Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Artist, trailblazer and beauty industry pioneer: Pat McGrath set to receive damehood

It’s not often that beauty-obsessives are thrilled after the Queen’s New Year’s honours list. This year, however, they have reason to celebrate after finding out that Pat McGrath, beauty industry pioneer, was honoured with a damehood in the Queen’s New Year 2021 honours list. Not only that, but she is the first member of the beauty industry to receive one.

The award follows an impressive three-decade-long career in the beauty industry as one of the most revered artists for her spectacular editorial work. McGrath’s other-worldly concepts and designs reassess beauty in the modern age, making use of striking colours and materials such as feathers, lace, pearls, and prosthetics.

As Vogue’s beauty editor-at-large alongside editor-in-chief and long-term collaborator, Edward Enninful, McGrath’s art skillfully transposes and challenges traditional expectations of beauty.

McGrath’s efforts have truly revolutionised the inclusivity of the modern beauty industry

In a conversation with Vogue, McGrath said: “I am especially honoured that this award is also for diversity, colour access across the spectrum is my life’s work and inspiration.”

Indeed, McGrath’s efforts have truly revolutionised the inclusivity of the modern beauty industry. McGrath’s love for makeup catalysed as a young girl, raised by her mother, Jean, in Northampton. She has often cited her mother as her greatest inspiration.

At a time in the 1980s and 1990s when the industry was unaccommodating to people of colour, her mother encouraged McGrath to get creative with makeup, mixing pigments from scratch to get exactly the right shade.

She is truly a makeup lover to her core

“There was no makeup for women of colour. NOTHING,” McGrath reflects in an interview with The Guardian. “That’s what my mother’s search was all about. When we were out shopping we were always looking for a product that, probably by accident rather than design, worked for us. Where there was no ashiness, no ‘white-cast’, probably from some makeup line that had either discontinued it or gone bust.”

This was set to change when McGrath entered the industry. In 2015, Pat McGrath Labs was launched, catering to an extensive range of skin tones. With incredible popularity, by 2019, the company was valued at $1bn.

What is most beautiful about seeing McGrath honoured for her efforts is she is truly a makeup lover to her core. Creating the looks for over 80 major fashion shows a year, McGrath obviously has a large personal collection of cosmetics. However, just how large a collection may come as a shock. McGrath has admitted that she has filled 4,000 square feet of storage with her products.

McGrath seeks to redefine common conceptions of what beauty means through her work

“I’ve collected everything for about 25 years. I’d go into a department store now and just buy everything. It’s who I am. I just love cosmetics”, said McGrath.

In a demonstration of her whirlwind romance with beauty and cosmetics, McGrath seeks to redefine common conceptions of what beauty means through her work. Using a great variety of models from all walks of life, and of all shapes and sizes, perhaps the most admirable trait of McGrath is her willingness and success in pushing boundaries. In an industry known for its unrelenting criticism and infamously narrow constraints on what it means to be beautiful, McGrath defines beauty as individuality and a unique disposition.

“It’s about pushing boundaries,” says McGrath, in a discussion about her use of models. “I believe absolutely, the world wants something different, people want back their individuality.”

Knowing her audience is one of her key strengths

In her own distinctive style, McGrath uses her rare vision to tap into a market of like-minded beauty obsessives. Individuals who, like her, have a healthy obsession with makeup in all the comfort and expression it brings. Individuals who, like her, will continually refresh the page until their favourite item is restocked or a new product is launched. Individuals who recognise the symbolism of makeup as a celestial art form.

Ultimately, Pat McGrath’s style is a conceptual phenomenon, resting on the foundations of self-expression; it is an exploration of how far concrete and repressive strictures can be pushed. In fact, she smashes the repressive walls of the beauty industry to pieces.

Knowing her audience is one of her key strengths. The online beauty geek is an audience that Pat McGrath Labs truly caters for. The products the company produces don’t stand out for their elaborate packaging, or their elaborate marketing strategies. The products stand out on their own – her minimalistic packaging only serves to demonstrate that the product itself is what is yearned for by consumers.

McGrath unleashes a transformative power through her art

McGrath herself has admitted that was her sole aim in the design of her product’s packaging: “No weights, no metals, the jewel is the product itself.”

While a student budget doesn’t cater to my fervent desire to invest in Pat McGrath products, I will be closely watching. McGrath unleashes a transformative power through her art, one which is tranquil, refreshing, and exciting all at the same time.

Plus, in an era where we are rethinking harmful beauty standards and rebuilding an industry from scratch, whatever McGrath says, goes.

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