The Little Black Line


As is to be expected backstage during NYFW, a lot is going on. There are models and makeup (artists and products), tweezers and tongs and hairstylists and combs and curlers and the occasional hair net (depending on the level of protection required by the 'do), tissues and several different lighting schemes (some hand-held, by assistants), a swarm of first-look photographers and beauty reporters trying to figure out their own angles, and often a much-neglected table of stale bagels somewhere off to the side. One thing we could not find this season? Mascara. Instead, artists like Charlotte Tilbury, James Kaliardos, and Diane Kendal were implementing a whisper-thin, neatly lash-hugging line of black color in gel or cream form, without extending past the lashes—no flick, no overt thickness. Sort of a lash-based booster shot, if you think about it.

At Donna Karan, Charlotte Tilbury was mixing MAC Paint Pots in Blackground and Reflex Pearl up to the eyebrows, using a smudge of Eight Hour Cream to create a shadow around the eye, as if top-lit: a "Peter Lindbergh-esque modern, shiny quality," which she considers "evolved makeup, a furthering of that smoky-eye look Donna [Karan] loves so much." Tilbury layered more of the black cream tight along the upper lash line and underneath to create the shadow, and the look was done. No eyeliner inside the eye, and no mascara. "It feels more modern this way," she said. "It makes the whole look statuesque, sensual, mysterious." Plus, she noted, "The cream gets onto the base of the eyelashes and really makes them look thicker at the root."

James Kaliardos at Theyskens' Theory (where the look was clean and fresh sculpted faces with a little peach-toned concealer on the eyelid and not much else) was inclined to agree. "I think the girls look so beautiful—beautiful in a really pure way. As opposed to, like, 'pretty because I'm wearing mascara' pretty, it's more of a concept of pretty, pretty like how we were born...'born-this-way' pretty. Which is harder to do." So no mascara? At all? "No mascara. I think because it's about your natural lash, which is softer, so it immediately softens the eye." But what about our years spent trawling the aisles of Sephora for the perfect width/lift/curl?! "A lot of designers and stylists think mascara looks 'commercial,'" Kaliardos shrugged. "They've said that a lot: 'No no no no no mascara!' They're really strongly adamant about that."

And then yesterday, Diane Kendal cemented our bare-lash trend suspicions with her "very well-groomed, very New York" girls for Reed Krakoff's fall show. "The skin looks gorgeous and flawless," she said. "We're using lipstick on the cheek, for that dewy, luminous quality. We're brushing the eyebrows and filling them in if necessary, and then just placing a black cream liner really close to the lid to give the eye that definition for the runway." Kendal hadn't done much of an eye at Wang, either, come to think of it. What was going on? The full-lashed bombshells we always associated with the notion of beauty had all but disappeared. "I find because I don't use mascara in generalunless I'm creating a look that's very YSL or 1950s, I tend not to do lashes...because somehow, putting mascara on isn't very modern," the makeup artist said. "By doing the thin, black cream line, you're creating that depth at the root without having to use mascara, so the girls look really modern and fresh and it gives a real point of view." Kendal used a dampened "very thin and pointy" eyeliner brush (we like the 210 Precise Eyeliner Brush) with MAC's Fluidline in Blacktrack.

Frankly, we're torn. Yes, there's a definite appeal to the clean look of James, Diane, and Charlotte's girls from this past week (and there's always Violette's museum-inspired method of lining in-between the eyelashes to get very full-seeming fringe). And sure, nothing particularly good can come from spidery, over-done mascara, but some of us never thought of our lives without mascara wands entirely... That said, we're going to try it this weekend. Maybe this is what modernity feels like?

Photos [1-2] by Emily Weiss at Alexander Wang; [3-7] by Emily Weiss at Reed Krakoff; [8] by Alessandra Codinha at Donna Karan. 

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  • Jenn

    The horror!

  • Davy

    I never wear mascara unless I'm going for a really "made up" look. Generally I prefer to look undone so I leave out mascara and go for smudgy liner.

  • Rachel

    i can't get over the perfect skin of each of these women!

  • Sue

    I've always been a mascara fan but I find pairing it with a bright lip makes me look like a china doll so I've been leaving it off and only wearing brown eyeshadow (still curling the lashes though). For me, it makes really bright lipsticks easier to wear and does look more current.

    • Naiwen

      Interesting -- that's exactly the same philosophy more fashion-forward Korean and Japanese fashion/ beauty mags have been advocating lately as well. This is definitely the trend. :)

  • Ona_in_Barcelona

    I've never seen runway makeup as having much to do with what I wear on a daily basis - it's more art than anything else. So no, I won't put down the mascara wand! Not for love nor money, ha.

    Also - "it feels more modern this way" must be the most-uttered phrase of every Fashion Week, ever. It seems to come out of the mouth of every single designer, stylist, MUA, editor...

  • Bianca

    I haven't worn mascara for years because every formula I've irritates my eyes! So yes, I've been doing the thin line of eyeliner or the smudgy look for a while - so glad that this is now a trend and I can stop being asked 'Why aren't you wearing mascara??'

  • Kelsey

    LOVE the no mascara look. i know i'm in the minority, but i hate the look of mascara on myself- my lashes are all the same length, and mascara makes them look fake and pageant-y. lately i just get my lashes tinted and do a swipe of liquid eyeliner/ smudge some pencil.

  • The Horticult

    Hm -- this is intriguing, and I'm torn. On the one hand, I JUST got my eyelashes figured out. On the other, it is nice that we're de-Kardashianing ourselves. Even if it is with skimpier lashes.

    • Kelli

      I had the same thought after reading this. I think the 'no mascara' look is somewhat of a backlash against the whole "Kardashian, exaggerated lashes, exaggerated everything" look. People are tired of the overexposure, tired of the look. On the other hand, I do agree with the comment that the runway does not influence my make-up. I happen to love mascara, and I always have at least 3 mascaras that I use in rotation in my makeup bag. I am always asking people what mascara they use...

      • The Horticult

        Which also explains the platform shoe backlash! Lately I've been digging "They're Real" by Benefit -- after wiping the wand almost bare for a really natural look. You can almost watch your lashes curl up and away, like those morivivi plants that move away when you touch them. (Sorry, I think in plant references.) What mascara are you using right now?

        • Kelli

          Yes! I absolutely get the platform shoe backlash! I (and I know I am going to get hammered for this) have NEVER liked platform shoes. IMO I think they look tacky. Soooo glad to see the pointy-toed pumps coming back in- love those. So aesthetically pleasing to my eye! As for mascara, right now I am using Lancome's Definicils. I like the length and volume it gives to my lashes. But I also use Maybelline Great Lash- it's an old, reliable standby for me. I also have tried Maybelline's The Falsies- didn't like. Too clumpy for me. I just may have to try the Benefit one you use. One question- does it flake at all? Need my mascara to last all day without flakiness. Thnx! : )

          • The Horticult

            No flakes for me. There is a high clump risk, though, despite the rubbery, spiky brush. But using Tweezerman's foldaway lash comb (so pretty, gold tines in a plastic frame) before the formula dries has been an excellent fix for me. The benefits (ha) far outweigh the drawbacks on this one.

  • Lauren

    I didn't know this was a trend! I basically chucked mascara a couple years ago because I realized I looked more fresh and open with just a lined eye. No shadow, just a little concealer on the lid. SOMETIMES a shimmery dark brown mascara (some special ed. from Dior) for a night out. But still no shadow.

  • MelodyMedellin

    well, duh! you gotta play it down on a daily... especially if you dont NEED make up to be pretty. i rarely wear more than a shimmer peach blush and mascara, so when i do 'doll it up' the look is very noticable and compliments pour in (of course with the obligatory -your pretty without it). im glad to see new york, the rest of the fashion world and i are on the same page, cosmetically ;)

  • Mara Zampariolo

    I haven't worn (or owned) a mascare in years (and I am not one of those lucky people who have insanely thick and long lashes). I always felt mascara was too much on my face, and since I rock the heavy smoky on the bottom lid too, I think no mascara is a good thing. Plus, it takes me 30 seconds to remove my makeup, and I can cry if I want to !!


MAC Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer Nw15
MAC 210 Precise Eye Liner Brush
MAC Paint Pot