Beauty: When art walks down the runway at NZ Fashion Week

By Janetta Mackay

Opening night promises an eye-catching start to Fashion Week.

M.A.C's senior artist Fatima Thomas. Photo / Supplied
M.A.C's senior artist Fatima Thomas. Photo / Supplied

A touch of New York is coming to town on Monday night with Fashion Week's opening set to sizzle thanks to a makeover that will turn models into human canvases.

The "celebration of art, fashion and the naked form" comes courtesy of cosmetics company M.A.C, which is flying in one of its senior artists from the United States to guide proceedings.

Fatima Thomas will help recreate the Modern Art event first staged in the Big Apple. Its body art draws inspiration from the likes of Lichenstein, Warhol, Matisse and Pollock.

For the invited audience of designers, celebrities, sponsors and sundry industry types, M.A.C's involvement as co-host promises to get the week off to a spectacular start. The usual opening night is made up of a few drinks, some worthy speeches and, in recent years, a band for those who care to linger, but most scuttle off early to get ready for the big week ahead. This year guests will have more to look at than each other, with tableaux of models in eight different designs on show.

The body painting will mean hours of work by 28 artists. Ten of them have been flown in specially from overseas, the most M.A.C has brought in for an event. They will help in shows throughout the week.

Thomas will be the lead makeup artist [a role known as keying] on two shows, Stolen Girlfriends Club and Helen Cherry/Workshop. When Viva spoke to her she did not know what shows she would be working on, but the veteran of plenty of international fashion week work, including shows for Chloe, Zac Posen, D'Squared, Donna Karan, Alexander McQueen and more was relaxed. "We makeup artists usually take our schedules one day at a time. It's important to be flexible and open-minded.

"Fashion week, no matter what city, is a whirlwind of activity, and constant change."

Handily she knows New Zealand senior artist Amber D, who along with a counterpart from Australia, Nicole Thompson, will also be leading the opening night team. "Working with a cohesive team is what makes it all mesh well," says Thomas.

Asked what to expect, the arts college graduate who turned to makeup and has worked on entertainers including Alicia Keys, Fergie and Mary J. Blige says: "Let's just say that folks will be delighted with the artistry and creativity of the M.A.C team!"

As to models who front up to body art, she says: "Once they are painted, they feel somehow dressed."

What are your impressions/expectations from afar of New Zealand fashion?

My fellow senior artist, Amber D, wears the most amazing things, and each time I ask about her clothes, she mentions a New Zealand designer. I believe the New Zealand fashion scene has a very unique and cool sensibility.

What are the favourite fashion show(s) you have worked on?

Who can choose a favourite when fashion is ever-changing? My proudest moment was working with Brazilian designer Reinaldo Lourenco this past February. During some experiences, you can really feel yourself growing, and for me, this was one of those times.

In approaching a show with little background knowledge, can you explain the process you go through to ensure you can realise the designer's vision?

It's important to research the designer and their past several seasons to get a sense of their mode. That way, when you meet them you have a basic understanding of their look. Most designers know what they want and what story they'd like to tell for the season, so a conversation, visual references, and a makeup test are essential in communicating their vision.

Tell us about your favourite celebrity makeup moment?

Last autumn, I spent an evening with singer-songwriter Pixie Lott. Not only is Pixie a doll, she's also a major talent, and I enjoyed watching her perform. She's born to sing.

You say your speciality is "skin, skin, and more skin". What do you love about working with skin?

I'm trained as an aesthetician. Any makeup artist would tell you that creating flawless skin is the most crucial skill to master - and maintain.

Who would you most like to do makeup for?

I admire Tracey Ellis Ross (actress and daughter of Diana Ross) for her style and down-to-earth demeanour. She has a simple elegance, and she's quite gorgeous. It would be a treat to work with her.

- NZ Herald

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