Notes for New York Fashion Week – Top Tips for Backstage Make-up

June 12, 2014


Being a backstage makeup artist might look glamorous and easy, and although at times it can be, the truth behind the amount of work that goes into creating that flawless polished catwalk look or crazy haute couture creation is a whole other story it’s can take months of planning, meetings, research and makeup tests.  Michelle Webb, international make-up artist shares her top tips for backstage make-up artists.

The Research Process

Normally the makeup designer would meet with the fashion designer a few weeks prior to the show day and discuss the designers inspiration for this seasons collection, look over fabric colours and textures, take home swatches of all fabrics and brain storm with the team, including the hair designer and stylist. then the makeup designer would go away and work on a moodboard and research.

After you have made your mood boards and spent hours researching it’s then time to set a date for a makeup and hair test.

Makeup Tests

A makeup and hair test day is all about working, discussing  and ” testing” to create a look that will be unique,  Innovative, and relevant to your designers collection , Inspirations, and also be on trend.

Tweaking colours to match the colour pallet running through the collection, adjusting makeup that complements the hair, and seeing the full makeup and hair look on models that are fitted in to the garments.

It can take anywhere from 3 hours to 3 weeks to work and develop the “LOOK” but always seems to just come together.

Show Prep

Before show day there are a few things that you must prepare.

As a makeup designer you may be doing many shows it best to be super organised and prepared.

show season is so hectic …..

organisation is the key…..

Order in any extra makeup you may need for show day make sure you have multiple signature items for your team to work with.

Have your finalised look documented on face charts with accompanying images, a face chart is a drawing of the makeup design presented on paper, with text explaining where each product and colour goes, these will be handed out to your team along alongside pictures of the finale look on the day of the show.

Backstage Team.

As the makeup designer you must book a responsible , punctual and professional team that will execute your designed look under pressure, most makeup designers have teams that will travel show to show with them each season.

A strong team is your strongest asset.

Show Day

It’s show day…. The makeup team will arrive around 2/3 hours before the show is due to start. Your kit must be unpacked and ready to go.

The makeup designer will them demo the look on a model step by step for the whole team to see.

Explaining where each product is placed and what technique is used to create it the desired effect.

The team must pay full attention as the look must be replicated using exactly the same methods and products.

It’s a good idea to take notes and take your own photos.

Once the demo is completed the team will then go and start makeup on their own models.

Show day is hectic models are being pulled in to hair and fittings, you normally have 15/20mins with each model to create and perfect the look.

Being backstage is high pressured and you must work to a high speed no time to panic or faff around.

The makeup designer will be coming around and checking each models makeup, they may tweak or change a few things and give advice on how to better replicate the look.

Once all the models are ready and fitted it’s time for the line up,

This is where you have time to touch up, moisturise legs and hands, cover bruises etc, all exposed skin must look flawless it is your job to make sure everything is on point.

The makeup designer and few members of the team will locate themselves backstage throughout the show, to fix and touch up makeup.

Models often have quick changes, lipstick can smudge, and they can perspire so it’s best to be on hand with the key items just in case.

When the last model steps off the catwalk it’s a wrap your job is almost over.

All that’s left to do is remove the makeup from the models before they rush to their next show.

Working backstage at fashion week is high pressured, intense and a crazy adrenaline rush there is no better feeling them watching the models step out on to the catwalk in there full look, knowing that you had a part of creating the finished visual that the world will see .

I still have to sometimes pinch myself it’s somewhat unreal that this is my job.

Fashion week is hard work and exhausting, it’s never handed to you on a silver platter and it takes time focus and dedication.

My top tips for makeup artists backstage:

1. Be Prepared and organised this applies to your research, moodboards and makeup kits.

2. Be punctual no time for lateness at fashion week.

3. Keep calm under pressure

4. Be flexible things can change in a moment backstage be ready for anything someone throws at you, it’s not personal it’s just work.

5. Smile you might be being filmed or featured in some backstage images

6.  Enjoy yourself, it can take years for a makeup artist to even get the chance to be backstage at fashion week so make sure you work hard but also let yourself enjoy the moment.

About Michelle Webb

Michelle Webb is an international makeup artist, working in film, fashion and Editorial she has travelled the world, designing makeup for shows in London, New York, Paris, Milan, Moscow, Berlin and Monte Carlo.

Michelle’s style is distinctively creative and effortless flawless….

She leads and works alongside the renowned AOFM pro team backstage at many shows they have been painting faces backstage at NOLCHA for 5 seasons now.

About AOFM

The Academy of Make-up is owned by professional make-up and hair artists.  Their students experience hair and fashion make up courses fashion make up course taught by some of the best hair and make up artists working in the film and fashion industries. | | @AOFMakeup

Notes for New York Fashion Week:

Notes for New York Fashion Week is a series of top tips from fashion industry professionals to prepare independent fashion designers for their fashion week runway show. From public relations to creative planning, from guest lists to collection preparation and more it covers the key components to create a successful runway show during New York Fashion Week.

 If you are a fashion industry professional interested to share your expertise with independent fashion designers please email with more information about your company.

 Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, founded by Kerry Bannigan and Arthur Mandel, is a leading award winning event held during New York Fashion Week hosting independent fashion designer runway shows.