Typically at fashion shows, there’s some kind of paraphernalia on the seats—a breakdown of the looks, casting information—that you either pick up, skirt to the side, or sit on. But at Givenchy last Sunday, there was a thick-stock notecard with a…poem? Prose?....by transgender singer Antony (of Antony and the Johnsons), who also performed during the show. His grandiose, apocalyptic statements about the supposed “feminine future' of our society were pretty awesome…and, actually, echoed many of the hair and makeup decisions made backstage during the fall-winter season. Why bring this up now? Well, because yesterday was International Women’s Day, of course! Which means we're celebrating all weekend. And, ironically, the biggest buzzwords in beauty during Paris Fashion Week (and much of Fashion Month) were “boyish,” “masculine,” and “handsome.” That means complete ‘no-makeup makeup’: matte, uniform skin, serious-looking eyebrows, and a total absence of that great eye-opener/brightener/all-around face helper, mascara. Seeing this again and again, the biggest question for us was always: why? Why would a girl want to look like any of the above things? In terms of looks, don’t we just want to be pretty? You know, a little flick up and out with the eyeliner, that bit of sheen on a lip, or a lift at the root of your hair—those things that make you ‘look your best.’ Or, is the point not about ‘looking your best,’ because what does that even mean? Is being closer to nature—not feigned ‘natural,’ but actual natural—the new 'pretty'?
“I can feel a change,” Pat McGrath said at one point during the show circuit. “There’s been a lightening, with the makeup. We’ve been doing a lot of ‘done-undone,’ like at Prada, where we’re wiping it off, almost. You don’t want to see massive contours and highlights and a strong mouth right now—you’ll look like you’re from a reality show.” And throughout Paris Fashion Week, no fewer than three hairstylists mentioned a similar aversion to quintessential markers of pop-culture 'pretty'—there was nary a barrel curl or swath of swingy, shiny hair in sight. At Rochas, Eugene Souleiman said, “It’s not about major glamour, ‘cause it’s a bit tacky, and a bit vulgar now. It’s about a return to intelligence, for women to be taken seriously and not look like dolls. Things have needed to evolve from that campiness of, like, over-accessorizing, with lots of gold, lots of hardware—shoes looking like cars, handbags looking like banks… I think we’ve moved on from that. I think we’re approaching a time of the individual, and things feeling bespoke and character-based—not this man’s view of what a woman should look like.” A living, breathing example of the intelligent woman? Phoebe Philo.
Tom Pecheux took a similar approach at Balmain, where he said he “got rid of all the highlights this season. It’s a satin, more matte finish—we want the girl to be a bit tougher than usual.” No flushed cheeks, lip stains, or dewy glow. It wasn’t really ‘pretty’ as much as it was powerful, which also made it sexy. So, maybe ‘powerful’ is the new ‘pretty.’ At least, Tom thinks so: “I mean, let’s talk about America,” he added. “Is Michelle as important as Barack? Pretty much. Is Hillary as important as her husband, who was the President? Yes. In the same way men are much more assuming their femininity, women are much more assuming their masculinity. And I think fashion is reflecting that: we’re seeing a simpler woman, a ‘wonder woman,’ with a boyish side. And I totally embrace that; it can be very sexy.” Sexy to whom, though, because it’s doubtful your boyfriend appreciates a penciled-in, fuller brow. Have you tried penciling in your eyebrows? It can look great, but it undoubtedly gives more severity to your expression. And he probably doesn’t get the red-lip-and-nothing-else thing, because your eyes look sort of small and bare and that lip is kinda intense. But apparently it’s not about looking good for someone else at the moment. In fact, it’s less about conformity and uniformity than ever. And this has us reconsidering our routines: matte-finish foundation? Done. Chuck the mascara? Yup, one week and counting. (Definitely doesn’t look as good in pictures.) The right shade of brun eyebrow powder? Well, we’re on our way—it’s easier said than done. But if the “future will be feminine,” as Antony predicts, it probably won't be with Kim Kardashian leading the way. It’s time to evolve. Maybe it's time to rethink what's ‘pretty.’