Fashion week hits and misses: Beauty edition

From airbrushed beehives to press-on nails, former NZFW makeup director Kiekie Stanners shares what was hot, and what was a hard pass

With 20 years’ experience as a professional makeup artist including a decade keying makeup for New Zealand Fashion Week, Kiekie Stanners is an absolute authority on runway beauty – what works, what doesn’t, what trends will translate into real life and what looks should never see the light of day?

Armed with an Instax and having made a promise to herself to stay off the Redbull, Kiekie was stationed backstage at NZFW: Kahuria, capturing beauty moments big and small for FashioNZ. Here she delivers her definitive list of beauty hits and misses.

Kiekie’s beauty hits

The way the hair floated above the shoulders as the models walked at Juliette Hogan…yes, I saw that! Mirroring the fluidity of the silk dresses, the movement came down to a perfectly placed kink created by hair director Lauren Gunn of Colleen. The resultant asymmetrical wave wasn’t something you’d necessarily notice in a static image, but it’s a technical detail that came alive on the runway. Genius!

This beauty look would’ve seemed out of place on any other runway, but for Kiri’s opening production it created such a theatrical ‘wow’ moment, it elevated her show into a full performance. Getting the hair into those sky-high beehives takes time, and the hair knotting details at the back finished the look. Shout out to this hair team for nailing this many models! The airbrushing into the hairline rather than as makeup over the face completed the look in a sophisticated way.

I love a cheek moment and Kate brought it. Using an Aleph cheek/lip tint slightly higher on the cheekbones gave the appearance of a romantic flush rather than precise, makeup artist-applied colour. Matching tonally to the poppy lip, it made me happy to see some perfectly placed blush – the ultimate dopamine makeup.

The simple hair and makeup at Rory’s NZFW debut made his presentation feel like an international show. Hair tucked into high necks, organic curls and fresh, clean makeup worked so beautifully in a setting flooded with natural light. The overall direction was chic minimalism and it made a simplistic statement that felt oh-so considered.

Kathryn Wilson purple shoes

At a shoe show, our eyes aren’t necessarily all up on the face but rather, on those legs strutting down the raised catwalk. My makeup artist eye goes straight to the skin and it was perfect and glowing, thanks to Lancome’s Nutrix Royal Body Butter, and makeup director Nandan Bhat.

At every single show we saw individualised beauty – which frequently meant multiple hair and makeup looks throughout, keeping each model uniquely themselves or tailoring the looks to suit each face. It was beautiful to watch shows with models that hadn’t been turned into exact carbon copies of each other. We no longer live in a world of rigid fashion castings where arbitrary measurements dictate who gets to participate, and so there’s less of an expectation for models to look identical. It was amazing to see this attitude being embraced at NZFW 2023.

Kiekie’s beauty misses

When I think of couture beauty (and it’s always been my dream to work on these Parisian shows) I think refined, elegant, meticulous, luxury. For me, the beauty looks by our local ‘couture’ designers didn’t quite meet the mark. The specific requirements of couture design really should be honoured with hair and makeup that is also impeccable, and perfectly tailored for each model. It might not be over-the-top or an obvious makeup ‘look’, but couture means every detail is considered, from head to toe.

an arm warmer around wrist is much more welcome than a hair tie around

I saw a hair tie on a wrist backstage and my heart raced, hoping that it would be removed pre-show and in time for the mark to be disguised by the makeup team. It’s such a simple detail but damn, does a hair tie wrist send me into a panic! All your beauty work can be ruined instantly by a distracting indentation.

As it was our first NZFW back after a hiatus, and with multiple designers showing for the first time, it’s understandable that there would’ve been a lot of excitement and throwing around of ideas. But when this ideation is just between one person and their immediate team, you’ll get a disconnect between garments, styling, hair, makeup and mood, and I saw a fair amount of this last week. Building trust between hair and makeup directors takes time – trust me as someone who directed makeup at NZFW for a decade. I’d love to see this worked on next year, so that you get cohesive storytelling at every show, and not this sense that all the elements were stitched together from separate brainstorms.

Extremely subjective opinion from me, and there is absolutely a time and place for extreme press-on nails, but it wasn’t at the shows they were featured in.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 30: A model prepares backstage ahead of The Graduate Show during New Zealand Fashion Week 23: Kahuria at Viaduct Events Centre‎ on August 30, 2023 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images for NZFW)

I dream of the day that international brands look to NZFW once again and support designers with backstage sponsorship. Hair, makeup and nail brands, please come and get behind the incredible talent that we have in Aotearoa, by helping to leverage the standard of execution. We can’t do shows without top level hair and makeup production. That is what creates runway magic.