Won’t it look orange?” In the spirit of showing rather than telling, I am at the hair salon to test the season’s new looks, or at least one of them. After years of schlepping about backstage, from beauty’s frontline as it were, I’ve decided that reporting on the new season’s hair and make-up trends is all very well, but how many of us are actually practising what we preach? I know I’m not.
Come the new season’s looks, there is a disconnect between knowing what’s hot and wearing it. I still eagerly tear open the wrapping of the new make-up collections as they arrive on my desk. I hold my breath – the better to hear the gentle click of the lipstick lid. I daub shades on my hand until I resemble some sort of camp chameleon and exclaim excitedly, “New, new, new!” But I rarely wear any of it. Sure, I’ll dabble with the shade that’s closest to black but, after a few days, even this play-safe option is discarded in favour of the look of the decade(s): lip balm, mascara, blush. Job done.
Ditto the hair. Will I be rocking hair-stylist Sam McKnight’s back-combing and beehives as seen at DSquared, or his super-sleek pony tails as seen at Chanel this autumn? Reader, I ask you to observe Exhibit A, the picture beside this column: my look this season. Again. There’s no excuse either. Every hair and make-up artist of note now has accomplished websites complete with “how to” videos should you want to move into the new season gracefully – check out Sam McKnight, Neil Moodie, Kay Montano and Lisa Eldridge. They will change the way you think about what you can and can’t do.
So here I go.
At John Frieda, I think I’m in with a chance for real change with colourist Cetera. Why? Well, she’s a slip of a thing, with jet-black long hair with wefts of blue running through it. Plus, she goes to music festivals. Maybe I should have hair like hers?
“You’re kidding,” she says, just at the point I calculate I am old enough to be her mother. “I haven’t even washed it. I’m a bad advertisement for hairdressers everywhere. We’re going for brown low-lights.”
Meanwhile, Andreas the stylist, sensibly dismisses all talk of undercuts with a firm, “No – autumn hair is all about tidying it up.” We settle for a trim and maybe growing the fringe out. Radical stuff. I do hope you are keeping up at the back.
Later, at the MAC counter in Selfridges, I feel a surge of anticipation. The make-up artist, Pablo, has earrings and tattoos, which make me feel confident he’ll try something daring. He gives me a quick résumé of this season’s shows, many of which he worked on: Vivienne Westwood and Missoni, in which tattoos were painted on hands and arms; plus Chloé and Tommy Hilfiger (among others), which featured a sort of no-statement make-up. Do I want something strong or natural?
“Strong!” I shout eagerly. Bring on the tattoos! “OK, I use dirty colours, everything mixed with a bit of grey, nothing too bright,” he says. “Grey and dirty” – how 50 Shades.
On goes the eyeshadow, right up to the socket line, a sort of musty pinky-grey called Satin Taupe brushed on with a fluffy No 222 brush. A little kohl eyeliner (called Prunella), mascara and some lip gloss (Spite) and that’s it. Surprisingly wearable.
Perhaps too wearable? At the YSL concession, make-up artist Rebecca launches her counter-attack: “Oh it’s like MAC does Bobbi Brown,” she says, as she wipes Pablo’s work away and begins. Suddenly, I am a vision in shimmery khaki-green eyeshadow, courtesy of the Palette Couture compact. “This collection could have been made for you,” she says, and it’s rather good. I put it on my “to-buy” list along with an orangey-red matt-finish lipstick from the Rouge Pur Collection.
As well as: Dior’s safari-esque eye palette in Khaki Design (we’ve gone jungle this season it seems – this one has a slightly more intense shade of green) and two staples we should all have – Benefit’s Sugar-Licious nude lip and cheek kit (the mini sizes are also great for travel), and Stila’s In the Know Eye Shadow Palette, which has 10 classic eye colours and comes with a great little eight-page look-book for inspiration. They are all colours and products I have never owned before but, once on, they look like they have always been part of my repertoire.
I put my seasonal makeover to the test with a meeting at Vogue. Will the staff notice? Yes. Not because I am suddenly transformed into Ms Fashion Forward but because, rather self-consciously, I tell them straight away, lest they think I’ve overdone it. Jo, from features, squints at me. “Oh! I see!” she says, making two fists with her hands and swirling them over her eyes in circles as if she’s a child let loose with a box of crayons. Then she moves straight on to work, no further ado.
And I realise what I probably should have known all along: as far as the new season’s looks go, adopting and adapting are pretty much the same thing. What’s a vowel, after all, when it comes to the wide, wide world of beauty?