Fashion From Her Makeup Bag

Veteran makeup artist Pat McGrath has gone from painting faces to designing clothes. Does a flair for pretty pigments mean a talent with paper patterns?

Pat McGrath Labs AW 2017

By Mao Shan Wang

I know there are many people in the creative field who turn to fashion design to express themselves and to make money, but I have yet heard of a makeup artist who takes that route. Sure, there are those who try their hand at retailing clothes, such as Yuan Sng, celebrity makeup artist and one of the partners behind the charming pop-up for K-pop fashion, StyleLoft 3. But a makeup-artist-turn-designer is as rare as permanent lipstick.

Pat McGrath, I presume, likes the appeal of this rarity. In the fashion world, she’s a brilliant, creative, sort-after makeup artist, but she’s not the only one. Her fashion venture may, thus, place her in the firmament of the uncommon. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about her debut ‘Apparel 001’ collection, launched on the multi-channel platform known as Pat McGrath Labs—according to her website, “a playground… to introduce divinely disruptive discoveries”. And how many labs does she have or need? Even Nikelab has only one!

I suppose there could be two: one for makeup and one for apparel. Ms McGrath has already achieved “cult status”—as the media describe it—with her own makeup line, launched in 2015. But her fashion collection does not look like it is going to disrupt the business the way her cosmetics supposedly had. At launch, her first item, Gold 001 Pigment, impressed both pro and novice users alike. An intensely-hued dust that would be more the stuff of Halloween than even the CFDA Awards nights, Gold 001 Pigment can be used for the eye or for sprinkling moon dust on the face and casting starlight on body, or, when blended with an attendant Mehron Mixing Liquid (Mehron is the go-to stage makeup brand favoured by companies such as Cique du Soliel), can give eyes, lips, and nose (according to the Pat McGrath video demo) the gold of gold leaf, so realistic that only when standing next to a Thai Buddha statue will the wearer look like she has applied, well, makeup.

Pat McGrath

In comparison, the 8-piece ‘Apparel 001’ is somewhat underwhelming. However her people may wish to spin it, this is plainly atheleisure in the vein of Alexander Wang’s dalliances with Adidas. Or, the articles of clothing any skate fan desirous of his own fashion line would put out: T-shirts, hoodie, and bomber jacket. So much for variety, or even new category of clothing. The text running down the sleeves of the long-sleeved T-shirts, even with some in Japanese fonts, offers little to ponder over. Neither is there a colour range to talk about since everything, save one white tee, is in black. Seriously, these could be tops supplied by Fruits of the Loom, supported by a good metallic embossing facility.

Sure, the main motif of a golden eye, described to be Egyptian, and could pass of as a wing with an eye, is striking, in the way the logo of Red Wing Shoes is. If marketed well, Ms McGrath’s dramatic eye-logo, already proven to be more than one-dimensional as she has demonstrated its applicability on real peepers, could be the next totally desirable seven-letters-in-a-red-rectangle Supreme trade mark. But to get there, Ms McGrath has to work on the merchandise—for now, appearing unisex. What I see is this: they’re either fashion-y merchandise from the gift shop of a Cairo Museum, or concert merch of a performance (Ms McGrath no doubt excels) that Kanye West is simply better at. Either way, there’s no place, as yet, in my wardrobe for ‘Apparel 001’. And, to be sure, I am no Pat McGrath groupie.

Pat McGrath Labs ‘Apparel 001’ launches in Dover Street Market New York this Thursday. A spontaneous check with a staff member of the DSM here turned up “What’s that? We don’t know”. Admittedly, I should not have asked. The choice of DSM as launch pad is interesting: products sold here are often indication that they’re endorsed by arguably one of the most successful brick and mortar retailers in the world, and may reach a better audience that matters. For those who must cop the line (prices from USD60), click Pat McGrath’s website, and, as printed on the clothing, “Use Without Caution”.

Photos: Pat McGrath Labs

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