Pat McGrath Reveals New Bedazzled Lip Kits, Talks Old Hollywood Makeup Magic
The legendary makeup artist chats about screen sirens and her favorite runway looks.
Pat McGrath may be the most influential makeup artist of our time. From her groundbreaking work on the runways with John Galliano at Dior and so many others during fashion weeks around the world, to her product development for Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Covergirl cosmetics, she's done it all, including releasing cultishly collected makeup kits under her own name, the newest of which launches later this month.
"These are all my favorite colors from my history of working at shows and editorials," McGrath says as she swipes richly pigmented yet featherweight lipstick after lipstick on the side of her hand, topping it with opulent glitter, on a penthouse balcony of the Chateau Marmont. "Like, my ultimate nudes, ultimate reds, ultimate burgundies — colors I can mix together to create 20 colors, or more, really."
The formulas are part of her limited-run Lust 004 kits ($60) — releasing Aug. 30 at 9 a.m. on her website, and Sept. 8 in seven Sephora stores (including Hollywood and Highland) and online at Sephora.com. McGrath is in town from New York to promote her fourth release, which first debuted at the Atelier Versace show in Paris in June.
Each kit comes with two balmy, hydrating yet matte lipsticks, which feature suspended pigments for a lightweight feel with strong coverage ("this is legendary, you don’t feel it," says McGrath). Also included, a clear gloss, fine gold pigment and complementary glitter so you can "style out your lips, do lip art. It’s like jewelry," she says.
McGrath's legacy began long before she started releasing limited-edition products in fall 2015. Designers and houses including Maison Martin Margiela and Prada have relied on her season after season to create trend setting, instantly iconic looks for runways and editorials.
No wonder she has such a devoted fan club. At a sneak peek cocktail party in L.A. on Monday night, Amber Valletta and Chrissy Teigen stopped by while Jaime King tested out the Vermillion Venom shades. Social media star Shay Mitchell has already Snapchatted herself in it.
Having experienced them, the formulas are silky-smooth, indelible and can be combined in a mind-blowing number of ways. With the addition of the glitter — like she created on Bella Hadid and some 40 other models for the fall 2016 Versace — it’s truly a show stopper.
Safe to say Lust 004 is our new beauty obsession. (Limited-edition lipstick singles will be sold for $25 each.) While McGrath was in L.A. (where she likes to dine at Soho House, Chateau Marmont and Giorgio Baldi), we talked to the makeup magician about her history of genius lip looks and her infatuation with Old Hollywood films.
How long did Lust 004 take to conceive and formulate?
I’ve been doing these kind of looks since the early 2000s, but actually to formulate, just a few months. That’s how it is in the labs. It’s making formulas and bringing them straight to market — it’s not about designing expensive packaging, it’s expensive formulas. These are kind of the most expensive lipsticks in the world, that’s why the packaging is no padding so to speak. You look at the packaging for a minute, but it’s about what’s inside.
You're not only giving customers a great product but you’re opening the door for them to be creative with how they use it, and of course providing amazing inspiration. How do you like to use the Lust 004 products?
You can use the Matte Lipsticks alone, or combine the two shades for a custom ombre effect. Adding a layer of the Vinyl Gloss will give you the effect of plump, intensely glossy color. Of course, layering the glitter on the lip is so gorgeous. The way it sparkles is just unreal.
The Metallic Gold Pigment is fabulous. For people who love to do lip art, just use it with a little water and accent the cupid’s bow, create endless lip designs or use as eyeliner. I love to push the boundaries of makeup, where its not just a lip — it’s gold in the cupid’s bow, a little darker in the center. That’s that we’ve been doing at shows for 20 years or more, but this is what every girl is doing on her Instagram [now].
What have been some of your career highlights thus far?
There have been so many remarkable moments over the years, from working with the most legendary designers, faces and photographers to receiving an MBE by the Queen, and now launching my own line, which is so exciting and a dream come true.
You've said classic and Old Hollywood films had an influence on you — how?
My mother and I used to watch so many old films. I was always obsessed with the Old Hollywood movies and how the skin looked, and how flawless they were, and when you think about it that was not retouching, that was the magic of film and light. Looking back I realize that at a young age I began to study faces and makeup and how beauty is perceived. Subconsciously it taught me all those subtleties and nuances in how makeup can transform a face.
EYES ON YOU: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton as Cleopatra and Mark Antony in Cleopatra (1963). (Photo: Photofest)
What are some of your favorite movie makeup moments?
I was always obsessed with obviously, like, Liz Taylor, Dorothy Dandridge in Carmen Jones, I always loved the insanity of Derek Jarman films — Jubilee, I mean the brilliance — and then of course [Luchino] Visconti, amazing makeup. Those are the ones that are really iconic to me and made an impact. Belle du Jour — there are so many. I love Eve Harrington (played by Anne Baxter) in the film All About Eve. Such precise, glamorous eye makeup. Bette Davis always looked phenomenal as well, and of course Vivien Leigh had some incredible beauty looks in Gone with the Wind and Waterloo Bridge. I adore Elizabeth Taylor’s makeup in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and in Cleopatra — those brows will forever be so major. Silvana Mangano in Death in Venice is incredible. Liz Taylor in BUtterfield 8 with that bright lip. I was recently talking about Catherine Deneuve’s red lip in The Hunger.
Do you often reference film looks on the runway or in editorials?
So many times. I love films today, of course, but gosh, for me I do mainly carry my history book of films to make sure I have those by my side to pull up easily. But today there are so many great actresses in Hollywood too. We did a Dior show once with John Galliano that was inspired by Cleopatra.
Do you ever dream about moving into the movie world and leading the makeup team on films?
I love films, the fantasy of getting completely enthralled in a story and the cinematography, really believing it. It is a completely different industry from fashion, but there are so many parallels that really interest me. Creating characters is what I have done for my whole career, so when the opportunity has come up to design a look for a character in film I’ve jumped at the chance. For The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, in which I created Rooney Mara’s looks to portray hacker Lizbeth Salander, we ended up with such an iconic look for that character. That was incredible, such a genius experience. The actual attention to detail was second to none.
How different was that experience from creating a runway look?
It’s a longer study of character. When I’m at a show we speak about the inspirations, whether it’s a woman or something that happened in the past, a movie, anything. It’s that same journey, but instead of like three months it’s two days, one day, five hours, and you have to react fast—that’s fashion. But at the same time bring to life looks that are perfect for that moment. That’s an incredible pressure, but a great test.
I have a few pictures. What do you remember about this look from the John Galliano spring 2011 show?
It was a long while ago but that was inspired I think by Brassaï. Yes, like ‘20s Brassaï photography. I know it was definite eccentricity to the max. We were looking at a lot of Brassaï pictures.
ECCENTRIC: A model on the John Galliano spring 2011 runway. (Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
What about Prada fall 2012?
This one was really a different inspiration. It was about decorating. Decoration of the eye, maximal decoration, pushing all the limits. Also to be very daring, playing with shape, playing with color. It was as simple as that: Decorating, and then to go all the way. Coming up with that was a lot of fun.
DECORATION: A model on the Prada fall 2012 runway. (Photo: AP Images)
And tell me about the Versace fall '16 look, which you said you didn’t need to reapply even after the models ate sandwiches, drank and talked on the phone. It’s like Dorothy’s shoes in The Wizard of Oz, and is very bold like an early Dior look with red studded lips and the gold lip you did at Prada for Spring 2016--and indeed, a bit like the effect you can get by using your latest kit.
I love playing with those incredible lip moments. Donatella wanted something modern and very strong but I had showed her the [Blood Wine] kit and she was saying “wow,” but when you think about a red lip in theater, you do think about too much makeup, right? But daring to do it on a bare skin or a natural face you look completely modern, completely young and fresh. And it’s not that insane. If you’ve got a ton of eyeliner, ton of blush, yes, it’s too much. But this is like that one piece of perfect jewelry you’re wearing. It looks like that on every girl and it works even in the day. I think we’re pushing makeup to its most daring, and that’s what it’s about.
BACKSTAGE BEAUTIES: Taylor Hill, left, and Bella Hadid backstage at the Versace fall 2016 show. (Photo: Francois G. Durand/WireImage)