Maybelline doesn’t sleep on New York Fashion Week. As the event’s largest cosmetics sponsor for the 10th year running, the brand continues to ramp up its presence, this season hosting a party, a masterclass and numerous product-centric activations, like a special fashion week–themed series for PerfectCorp’s YouCam Makeup app.
It’s also been responsible for the makeup looks at 11 of the shows, including Jason Wu, Brock Collection, Cushnie et Ochs, Self-Portrait, Jonathan Simkhai, Philipp Plein, Rochambeau, Monse, Alice + Olivia, Naeem Khan and LaQuan Smith.
Although many people on the Maybelline team touch these events, it comes down to the brand’s global makeup artist, Erin Parsons, to determine the final makeup looks involved in each.
Maybelline makeup artists backstage at Brock Collection
After working closely with brand ambassador Gigi Hadid since 2014, Maybelline came calling for Parsons, who was working as an assistant to the top makeup artist Pat McGrath for roughly six years, last year on Hadid’s recommendation. She joined in June of 2017.
Now, alongside working on campaigns with other Maybelline faces including Adriana Lima and Jourdan Dunn, Parsons also has a hand in product development. She worked closely with Hadid, for instance, to develop the sell-out Gigi for Maybelline collection.
“I’d say I’m more busy, but I was working with Pat McGrath for years, so I’m not sure that’s true,” said Parsons, when asked how her life has changed since taking on her role at Maybelline. “I basically haven’t stopped, but it’s such a great feeling that they really trust in me to come up with all of the looks.”
We spoke to Parsons, fresh off a post-show nap, about what kind of prep is involved in fashion week and why she thinks fashion week beauty is more relevant than ever.
Do you think beauty is more or less relevant at the shows today?
I think beauty has gotten more important at the shows because people now see how relevant beauty is. Just look at Instagram. I mean, I don’t know if everybody else’s Instagram is quite like mine, but my feed is filled with endless pictures and videos of girls putting on their makeup. There’s so much opportunity for content, and brands today see how much money is there. Most people can go buy a lipstick, but they can’t necessarily buy $15,000 pair of shoes.
What kind of prep goes into fashion week for you?
The one thing we focus on is what the new products are that we’re going to showcase and use backstage. I’m lucky because I’ve already been using them and know how they’re working, but we also have to educate other artists and designers.
How do the collaborations with each designer go?
It depends on the designer. Sometimes, I’ll go in to work with a designer, and they’ll give me a clear vision for the woman in their show and their inspiration. It’s just my role to listen. Other designers are more vague and sort of romantically explain their vision, but they want me to settle on the details. And then, of course, there’s the occasional assistant who comes in with a mood board and just says: “This is what they want.” As I always say, one of the most important aspects of working in this industry is being a people person and knowing how to accommodate many different types of people.
Are there a lot of last-minute changes involved?
[The look] is not always that easy to do. Sometimes you get it right, but sometimes you need to tweak it a few times. The look is almost always confirmed before you get to the show, but occasionally we make changes at the very last minute.
Last night, for example, I got an email from [the team at] Alice + Olivia, whose show I did this morning, saying they wanted to do black glitter on the eyes instead of black gloss, because the hot bright lights at the presentation could cause the gloss to melt. I only had one small pot of black glitter, but I went out and stocked up, and we made the change.
This happens a lot, even at the biggest houses. Once, when I was working with Pat [McGrath] on a YSL show, we [started with a] purple lipstick on all the girls, but ended up deciding to ditch the look. All these backstage beauty pictures came out with models in purple lipstick that they never even wore on the runway. You just have to be ready, and it should be no sweat. It’s makeup; it wipes off.
The Maybelline-centric beauty look for Cushnie Et Ochs
How do you decide which trends to focus on?
Last season, we actually created a trend book with five key trends [using our newest products] beforehand, which we presented to them as inspiration. That book was a collaboration between me and a trend forecaster, who has a really good sense of what trends and colors are about to blow up. But there have been other times when I just have a character stuck in my head, and that will become a part of the look for the season.
It’s funny because I’m actually seeing a lot of those trends [from the book] carry over into this season now. There’s a sort of a collective consciousness in fashion and beauty, where people absorb the same things around the same time.
Have you noticed anything unique, beauty-wise, at the shows this week?
I’m not seeing a ton of makeup at the shows, to be honest. There was a trend last season that we called “delicate defiance,” which was a more natural look. I get that the girls look beautiful this way, but I also love to see designers try out more unconventional makeup, or makeup that’s there to make you stand out, but not necessarily to make you beautiful. I also just think it’s smart for designers to do a look that stands out because, honestly, you’ll get more press.
Are you actually backstage at all of the Maybelline shows?
I was backstage at seven shows last season, but I was only able to go backstage for one this week, due to other commitments and brand projects. We’re shooting all the commercials and ads right now, and I had a full day of interviews for the brand on Sunday, as well. Gigi [Hadid] also just shot a magazine cover story this week that’s coming out in May, so I had to be there for that.
Do you prefer that editorial work over the runway?
I love doing editorial, because there’s something so fun in getting to post that work; it’s not as fleeting. There’s so much work that goes into a show, but you don’t get that big editorial to hold onto that will be out there for at least a month. The shows have great energy, but they can be really tiring, too.