This May Be The Most Powerful Beauty Statement Of NYFW

Photographed by Emily Howe.
The first thing that caught my eye when I entered the backstage area at Opening Ceremony yesterday was a teenage model wearing face-lift tape. Now, in any other instance, I'd start to panic — how on earth are you going to lift and tighten the face of a girl who hasn't even graduated high school yet? Have we reached peak Fashion Week madness? But knowing the brand and the creative forces behind it, I figured there had to be more to the story.

And, of course, there was. In their thought-provoking and political spring 2017 show, designers Humberto Leon and Carol Lim put on a faux beauty pageant designed to challenge the status quo. "Pageants are known for enforcing traditional beauty standards, but our 'Pageant of the People' subverts that norm," read the opening show notes — and subversive it was, from the casting to the makeup.

In addition to traditional runway models, Leon and Lim enlisted several celebrities — Whoopi Goldberg, Aidy Bryant, Rashida Jones, and Aubrey Plaza among them — to walk in the show and represent diversity in size and skin color. For the beauty look, Maybelline makeup artist Yadim exaggerated the eyeliner and eyebrows, added white highlighter to the browbones, and then adhered face tape to the temples of a dozen or so models — a contrast with the "real" women in the show.

It was this juxtaposition — lithe teens with "cosmetic work" next to women who have embraced what Hollywood would have labeled as flaws not too long ago — that drove Leon and Lim's point home. Inclusivity on the runway is long overdue, and by having a 'Pageant of the People,' Opening Ceremony showed us that the "traditional" standard of beauty is over — and, frankly, boring. "We're redefining beauty in ways we never did before," Yadim said backstage.

It's a powerful sentiment that's particularly appropriate during Fashion Week. The majority of women in the U.S. aren't sample-sized — in fact, the average size is 14, and designers are becoming more and more receptive to the pleas for representation of a wider range of body types and skin tones on the runway. Change can certainly be uncomfortable — but it beats wearing Frankenstein tape around.
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