Whatever your taste or budget, beauty is truly the ultimate (and most affordable) fashion accessory. While clothing continuously evolves, beauty trends tend to have much more longevity. In fact, cosmetic cues often transcend mere seasonal inspiration and can even dictate one’s overall style. And what emerged from the autumn/winter ‘11 collections is a true celebration of beauty’s inspiring, wearable and adaptable appeal. From a universal social commentary to the rediscovery of ‘90s inspiration, the season’s exceptionally fresh, modern and updated (if not totally re-invented) beauty trends were clearly discernible throughout the collections, and many of them are worth experimenting with straight away.
Retro beauty is an inevitable reoccurrence, but every artist’s challenge is to cleverly reformulate and ultimately reinterpret those bygone eras with an appealingly modern aesthetic. The a/w ‘11 runways were no exception to the popularity of retro-inspired beauty, and most notable was a strong ‘60s revival that began at the New York shows and continued throughout the European collections. But beyond mod and flower power inspiration, virtually every other important era was explored: from the glamour of the ‘40s and ‘50s to ‘90s grunge, club-kids and pretty much everything in between.
The standout retro look of the season was Peter Philips’ very polished and controlled look at Jil Sander, which was reminiscent of the prerequisite exquisiteness of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic leading ladies (Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren). Philips masterfully executed this pristine façade via a flawless demi-matte complexion and a cool shade of aqua eyeliner across the eyelid, finished off with perfect lashes and impeccably groomed eyebrows. The look was then punctuated by a deep cinematic shade of red on the lips and perfectly lacquered and coiffed hair by Guido Palau. Other standout retro looks of the season included ‘50s chic at Diane Von Furstenberg, ‘70s twist on ‘40s glamour at Gucci (think metallic doe-eyed lids accentuated by exaggerated lashes and deep burgundy stained lips) as well as what will probably be the most widely imitated of all trends: the updated, softened and sometimes almost slept-in look of ‘60s sex-kitten at Carolina Herrera, Burberry and Dolce & Gabbana.
The Evolution of Bare
The bare/minimal face is one of the more popular trends to have maintained a strong presence both on and off the runway for several seasons. Perhaps not purely for its overall simplicity, convenience and accessibility, this important beauty trend has progressed into a slightly more sculptural movement toward subtle facial contouring, most often with eye-shadows and blush in subtle neutral shades ranging from sheer flesh-tones to warm rich earth tones and in some cases an added hint of grey or metallic. The look is generally complemented by (or at least, extremely well matched with) a strong, almost masculine eyebrow, which is another a feature that is also increasing in popularity.
Although extremely popular throughout the collections, this winning mixture of a minimal face combined with a stronger brow seemed to have much more of a presence in Europe and was particularly visible at the Paris collections. At the forefront of the minimalist movement are Rodarte, Proenza Schouler, Prada, Rochas, Balenciaga, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Nina Ricci and Rick Owens, who broke away from the pack and added a bright red lipstick to an otherwise bare canvas.
Bold Statements, Metallic Eyes, 90’s Club-Kids/Cyber-Punk
There was a lot of emphasis on bold eye statements, which ranged in many forms to add an element of graphic and architectural drama to the face. Although a wide range of colors was used throughout the collections, a cooler palette seemed to be favored overall for the eyes, as were metallic tones, which, in most cases, were defined with intense black liner to elongate or completely alter the eye shape. Eyebrows once again played an important role, and, in these more extreme looks, and were accentuated in a multitude of ways (from lightening or bleaching to being completely covered in gold pigment or exaggerated blackened in shapes).
Standout statements were seen from Tom Pecheux, whose metallic elongated eyes combined with very strong, graphic brows at Phillip Lim 3.1, Diane Kendal’s dark, dramatic eyes with an unexpected pop of metallic gold at Jason Wu as well as Lisa Butler’s elongated eyes in an aqua and turquoise palette. This theme was also most recently notable in Paris at Mugler’s homage to ‘90s tribal club-kid with exaggerated cat- eyes and brows.
Strong Hair Parts, Textured Tresses, Contrasting Combinations
Like beauty, hairstyles ran the gamut from super sleek to very relaxed bedroom hair. And, like the beauty trends that have already been highlighted, there is a lot that can be adapted and experimented with, particularly the emphasis on strong parts and playful texture.
There was a very concentrated focus on a bold center parting, either in the form of neat styles pulled off the face or in relaxed and combed-through, tousled curls. Oscar de la Renta was one of the many designers to focus on the center part, and enlisted hair master Orlando Pita to create a look that was tremendously complementary to his collection’s hats. Anna Sui, Proenza Schouler and Balmain also played with the centered look, while Anne Valerie Hash showed a sexy side part with one section pulled off the face, allowing a soft and slightly seductive textured wave to fall over one eye.
Braids of all forms were also extremely important, heralding an emerging combination of sleek, shiny sectioned hair with softer drier textures. Rachel Roy most notably played with a look of slightly disheveled neatness in braids, but Gucci explored the textural contrasts in side parts combined with a dry ponytail and Missoni went with a wet and dry combo faux-hawk. Another sleek trend sure to gain momentum was the dominatrix-inspired ponytail at Marc Jacobs. The current obsession with the 90’s also introduced a certain amount of boyish or androgynous hairstyles.