NYFW Beauty: Brandon Maxwell Goes for the Gold Standard

Brandon Maxwell's show at New York Fashion Week - Getty -P 2016
JP Yim/Getty Images

How famed makeup artist Tom Pecheux created a "splash of gold" on models who walked the designer's spring 2017 show.

"Look where we are: The room is very luxurious — a lot of gold, a lot of red," says Tom Pecheux, surrounded by beauty writers holding their iPhones aloft to catch every word from the famed makeup artist.

The location? The fourth floor of Brandon Maxwell’s chosen show site, New York’s legendary Russian Tea Room, indeed among the more opulent venues chosen for New York Fashion Week. "This place is very beautiful and very baroque, so that’s why Brandon and I decided to keep the girl very sophisticated, but not heavy. It is, how you say en francais, 'sublime.'"

Pecheux indeed worked a bit of sublime magic into his beauty look, crafting faces that looked natural — until each girl stepped out onto the runway.

"With no light, it looks as though she is wearing nothing," he explains. "But under the lights on the runway, the glamour comes into focus." The MAC celebrity makeup artist accomplished this via the artful use of gold pigment, MAC’s Goldmine eyeshadow, combining it with the brand’s Mixing Medium Eyeliner, to create a gel-like gold that could easily be applied both on the eyelid and at the temple. "It’s a splash of gold," Pecheux clarifies. "Then I did a veil of foundation over it, because I wanted it to feel light, as though she was breathing gold, as if it was coming out of her skin."

GOLDEN TOUCH: The gold pigment used backstage on the models at Brandon Maxwell's spring 2017 show. (Photo: Laurie Brookins)

Instead of a traditional lip color, Pecheux used foundation — "about three shades darker than each girl’s skin tone," he says — on the lips; contour powder was then applied for a matte finish, with a touch of MAC’s Perfectly Lit Bronzer for a metallic accent. "I wanted everything to feel very organic,” Pecheux says. “It’s a very luxurious makeup, and yet very gentle."

For the hair, Oribe global ambassador James Pecis likewise opted for a natural look infused with a touch of glamour. Depending on the model, hair was either left natural to frame the face, or pulled back in a tight ponytail wrapped in leather strips. Oribe’s Maximista Thickening Spray added a bit of volume. "That’s like my Swiss army knife, the one product I’m always reaching for," Pecis says.

The hairstylist says he loves working with Maxwell "because he always puts together an amazing team, and he challenges you to bring your own thoughts to the table. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re helping him create the girl he’s envisioning each season." And what was Pecis thinking for spring? "She has to look expensive, but she also has to be fun," he says. "She’s expensive and refined, but she also has to be a girl who is going to go out and drink too much. She’s that fun girl you want to hang out with."

GLAMOUR GIRL: A model backstage at Brandon Maxwell's spring 2017 show. (Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage)

On the nails, Deborah Lippmann opted for a staple shade in her collection, a pale, opaque pink dubbed Shape Of My Heart, a hue she originally developed with Shape magazine as a product to benefit breast-cancer awareness.

"Brandon wanted a super-chic, very groomed but not very long nail. His feeling for this girl is that she’s a little more romantic," Lippmann notes. "The collection was a little more flowy in feeling, so he wanted to make sure the nails were not a pink that went away, but a pink that really showed." As a bonus: A percentage of the proceeds from Shape Of My Heart sales benefit the MemorialCare Breast Center at Saddleback Memorial in Laguna Hills. "It’s in honor of my husband’s mom," Lippmann adds.

Combined with Maxwell’s spring 2017 collection, the overall look created a feeling Pecheux likens to "a piece of jewelry, as though each girl was an incredible diamond," he says. "Hair and makeup needed to be present and glamorous, but also a little thoughtless as well. These girls, they are goddesses already, but when you put them in these clothes, they’re just insanely beautiful."