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Alexander McQueen SS15, womenswear, Dazed backstage
Sanne Vloet (Viva) Backstage at Alexander McQueen SS15Photography Lea Colombo

Extreme womenswear transformations of PFW SS15

From McQueen's fetishistic face masks to mouths sealed with sellotape at Junya Watanabe, we chart the city's top five most iconic beauty looks

We didn't think much could top New York's multiple brow piercings and mini bun mohawks, but Paris Fashion Week threw up some of this season's most boundary-pushing beauty looks. We take a look at the artists who constructed masks, sealed mouths and painted bodies in Paris's five most directional SS15 transformations.

Junya Watanabe enlisted Isamaya Ffrench to seal the mouths of his models for a show that brought high-concept back to the SS15 runway. To accompany Tomihiro Kono’s futuristic acrylic headpieces (that gave models 60s-silhouette hairstyles), Ffrench – “inspired by the idea that something can appear to be mass produced, but contain technical glitches that give it a kind of personality” – painted lips red before sealing them with clear tape to create a wonky, static expression. Thick lashes were applied to single eyes and coated with greasepaints for “a permanent wink” that resulted in an uneasy, almost sinister stillness that might not be as wearable as a glossy lid or flushed cheek but was certainly more memorable.

Rei’s explosive, bloody and impassioned creations were paired with bleached-blonde and aggressively backcombed up-dos that combined Marie Antoinette with a mad scientist. Little ruby lips were unevenly applied so the girls appeared like porcelain dolls decorated by a frustrated painter, their mouths bitten and bloodied rather than delicate or seductive to complete an overall atmosphere of rage/love/blood/lust that cemented Rei’s position as one of fashion’s most powerfully emotive figures. 

For Sarah Burton’s Japanese-inspired collection, Pat McGrath bleached brows and created glossy, lacquered masks that she attached to the faces of the models with double-sided tape. The effect was a look that combined a strong element of BDSM fetishism with a fragility that was reflected throughout the collection, where Geisha girls met samurais and kimonos were teamed with harnesses in a strangely perfect equilibrium of hard meets soft.

Rick Owens interspersed his unnervingly serene collection with models full-body-painted white, as if to remind us that – even if he is heavily employing tulle and raw, muted tones – his is a highly considered version of ethereal tranquillity. “The most shocking thing I could do would be to use tulle,” he said and, paring partings thickly slicked with white paint, weighty smocking and frilly netting, he developed the inspiration for his June menswear collection (Nijinsky’s 1912 ballet Afternoon of a Faun) into an aesthetic that is feminine but always remarkable and indisputably powerful. 

For Miuccia Prada’s latest vision, Pat McGrath drew thin, defined eyebrows onto each model – something that resulted in a wonderful combination of drag theatricality and sexy, fifties rebellion. Soundtracked by The Shangri-Las and the theme to John Waters’ Female Trouble, in spite of the prim and structured housecoats that sheathed imitation-polyester bras, the girls’ pursed pink lips and slicked hair evoked an aggressive punk attitude that permeated the show and reminded us all why Mrs Prada’s shows always hold a spot amongst fashion weeks' most innovative.