After more than two years of maintaining statecraft levels of secrecy, Pat McGrathsteps into a glass conference room in her Manhattan studio and snaps the curtains closed, fussing over the gossamer fabric to make sure her staff can’t peek inside. “No one has seen this yet,” she says giddily, unloading a series of tubes and compacts from a bejeweled Prada sac—a gift from Miuccia—onto two velvet-lined trays. It is an early morning in late May, a few days before the influential makeup artist will accept the Founder’s Award at the CFDA Awards, and a few weeks before she will fly to Paris to create a holographic crimson lip for Maison Margiela, a highlight of the fall couture calendar. Today’s reveal marks another milestone for McGrath, one that is particularly special to her: After 25 years in the industry, and six limited-run launches from her brand, Pat McGrath Labs, “Mother”—as she is commonly known in the fashion community—is ready to reveal her first core collection of color cosmetics. “It’s major,” she whispers.
Whether McGrath—who is regularly summoned by Donatella Versace, John Galliano, and brands like Alexander McQueen and Valentino—would launch a full line was never a matter of if, but when. Following years of developing for other people, the self-proclaimed “ultimate makeup junkie” struck out on her own in 2015, flash-selling one-off creations produced by a group of handpicked international cosmetics factories. The wildly popular glitter-lip kits and metallic-eye foils nodded to McGrath’s “hoards” of samples and vintage compacts that are cataloged in a vaultlike space downtown. “But these products represent the crown jewels of my archive,” she says of the three shadow palettes, 40 lipsticks, five eye pencils, eleven lip pencils, “and one magnificent mascara” that round out the new range. (McGrath is mum on whether foundation and other skin-perfecters are in the works, emphasizing that, for now, she is focused on “resetting the rules of how color can be worn.”)
Labs and its frenzy-inducing, digital-only deals will continue to “push the limits of what makeup is about,” McGrath insists. But the core collection, which hits patmcgrath.com at midnight on September 16th and Sephora counters, where it will be available exclusively, in early October, manages to more formally harness the drama, fantasy, and personal touch that are McGrath hallmarks: a thumbprint of her new, perfectly pitched shimmering lilac shadow with the give of velvet and the texture of silk, pressed daintily onto model Yasmin Wijnaldum’s lids at Peter Dundas’s resort debut this summer; an unbelievable powder-laced lipstick that models were demanding backstage at Prada’s resort show, where McGrath workshopped samples of the impossibly matte, yet ultra-creamy cherry-colored pigment. “I drove myself and my team mad in pursuit of a level of excellence on a timeline that no beauty conglomerate could ever allow,” she says of these exacting details, honed over decades of on-set experience—and a lot of arm-swatching.
“Her makeup is more of an art form,” says Slick Woods of what makes McGrath’s products so cultish. The model’s career skyrocketed last year after she joined the small army of McGrath’s muses, who are often scouted via Instagram, a platform she has leveraged to foster real-world collaboration better than most; beyond a mere #regram, McGrath has recruited members of her team through liked posts, and found “terrifically talented” artists to illustrate her custom packaging. That kind of democratizing spirit is deeply resonant. “That’s why I respect Pat’s work the most,” Woods adds.