Diane Parkes experiences the frenetic pace of a make-up artist at London Fashion Week.
With a brush in one hand and a tube in the other I am chasing after a woman named Marta.
Pushing my way through crowds of manically busy people I find her – but Marta is being filmed for television so I have to wait.
The second the camera is turned off I grab her by the arm and say urgently “Pablo sent me to do your ears”.
Incredibly, instead of saying “go away you mad woman” she calmly acquiesces, sits in the nearest chair and allows me to get on with the job.
But then Marta is a model about to strut down the catwalk for the Jean-Pierre Braganza show at London Fashion Week – and I am part of the Mac make-up team.
And I really do need to do her ears.
Mac’s director of make-up artistry Terry Barber has just told us that none of the models are to have red ears. So here I am painting over any colour I can find with foundation.
Once happy that Marta is suitably camouflaged, I head back to the make-up room for the next job.
By this point the team of six artists have been hard at work for nearly two hours but with the run-through about to take place and the show due to start in half an hour they are in overdrive.
We started well before midday when Terry showed the team the look he had agreed with Jean-Pierre the previous day.
And what a look.
Terry calls it “Mugleresque”, ‘inspired by the 70s’ and “like vintage electric guitars”.
It is certainly dramatic and strikes me as Flash Gordon meets David Bowie. The eyes are scarlet swept out into the hair line in geometric shapes, with strong granite eyeliner, false lashes and gold highlighting the centre. The cheeks use the same red while the lips are full-on cherry and wine layered with gloss.
It takes Terry nearly 40 minutes to show us how to create this while the team of make-up artists are furiously scribbling down his words of wisdom.
He is well aware of its effect.
“With this show we can afford to do something really banging,” he says.
But things are not going quite to plan. Models who were due to arrive have been held up by another show and the clock is ticking. While two models are having their faces done the other make-up artists are restlessly awaiting the arrival of the other girls.
I am working with senior make-up artist Pablo Rodriguez who tells me: “This is a lot of make-up. Lots of layers. And not a lot of time.”
Finally more models arrive and the rest of the make-up team can get to work. Layers of moisturisers, primers, foundations, creams and powders are applied to precision perfection. As I touch up concealer, brush eyebrows and finely line the eyes I can feel the tension around me building.
“We need all the models for the run-through,” it is announced but Pablo tells me not to stop.
“Just keep going until they physically come and take the models away from us,” he says.
The run-through takes about 20 minutes and by the time the models are back there is less than 15 minutes to go before the show begins for real. But at this point there are still two models whose make-up has not even been started and a couple who are only half-way there.
The pace becomes furious with hairdressers pulling the models’ hair into tight ponytails at the same time as the make-up is being done and colour being applied at super fast rates. There seem to be people rushing everywhere.
A few minutes before deadline I go out into the throng to see the show. Knowing how frantic everything is backstage I admit to a bit of guilt leaving work still to be done but am also keen to see the finished result. The show is packed with every seat filled and people standing in every place possible.
In just 15 minutes it is over. I watch the fashion show with my attention drawn more to the make-up than the clothes. And what had looked so intense backstage works perfectly under the strong lighting and complementing Jean-Pierre’s latest designs.
I head backstage where the Mac team are already busy clearing up and packing away their hundreds of pencils, brushes and colours.
At the mirror I watch one of the models removing that make-up which had taken so much effort to apply and had been so beautiful.