What happens before clothes hit the runway? Once Stacey Bendet had perfected this season’s romantically edgy Alice +Olivia collection, she still had a lot of work to do in preparation of its display at New York Fashion Week. After choosing which of the 44 models looked best in which ensembles, came the ever-important detail: hair and makeup. To complete their visions and translate their clothes into beauty fashioning, designers must collaborate with hair stylists and makeup artists long before show time and the process doesn’t whiz by in just a few minutes. For a behind-the-scenes look, Bendet gave American Salon exclusive access to her test day run through with Anthony Cole, Sebastian Professional lead stylist, and Sarah Lucera, lead makeup artist for Stila Cosmetics. Each of the industry pros had been emailed inspiration looks prior to their arrival. Cole had received images of slicked back low buns with strong middle parts and Lucera had been sent an image of a Bordeaux lip paired with subtle eye makeup.
When Cole arrived, he had a general inspiration in mind: Lolita attending a nice dinner party. For the show, models stood in a dining room setting, with a youthful party - meets - simple elegance vibe. “I want it to look fresh, with a touch of sophistication,” Cole said. “What better way to do that that to create an upside down French twist no one is expecting?” He said it’s important to first figure out what the designer is looking for, then have options in mind to convey that vision, but to make sure you add your own twist and let your creative juices flow. His first stab at giving Bendet a look for her collection was a modern take on a classic: strong middle part, pulled back low into an upside version of a French twist, with piecey strands framing the face for added softness and youth. The execution was beautiful, but it wasn’t what Bendet was looking for. She wanted a more carefree kind of glamour like the girls had “just tossed it up the morning.”
Take two. Cole quickly adjusted his game plan, attempting to create a less polished, more romantic look. He did so by adding more loose pieces and a less structured twist that resembled a messy bun, but still kept it sophisticated with slicked down sides. Still, Bendet didn’t think it was quite right. As the collection came together, she changed her mind and said she wanted “more of a non-do than an up-do.” She wanted the natural wispiness from part to sideburn that a girl straight out of bed might have. Borrowing from her own technique, she suggested loosely twisting side sections to add a nonchalance to the style before pulling it back.
Round three. This is when personal creativity is abandoned for execution. Cole said that once you’ve tried creating what you think they want in your own way and they’re not happy, “just give them whatever it is they want, which can change along the way.” Doing just as Bendet had demonstrated on herself, he sectioned off sidepieces and twisted them before fastening into a low ponytail that he then loosely constructed into a messy chignon. Once the designer was happy with the look, Cole had to make sure it would be easily executable for the team. He said that was the important part of test day: breaking it down into a simplistic step-by-step set of guidelines he could explain, recreate and teach his team to replicate the day of the show.
As Cole perfected the hairstyle, Sarah Lucera, was working on the make-up. She was told to create two or three different looks that would go on various models to complement their outfit. The first look she created wasn’t exactly a hit either. The model was given rosy cheeks, a soft lip and very neutral eye shadow, with eyelashes that popped. Overall, the look was fresh and romantic, but not anything close to what Bendet decided she was looking for. Starting on a blank canvas, the model’s face was wiped clean and Lucera gave her a very smoky eye with a nude lip. Almost satisfied, Bendet then decided she wanted all the girls to get the dark shadow. What was originally supposed to be a dark shadow with a nude lip, evolved when Bendet opted for an overall gothic appearance for all the girls. Serving up what the designer had ordered, Lucera created an almost monochromatically black smoky eye paired with a deep plum that matched one of the dresses in the Alice + Olivia collection perfectly. Almost five hours later, through a mix of good communication, solid skill sets and trial and error, the designer could be confident that she had a beauty team equipped to help her achieve a presentation she would be happy with. —M.R.