MECCA goes behind the scenes with NARS at Alexander Wang

This week in New York, Alexander Wang wowed fashion crowds once again with his cool-kid designs modelled by Insta-famous supermodels—Kaia Gerber and Bella Hadid included. MECCA’s senior makeup artist, Sally Axford, was backstage working for NARS under the direction of lead artist Diane Kendal. The show, an ode to his family's personal experience with immigration, saw motifs including Axl Rose-like bandanas and moto-inspired silhouettes march down the runway to Childish Gambino’s “This is America”. In the front row sat A-list guests such as Pusha T, Lauryn Hill and Paloma Elsesser. The beauty look was pared-back, with fresh-faced skin, hydrated lips and brushed-up brows, a signature approach for Wang. In a dramatic twist, a few models sported graphic black stars and stripes on their faces, inspired by American sports fanatics. We caught up with Axford, currently on Eastern Standard Time, to get the lowdown on the look.

TMM: What was it like working for Diane Kendal backstage?
SA: “She has been an icon of mine for years. It was surreal working on the team with her and getting a kiss and a hug goodbye at the end. She is lovely, very relaxed, and as is the way with all of the best makeup artists, she doesn’t wear a scratch of makeup.”

What products did you use to achieve the look—any application tips you can share?
“We used
Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation, but just a little, applied with one brush and blended out with another. The team used small, flat, natural-haired eyeshadow brushes to do this, so they didn’t cover the model’s entire face in foundation. We powdered lightly, curled lashes and enhanced the model’s eyebrows with the brand’s soon-to-launch Brow Perfectors. The hero product was definitely the new NARS Orgasm Afterglow Lip Balm—it suits everyone and made their lips look healthy and hydrated with a natural flush.”

What of the startling, flag-inspired looks?
“Diane and her immediate team, including Niko Lopez from NARS, used tape and stick-on stars to map out and stencil the flag looks. They then went in with NARS Velvet Shadow Stick to make the black stripes, and peeled back the stars and tape to create the black, negative-space design. It was incredible.”

Did you get to preview any new products backstage…do tell!
“Yes, we got to see the NARS Full Vinyl Lip Lacquer that pre-launched straight after the show and used the new NARS Brow Perfectors on the models—you’re going to love them!”

For someone wanting to try the trend at home, how would you translate the look?
“The natural look we did was super refreshing and really let the model’s individuality shine through. We didn’t change their faces with contour or colour. It was literally an enhanced version of themselves. Try being really strategic about where you place your foundation and how much you use. Don’t go on autopilot when applying, really look at where you need it—if you need it at all.”

Try being really strategic about where you place your foundation and how much you use. Don’t go on autopilot when applying, really look at where you need it—if you need it at all.

What is the vibe like backstage at a Wang show?
“It’s totally professional and you feel like you are part of something BIG! There’s a lot of joy, great teamwork and even better catering—the food was five star and was topped up all day.”

This is the designer’s first show outside of the traditional fashion week schedule. What was the creative community’s reaction to this?
“From what we could tell backstage, it actually made everything more relaxed. Models weren’t exhausted from running from show to show, their skin was in good condition for the same reason, and the press were relaxed as they didn’t have anywhere to be straight afterwards. From the fashion industry viewpoint, it is classic Wang—changing things up, questioning the status quo and discarding any reference to specific seasons, which is why he entitled the show Collection One.”

What are your backstage essentials (beyond NARS, of course)?
“Baby wipes, mints, and lots of water! Very glamorous I know. I also rely on KIT Wonder Balm and the Mecca Cosmetica Kissable Lips scrub to get the models prepped for lip products.”

Did you spot any famous faces backstage or in the front row?
“So many. Of course, the big ones, Bella Hadid and Kaia Gerber walked the show, as well as Adut Akech who has walked Melbourne Fashion Week shows. Big-name supermodels I’ve been following for years were there: Lara Stone, Mariacarla Boscono and Behati Prinsloo, who came out of retirement apparently. Right before showtime, Anna Wintour arrived in the makeup area.”

What is the beauty buzz in New York right now? What trends did you notice on the street?
“When it comes to makeup, New York women are fairly understated. It’s super hot here right now, so there are lots of tans and lip balm and cream blush, and not a lot of foundation.

Best thing you overheard at fashion week?
“When the lead hair stylist, Guido Palau, described the look as: “Nothingy, but not wavy nothingy, straight nothingy.” A classic creative way of articulating a look! On that note, one of the best things I read was that the model Binx Walton had her first-name braided into her hair by Tasha Miles. Amazing.”

Words by Romy Erdos
June 2018