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AN ELEGANT SHADE OF AUTUMN : While Strong Hues Make Fashion News, New Makeup Keeps the Face in Focus

August 14, 1988|PADDY CALISTRO

IN THE MONTHS TO COME, American women--especially those in Los Angeles and New York City--will be wearing more makeup than they have in years. Or at least it will appear that way, according to the world's leading cosmetics manufacturers. Autumn's fashions are rich with vibrant reds, purples and greens. The fashionable face will be highlighted with equally intense colors for eyes and lips.

Foundations and cheek colors are of secondary importance to the eyes, mouth and nails, which tell the entire color story of the season. Deep purple eyelids, violet lashes and sumptuously scarlet lips offset complexions lightened with matte bisque, ivory and alabaster foundations. Unless defined by nature, cheekbones are hardly noticeable except for a hint of pale powder blusher.

A subtle detail--the matte finish--may turn out to be the most distinctive and lasting feature of the fall makeup picture. Shine has given way to an all-over smoothness. After seasons of luminous finishes and opalescent glows, why the change? Industry experts say the answer is consumer demand. "Frost doesn't look as good on older skin. And women with disposable incomes are growing older," explains Andrea Robinson, who for eight years was the beauty editor of Vogue magazine before she became president of Ultima II, a division of Revlon.

Frosted, glossy and opalescent makeups magnify wrinkles; matte finishes minimize them. It's an art-school theory put to practical use. When women rediscovered powders late last year, they realized that a matte finish seemed to reduce the appearance of fine lines. Suddenly, matte was the most in-demand look. This fall, even lipsticks will have a no-shine finish.

Some makeup specialists cite other factors behind the move to matte. Nita Silverman, senior vice president of marketing for Yves Saint Laurent Parfums, which distributes YSL Beaute products, notes that matte-finish cosmetics are compatible with fall fashions. "Not only is the color matched, but so is the texture. When a designer shows silk, makeup is shiny. But with fall corduroys and wool gabardines, a matte finish is the texture of choice."

Like fashion designers, cosmetics manufacturers plan their collections well in advance of presentation. Developing strategies for makeup color collections begins 18 to 24 months before the cosmetics hit the department-store beauty counters. With hope of coordinating their colors to the fashion collections, cosmetics marketing executives and makeup designers meet with trend forecasters and the producers of synthetic and natural fibers to view the fabric colors of the upcoming season.

With trends in mind and dyed threads in hand, these marketing executives report their findings to chemists, whose task it is to create cosmetics that match or coordinate. Nick Mottola, director of marketing development for Elizabeth Arden, says: "All things are possible when a marketing executive and a chemist get together, but you need development time to make the formulas wearable." Some lipstick formulations don't work with certain dyes. Some European shades are made with dyes forbidden in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration. So the chemist has to reformulate the product using approved ingredients. All this takes time, "at least 10 months of development," Mottola says.

The fabrics and colors that influence fall makeup reflect the period in which they were researched. "Costumes for the film 'The Last Emperor' were being sewn in Europe. The extravagance of 'The Phantom of the Opera' was the talk of European fabric and design houses," explains Susan Biehn, senior vice president of creative services for Christian Dior perfumes and cosmetics. "These influences led to a fall fashion season rich with baroque color." At the House of Guerlain, color expert Dominique Szabo says that a display of 18th-Century paintings by Jean-Honore Fragonard inspired her to create a collection rich in deep rose and blue hues.

"We haven't seen this level of sophistication in makeup in a while. The brighter colors brighten the face," says Vivian Behrens, vice president of marketing for Estee Lauder. "The luxe fabrics, the sumptuous textures and the paisley patterns of the fall fashion collections were all influences."

The amethyst, ruby and sapphire palette that emerged is warmed with touches of gold. "There are threads of gold throughout the fall fashion collections," says Mary Boyette, vice president of marketing for Stendhal. "So on the face, gold accent is the only element of shine in an otherwise matte season."

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