Beauty Looks from Paris Couture Spring 2020

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

It's that magical time of the year again. No, not awards-show season (though that's ongoing and pretty magical as well). The couture fashion shows have kicked off in Paris.

Couture Week holds a special place in the heart of anyone who has a profound appreciation for art, fashion, and beauty. It's where some of the most extreme and imaginative looks are born — and that's true of not only the apparel, but also the makeup and hair. Whether it's Pat McGrath's next-level makeup looks at Valentino or Guido Palau's sculptural hair creations at Givenchy, it's hard to walk away without finding beauty inspiration at these shows and wanting to make it work for your everyday life.

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Couture Week is also uniquely special in that only a handful of designers have presentations on the official schedule. And when they do, they’re showing fashion that has been painstakingly handmade down to the most intricate detail — sometimes taking hundreds of hours for a single piece. We like to think the beauty looks of Couture Week also reflect a similar dedication.

Here, you'll find the best, most creative, and inspiring beauty looks we've spotted so far at the couture shows in Paris.

Jean Paul Gaultier: Metallic "Fleckles"

Jean Paul Gaultier held his 50th anniversary and final fashion show of all time for the spring 2020 couture season. The designer presented an array of looks that were inspired by his previous collections, and many of the beauty looks seen during the show were also throwbacks to the past. Makeup artist Erin Parsons applied metallic gold and silver eye shadows that glittered under the lights, brow-high washes of color in orange, blue, and violet, and more minimal looks on models such as Bella and Gigi Hadid. As there were over 200 looks and nearly as many models, she worked with a team of 45 assistants to create all the different looks.

"The bold eyes were created using eye shadow and then speckled with a matching liquid," Parsons told ishonest. She dipped a toothbrush in matching paint and flecked on the pigment, which Parsons calls "flecks" to describe the splattered freckle effect. "I created the same look but with silver shadow and glitter," she adds. "Jean Paul had asked for freckles, and I wanted to do something a bit creative versus just drawing on the faux freckles we've seen in the past."

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Odile Gilbert did the hair for the show, which was also theatrical: There were flowers, massive curls, slicked-back chignons — basically any kind of hairstyle you could imagine.

Yuima Nakazato: Inspired by Fire

Japanese designer Yuima Nakazato is a relative newcomer on the couture calendar. Nakazato focuses on merging technology with sustainability to create some wildly unconventional pieces. However, this season the designer also pushed a bold new vision when it came to hair and makeup. Hirofumi Kera led the direction of each, transforming models into creatures from another reality. Each model wore a dramatic wig that stood up and out in bright shades of red, pink, and blue. "It was made with a wire frame," Kera told ishonest backstage of the wigs, each of which took five or six hours to make. "It’s supposed to look like fire." The makeup is also inspired by fire, Kera said of the bold red strokes applied on the lids.

Viktor & Rolf: Tattoos Everywhere

Viktor & Rolf presented a collection inspired by upcycling fabrics from previous seasons; Laura Ingalls Wilder and Holly Hobbie were also points of reference for the quilted, crafty gowns. For major contrast, makeup artist Peter Philips applied temporary tattoos to the models' faces, arms, and necks. "The designers wanted to give a twist to the 'doll' look they portrayed on the catwalk," Philips told ishonest. "The cute ruffles, Little House on the Prairie patchwork — in contrast with a rougher concept, hence the handmade face and body tattoos. But the message that we put in the tattoos were all positive ones — Hallmark kinds of good-feeling slogans and positive words, like 'love,' 'flower,' or 'peace.'" The rest of the look was minimal, with Philips using Dior Backstage Foundation, lots of single fake lashes, and layers of Diorshow Pump ‘N’ Volume HD Mascara to create retro, late-'60s doll eyes.

Hairstylist Damien Boissinot created adorable topknot buns with lots of curly strands in the front for a similar play on "doll" beauty.

Valentino: Metallic Washes of Color

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At Valentino, all emphasis was placed on maximalism and dramatic color, silhouettes, and prints. While there were some models who had minimal, barely there makeup looks, Pat McGrath created impact on some faces with metallic washes of color. McGrath used the Mothership VII: Divine Rose palette for sheer washes of pink, taupe, gold, or turquoise that went up the brows. Other models wore sheer shades that extended out along the cheekbone in some cases. The lips were also sheer and sparkly, with just a hint of color: the new Opulust Gloss in Shade Lavendaring.

Guo Pei: Snowy Brows

Designer Guo Pei is known for making a statement, and this season was no exception. Pei created a stunning fantasy that referenced the Himalayas, and the beauty reflected that. Makeup artist Dominic Skinner took things to the next level by applying fake snow on models' brows and upper lashes. "It's about the people who live in the Himalayas," Skinner told ishonest. "It's a really tough environment. You’ve got incredible sun, incredibly cold winters, and the skin reacts to that in an aggressive way. We've taken that and turned it into something beautiful."

Skinner mixed two of the new MAC Love Me Lipsticks — E for Effortless and Shamelessly Vain — and brushed it on to create a graphic, melt-y shape on the cheeks. He also added red glitter to top it off. For the snow-topped brows, Skinner ran concealer through the hairs and then used lash glue to press the snow on. "It’s to give the impression of snow just delicately falling on them."

Ralph & Russo: Pretty Pastels

Ralph & Russo showed a glamorous collection of feathered gowns, pretty dresses, and feminine skirts suits for spring 2020 couture. Most of the pieces were anchored in a pastel color palette, such as teal, pink, and light green, and makeup artist Sam Bryant created a look that played off the collection. He applied a barely there pale blue to the lid that he achieved by custom-mixing MAC Paintsticks. He topped off the eye look with Reflects Pearl Glitter for a touch of iridescence. Brows were brushed up, and clear gloss was applied. Bryant also applied lipstick in Snob for a pretty pastel-pink touch and left the face dewy without any powders for a youthful look.

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Larry King used Dyson dryers to create a half-up, half-down hair look. Adding an extra-feminine touch, he secured the hair in the back with supersized bows.

RVDK: Neon '70s Glam

For Ronald Van Der Kemp's spring 2020 couture show, makeup artist Sil Bruinsma was inspired by "Helmut Newton 1970s girls going clubbing in Paris Le Palace." There was no shortage of glam color applied in graphic placements. He used the MAC Art Library palette in It's Designer to apply bold, bright strokes of pink with graphic slicks of silver and turquoise. The lips were just as dramatic: Ruby Woo Lip Pencil outlined the edges of lips while the center was filled in with Feel So Good Retro Matte Liquid Lipcolor. Bruinsma also applied plenty of Extended Play mascara on both the top and the bottom lashes.

Maison Margiela: Statement Lips

As usual, Pat McGrath came up with a totally innovative look for Maison Margiela's latest couture show. She prepped models with her Skin Fetish Sublime Perfection Foundation for a dewy look. But the statement here was really the lips: In unconventional shades like orange, blue, green, and yellow, she applied a base of color followed by flocked material for added texture. The rest of the face was left substantially bare for maximum impact.

Meanwhile, Eugene Souleiman was responsible for the slicked-back hair, which was styled under veils, structured hats, and sculptural headpieces.

Chanel: Softly Defined Eyes

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At the Grand Palais, Chanel re-created a garden with real cabbages, a fountain, and a paved brick walkway as a tribute to the garden at the Abbey of Aubazine, the orphanage where Coco Chanel and her two sisters were left by their father as children. The makeup followed the minimal schoolgirl vibes and innocence that the clothing portrayed. Lucia Pica, Chanel’s global creative color and makeup designer, prepped skin with Les Beiges L’Eau de Teint before sculpting the crease of the eye with the Stylo Ombré et Contour in Mauve. She blended this out and then applied the Brun shade on the crease and lower lash line and blended even more. Finally, she took a brush and blended Les 4 Ombres palette in Elemental for the prettiest, most subtle smoky eye.

Hairstylist Sam McKnight styled a variety of different looks, including messy shags and slicked-back texture. But one of the most standout hair looks, by far, was the deep side parts.

Alexis Mabille: Glitter Lips

Alexis Mabille presented a stunning collection of white gowns and suiting. On the makeup side, Lloyd Simmonds created a small cat-eye flick paired with a gorgeous, intense glittery lip. "The inspiration was like a classic Audrey Hepburn with a red lip," explained MAC Pro makeup artist Angelo Rauseo. For the lip, he used the MAC Lipmix. The secret to getting all the glitter to actually stay put? "Before it dried down, we really packed the glitter on. We took a brush — kind of a fluffy brush — and then pressed it in with a tissue, so that way it even really stays on. They can drink, they can eat, and it doesn't move." (He was right — models backstage were actually eating after the lip was applied.)

As for the hair, Beppe D’Elia braided extensions into models' hair and finished them off with oversized bows.

Armani Prive: A Hint of Pink

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Armani Prive's spring 2020 couture collection was an eclectic mix of textiles, prints, colors, and impressive craftsmanship. All of this added up to be such a maximalist aesthetic that it, in turn, inspired Linda Cantello, Armani Beauty's creative director, to come up with her take on a minimal no-makeup-makeup look. "It’s mostly neutral, but then, at the end, there’s a pop of color," she said. "I just put a pop of neon pink in the center of the lip to make it more three- dimensional and take it somewhere else." There was no blush — only a bit of contour on the cheeks — and a light wash of nude shadow on the lid, followed by a very light coat of mascara.

As for the hair, models wore black, angular wigs with bangs, the geometric shape playing off the organic textures within the collection.

Dior: Double-Winged Liner

Dior's couture show was a tribute to women. Famed feminist artist Judy Chicago created an artistic set while creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri took inspiration from the clothing of ancient Greece — mainly the peplos. Following that, makeup artist Peter Phillips created a double-wing eyeliner look (extending from both the top and bottom of the eye) with a fleck of gold in between. He focused the liner on just the outer corner of the top and bottom lashes for a more graphic shape, and he also extended the models' brows.

"It's always nice to add a little bit of length to your brow, without it feeling too drawn," he explained. To get the overall look, he used Diorshow On Stage Liner in 091 Matte Black, the gold eye shadow from the Universal Neutral Dior Backstage Custom Eye Palette applied wet, the Diorshow Brow Styler, and Diorshow Pump 'n' Brow.

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Redken global creative director Guido Palau kept the hair loose and natural, with braids at the crown. "It's a nod to a goddess woman, but not in a theatrical way — in a real way," he explained. "It's a strong woman, so there's the idea of the warrior woman in a romantic, painterly way. We've got a wave and a braid in the back. It's all a nod to romanticism as well." The key to the look is texture, and Palau used Wind Blown 05 Dry Finishing Spray to achieve it.

Schiaparelli: Bejeweled Bones

Artistic director Daniel Roseberry was thinking a lot about the different complexities of being a woman for his spring 2020 couture show for Schiaparelli. Models walked down the runway wearing crystal-embellished gowns and colorful dresses that resembled playful parachutes, balanced with the dewy skin courtesy of makeup artist Erin Parsons. "On every face, the star of the look was skin care," she told ishonest. "Lots of moisturizer with touches of concealer where needed, plenty of lip balm, and finally, only a hint of powder where necessary."

But a few models also stood out. Matching the clothing itself, they were decked out in crystals and gems all over their bodies. "There were two girls with ‘bejeweled bones’ glued onto the arms — gold and black," she explained. "There was one incredible look where I brought the jewels from the dress onto the face, neck, chest, and arms. As if the dress had become a part of the skin. It was stunning! All was Daniel’s vision — he is a genius."

Iris Van Herpen: Underwater Creatures

As usual, Iris van Herpen sent a beautiful collection of clothing that merged technology and art down the runway. According to the show notes, it draws inspiration "from the sensory processes that occurs between the intricate composition of the human body, mirrored with the fibrous marine ecology of our oceans."

Many of the models were given painterly, graphic contour on their eyes and brows by makeup artist Chiao Li Hsu, who mixed custom shades from the MAC Pro Palette Paintstick x 12 palette. "One of the inspirations for the show was underwater creatures," explained Hsu. "I wanted them to look a bit ethereal, so that’s the look I was going for. It's really natural, not too bright, and all shiny."

As for the hair, Martin Cullen and Björn Axén worked together to create a sculptural style that incorporated shiny wraps and mini braids.

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