Beauty Inspiration From Backstage At London Fashion Week

Jacqueline Kilikita

Subtle, clean and minimal are the words we'd use to describe the beauty looks which have reigned supreme at London Fashion Week in past years. However for AW20, the hair, makeup and nail trends are anything but.

Alex Brownsell for BLEACH London and Terry Barber for MAC Cosmetics are just a handful of this year's legendary tastemakers who have been tasked with dreaming up bold backstage beauty looks – and each one is begging to be seen. Think two-tone hair your '00s emo self would have been obsessed with, circus-inspired eye makeup, jazz age glamour and natural texture meets fluorescent colours. That's just the tip of the iceberg.

From Richard Malone to Ashley Williams and everyone in between, click through to find the best beauty trends from London Fashion Week AW20 so far.


Makeup artist Daniel Sallstrom for MAC Cosmetics looked to New York socialites in the late '60s and early '70s for this dramatic look. "We wanted to push big eyes and glitter liner especially," Daniel told R29.

There were lots of different trends, including a double cut crease and tomato lips, a blue and pink layered cat-eye, red glitter lips and contrasting green liner, and lime green eyes. Daniel used MAC Chromaline Gel Cream Liner, £17.50, in varying shades. For the glitter looks, artists mixed MAC Glitter, £16.50, with Mixing Medium Eyeliner, £14.

"For the face, we used the MAC Studio Fix Conceal and Correct Palette, £30, and Studio Face and Body Foundation, £27. We left the brows bare save for MAC Brow Set in Clear, £16, to groom."

JW Anderson

"There's a slight masculine nod to this," said Anthony Turner using Dyson. "Because there's so much going on in the collection, including lots of volume, we wanted to elevate the girls and keep it fresh." Using the Dyson Supersonic, £299.99, and the precision nozzle attachment, hair was blow-dried flat to the head with a soft bristle brush and given a deep side parting. "I applied some serum to the ponytail and hairspray to the top to prevent flyaways, and we've tucked some of the ponytails into the clothes," said Anthony. "I wanted the girls to look like little illustrations; beautiful little drawings." Photo Courtesy Of Dyson

Simone Rocha

This collection was very much cemented in elements of loss, creation and destruction, both in life and in regard to the ocean. As well as shells, Rocha put an emphasis on crystals to represent the theme. Manicurist Ama Quashie created a wave-inspired tip design using Swarovski crystals in clear and jet black. The nail base was minimal, and slicked with clear polish. Photo Courtesy Of Ama Quashie


Isamaya Ffrench for MAC Cosmetics served up this asymmetrical, crystal-encrusted eye makeup. "We wanted to make it tough," she told R29, "so we alternated between large and small crystals or rocks. The skin is simply a touch of balm."

Nails were also vying for centre stage thanks to nail artist Marian Newman for CND. "The coffin shape is slender and tapered and the designs complement the out-there outfits. We wanted all nails to be matte, as some of the clothes are very sparkly. There are ombre nails, glitter nails, foil nails and blue raffia nails, which took inspiration from the tiered dresses in the collection." Each model also had an accent nail in the form of a 3D resin floral design.


"The beauty look for Toga is modern, fresh and sophisticated," said Sada Ito, NARS global artistry director. "For more impact and toughness, some models have an abstract wash of black eyeshadow across the crease."
Skin was prepped with  NARSskin Luminous Moisture Cream, £46, followed by the Natural Radiant Longwear Cushion Foundation, £25Soft Matte Complete Concealer, £24, new Tinted Glow Booster, £28, and  Soft Velvet Pressed Powder, £29.

The eyeshadow stole the show, though. The  Pandora Duo Eyeshadow, £25, gave models their thumb-print, panda-esque look, while lips were slicked with the Clean Cut Lip Balm, £23.

Vivienne Westwood

"AW20 is, as usual for Vivienne, about individuality. Is it anarchy or is it punk? I’d say punk," said manicurist Marian Newman, using Peacci. "Each model has an individual but tribal look. Not trying too hard." Marian wanted nails to mirror the red lipstick and so looked to shades Diva and Jet Black, both £10, available at Peacci.

"This was juxtaposed with the archetypical chipped black that many of the models would wear happily on a normal day, plus a little touch of gold foil (a bespoke mix) to finish. There are no rules or formulas. It's all about character and individuality," said Marian. Photo Courtesy Of Peacci

Charlotte Knowles

"For Charlotte Knowles’ AW20 show we wanted to lean into the awkwardness of beauty, so I created angular shapes on earthy toned talons, some with a gradient to create an off-key juxtaposition," said manicurist Lauren Michelle using new vegan and cruelty-free nail polish brand Peacci. Some nails evoked our obsession with jade crystal rollers with ombre tips in varying green tones, while others were ultra glossy monotone colours, such as black or terracotta. Photo Courtesy Of Peacci

David Koma

Led by industry hair expert Jon Reyman for Aveda, the hair look at David Koma took cue from the "street chic nature of the collection, reflecting the setting of the city backdrop from the Leadenhall building."

Jon began by prepping the hair liberally using  Aveda's Pure Abundance Style Prep, £23, which he applied throughout the hair from the root to the tip. The saturated hair was then gently blow-dried flat against the head and more of a focus was placed at the ear, so that the hair didn't move.

Using two wide-tooth combs, hair was separated and blow-dried at the crown and kept under lock and key with  Control Force Firm Hold Hairspray, £23. The ends were free of product to keep a natural finish.
Once the hair had set, sections were clipped to the nape of the neck and around the ears, then undone just as models were about to head on stage. Photo Courtesy of Aveda

David Koma

"This look is all about the skin," said Illamasqua’s director of artistry, Pablo Rodriguez. "My aim was to create super natural, clean and beautiful fresh skin. I only used a couple of products to create a fresh face, starting with Illamasqua’s Hydra Veil, £34, to prime. I then flourished the skin with a translucent loose powder and Skin Base Concealer, £22, to create a matte finish."

The focal point was most definitely the eye. "I glazed the lid with a highly pigmented Glamore Lipstick in Buff, £20, which I also dabbed on the lip for models with a darker skin tone." Other models wore shade Sonnet, £20, on the lips. "This lipstick has peach undertones which enhanced their complexion and took the fresh-faced look to the next level. To finish, I used the Brow And Lash Gel in Clear, £14, to shape the natural brows." Photo Courtesy of Illamasqua

Richard Quinn

"For this look, we wanted to bring in ballerina or Russian doll-like elements with strong blush," said Dominic Skinner for MAC Cosmetics. Using various shades of MAC Powder Blush, £19.50, depending on the model's skin tone, makeup artists washed the pink hues over the cheeks and flushed a little over the eye for a monochrome finish.
The eyeliner definitely stole the show, though. "We extended the idea of ballerinas or Russian dolls by going deep, dark and straight with the liquid liner ( MAC's Liquidlast, £17.50), as though the model is a doll in a factory and the liner been stamped or painted on." In the waterline, Dominic and his team applied white eyeliner and went over this with a lime green shade, which complemented the pink and mimicked a "country garden".

"We flashed the eyes, cheeks and Cupid's bow with MAC's Reflects Transparent Glitter, £16.50, so the skin almost looks like a shrink wrap," added Dominic. A slick of MAC'S Extended Black Gigablack Lash Mascara, £16.50, to delicately separate each individual lash completed the pretty look.

Ashley Williams

"Ashley's world is eclectic, fun, goth, feminine and easy," said Alex Brownsell, founder of BLEACH London. Each model had an entirely different look. "For some, we attached electric blue hair extensions to Ashley's signature clips and positioned them at the back of the head to create fake mullets. Other models have box braids intertwined with these blue hairpieces and for the rest, we've placed numerous clips in a semicircle at the side of the head to give the illusion of a shaved side or undercut."

Two-tone hair also reigned supreme with one model sporting BLEACH's I Saw Red Super Cool Colour, £6.50, throughout the top half of her hair and jet black lengths underneath, radiating emo vibes.

To create an undone texture, hairstylists used BLEACH London Hair Elixir Oil, £7, and Swamp Spritz, £6.

Richard Malone

Fusing masculine traits with 1920s dandies, Richard Phillipart whipped up "military precision flat waves" at Richard Malone, making sure that they felt slightly boyish, rather than too feminine, like finger waves.

"It's about blurring the gender binary with a masculine look at the front and feminine ponytails at the back," Richard told R29. "We used the BaByliss Pro Titanium Expression 25mm Tong, £65, 9000 Cordless Straightener, £200, and the ItaliaBRAVA Hairdryer, £120, complete with a diffuser to sculpt the hair, which was laden with mousse, gel and then hairspray."

Side partings were exaggerated and the waves were lifted at the front to play on the masculine feel, almost like a cowlick.

On makeup, Illamasqua's director of artistry, Pablo Rodruiguez wanted things to be simple but pretty. Pablo mixed Illamasqua's Skin Base Foundation, £33, with Hydra Veil Primer, £34, as he wanted the coverage to be minimal. "For the eyebrows, we needed them to be straight, like Natalie Portman or Brooke Shields, so we didn't accentuate the arch. Instead, we filled in sparse hairs with eyeshadow shade Desdemona, from the Illamasqua Elemental Artistry Palette, £38."

Lashes were curled but kept free of mascara, save for a dab of clear gloss on the lids. Illamasqua's Powder Blusher in Naked Rose, £23, took centre stage, but not on the apples of the cheeks. Instead, placement was lower down, as though models had come in from the cold sporting wind-dappled cheeks. To finish, a touch of Loaded Lip Polish in Grind, £19, patted on with fingertips kept lips nude and natural.


At Temperley, makeup artist Sofia Schwarzkopf-Tilbury for Charlotte Tilbury looked to Hollywood in the jazz age for inspiration. Before foundation, skin was perfected with Magic Cream, £49, and Hollywood Flawless Filter, £34.

Lids were dressed in lashings of gold eyeshadow from the Luxury Palette in Queen of Glow, £40, concentrated to the centre for a halo of light, and a jet-black cat eye using The Feline Flick in Panther, £22, and Rock’n’ Kohl in Bedroom Black, £19, for added intensity.

After defining the lips with Lip Cheat in Savage Rose, £17, Sofia lacquered on the Matte Revolution in Red Carpet Red, £25, or Hot Lips in Tell Laura, £25, chosen based on the shade which best complemented the model’s skin tone. A slick of cream highlighter courtesy of the Beauty Light Wand, £29, dialled up the glow.

Aveda took over hair with stylist Britt Dion at the helm. There were three looks in total: braids, bouncy bobs and flat barrel curls.

Models with braids had their baby hairs fashioned into loops and curls, while the bouncy bobs were inspired by the wedge or triangle shape of vintage hairstyles. "Think French girl, curls bouncing in the wind," Britt said. Stylists used a flat barrel curling tong, brushed the curls to break them up slightly and slathered on Aveda Nutriplenish Multi-Use Hair Oil, £30.

For the larger waves, Aveda's Phomollient Styling Foam, £19, was used all over to create volume, then stylists looked to a wide-tooth comb to mould hair into shape. Once dry, Control Force Firm Hold Hairspray, £23, was misted over the crown.

Matty Bovan

When MAC makeup artist Miranda Joyce emailed Matty Bovan for inspiration for this beauty look, he pinpointed American actress and writer, Cookie Mueller (namely her bold eye makeup) as his muse. Miranda tried all-encompassing black eyeshadow but mentioned it looked too gothic. So she settled on fuchsia ( MAC's Eyeshadow in Passionate, £10) with a touch of coral in the inner corner to highlight, and "Tippex white" ( MAC's Eyeshadow in Gesso, £15).

"It's painty, punky and really works with the graphic fringe some models have," Miranda told R29. "The trick is to really pack it onto the eye and make sure that the shape is round, not straight or winged out. For the skin, we kept it really raw. It made for a much nicer canvas, otherwise it would feel too makeuppy."


"Colours from the collection have been fused with foils to create this look using Peacci's vegan and cruelty-free nail polish in Jet Black, Bonfire, Jungle, Miami and Pumpkin," said manicurist Simone Cummings of these accent nails. "They are brave and living out fantasy through fashion."


For her second nail look, Peacci manicurist Simone Cummings opted for onyx black in the form of Jet Black, £10, with a layer of topcoat for brilliant shine. Talons were shaped into precarious points almost like claws to offset the dots framing the models' faces.


Taking cue from the polka dot pattern peppered throughout Rixo's collection and inspired by vintage Christian Lacroix, Rita Remark for Essie created a playful manicure using just two shades: Essie Nail Polish in Licorice, £7.99, and Blanc, £7.99. For picture perfect circles, Rita recommended alternating between a 'dotting' tool and the end of a makeup brush handle. "It's an easy way to get a luxe finish with something you already have at home," she said. Rita finished the look with lashings of Essie Nail Care Cuticle Oil Apricot Treatment, £8.99, to keep cuticles clean and nourished.


NARS global makeup artist Vincent Ford dreamed up two looks for Rixo – yellow and pink – and each one was seriously bold. "Rixo is partnering with Christian Lacroix, which made me think of early '00s shows which were all about goth and haute couture. I married the two by creating a soft smoky eye using the shades Savage and Aroused from the new NARS Overlust Cheek Palette, £46, applied in a boomerang shape."

For eyes, Vincent alternated between Duoro Eyeshadow, £17, a matte bright yellow, and Fatale Eyeshadow, £17, a bright red. A small dot of either Powerchrome Loose Eye Pigment in Riding High or Naked City (both available in spring at and NARS boutiques) was applied in the inner corner for a pop of shimmer, while lips were patted with the Afterglow Lip Balm in both Turbo and Torrid, £23 each.


"This is skin from heaven," said Terry Barber for MAC Cosmetics. "It's transparent and perfected using Face and Body Foundation, £27," Terry continued, but the glitter eye was the main event. "It's a small glitter moment reminiscent of when light hits water. A glimmer. We used MAC Glitter in Iridescent White, £16.50, which isn't opaque, too disco or carnival-like. Instead, it's very sweet."

The application process was simple. Terry slicked MAC's Lip Glass Clear, £16.50, around the eyes like a halo and delicately sprinkled on the flecks of glitter.

Fashion East

At Gareth Wrighton for Fashion East, MAC's Terry Barber created "a slightly dystopian story of cheerleaders and American footballers who have got locked into some weird zombie movie meets computer game."

Terry gave some of the models 'YouTube' makeup (flawless cut creases, sharp winged liner, fluttery false lashes and a killer contour). He finished the look with a plaster across the nose and chose to keep the translucent powder on the jawline. "This is a little story about different characters pulling from the iconography of video games."

Fashion East

Designer GOOMHEO enlisted MAC's Terry Barber for this "slightly '90s, dirty, sick eye". Terry mixed MAC's Pro Longwear Paint Pot in Groundwork, £16.50, with Chromaline Eyeliner in Genuine Orange, £17.50.

Other models had "rained on mascara" smudged underneath the lower lash line, as though they had been caught without an umbrella.

Preen By Thornton Bregazzi

At Preen By Thornton Bregazzi, Eugene Souleiman for Wella took inspiration from the renaissance. Hair was "sprayed to death" with hairspray, fashioned into a ponytail and braided. After a while, the braids were taken out, which resulted in a crimped wave. 

The pièce de résistance was layer upon layer of gold leaf, which was moulded and looped around the ears by Sam Bryant for MAC Cosmetics. Sam played on the renaissance style by giving a nod to Venetian statues and the Catholic church. Some models had gold leaf across their forehead and down the side of the face to mimic a nun’s habit. "Whenever we see statues or portraits of the Virgin Mary, they are always hyper-shiny," Sam told R29. "We also gave the complexion the same look with MAC’s upcoming Strobe Face Glaze, a liquid highlighter, using a damp sponge to press it into the skin." 

Lashes were naked save for a quick curl, brows were brushed up and a touch of peach lipstick in Fleur d’Coral, £17.50, was applied low down on the cheeks with two fingers in a downwards patting motion for a ruddy finish.

Emilia Wickstead

Dyson took charge of hair at Emilia Wickstead, with stylist Benjamin Muller behind the "super masculine" look. A deep parting was carved into hair to counteract the glamour. Instead, it evoked that '90s, dead-straight trend. "It’s strong, positive and super sleek," said Benjamin. 

Benjamin used lashings of Bumble and bumble Bb. Anti Humidity Gel Oil, £24, and Bb. Thickening Dryspun Texture Spray, £22, to give hair lift when blow-drying with the hairdryer all stylists love, Dyson Supersonic, £299.99. The key is enlisting the attachment to ensure a poker-straight finish. A slight wave was incorporated into the front and set in place with the Dyson Supersonic diffuser attachment. Bumble and bumble Spray de Mode Hairspray, £25, and a few spritzes of the Bumble and bumble Glow Thermal Protection Mist, £24, added shine.

The glow came courtesy of Aurelia Skincare, who treated models to a speedy facial using the Aurelia Probiotic Skincare Miracle Cleanser, £42, and Cell Revitalise Day Moisturiser, £58

Makeup was all about really beautiful, raw skin to allow the colour-laden clothing collection to do all the talking. Some models were given bleached brows and all were adorned with a gold lip, thanks to the Illamasqua Cream Pigment, £18. The skin shades were cool, with just a little MAC Studio Face & Body Foundation, £27, and Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion Ultra-Longwear Concealer, £25, where needed. Photo Courtesy of Dyson


"Roksanda is always about polished skin," said Miranda Joyce for MAC Cosmetics. "I wanted to keep this light, so I took my time to perfect the skin and groom the brows." Try MAC Brow Set, £16, for hazy definition.

The talking point was the dark raspberry lip. "I used the Powder Kiss Liquid Lip Colour (available soon) in Burning Love," said Miranda. "It has an almost waxy texture which is easy to layer. It builds really nicely and creates a strong, intense colour."

In the meantime, try MAC Powder Kiss Lipstick, £17.50, in the same shade.


On behalf of Dyson, hairstylist Anthony Turner created hair that was "out of the ordinary" and inspired by English photographer, Cecil Beaton. Each style had flashes of silver running through it, a theme seen throughout Cecil's art. Some models wore entire silver-sprayed wigs, while others wore masculine waves moulded close to the ear with ponytails to complement.

"The hair is meant to reflect feminine masculinity," said Anthony. "We used L'Oréal Professionnel Tecni.Art Fix Max, £17.99, through the top of the hair and carved out a very strong side parting. The wave is not a finger wave, which feels old and costume-like. Instead, it's set behind the ear. It looks like a paint stroke."

For NARS, Lynsey Alexander paid homage to Cecil, too. Lids were embellished with swathes of silver leaf which was then fragmented using a makeup brush. Brows were bleached and taped upwards to create an "alien-like" effect. On cheeks, Lynsey used NARS Lipstick in Sex Shuffle, £22, teamed with Laguna Bronzing Powder, £31, to give a strong, 3D highlight. Skin was also made slightly paler using a foundation that was one or two shades lighter than the model's skin tone.

For models who hadn't had their brows bleached, Lynsey gave them a brushed-up boyish vibe, fluffing different shades of eyeshadow through sparse hairs. Lynsey employed the NARS Single Eyeshadow in Bali, Blondie and Coconut Grove, £17 each.

Christopher Kane

Lucia Pieroni for MAC Cosmetics created "gorgeous, fresh and rich-looking skin" using the MAC Pro Face Palette, £30. "It has a low level, quiet glow about it," one backstage artist told R29.

The focal points were the eyes and the lips. Artists mixed MAC Glitter in Pink and Fuchsia Hologram, £16.50 each, with Lipglass Clear, £16, to create a gel which was patted over lips and lids for a playful My Little Pony-esque spattering of colour.

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