Pat McGrath has been hailed as the most powerful force in the beauty biz with good reason. In addition to crafting high-impact looks for 25-plus runway shows each season, the British makeup artist works closely with Naomi Campbell, Cara Delevingne, and the Hadid sisters and develops glittery boundary-pushing products for her namesake cosmetics line, Pat McGrath Labs. Like the ones before, her latest release, Dark Star 006, an intergalactic-inspired smoky-eye kit, sold out within minutes (thanks in no small part to Kim Kardashian, who fronted the campaign). For InStyle's June issue, McGrath fittingly discussed the topic of innovation: her career, sources of inspiration, and where the beauty industry is inevitably headed.
Where did you learn your craft?
My mother was my first and most important influence. When I was a little girl, she would take me shopping for pigments that flattered dark skin tones, mixing and playing until she'd created her ideal shade. She loved fashion as well and her passion planted a seed in my mind that ultimately became my calling.
Did you always aspire to have your own makeup line?
A spirit of experimentation is at the core of everything I've done thus far and will continue doing in the future. My intention when I created Labs was that the people that used our products would be empowered to explore a fearless, daring attitude towards makeup—that's why we always write "Use Without Caution" on everything we make. I've always believed that the most extraordinary results occur only when one feels unbound by any notion of constraint or limitation.
How do you distinguish Labs from other beauty brands today?
The science of Labs exists within the ethos of innovation, creation, and discovery. At the core is the idea of breaking rules and boundaries while providing products representative of my work and point of view as an artist. In addition to producing state-of-the-art formulations with a quick turnaround time, Labs establishes a digital dialogue exploring the fusion of science, beauty, and art. It is an incredible way to stay at the pulse of the counterculture and share my creative process in real time. For me, the Lab is where my ideas and concepts are conceived and can reach the market rapidly. What sets Labs apart from other brands is the emphasis on the user experience within the products themselves by embracing the technologies that are changing the face of the beauty and the marketplace of the industry. Simply, the Lab is where unadulterated experimentation meets raw glamour; a rule breaking playground for makeup enthusiasts.
The packaging is also very unique—an homage to cosmetic lab samples.
I am always looking for products that can completely push the boundaries, whether its texture, the colors, or how they can be used in a way that has never been seen before. The innovative nature of Labs lives within the metallic bags themselves. Inside each is a concept wherein you can use each product on its own, or in systematic combination. Often you get the most amazing results by stepping outside of your comfort zone, mixing things together, and smearing it on with your fingertip. Layering and having a fearless and experimental attitude towards make up is paramount. The concept of each Lab launch always involves a recipe. Within my work, gorgeous, radiant skin is fundamental for all the looks I create, so Skin Fetish 003 comes to mind as it illustrates that often it is not a single product that is used to reach a specific effect. That kit was all about creating illuminated skin but you have a balm, highlighter, and pigment to use how you see fit and create levels and layers. Each can be used individually for gorgeous results, but when you layer them on top of one another you create something that is simultaneously modern and gorgeous. My famous alien angelic skin requires a series of steps to achieve and can be done in a natural minimal way or over-the-top and theatrical. No makeup makeup is the highest level of abstraction. People often believe some of our more theatrical or runway looks are the hardest, but, in the end, making someone look like they're wearing no makeup at all takes the longest and requires the highest level of skill.
Where do you find creative inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere: a raven's wing, an old book, a stack of vintage magazines, art, cinema, smoke coming from a chimney, a kid crossing the street in a legendary look. My list is infinite.
What are some work-life essentials you can't live without?
Something many people don't know about me is that I'm obsessed with technology. If there's an ingenious new product, I've got it. My new absolute favorite is the ZIIP Nano Current Device ($495; barneys.com). It's like a pilates class for your face using micro-currents to tone and firm the face enhancing all your natural contors. I also can't live without portable chargers, makeup lights of all kinds, and tracking devices for my many traveling makeup bags. Or an iPhone. There's no better place to check your makeup.
Where is the most advanced place to go for beauty treatments?
The Mayr Health Center in Wörthersee, Austria is divine. They work from the inside out. By the time you leave the premises, you're glowing.
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Where do you see the beauty industry going?
Trends in makeup artistry have become increasingly more progressive with an emphasis on experimentation and self expression. Social media platforms like Instagram and YouTube have created a craze for both products and advanced artistry. I feel that this dynamic has made what was once a niche and elitist industry much more inclusive, while simultaneously expanding the forum. The makeup industry has encountered a huge makeover itself due to this rise of social media. As a result, the ideals and standards of beauty have been rewritten. The best part is the talent out there and the ability to directly interact and collaborate with the makeup artist community and the makeup-obsessed. I think the beauty industry will continue to be driven digitally to keep up with the fast-paced way in which information is exchanged and to meet the needs of a more informed, savvy consumer. It will continue follow a parallel path of personalization and customization. These days, people want to make their own decisions; it's about making your own choices about what you think looks good. I aim to echo this theme of individuality and creativity within each Lab launch. My intention is to take beauty to the future, maintaining a unique point of view while providing products that respond to the needs of the modern consumer.