One hour until showtime and the backstage scene is oddly calm — models sip tea and check their Weibo (China's Twitter), a few hair dryers a-whir. "Can you believe we've done 187 models?" quips Armani makeup head, Linda Cantello, who's been on set for seven hours.
With a megashow that is technically three parts (for Armani's three distinct collections) comes multiple chapters in hair and makeup, too: For the ready-to-wear opener, clean skin is punctuated by dark, smoky eyes and smooth hair; for couture, geometric eyeliner is the focus.
And while prepping models to Armani's exacting standards is top priority for Cantello, she also uses her station as a makeshift product test lab. Her latest masterpiece is Maestro, a serum-foundation hybrid that weightlessly perfects skin — not that these models, all porcelain skin and cheekbones galore, need any help.
"The makeup for Privé was inspired by the angular eyeliner and bare lips a model sported to a fitting. Of course, we refined it, but Mr. Armani wanted the show to reflect Chinese women." — Cantello
"For Asian faces, I'll change, say, the curve of the liner for almond eyes and adapt the blush — these girls have killer cheekbones!" — Cantello
"Maestro works like foundation but it feels like nothing on skin. It has no water or powder pigment. Instead, we used five nurturing oils, whittled down from 10,000 initially tested for the formula." — Linda Cantello