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Vivienne Westwood Spring 2013

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Minimal makeup is great and all—and god bless the resurgence of subtle highlighting and contouring—but sometimes you just want a little bit of fantasy, yes? Over the weekend, the all-Brit/all-It team of makeup artist Val Garland, hairstylist Sam McKnight, and Dame Vivienne Westwood delivered.

First of all, Westwood convinced the British Embassy on Rue St. Honore to open its doors for the show, which is a pretty big coup. In Paris, unlike New York, I think there must be some secret contest between designers over who can score the coolest show space. At most shows here, it’s not uncommon for the backstage area to feature one or more of the following: a gold-leaf ceiling, crystal chandeliers, candelabras, and manicured gardens that would make your head spin. Westwood's setting had it all. It also had, refreshingly, a gorgeous, diverse cast of models, all of whom had totally different and totally spectacular beauty looks.

“It’s mad, it’s mad—it’s Westwood mad,” Garland said. “We were thinking of all sorts of things: African, tribal, voodooism, mixed with Close Encounters—think Alien—and also drop in a bit of Marie Antoinette…and punk,” she continued, laughing. “So, that’s the mix! The hearts are sort of representative of Marie Antoinette; the white around the eyes is kind of Alien Nation feeling, and the painted effect on the face—that’s our kind of tribal, African thing.” With McKnight out of eyesight, she added: “And the way the hair creates this balaclava sort of halo around the face is amazing… though they’re all getting different hair.” (Of the various coiffures, our personal favorite might have been the faux undercut/platinum wig/visible plastic-comb combo.)

“We’re just painting the faces freehand—there’s no template,” Garland explained. A row of converted buffet tables were littered with MAC’s new Conceal and Correct Palettes in six different colorways [out in the spring]. Meanwhile, nail artist Marian Newman and a duo from London's Nail Rock nail-wrap company sat around, individually tweezer-ing tiny rhinestones onto sheets of pre-cut, custom wraps. “Every girl is getting a full set,” Newman explained. “The brief we got is: 'Diamond-cut stones in various pastel colors.' For me, the main reference was bling. It’s typical Westwood bonkers.”

There was bling, sure, but that didn't mean the final look was pure glam. (It was a reference free-for-all.) “Listen, this is fun,” Garland said. “You know, that whole ‘barely there, real skin, early 90s, looking real’ thing?” Indeed we do. “That’s easy; we can do that in 5 minutes. But when you come to things like this, like Westwood? That’s where you have fun as a makeup artist.” And it showed.

Photographed by Emily Weiss at the British Embassy in Paris on September 29th, 2012.

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