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Backstage at Jen Kao Spring 2013 Show — A Closer Look at the Makeup, Nails AND the Clothes!

Psychedelia and surrealism have always fascinated Taiwanese American fashion designer Jen Kao — even her website’s home page features flashing lights, cryptic images, and perpetual motion, creating a full-on sensory assault that’s both bewildering and strangely exciting.  But, for her Spring 2013 collection, Kao toned down some of these elements — all without compromising her distinctly edgy, boundary-pushing aesthetic. The end result was an assortment of pieces heavily influences by sportswear, as evident via the abundance of anoraks, shorts with mesh overlays, polo shirts, and track pants, but also informed by Japanese samurai culture, manifested via origami-style pleats and folds, jackets with kimono-like waist ties, and dresses with strong shoulders evoking ancient kamishimos. Another key influence: stingrays.  These sea creatures were referenced in a literal manner via colorful prints, like that on the white fabric carefully folded in origami-like triangular slithers over the asymmetrical skirt of a blood orange dress, but also in a more demure way, with asymmetrical hemlines on tops, color-blocked chevron patterns, and high-low skirt hemlines creating a fin-like shapes mirroring stingrays swimming. The emphasis on texture and luminosity can also be attributed to this stingray inspiration, with many pieces featuring mesh overlays or bungee cord detailing perhaps inspired by the undulating tails of these cartilaginous fishes (the cord detailing was particularly prevalent in the sleeves of most of the athletic jackets), and some garments even glowing in the dark (likely a nod to the bio-luminescent quality of many a stingray).

According to CND’s Shelena Robinson, who designed the nail look for the Jen Kao Spring 2013 show, the nails were meant to have an understated, organic feel, with a bone-like feel. This was accomplished by using CND’s Gold Shimmer Effects as a base coat, following this with a layer of CND Colour in Pink Lily to give the nails a bone-like color, and sealing the look with a coat of CND’s Super Matte Top Coat to create the desired calcified sensation.

The makeup look, masterminded by MAC Cosmetics artist Yadim, was seemingly understated, with an emphasis on neutral tones married with touches of metallic color for a luminous finish.  Models’ complexions were giving a dewy radiance, an I-just-left-the-gym-and-am-slightly-sweaty moistness coating their skin so as to complement the collection’s “otherworldly athleticism” motif. To create this effect, Yadim and the MAC Cosmetics team used MAC’s Face and Body Foundation, next applying MAC’s Studio Finish SPF 35 Concealer to camouflage dark under-eye circles along with any shadowy or problematic areas. No powders were applied so as to maintain the wet look created by cream textures, with the Brit Wit Cremeblend Blush adding a heavily flushed look to models’ cheeks with its rosy mauve tint and the MAC Cream Colour Base in Pearl, a pearly gold shade with an icy shimmer, adding a radiance to the areas on which it was blended: the temples, the bridge of the nose, inside the cupid’s bow, and along the chin.

Lips, meanwhile, were kept bare and muted with concealer, so as to have the eyes be the focal point of the look.

To create the ethereal eye makeup, the MAC team started by applying the MAC Must Have Brown Eye Shadow (available in Spring 2013),  buffing the color onto the lid and wrapping it all the way around the eye. Next, they applied the Caramel Sundae eye shadow, one of the shades in a limited-edition palette from the upcoming Archie’s Girls collection, brushing the hue over the lid and blending it into the crease. A nude eye pencil was used along the waterline of the eye so as to open up the eye area and add a dose of luminosity. Lashes, meanwhile were curled but left without mascara so as to preserve the youthfulness of the look. The softness along the lids and lashes, however, was contrasted by strong brows. These were emphasized by applying an eye shadow in a shade matching each model’s natural brow color all along the brow, filling in any sparse areas and creating a solid and robust arch.

Check out the finished makeup and nail looks in the photos above, then browse through the shots below for a glimpse at some of the backstage action before the show, including shots of the garments, how the racks were organized according to model, and how they bore boards  with Polaroids detailing how each look had been styled prior to the show.

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