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The Career Trajectory of Pat McGrath

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The billion dollar business which Pat McGrath has created shocked the world when the value of the enterprise was outed recently.  Whereas everyone had thought Kylie Jenner and Rhianna’s brands were the names out there killing it, we did not realise there was an outlier quietly coming up the outside lanes, racing up a storm.

In early July 2018, Kylie Jenner made serious industry waves when Forbes named the 21-year-old one of America’s richest women, quoting the worth of her booming namesake beauty business, Kylie Cosmetics, at roughly $800 million—just shy of an eyebrow-raising $1 billion. Not bad, not bad at all. Yet just two weeks later, there was a different cult-loved brand making headlines and proving beauty is, indeed, a billion-dollar business. Enter Pat McGrath Labs—the luxuriously drippy makeup brand from legendary makeup artist Pat McGrath. Oozing sparkle? Check. Alien-esque color combos? Check. Billion-dollar value? Now, check and check. And apparently, a recent financial move is what put the brand over the edge of financial glory.

According to Fashionista, on July 16th, 2018 New York City–based investment firm Eurazeo Brands announced that it had struck a $60 million deal to become a minority shareholder in the beauty brand.

“Eurazeo’s investment brings Pat McGrath Labs’ total external funding to $88 million,” the website explains, citing a press release. “While the specific terms of the deal were not disclosed, industry sources estimate that Eurazeo took a 5 to 8 percent stake in the company, putting its full valuation at more than $1 billion, according to a report by WWD, which also projects that the brand will bring in more than $60 million in sales for 2018.” Whoa. Plus, when you consider how new the brand is in beauty years (it’s just two years young), the news reads even more groundbreaking.

McGrath’s Rise to Fame – before business

Before becoming a makeup artist, McGrath used to work as a receptionist to help support herself, while simultaneously working on her future as a makeup artist. She advises: “Build your career slowly; then people start to trust you and pay you well.”

McGrath’s big break came while she was working with Edward Enninful (then fashion editor of i-D magazine) in the early 1990s, when her innovative use of colour “brilliantly solved the world’s ennui with grunge” and helped launch i-D to a position of international importance.

In the mid-1990s, she worked both with minimalist Jil Sander and with surrealist John Galliano, where she became known for her “latex petals stuck to faces, vinyl lips, bodies drenched in powder paint, [and] stylized Kabuki physiognomies.”

Since then, McGrath has worked with photographers including Steven Meisel (who now rarely shoots without her), Paolo Roversi, Helmut Newton, and Peter Lindbergh. In addition to appearing in i-D, photos of her work have been published in fashion magazines including American, English, and French Vogue, W, and Harper’s Bazaar. She attends four fashion show seasons (counting couture) each year and has worked with designers including Prada, Miu Miu, Comme des Garçons, and Dolce and Gabbana.

Additionally, she designed Armani’s cosmetics line in 1999 and in 2004 was named global creative-design director for Procter and Gamble, where she is in charge of Max Factor and Cover Girl cosmetics, among other brands.During McGrath’s constant travels to work locations, she takes between thirty and fifty bags of materials, tools, and reference materials.

As a makeup artist, McGrath is known for her wide range; according to Edward Enninful, her work spans from “the highest couture to club kids.” She is also known for her inventive use of materials: her most creative make-up is handmade, and she works mainly with her fingers instead of with brushes.

In an interview with Vogue.com UK during London Fashion Week (September 2008), McGrath explained her creative process, saying: “I’m influenced a lot by the fabrics that I see, the colours that are in the collections, and the girls’ faces. It’s always a challenge but that’s the key – to make it different every time.”

In the 2013 Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year Honors List, McGrath was “named an MBE, or Member of the Order of the British Empire, for services to the fashion and beauty industry.”

Following her mother’s advice, McGrath sought to create products that she loved and thought “Why not just do a line now?”

McGrath expanded her career by debuting her very own makeup line, Pat McGrath Labs. On 29 October 2015 she launched her first product Gold 001 which consisted of a gold eyeshadow pigment, spatula, mixing liquid, and an extra container which retailed for $40. This launch only consisted of 1,000 units of the set and was exclusively sold on her website, patmcgrath.com. Her line slowly expanded with the later additions of Phantom 002, Skin Fetish 003 and Lust 004 and most recently, Metalmorphosis 005. The limited quantities add to the frenzy of obtaining these products.

Sephora has begun carrying McGrath’s products.
She self-funded her business for nearly a year until deciding to include outside investors. The colours in her range are more suitable for photography work, such as runway fashion, rather than department-store consumption.

Earlier life

McGrath was born on 11 June 1965 in Northampton, England, to Jean McGrath, a Jamaican expatriate. Jean was a single mother who raised McGrath and her older sister Faith, in Northampton. McGrath credits her mother for her love of fashion and make-up, saying that Jean would comment on clothes as they watched classic movies together.

McGrath’s mother, a devoted Jehovah’s Witness, heavily influenced McGrath’s creativity, often quizzing her on different shades of eyeshadow. McGrath told Sarah Mower in Vogue in 2007, “She trained me, basically, to do the shows, right there…look at the pattern, check the fabrics, look for the make-up and begin”, and TIME magazine in 2003: “She was always mixing up colours because there wasn’t anything out there for black skin.”

McGrath has no formal training in fashion or make-up, having completed only an art foundation course at a Northampton college. Of her career, she has said, “I really love being a makeup artist. It never gets mundane or predictable and every shoot and show is different.” In the 80’s, McGrath moved to London and became involved with designers such as Alexander McQueen and John Galliano.

Most recent developments

British makeup artist Pat McGrath has been called the fashion world’s most important makeup artist. She rose to prominence in the early 1990s and has since collaborated with a number of top brands and photographers, including Steven Meisel and Christian Dior, for whom she has crafted runway beauty looks for many seasons. Proctor and Gamble called on her expertise in 2004 and named her the creative design director for its cosmetics lines, including CoverGirl and Max Factor.

In 2017, following her longtime friend and collaborator Edward Enninful ’s appointment as editor in chief of British Vogue, she was announced as the magazine’s beauty editor-at-large. She has predominantly worked with labels like Jil Sander , Prada, Armani, and John Galliano as well as overseeing runway beauty for brands Prada and Miu Miu for a decade. In 1999, she designed Giorgio Armani ’s beauty line—the designer said he was “struck by the way she interpreted colour and by her ideas about beauty and femininity,” as he told Vogue.

Despite having to create unique beauty looks for upwards of 35 runway shows a season, McGrath remains inspired by the process, telling British Vogue, “I’m influenced a lot by the fabrics I see, the colours that are in the collections and the girl’s faces. It’s always a challenge but that’s the key – to make it different every time.”

Similarly, her wide range and seemingly boundless creativity has also lent her staying power. Enninful has praised her for her versatility and ability to do looks that range from couture to club kid scene. She is known for her ability to weave a dreamy, fantastical atmosphere into photoshoots and advertising campaigns, and for showing up with up to 20 boxes with which to work her magic.

Born and raised in Northampton, England, McGrath credits her Jamaican mother Jean for introducing her to the world of hair, makeup, and fashion. “She trained me, basically, to do the shows, right there… look at the pattern, check the fabrics, look for the make-up and begin,” she told journalist Sarah Mower in British Vogue in 2007. Time magazine also reported that McGrath’s mother would mix the pigments for her own makeup, as there were few options for dark skin at the time.

She has never been formally trained in fashion or makeup artistry, having only completed a foundation course in art at Northampton College. Her breakthrough came in the early 1990s, when she worked with Enninful, then fashion director of i-D magazine, on shoots for the youth magazine, working fluidly with her hands (she prefers them to brushes) and her keen eye for bold hues. McGrath has also developed a reputation for material experimentation, often attaching petals, feathers, pearls, and other ornaments on models.

In 2017, after releasing six limited-release collections, McGrath launched her first core range of makeup products including lipsticks, eyeshadow palettes and eye and lip pencils, which will be available all year round.