Stylist's Beauty Director Joanna McGarry is in New York for the first of the 'Big 4' fashion weeks. Read her backstage and front row blog from the shows below...
Saturday 12 February
6pm - Alexander Wang
To Pier 94 - a warehouse space the size of an aircraft hanger on the edge of Manhattan - for one of the hottest tickets of New York Fashion Week, Alexander Wang's show. It's a vision of calm backstage as the models take to the catwalk for a run-through to the sinister opening beats of The Prodigy's 'Breathe'. As the models filter back through, it's clear that, as ever, Wang has secured a killer casting - including French Vogue's girl of the moment, Daphne Groenveld and Karolina Kurkova, who, at 26, has managed to straddle both the world of Victoria's Secret as well as that of high fashion.
On the beauty agenda, a return to that archetypal grungey downtown New York look - an imperfect black smudge of kohl outlining the eyes, and a boyish, squared-off brow, as conceptualised by revered make-up artist, Diane Kendal, is that's required to compliment Wang's stripped back, androgynous aesthetic. Legendary catwalk hair stylist, Guido built on that with a deconstructed low-ponytail, concealing some of weight of the hair underneath in a hidden braid because 'thick hair doesn't look as cool'. The clothes? Knits, crops and maxi's in a soft palette of dusty pinks, pale grey, punctuated by plenty of black - with that inimitable sense of 90s grunge seeping through. Which is, of course, exactly what Mr Wang does best.
SPOTTED: Jourdan Dunn backstage at Alexander Wang, looking beautiful in an A-line dress from Nicole Ritchie's label, Winter Kate
Sunday 13 February
11am - Derek Lam
Minimal, sophisticated, graphic. Those were the three key words which Estee Lauder's Creative Make-up Director Tom Pecheux used to inspire the make-up look for Derek Lam's glamorous A/W11 collection. An angular feline eye infused with smoky black metallic pigments was the result, with beautifully groomed skin and a nude lip to set it off with. Experiment with brights now as, according to Pecheux, next season sees a return to slick, chic elegant make-up. What's more, he renounced bleached eyebrows which have been an enduring beauty motif for several seasons now, saying 'it kills all the personality. We are working with women not objects. It's about finding a balance between creating a face and a make-up statement.'
In another beauty about-turn for autumn, backstage super-stylist Orlando Pita opted for a sleek, swept-back straight look, using an item that's been omitted from the catwalk hair tool kit for several seasons - straightening irons. Which bodes well for me and many other women who never quite got the hang of tonged waves.
SPOTTED: Model Karlie Kloss looking gazelle-like and impossibly tall in jeans and riding boots backstage at Lam.
Midday - Backstage at DKNY
Ironic catering? Resistance is futile.
1pm - Backstage at Preen
With a ladylike collection inspired by the 1930s, Diana Vreeland and the Duchess of Windsor, it was all too tempting to create a red-lipped, retro feel for the make-up, so make-up artist, James Kaliardos flipped the script with a boyish, camel-hued. He smoked the eye with Mac's cream colour base in moleskin and flattened and even added it to squared-off brows to neutralise them. Skin was highlighted (on upper cheekbones and the bridge of the nose to widen the eyes) and sculped in the space beneath the cheekbones. A dusty rose lip (courtesy of Mac's Brit Wit) completed the tailored look.
Making sense of it all in the back of a cab with my moleskin notebook.
5.30pm - MaxAzria
Hurrah! Front of house for MaxAzria's moment in the spotlight. Trotting down the catwalk with sleek, high ponytails wrapped in a cm strands of hair, swinging from side to side, the models showcased a collection of beautifully tailored clean lines. With a sophisticated palette of brown, grey, khaki and army green with flashes of tomato-red, Max perpuated the theme of New York Fashion Week - stripped back androgyny. This was echoed in the paired-down make-up look as created by Maybelline's Charlotte Willer - mascara-less, minimally sculted eyes and dewy skin, showcased the bone structure in a subtly masculine way. Take note: this is the type of classic, structured, refined workwear we will all want to wear next season.
SPOTTED: Black chokers on every single model on the MaxAzria catwalk. Proving the 1990s are still a serious reference point for designers.
6pm - On The Street
The dip-dye look stoops to new depths as seen in the front row with not blonde tips, but swamp green ends. And miraculously, the fashionista in question had just enough attitude to pull it off.
6.30pm - Backstage at Tommy Hilfiger
Minimal, groomed perfection is the motif at Tommy Hilfiger
Poor Arizona Muse, she just walked into the backstage area at Tommy, looking a little exhausted. Being the darling of fashion week is a tiring job.
7.15pm - Backstage at Tommy Hilfiger
Grabbed a few minutes with London-born model and new mum, Jourdan Dunn backstage at Tommy Hilfiger.
ON FASHION WEEK FRIENDS
'I like to hang out with my friend Karlie (Kloss), we just have a laugh, take the piss out of each other, do what normal girlfriends do.'
ON BEING AWAY FROM HOME
'I miss my son. He stays at my mum's while I'm away, but we keep in touch with pictures and videos. I'm coping.'
ON HER NYFW MUST-HAVE
'When I'm in New York, I always get a dollar cheese pizza slice.'
Monday 14 February
10am - Backstage at Carolina Herrera
She's the American grand dame of grown-up, conservative style and backstage at Carolina Herrera the hair and make-up styling was equally restrained and elegant. Hair supremo, Orlando Pita scraped back the hair on a side parting, styling the length into a regal, neat twist. The make-up was equally restrained, with a goal to 'just make the girls look beautiful,' said Mac's make-up artist, Diane Kendal. A burgundy lip stain and soft, kohl feline eye completed the feminine, graceful look and provided a welcome reprieve from the masculinised,l androgynous theme that's dominated so far.
On the front row: Christina Hendricks looking radiant, Grace Coddington with ghetto-fabulous gold hoop earrings and Anna Wintour in her trademark dark glasses and fur collar, arms tightly folded.
SPOTTED: A pretty young model stifling her tears backstage. A Valentine's Day disappointment?
Models have the best bags. FACT. Vintage Fendi...
Prim, elegant and pretty is the order of the day for hair at Carolina Herrera
10.25am – Pre-Carolina Herrera show
America is known for its great service, but perhaps not so much in the melee of finding a seat at a fashion show. After being rebuffed by two stewards (complete with Madonna-style headsets), it took a third to finally agree to help me find my seat at Carolina Herrera. Tut tut.
10.30am - Carolina Herrera
Who else to open the show other than Anna Wintour's model du jour, Arizona Muse.
Lots of razzle-dazzle, sequins, belted waists and flared gloves, over-sized funnel necks and unapologetic use of fur. If Grace Kelly were alive today, this is what she'd dress herself in.
Standout look? A black chiffon top half and mermaid silk turquoise skirt and train. It's so wonderful to see a collection that celebrates and enhances femininity. Expect to see this collection on the red carpet on Oscar night.
Best walk of the show? Snake-hipped model, Karlie Kloss.
The collection, backstage at Carolina Herrera
3.13pm - To the top of the Trump tower to meet global nail guru, Essie
NEW YORK'S NAIL QUEEN-ESSIE
They don't come much more charismatic than Essie, the New York born woman behind the super-successful nail brand of the same name. I headed to the very top of Trump towers to talk shape, colour and Liza Minelli, with Essie herself.
ON THE ONLY COLOUR TO WEAR THIS SUMMER
'Orange - we have a shade called Brazilian, it’s the perfect, upbeat bright orange.'
ON NAMING ESSIE SHADES
'Sometimes the names come before the colours. I'll have a drawer full of names to use and then a colour will come along to fit it exactly. They all have a personality and come from my experiences. The new safari collection has a green shade called Dabush, which was taken from a trip on safari - the guide was pointing out a lion and kept saying 'In dabush, dabush!'
ON TRENDS COMING BACK AROUND
'There is a 180 on colours from about 15 years ago. But they always come back with a new spin on them. The new spin on nudes is that they're opaque, it's a beatnik look.
ON NAIL ICONS
'Oh, Barbara Streisand and Liza Minelli! They've always worn such manicured nails. They wave their hands and I just die! I heard recently that Camilla Parker Bowles had a manicure using Essie polish - she used a mixture of Marshmallow and Sugar Daddy!'
ON PERFECTING A WINNING FORMULA
'They call me the witch on wheels at the lab! No one can top us on viscosity and we've always worked hard at getting the formula right. Other brands say they have the same formula as Essie but they can't – it’s protected.
ON THE BEST MANICURE IN THE WORLD
'New York is great, but the best manicure I've ever had was in Japan. It's like a ceremony - they put you in a robe, wrap your arms in heated towels and a girl works on each hand. The best thing is when you look down, they're working on the same finger! London is good too - I had a great manicure at Hersheson's in Harvey Nichols.
No one knows nails like she does - the fabulous, Essie.
6.30pm - Marc Jacobs
It's pretty impossible to second-guess the powerhouse that is Marc Jacobs. His SS11 show led the 70s revival with masses of frizzy hair and Marie Helvin-in-a-wine-bar make-up. The look today? An impossibly sleek, almost robotic in its perfection, high ponytail, as created by Guido. And with long-time collaborator, Francois Nars on make-up duty - a simple, graphic, feline eye with clean skin - all in all it signalled a new direction for Jacobs, of looking to the future instead of the past.
Not a hair out of place; the Croydon facelift, high-fashion style at Marc Jacobs
NARS makeup: Marc Jacobs Fall 2011 runway show
Backstage make-up buzz-word of NYFW
Tuesday 15 February
9.34am - Brushing up on the science behind the colour and texture of make-up at the Maybelline lab
2.50pm - The typeface dreams are made of...
3pm - MARC BY MARC JACOBS
Sometimes, amid all the pomp and grandeur of backstage beauty, the only way to make a real impact is to cleanse the visual palette and strip it back to basics. Such was the case at Marc Jacob's younger, fresher label, Marc by Marc. Shiseido's make-up artist, Dick Page, resisted full make-up in favour of pampered skin - by way of Shiseido's Future Solutions skincare. 'The girls have been brutalised all week, this is a little moment of nice skincare,' Page said of the look.
This season, the Marc by Marc girl is, 'horsey, well-mannered and a bit rich', quipped hair stylist, Guido. Going against the usually quirky Marc grain, models were treated to a classic, bouncy blow-dry to exude luxury in a typically New York way. So, where was that inimitably cheeky Marc Jacobs charm? That was left to a smattering of unlawfully adorable male models (one even had his Dad with him, trailing behind), who zipped around the backstage area, melting hearts as they went.
4.20pm - Backstage pass...
100 per cent 'Man Hair' extensions at Marc by Marc. Hmm...
A killer casting - the model board, backstage at Alexander Wang
4.50pm- Backstage at Halston
Bobbi Brown's very neat make-up station at Halston (note her chic, black-rimmed glasses to the left)
5.16pm - HALSTON
With a softly-hued collection of sequined pistachio green, nudes and cream, New York make-up powerhouse, Bobbi Brown opted for a simple, paired-down disco look, 'a little-bit 70s, a la Halston', says Brown - with a deep apricot blush swept underneath the cheekbones and a lightly defined pale brown eye. Lips were moistened with lip balm. This is high-fashion meets good grooming - its creative director, Sarah Jessica Parker personified.
Wednesday 16 February
Backstage at Narcisco Rodriguez
11.45am - Model, Hanna Gaby Odiele with THE Celine bag of the season, backstage at Narcisco Rodriguez. Amazing ponyskin shoes too
11.47am - Finally, the classic Sunday morning scraped-back bun goes high-fashion at Narcisco Rodriguez
11.50am - This gaggle of models were larking about backstage at Narcisco Rodriguez and before they knew it, the cameras descended
12.25pm - NARCISCO RODRIGUEZ
He's a favourite on the red-carpet and this season, Narcisco Rodriguez took his unique brand of feminine glamour down an altogether edgier, cooler route. Working with Shiseido products, Dick Page created smudgy deep purple and green eyes, inspired by the colour and finish of caviar. Groomed eyebrows and paired down lips and adapted the level of coverage on the skin to each model. Allowing the collection and the make-up to take centre stage, hair was loosely scraped back into a low ponytail and twisted into an incomplete bun - refreshingly, a style all of us can easily achieve.
12.40pm - 3.1 PHILIP LIM
Taking a more academic approach, Philip Lim's design moodboard included images of a black swan on a green lake, a forest and a girl riding a bicycle. In beauty terms, that translated to Botticelli-style mermaid waves (created using a genius 3-barrelled curling tong), juxtaposed with a sleek, tightly-combed back chignon at the back of the head using the top section of hair. 'They're all modern princesses', French hair supremo Odiele said of her look.
Extending the mermaid-like, ethereal theme, Lisa Butler - using Nars cosmetics - affected a dreamy wash of green over eyelids and right up to the brow (the new way to do smokey eyes), punctuated with either emerald green or turquoise blue eyeliner along the water line. 'The collection is full of interesting dresses, greens and navy, we wanted to compliment that rather than work against it', said Butler. In city of sharp tailoring, power dressing and perfect grooming, romanticism has finally won out.
Backstage, post show at Narcisco Rodriguez
1pm - The coolest nails of the week - a warm caramel with black half moons at Narcisco Rodriguez
1.10pm - A wash of sea green and blue extended up to the eyebrows - the new blueprint for a smokey eye at Narcisco Rodriguez