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 general—unless 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;  by Alessandra Codinha at Donna Karan.