The Italian Job

Cosmetics queen Pat McGrath pulls out all her best moves for Dolce & Gabbana The Make Up.


You know you’re overworked when running a load through the washing machine feels like a vacation. “I looove doing my laundry,” purrs makeup artist Pat McGrath over the phone from her London flat, where she’s spending a Friday night folding and fluffing. “When you’re doing the laundry, you’re resting, and I am just exhausted.”

It’s little wonder. The world-renowned face painter not only jets around the globe, working her magic at fashion shows, on editorial sittings and for ad campaigns, but she has also emerged as the go-to product developer for cosmetics brands. McGrath took her first crack at creating a makeup collection in 1999, dreaming up a luxe, ultrawearable line for Giorgio Armani. In 2004 she moved over to Procter & Gamble, signing on as global creative design director for Cover Girl and Max Factor. And this past spring she debuted yet another project: Dolce & Gabbana The Make Up. The collection, also produced by P&G, quickly developed a following; one lipstick in particular, a deep, fuchsia-tinged red called Dahlia, had a waiting list even before it hit stores.

Whereas Armani was centered on perfect neutrals, the cosmetic equivalent of the Milanese designer’s minimal suits, Dolce & Gabbana The Make Up—like Dolce & Gabbana the clothing—is sexy, intense and bold. “You enter the world of that designer and you respect their world,” says McGrath of her creative process.

During the 17 years she has been wielding her powder puff backstage, McGrath has created some runway doozies, including blue faces at the spring 2003 John Galliano show, and models masquerading as deer—eyes circled in white and with Bambi lashes—for fall 2004 Viktor & Rolf. She’s equally adept, however, at making women straightforwardly stunning. For Dolce & Gabbana, where she has made up the catwalkers for the past decade, the look has remained sophisticated lady. It’s an aesthetic, the bubbly Brit explains, that syncs with the new beauty zeitgeist. “Fully glamorous is in for the coming season,” she says, predicting “a return to full makeup, femininity and warmth.”

In mixing The Make Up’s fall hues, McGrath emphasized gold tones, taking her cue from the precious metal that signors Dolce and Gabbana favor for their accessories and hardware. She’s particularly proud of a warm gold eye shadow. “Metallic pigments can turn dirty, dark and flat when they’re blended on skin, so capturing and maintaining gold’s brilliant shine is tricky, but I think we achieved it,” says McGrath. Shimmer also shows up on nails in the form of metallized burgundy and grape polishes. For the sparkle-averse, there’s Fire, a bright, true red lip and nail hue. Scarlett Johansson, who is the face of the brand, will likely be reaching for this shade. “I’m going through a matte phase right now,” says the actress, via e-mail, adding that Perfect Finish Powder Foundation is her favorite item from the line. “It has such a creamy consistency, then it finishes matte.”

A stickler for details, McGrath concerned herself with the scent, the flavor and even the sound of the makeup as well as its look and feel. Some products are infused with a light rose fragrance, lipsticks taste like violet pastilles, and there’s a “satisfying click when the lipstick tubes and compacts are shut,” says McGrath. “We all decided that in order for Dolce & Gabbana The Make Up to be on par with the clothing, it had to be a multisensory experience.”