Runway Makeup Feature

From the Experts, Makeup Trends, Your Makeup Career

New York Fashion Week: Nathan’s Runway Makeup Concept

Creating a look for the runway may be one of the most exciting opportunities in a make up artist’s career. It can be stressful and tedious, but the possibility of a huge payoff can make it well worth the stress. The runway is where trends are born! What you create on that global stage could influence the course of makeup for seasons to come. And it all came from you. Pretty exciting, right?

Career option: Designing for the runway

Designing for the runway begins with establishing a relationship with a designer. Sometimes they will hire you blind based on your portfolio and reputation, but often, it comes from their own experience with you. Working on a look book or an ad campaign could be the doorway to the runway. For me, it was working with a designer on a fashion reality show. You never know where the relationship will start, just be sure to nurture it.

The most important aspect of designing a look for the runway is trust. The look you create has to reflect the feel of the designer’s collection and have a voice of its own. Your look must complement but not overshadow the designer’s work. As artists, we sometimes feel the need to be bold and loud, sometimes that will work on the runway, but most times it will not. To develop trust with the designer, learn to listen, learn to look. Some important questions to ask… What is the inspiration for the collection? What is the overall feel? You will also want to know the season as well as the genre the designer designs in (swimwear and resort wear have different needs than luxury evening wear). When you listen to what the designer says and look at their collection, you will have all the information you need to create a variety of face charts that will add the finishing touches to their vision. From those charts, you can work beside the designer to settle on the look that will bring their collection to life.

If your look successfully captures the feel of the designers work (and if you’re lucky), your look could be on millions of faces 6 months later. It is an exciting job option!

I had the opportunity to conceptualize and co-design the makeup look for Leanne Marshall’s 2015 Autumn/Winter collection at New York Fashion Week this past week. Her 42 piece collection found some of its inspiration from the tragic 1975 film, The Story of Adele H. With its basis in the memoirs of Adele Hugo, daughter of author Victor Hugo, the film follows a young woman across the globe as she pursues the love of a man who does not return her affection. When his rejection finally sinks in, her love turns into an obsession that slowly drives her insane.

Here’s a peek at Leanne’s amazing designs and Nathan’s fabulous runway makeup concepts:

Runway Design Collage

Staying true to the film, Leanne’s collection unfolded in 4 distinct sections. The Voyage, Love’s Chase, The Obsession, and Madness. Her palette included black, white, rust burgundy, forest green, and navy. As each section of the show progressed, so did the make up. We started out clean and fresh and by the end, she had let herself go to the madness that had consumed her. Very often, one look will carry a full collection, but with her concept being so strong and specific, we decided that the look should follow along.

Nathans Article Collage


Photography: Dan and Corrina Lecca
Fashion: Leanne Marshall
Makeup Design and Conception: Nathan Johnson
Key Makeup Artist: Janell Geason, Aveda
Key Hair Artist: Britt Dion, Aveda

What are your thoughts on designing for the runway as a career option? And let us know in a comment what you think of these final concept looks!

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