Once the clothing collections are nearly complete and the models who'll wear them have been chosen, it's time for designers to plan and test one other important part of the looks they present at New York Fashion Week: hair and makeup.
Across New York this week makeup artists and hair stylists are meeting with designers, deciding how their clothes translate into eye shadow shades and lock looks. For designer Jill Stuart, who debuted her fall collection Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, that meant a session to test hair and makeup three days before her runway show.
The process doesn't whiz by in a few minutes, like the quick clips on "Project Runway" and other TV shows. Instead it's a sometimes hours-long effort to get the exact look to accent the collection perfectly.
Stuart brought in two test models along with hair stylist Odile Gilbert for Kerastase Paris and makeup artist Diane Kendal, who used Stuart's cosmetics line.
Everyone, including several assistants, worked in a large, well-lit white-walled studio with garments from the collection hanging on silver clothing racks around the room. Two rows of platform high heels were lined up on shelves, waiting to be paired with specific outfits. A large bulletin board was pinned with pictures, many black and white, cut from magazines and books.
Stuart's fall line is moody, romantic and dark, with a color palette of black, navy, dark pink and purple.
"We spoke about two different tests, one with a more edgy, smoky black eye and pale, pale lip, and one with a pale lavender eye and soft pink lip," Stuart said. "I want the hair down. I want texture. I want kind of like you just woke up, very natural, very sexy, very cool."
Makeup artist Diane Kendal has dozens of colors to consider, from a light pink called "sweet marshmallow" to a bright red called "rouge kiss." She sets out more than a dozen different purple eye shadows, looking for the perfect shade. She uses her makeup brush, dabbing the powder on her hand to check the exact colors before applying it to the model's eyes.
Kendal's work station is a mix of drug store and fashion-week chic, with cotton swabs and tissue boxes next to tins filled with powders and glosses. As Kendal works on the model her assistant takes notes on the products. Later the assistant draws a picture of a woman's face and applies the actual cosmetics to the paper. Color copies of the drawing are passed out backstage so everyone knows what makeup to use.
At the same time, hair stylist Gilbert works with two assistants to curl and blow dry, twist, spritz and spray the models' hair.
"It's a strong woman, but a romantic side," Gilbert says, before using both of her hands to vigorously scrunch and shake the curls out of the model's hair, separating the pieces.
When the models are finished they both stand and Stuart comes in the room. The designer is surrounded by staff as she looks from one model to the other and back again.
"More romantic, that's prettier," Stuart says, pointing to one model. Adjustments are made, less body in the hair styles, more purple eye shadow, different lip color.
This same process goes back and forth a few more times before the final looks are chosen. A few days later, the behind-the-scenes planning will all come together as the models hit the runway, their hair and makeup a perfect complement for the clothes.