Working as a makeup artist at a fashion show is similar in many ways to doing the makeup for a theatrical production. Just as theatrical makeup has to represent the vision of the director or the playwright, the final look you see on the runway is a collaboration between the designer, the makeup artist, the hairstylist, and the model. As fashion shows have increasingly become a media circus, with television cameras and photographers recording every aspect of the event both on the runway and backstage, the makeup artist’s role has become even more important. It is not enough to make a model look beautiful; a makeup artist must be able to speak about the designer’s vision and the current style trends.

Working with models is like working with a blank canvas. You can experiment and try things that would probably look horrible on a real woman but look great on the runway or in a photo. I do believe that if the model likes her look, the shoot will go better. I have had to apologize for creating a severe look that the model hates but is required by the designer or photographer. All of these situations take confidence, patience, communication, and a willingness to take risks.



If it’s the first time you’ve worked with a designer, research his or her design style and history. This will give you an idea of the aesthetics of past shows.

About a week before the fashion show, the makeup artist and designer meet to discuss the look. After viewing the clothes, the designer will give you his or her vision for the collection. Designers are very visual, but aren’t always able to communicate what they want. Your role is to interpret their vision. Most designers have photos of inspirational objects to help you with the interpretation. Ask a lot of questions. If the designer mentions he wants a strong eye, ask if he’s thinking Sophia Loren in the 60s or the modern Gucci eye. Keep asking until you feel confident that you have the right vision in your head.

Next, do some trials and experiment with some options to show the designer and stylist your interpretations of the look. You may get the right look quickly, or it can take quite a long time. Sometimes makeup is done on a pretty assistant, but show makeup works best on a model. There is a reason models are models: they showcase makeup better than other people.

Once the final look is approved, sketch it. Purchase anything you think you will need that is not already in your kit, and complete a face chart that includes all of the products, with color identification, location on the face, and any special information needed to complete the look. You will need a makeup team. Find out how many models will be walking and hire one artist for every two to three models.



Stay calm This is the key to working on a fashion show. There will be plenty of chaos, lots of distractions, and last-minute emergencies. You also have to be flexible; sometimes makeup is completely changed thirty minutes before the show.

On the day of the fashion show, you need to arrive two to four hours before the show is scheduled to begin.

Start by using one of the models to do a trial run of the makeup. When her face is done, bring her out onto the runway so you and the designer can check the results under the lights. If you have assistants working with you, bring them out as well so they hear what you and the designer decide.

Once the look gets approved, the team begins to work. Adjust the colors for each model’s skin tone. Even if the designer says he wants pastel pink on everyone’s cheeks, remember that the exact same color won’t work on different skin tones.

Many of the models will arrive backstage from another show. They will already have a full face of makeup on, and you will have only minutes to change their look completely. To save time, hand the model a tissue covered in non-oily makeup remover, and instruct her to wipe off her lipstick and eye shadow. You can have her leave the foundation and mascara on, but you must check it carefully to determine whether it will work with the look you’re trying to create. No matter how little time you have, if the foundation isn’t right, you must take it all off and start from scratch.

Right before the show begins, you need to check the models for refreshing or additional powder to combat shine.

Even after the models start heading down the runway, your job is not done. As the models change clothes, they might mess up their lips, or they might need a touch-up with powder. Your job is to continue standing by, ready to fix whatever might need fixing.

Updated: July 26, 2015 — 4:53 am