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Bright ideas: the beauty world’s move towards one-of-a-kind make-up

4 November 2021

Fashion Quarterly talks with global senior make-up artist at M.A.C Cosmetics, Kiekie Stanners, about the beauty world’s move towards a one-of-a-kind, personalised approach to make-up and why it’s time to have a little more fun with it.

WORDS BY Hemma Vara

Image: Gallery Stock

When you peruse through the endless beauty world of Instagram, more often than not, you’ll find the same homogenous flawless complexions, bouncy blow waves, manicured brows, and plump gloss-stained lips staring back at you. Given the rise of the beauty influencer or YouTuber, it’s become increasingly hard not to feel like social media is stuck on a perpetual loop where beauty is concerned. But if you’ve grown somewhat weary of the deluge of polished and perfected beauty looks flooding your feed—you’re certainly not alone, and the beauty world appears to be taking notice. 

“We are bombarded by visuals constantly, and perhaps, in general, a little bit tired of the pressure to execute ‘perfection’ with make-up,” explains Kiekie Stanners, global senior make-up artist at M.A.C Cosmetics Aotearoa. Celebrity culture has saturated our social media feeds, and Stanners says that although this type of glam make-up we’ve become accustomed to might be a joy to execute for special occasions, it isn’t necessary for our day-to-day life. 

But that’s not to say that our everyday beauty routines can’t bring us the same sense of delight. Although some of us put much of our make-up into hibernation over lockdown, many of us discovered and embraced the frivolous optimism that a hint of our favourite lipstick could bring us.

“As we saw all through lockdowns, the joy of make-up is such a simple way to uplift your mood, especially when using positive colour,” says Stanners.

Similiar to the way in which donning a dress in a vibrant shade of yellow can bolster the spirits of not only ourselves but also those around us, make-up—when used as a tool of self-expression—can have a similar effect. As Stanners puts it, a swipe of sunshine yellow over the eyes feels like an instant pick-me-up. “The relief of having fun with your beauty routine feels right for right now.”

On the runway

The fashion world is no stranger to pushing the boundaries when it comes to beauty. For the last few seasons on the international runway we’ve seen make-up artists eschew what was once the dominant approach: apply one uniform look to an entire troop of models. Instead, we’ve seen make-up artists forgo this outdated notion in favour of a much more individualistic approach to each and
every model. 

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The emergence of the current do-it-yourself trend is just the next step in the ongoing quest for a more bespoke approach to make-up. As M.A.C senior artist Fatima Thomas explains, “It’s all about inclusion, diversity and celebrating difference.”

Although the fashion world can take some of the credit for inspiring a more fluid, unrestrained approach to beauty, Stanners says the move away from highly manicured beauty looks on the runway reflects the wider change that’s happening in the beauty world. “As always, we tend to see fashion ‘mainstream’ beauty ideals and showcasing more of an expressionist approach to show make-up,” says Stanners. She explains that in recent years the runway has turned to the streets as its muse. Beauty trends aren’t only flowing on from what’s happening in the fashion and social media realms; they’re going back to the street and embracing self-expression as a trend on its own.

“There is a freedom there that allows a consumer to embrace their personal beauty statement and make it their own without rules,” she elaborates.

Forget perfectly lined red lips and drawn-on brows: think an explosion of glitter and colour—anything goes. “I feel like this completes an overall mood at the moment, of not trying to achieve perfection and embrace a realness in beauty.”

Into reality

Despite the trend towards individual beauty and that most of us are attuned to the fact that beauty is supposed to be fun and uplifting,  many of us are still happy to reach for the same predictable make-up routine each and every day. As ephemeral and whimsical as make-up is, most of  us are familiar with the predicament of finishing the one wearable nude shade of eyeshadow while anything a little more daring remains untouched.

Part of our reluctance to step outside of our comfort zone, explains Stanners, is that most of us have horror stories of experimenting with colour and it going horribly wrong. “It can be daunting to play with colour, especially when pressed for time. And knowing where to start can be scary,” she says. 

So if reaching for a shade of electric blue eyeshadow before you rush out the door on a Monday morning isn’t the right time to try something new, what is the best way to shake up your routine?

 “Take some time to find some inspiration,” advises Stanners. “Trying to get out of a make-up rut doesn’t work when you are pushed for time or not enjoying the experience.” Setting aside a weekend evening to sit and experiment with new looks and perhaps watching an online tutorial can be a great place to start, says Stanners.

And she stresses that if you’re finding navigating the online world of make-up tutorials overwhelming, you don’t have to go it alone. After all, that’s what the experts are there for. “Consider getting a professional to help you initially, with additions of colour into your normal regimen so it makes it easier than stumbling with amateur applications yourself.” Booking in a lesson at a professional make-up counter and asking a make-up artist to suggest one new addition to your routine lesson can make a huge difference.

“It’s amazing what another artist can suggest that you may have never thought about on yourself before,” says Stanners.

Start simple

While mimicking certain looks straight off the runway might not be practical, Stanners says it’s still possible to embrace the expressionist essence of the DIY trend. “It’s exciting to see heightened looks—glitter, bold colours, creative freedom on the face but take inspiration from that to make it your own,” she suggests. 

The DIY trend is about self-expression after all. There’s no rule book to stick to; it’s all about making beauty work for you. “Why not use this same tone of glitter on the eyes as an eyeliner? Or be inspired by the electric paint strokes we see on the runway but soften it by blending a pop of this colour over the eyelid as a pastel veil, rather than in an opaque way,” says Stanners.  Another way to ease into experimenting with colour is by injecting a pop of colour over the lash line with your day-to-day eye make-up, she continues.  “Or blend a colour tone through the crease instead of your usual mid-tone nude to introduce pinks, peaches and reds.” And if anything doesn’t quite go to plan, remember: a swipe of make-up remover will quickly undo any unfortunate experiments with colour.

Rather than be an everyday necessity, Stanners believes we should embrace the idea that make-up is a delightful accessory that enhances our personal style.  “Make-up should be empowering, expressionist and enjoyable,” she says. “It’s that surprise addition that complements your style, rather than being an everyday necessity. It’s the pop of colour over the eyes, or the powerful lip that complements a look and finishes your styling statement.”

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