In the world of fashion and beauty, we're always concerned with the next big thing. What is the look of the moment? What's in, and what's out? As we continue into 2017, quickly approaching the year's first fashion month circuit, what better time to consider what trends are destined to dominate in the upcoming months? When we had the opportunity to sit down with James Kaliardos, legendary makeup artist and co-founder of Visionaire, we had to pick his brain on the subject and ask him to forecast the biggest makeup trends for 2017.
Kaliardos has been a fixture of the fashion world since the '80s, working with photographers from Annie Leibovitz to Mario Testino to the late Richard Avedon and creating the beauty looks for an all-star lineup of runway shows including Balenciaga, Chanel, Dior, and Rodarte (seen above). During his decade-spanning career, he's seen a laundry list of beauty trends come in and out of fashion, witnessing makeup evolve in formula and function, the entire time residing at the helm of it all as both artist and editor.
The perfect candidate to speak on trends past and present, Kaliardos recently teamed up with MAC to create a limited-edition collection emblematic of the direction he sees makeup moving in 2017. I met him in the lobby of L.A.'s Chateau Marmont ready to hear him spill every major makeup trend to expect in the upcoming months, but what he shared surprised me—in the best way possible.
Keep scrolling to see what James Kaliardos has to say about makeup trends—including the biggest trend right now and how it's epitomized in his new collection with MAC.
On Past Trends
"I feel like in the past we used to have real trends—like everyone would tweeze off their eyebrows or bleach their hair or do a classic red lip or something," Kaliardos recalled, reflecting on standout moments. "I do remember where suddenly, at least all the fashion girls would suddenly be wearing a red lip and no other makeup. Or they all suddenly tweezed their eyebrows when Francois Nars or Kevyn Aucoin did that."
As for today, the changing of the tides are less dramatic. "I just feel like now trends are harder to see," he admitted. "I mean, I know beauty editors report on them and their word on what we all do backstage—[but] I don't always see it."
On Creating Trends
Though a fashion-world multi-hyphenate, Kaliardos is skeptical of the role of makeup artist in creating the trends that are reflected in the streets. "When I did the dark lip for Rodarte, and then a few other shows also did it that season, a week later I definitely saw girls on New York City streets wearing a blackberry lip," he said. "And that, I thought, that's pretty cool to see something so quick because now the information is disseminated so fast."
But while Kaliardos admits he did see his runway look translated in real life, he doesn't claim to be setting the trends. "Whenever I go into a show situation, I'm not thinking of what's going to be a trend,” he admits. "I'm really thinking about what's appropriate for the designer and just what I'm feeling." He went on to call out Rodarte's eyebrow piercings and Rosie Assouline's pressed flowers as possible looks reiterated elsewhere, asking, "Is that a trend?" before answering his own question. "I don't really know the answer to that because I'm working on sort of the gut-instinct level." For him, a blue smoky eye is a creative impulse, and he wants women to allow themselves that freeform creativity as well.
On Following Trends
"I also feel like women should tap into and do their own thing too," insisted Kaliardos. Instead of following trends, "they should follow their heart and follow their own beauty, [their own] inner beauty advice because I feel like women know what they want to look like and are great balancing scales of what works on them and what doesn't and what they feel comfortable with."
Kaliardos is especially wary of makeup tutorials that are encouraging women to carbon copy looks they see online. "I live on a club block in New York City, so I actually see women who look like they sit at home and follow those and it’s like Whoa, tone it down,” he said. The over-the-top makeup look isn't even what bothers him the most. "It's sort of this following thing," he said. "I’d love to see following go away."
It's like a meditation where you can choose what you want to project into the world that day by how you do your makeup. Or maybe you don't do any makeup, and that's totally fine too.
The mass adoption of makeup trends hasn't always been the case. "When I first arrived in New York in the late '80s, there was so much individuation with looks," Kaliardos recalled. "Everyone looked different. People didn’t really look the same at all. It's like everyone had like crazy-bonkers looks, like really funny, amazing looks. Very stylish looks and over-the-top looks. But they were not the same."
Over the past couple of decade Kaliardos has seen a definite shift. "Now I see six girls and they're all wearing a version of the same outfit—their hair is the same, and their makeup is the same, and sometimes they even have the same type of necklace on or something, and it's weird. Does everyone send a memo out?" he joked. "You just become like a mannequin instead of a person. It's a weird thing."
His disdain for the mass trend stems from his encouragement to women to find their own strength in individuality. "I just feel like women have so much trouble being taken seriously around the world. I think it's an odd thing to see gangs of women looking the same when they could all look different," he stated. "And I don’t want to tell someone how to look—I mean, I will on a shoot, it's my point of view for artistic creation—but for a woman at home, I think she should really choose how she wants to look. It's for that moment you're in the mirror, and it's like a private moment that is very empowering."
On The Biggest Trend Right Now
Though he started working on his collection with MAC two years ago, the timing of its release couldn't be better. The makeup trend it puts forth—what Kaliardos names as the biggest trend of 2017—is exactly what the world needs right now. "My line really isn't about a trend," he said. "And I guess that it’s a larger trend, it's a kind of political trend." During the time he was creating his collection he ended up working with Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In a way it's the trend of diversity, which is a big trend. Far better than a red lipstick trend.
"I happened to meet all these powerful women, and it was so interesting to be thinking of all of that as I was making these colors," he reflected. "And how women can use cosmetics to empower themselves and to kind of communicate something about themselves, which they may not even have. A confidence that day or a powerful feeling can be put on your face. You might feel sort of rattled or insecure inside, but you can kind of have a strong eyebrow and go inside your job and get a raise or deal with your mother-in-law or who knows what. Women just have to deal with so much every day, and I just wanted to give them tools so that they could just have one thing they didn't have to really think about."
On How Trends Have Changed
Karliardos stressed that the trends today aren't necessarily new, they're just magnified because of media, particularly social media. "I've been doing [no-makeup makup] since the '90s. I feel like it's never really caught on the way the contour thing finally caught on big time," he aid. "I mean it's funny some things we do really repeatedly—like often backstage we do a full beige mouth, so many makeup artists do that—and I never see anyone in real life wearing that. I just don't."
"I don't know how some trends are born out of the runway and some trends are born out of pop stars and other things from the media," he reflected, noting that while it does make it easier to follow, it also opens up the space for individuality. "Between social media and industries like music there's a lot more room for diversity, so it's good to look at trends from all different places." Kaliardos called out Alicia Keys not wearing makeup as a strong example. "That's a very empowering symbol for a woman—not only am I going in front of all these lights, which are super harsh, and wearing no makeup, but I’m a performer, and I’m just bearing myself—that's great."
On His Collection With MAC
Courtesy of MAC
"The whole point behind my collection was to do an edited-down version of my kit. I was inspired by my archive. I've kept an archive of MAC for all these years. So we redid a bunch of colors, updated some of them. And just that like, with everything that's in my collection, you can basically do any editorial look I've done in the last 20 years almost—the colors that I really go to, the textures that I really go to all the time."
Kaliardos describes his collection with MAC as an edit of the tools he's used most often over his years in the industry. "I have like four of my favorite lip colors that I seriously use every single day on the job," he notes, describing his quartet of lipsticks in bright red, a lippy pink, a light coral, and a deep reddish brown. "Then I always tend to sculpt—even during the no-makeup makeup phase I would cheat in a little sculpting on the face and cheat in a little highlighter and a tiny bit of color on the cheek," he admits. His two full face kits serve these needs and come in two shades to include both light and dark skin tones.
It actually is so timely that there's this line out that deals with two skin tones and is all-inclusive. It's about female empowerment and getting the look you want to wear, not a look that I'm telling you to get.
"You can go to minimal to max with all the colors," said Kaliardos, who continued to stress that women should use the makeup in whichever way they like. "And then there's two matte eye shadows, which are super classic, one’s gray and one’s brown," he said. "The matte eye shadows you can use wet or dry, and you can do a full smoky eye. Or you can just use it to do more of a soft tone."
Kaliardos also added some playful pieces into the mix. "I have this jumbo 'Penultimate,' which is like a big thing magic marker with a point, which is really easy to do liquid liner with. And these two cool lipglosses which have stacked three colors in each one so you can pick which one you go for and they were just kind of fun. And two diamondy sparkly colors. I feel like makeup should be easy and stuff like that, but it’s also that creative moment. So I put in a couple things that were just fun because it’s makeup."
Shop His Collection
Head to the comments to share your thoughts on the makeup trend for 2017, and let us know what piece you're most excited about from the James Kaliardos for MAC collection.