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M·A·C x Gareth Pugh

The British fashion designer talks to Dazed about the new make-up ranges he's created with the beauty powerhouse and about his own beauty regime

From its seriously chic, black patent geometric packaging to the sinister but inviting colours contained within, Gareth Pugh’s long-awaited make-up range from M·A·C Cosmetics was never going to be for the shrinking violet. Over seven years, Pugh has staked out his territory as a designer with an instantly recognisable, uncompromising aesthetic – that’s sculptural, other-worldly, mysterious and empowering at the same time.

Joining the likes of McQueen and Rodarte, Pugh was invited by M·A·C to create a make-up range, and was given unprecedented free reign in the process- from creating the colours, designing the packaging, to making the film to celebrate its launch – a striking, graphic short starring Alla Kostromichova in a duel with herself, created with Dazed’s senior fashion editor (and longterm stylist) Katie Shillingford and his film director, Ruth Hogben.

And if the dark fantasy world he creates so seductively every season can sometimes seems inaccessible to the mere mortal, the makeup range goes some way to opening up his vision a little bit more, offering discreet lip glosses and a matte Beauty Powder in addition to statement-making false eyelashes, and an iridescent duo-chromatic nail polish. “I was thinking of the colours of an electrical storm,” Pugh told Dazed over a drink at the St. Martins Hotel. “With everything that I do it‘s about a contradiction – a play with light and dark – it‘s about opposites.”

Dazed Digital: What are your first memories of make-up and its power to transform?
Gareth Pugh: 
The Saturday night routine where my mom got ready to go out and my Nanna came round to babysit me. The smell of nail varnish and Elnett I suppose. I used to be a dancer and we wore makeup a lot on stage. I liked the idea you can transform – there’s this quite beautiful transformative element to it. It’s the idea of a visible mask on your face and you can hide behind something.

DD: You were part of the !WOWWOW! crew at St Martins. Can you tell us about some of your experiments with make-up when you were younger? What did it mean to you in creating a look?
Gareth Pugh: 
It was more clothes for me than makeup but we had a lot of fun. It was an excuse to dress up. There were lots of weird and wonderful things we would get up to. It was important schooling in playing around with things, it teaches you to be more open to things.

DD: What’s your beauty regime? How long does it take you to become Gareth Pugh in the morning?
Gareth Pugh: 
It doesn’t take me that long! I moisturize, put on foundation – I wasn’t born with the perfect complexion but it’s to make me look like the Gareth Pugh you see now, not the one that woke up in the morning!

DD: When did you first start collaborating with M·A·C?
Gareth Pugh: 
Since I started to show in London, over seven years ago. M·A·C have a big presence at LFW and they help out a lot of designers. My second show at Fashion East I started to work with Alex Box and have worked with her ever since. What Alex and the M·A·C team do for my show is as important as the clothes, hair and music. It’s part of the message I try to put across.

DD: The creative team you’ve established is very closely knit. How has your relationship with Alex developed over the seasons?
Gareth Pugh: 
It’s great for me to work with people I know very well. There’s no formalities we have to go through, we can get straight to business. It’s much more that we can talk about a feeling or an attitude. Alex likes to see the clothes first. For my first show in Paris, it was all about white on the front and black on the back. Alex made these plastic eyelashes – really simple and beautiful. She comes in with an open mind. Alex knows a lot more than I do about makeup. I prefer to work with people whom I have a lot of confidence in- to show them what I’m doing and then they can react against that. It’s nice to be able to collaborate with people on that level.

DD: What appeals to you about working with M·A·C?
Gareth Pugh: 
I was asked to do this over two years ago. It’s certainly something that’s been a long time in the pipe line. It takes a long time to get something right – to go from initial idea to something that’s launched globally. They gave me a lot of freedom to play around. It started off as a little project where they would come backstage at my shows and take colour samples and make a product line. But I wanted it to be more specific – about the product but also about the packaging. They allowed me that freedom to make a video which I worked on with Katie and Ruth. It feels like a nice complete story.

DD: Your models always look like warrior princesses - Is make-up a weapon or to enhance your beauty?
Gareth Pugh: 
It’s more about an armour – very much in terms of that for my clothes. It can be a much more subtle version of that- something I wear myself a lot but I wear it in a way where it doesn’t seem like I’ve got a lot of makeup on. For me it’s making me feel better and look better than when I woke up this morning. It can be a shield or a mask – it makes you feel a little invisible which I quite like.

DD: Tell us about how you developed the range?
Gareth Pugh: 
We started with the packaging. We took the classic geometric print and made it into a M·A·C accessory. Just like in my shows, we start with two opposites – contrasting something strong, purpley and blue with something silvery and ethereal. In the film we did, we did the same two looks on the same girl where it looks like a visual fight between these two characters. We present two different looks but it can be used as raw ingredients to do what you want to.

My mother can have a bit of fun with it as well! The colours that flash different tones – it’s not just a blue nail varnish. It’s very versatile in a sense. It’s specific to the S/S12 collection and less referential to what I’ve done previously. With my collections, I work with opposites – black and white, masculine and feminine. With this, it’s about what happens when those two opposites combine and it creates this tension and energy. It’s like the plus and minus of a battery and the 2 poles create this electricity. I suppose it’s based on the colours of an electrical storm – blues, purples, slivers – all set against a night sky.

DD: When you were starting out, did you ever think in a few years time you’d have your own flagship store, show in Paris and have your own make-up line?
Gareth Pugh: 
The weird thing with the shop in Hong Kong, getting to show in Paris because of ANDAM- those things you can’t plan for. It’s great when these things happen and when it’s right. I don’t do a lot of collaborations with big companies but with M·A·C because the relationship had been so long and they are a great company to work with because they are very into, it’s a reciprocal kind of relationship. It’s a very beautiful job and I’m very proud of it.

Gareth Pugh for M·A·C will be available at selected M·A·C locations nationwide and at from December 2011

Director Ruth Hogben
Stylist Katie Shillingford
Makeup Val Garland for M.A.C
Hair Martin Cullen
Nails Marian Newman
Sound Matthew Stone