If you're one to keep a close eye on fashion trends, you know that, for the most part, there's a traditional chain of command that styles follow. First, a trend will be born and spotted on the runways, then it hits street style, then goes mainstream. As it happens, this also holds true for beauty trends. In fact, some of the most legendary beauty looks from fashion months' past have sparked long-lasting trends within the industry that are still embraced today, thanks to renowned makeup artists and hairstylists.
Fashion week veteran Sam McKnight has been doing backstage hair for 35 years, with his first show being Emanuel in the late ’70s. "David and Elizabeth Emanuel were a couture house in London, and they also designed Princess Diana’s wedding dress in 1981," McKnight tells TZR. When the hairstylist initially started working runway shows, the events were nothing like they are now, in fact, they were much smaller. "It was more of a trade show, very much reserved for buyers and editors," he says. Sometimes, there were only 10 models, and if McKnight had a team with him, it was very limited. "We have recently worked on shows with 100 models and our team was 42 hairstylists strong; that was not unusual pre-COVID," he explains. Over the years, the hairstylist says shows have grown and become much more of a platform to showcase collections to a worldwide audience.
Fashion week has been a launching pad for many major makeup artists and hair stylists. Take makeup artist Lynsey Alexander, who began her career working for the MAC pro team and got the chance to learn from household names like Charlotte Tilbury, Diane Kendal, and Val Garland. After 10 years with MAC, Alexander became a full-time assistant to Lucia Pieroni for six years, before setting out on her own and keying shows the past eight years or so. Likewise, Erin Parsons began assisting for world-renowned artist Pat McGrath back in 2008 and is now one of the most talked-about makeup artists in the beauty industry.
Ready to take a stroll down memory lane? Ahead, prominent makeup artists and hairstylists share the most iconic looks they've ever created for fashion week during their careers.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Donna Karan Fall/Winter 1993
Makeup artist Nick Barose tells TZR that the makeup the late Kevyn Aucoin (who Barose assisted at the time) did for Donna Karan's Fall/Winter 1993 show was considered more of a "natural" look. However, since it was the '90s, he says models plucked their brows thin, full coverage makeup was the norm along with false eyelashes, and "nude" lips were actually more of a brown shade with heavy, defined liner. "90s [makeup] was glam even when 'natural," he says.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Isaac Mizrahi Spring/Summer 1994
Barose says the makeup for Isaac Mizrahi's Spring/Summer 1994 was also done by Aucoin. "It was so pretty and girly, with the cotton-candy color palette," he says. "Kevyn wanted us to do this super-feminine red lip that was big, glossy, and fresh. [The models] all looked like vintage movie stars." The makeup artist says the "glamorous and timeless" look still holds up today.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Vivienne Westwood Fall/Winter 1994
Some of McKnight's all-time favorite looks he's created have been for Vivienne Westwood. "I have collaborated with Vivienne and Andreas since the '90s," he says. Particularly, one show that stands out is Fall/Winter 1994, where the models had their hair styled into horns. "The extravagance of the '90s with all the original supermodels was spectacular."
Legendary Beauty Looks: Vivienne Westwood Spring/Summer 1995
Another iconic hair moment McKnight created for Vivienne Westwood was for Spring/Summer 1995. For the show, the hairstylist styled Kate Moss' hair into a curly, slightly messy masterpiece.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Todd Oldham Spring/Summer 1996
“Todd Oldham, in my honest opinion, was the most fun show at New York Fashion Week; [it was] colorful, quirky, and always [had] so much sass," Barose says. "You know models [are] going to get fun glam looks, so as an assistant back then, I looked forward to assisting Kevyn for the shows." Barose says for the brand's Spring/Summer 1996 show, Aucoin did smoky-eyes in different colors like blue, green, and purple that complemented the fun, cartoony patterns on the ready-to-wear pieces.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Anna Sui 1997
When Garren, a celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of R+Co, began working Anna Sui shows 30 years ago, he had all the supermodels in the Spring/Summer 1997 show — Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell, and Amber Valletta. "Every girl had a different haircut, it was very precise, cool, and modern," he says. "I remember Amber had a short bull cut, like an angel, shaggy at the neck and a real high arc at the front. It really sparked the fashion and salon world — all of the clients were requesting all of these haircuts because they saw the girls coming down the runways." Garren says people would always see these supermodels coming into the salon when he was working at Bendel's.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Chanel Cruise 2013
McKnight says Chanel's Cruise show in 2013 was held at the Palace Versailles. "Each model wore a chopped pastel bob," he explains. "My team and I cut and colored each wig individually in variations of soft pastels to reflect the colors of the collection. We definitely saw a quick interest in pastel hair colors after [that show]."
Legendary Beauty Looks: Haider Ackerman Fall/Winter 2016
Alexander says working with designer Haider Ackerman is always fun. "He adores details and finds beauty in everything he does," she notes. "He asks questions about angles and proportions and it is a truly collaborative process doing makeup for his shows." For the designer's Fall/Winter 2016 show, Alexander bleached the models' brows to open up their faces while lightening the skin and accentuating the cheekbones to look like marble statues. "The alabaster skin set beautifully against the wet glossy hair," she says.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Haider Ackerman Spring/Summer 2017
Another key look Alexander created for Haider Ackerman was for its Spring/Summer 2017 show. "This yellow liner was inspired by Birds of Paradise using custom made MAC yellow paints," the makeup artist explains.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Kenzo Spring/Summer 2017
Alexander adores the Antonio Lopez-inspired makeup she did for Kenzo's Spring/Summer 2017 show. "It had an eternal '70s disco feel that was upbeat and fun to create," she tells TZR. "We used the same lipstick on the eyes and lips to create the look."
Legendary Beauty Looks: Rochas Fall/Winter 2018
"I created a beautiful deep sumptuous burgundy for this show set against a wet glossy eye to shine under the runway lights," Alexander says of Rochas' Fall/Winter 2018 show.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Rochas' Spring/Summer 2019
Alexander says Rochas' Spring/Summer 2019 show was a much tougher, punkier version of the looks she did for Fall/Winter 2018. "Graphic black floating wings were aerodynamically drawn onto the face using black ink liner pens," she says of the makeup.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Fendi Couture 2019
"It was inspired by all those geometric bobs created in the late ’60s into the ’70s that were featured a lot in Karl [Lagerfeld's] illustrations at that time," McKnight says about the hair he created for Fendi Couture 2019. "Each model had wigs cut into pageboy-inspired shapes, framing the face with bespoke colors to tonally match their outfit." McKnight believes that the hair he created for the show created a color trend which he calls "degrade." He describes this look as a gentle diffusion of color that either goes from light to dark or dark to light on the hair.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Cushnie Spring/Summer 2019
Grace Lee, a makeup artist who has been involved in fashion week for about nine years now, loved the looks she did when she keyed Cushnie's Spring/Summer 2019 show. "That one was cool because there was one time we used the same color lipstick on every skin tone and it looked amazing on everyone," Lee tells TZR.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Missoni Spring/Summer 2019
Another favorite of Alexander's was the custom-made pigment and glitters from MAC she used for the Missoni Spring/Summer 2019 show.
Legendary Beauty Looks: Jean Paul Gaultier Spring 2020 Couture
Over her 12-year career backstage, Parsons has a few beloved looks she's been behind. For instance, Jean Paul Gaultier's Spring 2020 Couture show is at the top of her list. "The speckled red makeup look I did for his last show ever, which was heartbreaking because I had just started working with him the season prior," Parsons tells TZR. "It was iconic in itself because it was his last show! We did a lot of different looks but my favorite was the red shadow smoky eye with flecks of red paint in the same hue. I called this 'Fleckles!'"
Legendary Beauty Looks: Schiaparelli Spring/Summer 2020
"One of my personal favorites was the pony lash cowgirl look, which had a little Texas-style, with surrealistically long lashes that turned downward," Parsons tells TZR. "I applied silver glitter and crystals onto the face like a disco cowgirl."
Legendary Beauty Looks: Dion Lee Fall/Winter 2020
Parsons' most-liked photo on her Instagram page (above) was from Dion Lee's Fall/Winter 2020 show. "It gained a lot of attention on Instagram but it's one of my all-time favorites because it's so minimal, yet powerful," she says. In fact, she believes this even ignited a larger trend in the industry. "I saw a lot of people inspired by the Dion Lee piercing balls on the sides of the nose and people doing it in different ways with crystals and spikes. It was super cool to see!"
Legendary Beauty Looks: Erdem Fall/Winter 2020
Alexander says she loved having fun with the playfulness of the makeup for Erdem's Fall/Winter 2020 show. "We bleached the models' brows and also taped their faces to create an almost otherworldly beauty," she explains. "NARS products were used to make the skin iridescent and then real silver foil was used to give a smattering of magic over the eyes in what was described as ‘An Age of Silver.'"