Pat McGrath counts Kim Kardashian, Gisele and Kate Moss as friends. Here, she creates three lip looks and reveals the secrets of supermodel perfection
Look inside your make-up bag. See that metallic lipstick you wore throughout December? It’s there because of one woman: Pat McGrath. Just as every high-street item of clothing can be traced back to a designer’s catwalk, your lipstick, too, comes from the same place — and that place is the mind of the world’s most powerful make-up artist. That shimmery lip look — now a party-face regular — started life at the Prada SS16 show, where McGrath created the models’ catwalk make-up. Since then, every mass-market brand, including L’Oréal Paris, Topshop Beauty and TooFaced, has launched metallic lip products. Such is the power of McGrath, 46: if she declares that peacock-green mascara is in, there’s a strong possibility we’ll all be wearing Kermit the Frog hued lashes by next season.
Awarded an MBE in 2014 for her services to the fashion and beauty industry, McGrath has been at the top of her game for more than 20 years. She has forged close relationships with supers including Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington: “It’s like a family reunion when we work together,” she says.
These days, she regularly dolls up the new-gen stars such as Cara Delevingne, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, all of whom are more than happy to help when she needs them. Case in point: when she launched her first product, a gold pigment called Gold 001 in October 2015, she didn’t need to charm the press or pay for advertising. Instead, she put in a quick call to her friend Kim Kardashian to produce a viral beauty shoot using the gold dust. Next, she rallied her model posse at Paris fashion week. One text and Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Stella Maxwell all turned up at the Tuileries Gardens decked in gilded make-up to help build a buzz. The following day, Pat McGrath Labs Gold 001 sold out in six minutes.
It is a Friday morning and I am waiting for the make-up maverick to arrive on set in New York for our cover shoot with the Australian model Julia Nobis. Today, McGrath is showcasing three power pouts: high-shine vinyl gloss, 4D ruby dazzle and velvet nude. Why lips? “Because we’ve definitely seen the return of lip colour,” she says. Also, shortly after our shoot, she launched her own lip kit, Lust 004. Again, it has already sold out.
Her 10-person entourage on set is a branded army: many of them wear Pat McGrath Labs T-shirts. McGrath arrives in her own uniform: a black headband, minimal make-up, black long-sleeved top, black trousers and black flat shoes.
A team of 10 is quite small for McGrath. I have witnessed her in action at New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks with at least 50 mini McGraths beavering away backstage. I’ve seen her transform models into Sicilian sun-kissed goddesses at Dolce & Gabbana, spend hours glueing on scraps of lace and face jewellery at Givenchy, and, her most famous trick, magically producing the most flawless, dewy skin, the kind that not even an Instagram filter can achieve. How does she do it? “Oh, darling, a little bit of gloss, a little bit of highlight. Isn’t it major?”
Born in 1970 in Northampton, McGrath was raised by her mother, Jean, a Jehovah’s Witness who emigrated from Jamaica to the UK. McGrath completed an art foundation course, but then ditched her plans to do a fashion degree to tour in Japan as a make-up artist for the Soul II Soul singer Caron Wheeler. It was on that trip that she solidified her relationship with fashion’s upper echelons, such as the superstylist Edward Enninful and the photographer Steven Meisel. She swiftly became known for powerful avant-garde beauty images as seen on more than 100 magazine covers, including Naomi Campbell for the first ever all-black issue in Italian Vogue.
The demand for McGrath goes way beyond fashion shoots, though. When she’s not backstage, she can be found masterminding products for Proctor & Gamble (the company that owns Max Factor in the UK and Cover Girl in the US), and working her magic on ad campaigns for designers such as Lanvin, Versace and Jil Sander.
Now, all eyes are on her own make-up line. She was previously responsible for whipping up beauty products for Giorgio Armani, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana. This time, however, she is doing things differently. Cashing in on the limited-edition culture, she is putting out teasers to her 1.1m Instagram followers, then dropping a restricted number of products as and when she is ready, available to buy on her website, patmcgrath.com, and Sephora.
So far, we’ve seen five launches: gold pigment, highlighter, lips, eye shimmer and eyeshadow, and she hints that the next big thing will come in the next few months. She won’t tell me what and says it’s all to be decided, but whatever happens, she always has a plan, and whatever it is, we’ll all be copying it soon.
Get the Pat McGrath look
Everything starts with good skincare. While it may seem obvious, a proper regime, especially exfoliation and hydration, is key.
Drink lots of water and get enough rest. Both are fundamental.
Then foundation — for a second-skin finish, I use my fingertips to apply foundation as it warms up the product and blends in more seamlessly. Then I use a small brush for detail work, such as concealer.
Finding the right shade is key. Be sure to match the foundation to your neck and don’t overdo the coverage. A good trick is to apply in sheer layers, rather than one heavy coat.
Do Check your make-up in different lights around your home.
It’s all about building and layering. When I do a make-up look, I spend time on the lash.
Deposit the most product at the root of the lash and wiggle the wand back and forth, left and right, as you brush out towards the tip. Comb through with a clean wand and repeat.
Don’t Just apply mascara to the ends of the lashes.
My number one beauty tip is to apply lipstick with my finger. I press on the colour and roll my finger along the lip. That way, I can control the level of boldness. The idea is to achieve a lip that is done but not overdone.
The perfect cat-flick eyeliner
The trick here is symmetry. The thinnest part of your liner should be at the inner corner of the eye. It should thicken as you make your way around the shape.
The flick is the hardest part to get right. My top tip is to start the wing just before the end of the eye — not at the outer corner.
Do Use the end of your eyebrow as a guide for the angle of your flick.