off the runway and into the national consciousness. But how do aspiring designers make that leap from fabrics to faces? When we heard a rumour that Terry Barber and M.A.C were doing something special, we headed down to the University of Westminster Fashion Design course to find out.
For the past five years, M.A.C have been supporting the Fashion Design course at University of Westminster, and over the last couple the team has worked closely with the University to be part of the third year student’s fashion programme – introducing the integral relationship beauty has with fashion. “We found that a lot of emerging designers we started to work with didn’t think about their whole woman,” explained Terry Barber, M.A.C’s Directory of Makeup Artistry, “and also didn’t have a point-of-view when it came to the beauty.” In January, he held a lecture on the importance of creating and styling The Woman when designing a collection, and tasked the students to pull together a beauty mood board for their final collection, which was then presented with their working collection one-to-one to Terry, Andrew Groves, Course Leader at the University, and Sarah Mower, renowned fashion critic and columnist.
“There have been two stages to my meeting with the students,” comments Terry. “Firstly I met with them as a group, to introduce M.A.C as a brand, our close relationship with the fashion industry and to get across the current synergy between the two industries – beauty and fashion. I presented some key modern styling influences and also introduced a project which was for them to conceptualise a beauty concept which would work in the context of their final collection. Secondly, along with Sarah Mower and Andrew Groves, I followed up with one-to-ones with each student who presented their concepts and received feedback.”
Terry’s personal experience is what prompted his involvement. “I’ve worked for so long with new generation fashion designers that I felt that, even at the education stage, it’s important to have a point of view on beauty, particularly when you start presenting collections and have to deal with styling teams. Beauty has an equally complex language as fashion; its moods, nuances and details are all designed to send out certain aspirational messages to potential wearers and, if fashion and beauty are out of synch, then the message very often doesn’t work. It’s not just make up, it’s the language of style. Everything has to work together from casting, to hair, to beauty, to styling. It’s the bigger picture.”
While the thought of partnering with emerging designers as they begin their careers is exciting, Terry sees much more to the collaboration. “The point was not necessarily to partner with them, although that would be amazing as there’s some incredible talent. It was, in some way, to be a factor in the education process. To offer another layer which would equip them to work with the vast world of brands, sponsorships and collaborations which new talent is often swamped with when they start to work in the ‘real world’. It’s about going out there with a firm aesthetic and a strong point of view so that you can always retain your integrity!”
And the process was very much an educational two-way street. “Because I am someone who already works within the industry and for a brand, it’s inspiring for me to hear from unpolluted minds with fresh ideas,” Terry confesses. “It’s encouraging to know that a sense of freedom still exists in a generation who are inundated with celebrity and social media. I think in the UK we are in danger of losing a lot of the subculture that created our style culture and meeting the students made me think that perhaps the future might be in safer hands.”
Catching up with Andrew Groves, Course Director for the BA (Hons) Fashion Design course, he echoes Terry’s comments. “I’ve been at the University of Westminster for several years having got into fashion through theatre design; one day I met Alexander McQueen in a pub in Soho and ended up working with him on his first shows. He’d also being working in theatre – we’d both worked on the original production of Miss Saigon – and I think we were both very much drawn to the presentation aspects of fashion and in particular the runway show. To me Fashion is about the creating the person, their movement, their garments, and ultimately the presentation of the self.”
“We’ve been working together with M.A.C for quite a few years, and the relationship has just been incredibly rewarding for us. I think it’s an unbelievably hard brief to present 16 different runway collections that all have a different aesthetic and their own take on beauty within a single show. That said, I think that challenge only encourages everyone to be creative and to find ways of presenting the various collections to emphasise the range of the different personal approaches to beauty.”
Andrew saw that Terry’s January lecture had a massive impact on the students. “You could see light bulbs go off in the students’ heads! It was incredible for them to hear all that inside knowledge and learn how he works with such a variety of different runway designers and how the variety of different approaches to achieving the various aesthetics for each designer. They suddenly realised the depth and level of consideration that goes into even the smallest gesture of makeup on a model’s face.” And feedback has been immediate and obvious. The students loved it. “I think it freed them up hearing so many different stories of how beauty can be presented. How beauty and fashion design work hand in hand to allow them to tell a story, and to create a physical representation of what starts out as a very conceptual idea that they are trying to capture for that season. I also believe we are in an incredibly creative moment in fashion; it’s a reaction to the current volatile nature of the world, graduates are working on a far more personal level and telling stories that relate to themselves and their friends, not necessarily trying to speak to a global fashion audience.”
And this is merely the beginning, in Andrew’s eyes, with the collaboration evolving for future students. “I think what excites me is that it’s helping to create designers that understand the importance of collaboration and how important the relationship between designer and makeup artist is for conveying their ideas to an audience. Our students are now thinking about this at the beginning of their creative process rather than at the end, so it’s revolutionising how they are approaching designing.”