9 Things We Learned from Pat McGrath's Maison Margiela Makeup Masterclass

*Furiously takes notes.*

Maison Margiela
(Image credit: Maison Margiela)

Since Maison Margiela’s Artisanal Spring/Summer 2024 show on January 25, the world hasn’t been able to stop talking about Pat McGrath’s unique, iconic makeup for the show. The look, which varied from model to model, was designed to make the models look like porcelain dolls, and boasted a glossy finish that looked uncannily like glass. And today, because of all the hype, Dame Pat McGrath hosted a live masterclass on Instagram and TikTok that unpacked how, exactly, she and her team achieved this history-making glam.

“I’ve never seen a makeup look go so viral,” she admitted upon beginning the class, “and we’re so proud.” She went on to praise John Galliano, who created the gorgeous fashion for the Margiela collection and shared with McGrath his finish of bringing traditional porcelain dolls to life. She then thanked her fans, old and new, for supporting her hard work.

“For it to have become a global phenomenon has been so heartwarming,” she said. 

Below, we share some of the most fascinating, internet-breaking tidbits we learned from Pat McGrath’s generous masterclass, from her own makeup journey to the nuts and bolts of creating these iconic looks. 

Imperfection is Key

"It’s not perfect, it’s mean to be poetic," McGrath says of the look, and this philosophy translated to every part of her process. For instance, the master makeup artist employed her signature technique of eschewing brushes in favor of her fingers in order to create "a real poetic depth," in her words. She also took care not to wing out the models' eye makeup, and in when applying pigment to their lips and cheeks, she and her team used their fingers to blur the edges so that there were "no hard lines."

Fashion Week Runs on Teamwork

McGrath and her team admit that preparing for fashion week is a laborious, high-pressure endeavor, explaining that they tried over 300 looks before narrowing it down to the final few. Then, they practiced their timing every single day from January 5 to January 25 (the day of the show), especially since the look took up to two hours to create, depending on how many people were working on each model.

During the 7:30 AM call time, the team worked in teams of two on models, and employed 15 people on spray machines, 30 doing makeup, and an additional slew of assistance. Pat called the endeavor a matter of "military precision," saying that it was all about working together as one, being on time, holding it together, and "keeping the joy" in the process in spite of the pressure. The result, she says was a "symphony of beauty."

model for Pat McGrath

(Image credit: Pat McGrath)

Contrast Is the Key to Depth

Whether she was working on lips, eyes, or cheeks, McGrath used contrasting colors in each aspect of her look in order to create a sense of depth. On the brows, for instance, she began with using a light tone in order to "[keep] the color of the brow a real cool tone," and then she dipped her brush in water and added thin, hair-like strokes in a darker shade in order "to give that painted doll effect."

On the eyes, she also used multiple colors in order to achieve depth, including several shades on her Mothership One Palette, kryolan skin for an "otherworldly," doll-like, 1930s-inspired look, and a bit of foundation.

Meanwhile, on the lips, she used brown eyeliner in the center of the top lip to create depth and “that real porcelain doll effect," and then used a semi-sheer lipstick (such as her Guinivere MatteTrance Lipstick), building up the shade in the center of the lip and then allowing it to grow more transparent towards the edges.

Finally, when it came to blush, McGrath and her team used both her color bomb blushes and her powder formulas, using fingers for the former and a wide brush for the latter in order to "soft blur" them out on the outside.

Pat McGrath Starts Every Look with the Same Palette

Pat McGrath's Mothership I is already an iconic palette, but did you know that she, too, swears by it? In her masterclass, McGrath revealed that this palette is the one that she has used in every single show, for every look, in her entire career—if only as a base for each unique creation. Talk about a versatile product!

Special Effects Glue Was Major

Multiple online sleuths determined that McGrath had to have been using glue on this look, and she readily admitted so. Her first use of glue was for the models' brow blocking: After ensuring that each model's eyebrows were clean and free of oil (she used alcohol or witch hazel for this, advising the models to first close their eyes), and then used a water-based special effects glue to ensure that the models' brow hairs were locked down against their skin.

Later, she said that glue was also applied to parts of the face in order to ensure longevity, since the models had to retain their looks for at least three houts. The glue was applied to areas like the edges of the mouth, the edges of the nose, and the areas under the nostrils, all of which are areas prone to smudging, feathering, or cracking.

model for Pat McGrath

(Image credit: Pat McGrath)

How to Make Sure Your Brows Are Even

Ever have trouble making sure your brows are even? Apparently, so do makeup artists. And while I sigh and tell myself, "sisters, not twins," after finishing a slightly lopsided brow look, the professionals seem to have the answers. To guarantee perfection in the pencil-thin brow looks at the Margiela show, McGrath's team stretched floss across the models' brows. However, they said you could use anything with a straight edge, from an index card to a book, to ensure perfect symmetry.

model for Pat McGrath

(Image credit: Pat McGrath)

How She Achieved that Glossy Finish

First, McGrath dispelled the notion that she made heavy use of powder at the end of the look, saying that she and her team actually used very minimal powder, employing it with a light hand in very particular places, such as under the eye in order to enhance the blurred look. 

Then, she jumped into a description of the element we’d all be waiting to learn about: the ultra shiny, porcelain-like finish. For this, she and her team creating a gooey mix of peel-off masks, including affordable single-use sachet masks that you can buy from places like Amazon and Target. She used a spoon to show off how shiny and glossy the mixture was, then explained that her team airbrushed the mix onto the models’ skin for several minutes (and a number of layers), using a spoon to cover sensitive areas like the models’ eyes, lips, and nostrils. That—not the powder—resulted in the glowing, light-refracting finish we’ve all been admiring. 

Most impressive of all? The models’ faces, she boasted, weren’t remotely sticky. To dry the look, she used a hair dryer on medium heat.

Each Model Had a Distinctive Look

McGrath’s creations for this show have been lauded for many reasons, one of which being that she retained each model’s individuality. During her masterclass, she said that each look was “never a carbon copy” of another, and that each glam look was based on the Margiela dress worn by the model. Each dress, she says, lent itself to a custom character.

“Everybody became their own character,” she iterated more than once. In particular, she said, the team “has a bit of fun” creating unique eye looks. Most importantly, they “customized this look to everybody's skin type and needs" in order to ensure that every model felt comfortable.

Pat's Been Experimenting with Makeup Her Whole Life

As she and her team were recreating these look on the models, McGrath fielded questions from fans and viewers. In the process, she revealed that she's been using makeup for basically her whole life, admitting, "I was an early starter."

When she was only six years old, the ever-innovative McGrath apparently used her mother's pigmented lipstick as a lip, cheek, and eye balm. As her team marveled at the early ingenuity, uncommon in a child (when I was that age, I clumsily smeared my mom's products all over my mouth), McGrath said that she ignored onlookers' (semi-judgmental) curiosity about what was on her face.

The result? A legend in the making.

Pat Has New Products on the Way

During the masterclass, McGrath used a pale pink powder underneath the first model's eyes, joking that the product must seem unfamiliar to viewers and saying that it was a new product she was teasing. Later, she also said that she'd soon be releasing her own peel-off mask. Both announcements caused joyful chaos in the comments, with fans exclaiming that they were at the ready to invest in anything McGrath was prepared to give them.

Until then, scroll on for the products this glam genius used to create her history-making looks. I, for one, already have my credit card at the ready.

Shop The Products McGrath's Team Used

Gabrielle Ulubay
Beauty Writer

Gabrielle Ulubay is a Beauty Writer at Marie Claire. She has also written about sexual wellness, politics, culture, and fashion at Marie Claire and at publications including The New York Times, HuffPost Personal, Bustle, Alma, Muskrat Magazine, O'Bheal, and elsewhere. Her personal essay in The New York Times' Modern Love column kickstarted her professional writing career in 2018, and that piece has since been printed in the 2019 revised edition of the Modern Love book. Having studied history, international relations, and film, she has made films on politics and gender equity in addition to writing about cinema for Film Ireland, University College Cork, and on her personal blog, gabrielleulubay.medium.com. Before working with Marie Claire, Gabrielle worked in local government, higher education, and sales, and has resided in four countries and counting. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, and spent two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy.

Deeply political, she believes that skincare, haircare, and sexual wellness are central tenets to one's overall health and fights for them to be taken seriously, especially for people of color. She also loves studying makeup as a means of artistic expression, drawing on her experience as an artist in her analysis of beauty trends. She's based in New York City, where she can be found watching movies or running her art business when she isn't writing. Find her on Twitter at @GabrielleUlubay or on Instagram at @gabrielle.ulubay, or follow her art at @suburban.graffiti.art

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