Pat McGrath’s Most Memorable Runway Makeup Looks Ever

There’s a reason why Dame Pat McGrath is considered the most influential makeup artist in the world. For decades the British icon has been pushing boundaries in the world of makeup, starting trends with the swipe of a mascara brush and going viral with the placement of a Swarovski crystal. Looks McGrath sent down the runway two decades ago still hold a special place in some fashion lover’s hearts, and chances are, if you see a unique makeup trend on Instagram or TikTok, it was inspired by McGrath.

She’s the go to makeup artist for designers like John Galliano, Miuccia Prada, Marc Jacobs, and Pierpaolo Piccioli, and not a season goes by without multiple McGrath makeup moments on the runway. Yet she still manages to keep it original and exciting. Here, a look back at some of her most inspired looks from throughout her still-blossoming career.

Maison Margiela Artisanal Collection 2024

John Galliano’s artisanal show for Maison Margiela was greeted like the saving grace of couture. The Fashion tribe continue to fawn over the dramatic, yet gritty collection. But it wasn’t just the clothes that brought Galliano’s collection to life under the Pont Alexandre III bridge, but the production, the music, and of course, the makeup. McGrath work for the show had a decidedly ’20s and ’30s feeling, with color play that saturated hues in some places with a contrasting scarcity in others. The antique, early 20th-century look is something McGrath has explored before with Galliano, but the additional drama this time came from the clear layer a top the models’ makeup that created a porcelain, doll-like finish. McGrath achieved the effect by combining water with a variety of masks, though she is now working on a more streamlined product to sell to customers who are interested in attempting the technique at home.

Valentino Fall/Winter 2020

While the makeup at Valentino’s fall/winter 2020 show may seem exceptionally modern, McGrath was nodding to the negative space trend popular in the ’60s for the models’ looks. She brought the aesthetic into the future with the addition of crystals,and swaths of silver shadow. Paired with hairdresser Guido Palau’s sleek, deep side parts, the makeup added a touch of dark glamour to the already moody collection.

Louis Vuitton Fall/Winter 2019

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McGrath has done many many plays on the classic red lip and black winged liner over the years, but this dramatic take at the LV fall/winter show in 2019 might have to be our favorite.

Anna Sui Spring/Summer 2020

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Considering Anna Sui’s spring/summer 2020 collection debuted not long after Euphoria entered our lives, it makes sense that many thought McGrath was inspired by the show’s makeup artist Doniella Davy’s bright looks. Sui’s models walked the runway with an array of colorful lids and bold eyeliner, which fit squarely into the Euphoria-induced makeup craze at the time. Of course, any fan of McGrath’s knows she’s been championing over-the-top makeup since long before the HBO show started airing, and it’s likely more accurate to assume Davy was inspired by the great McGrath.

Marc Jacobs Spring/Summer 2020

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While sometimes, McGrath comes up with a few themes for a show that she repeats on numerous models, at Marc Jacobs’ spring/summer 2020 presentation, not one face of makeup was like the other. Some had color abstractly splattered on their lids, while others, like Gigi Hadid, got a fresh face with a simple swipe of pastel blue. There were false lashes creeping up toward eyebrows, and Euphoria-like gold dust falling down cheeks. Each model became their own character, aided by McGrath’s designs.

Valentino Spring/Summer 2020

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You know you’re an icon when you can start referencing your past work, which is seemingly what McGrath did when she worked on the Valentino spring/summer show in September 2019. The models walked the runway in golden, jewel-encrusted eyes, eyebrows, and lashes, evoking a more-toned down version of her makeup from the Dior spring/summer 2004 presentation. This time around, however, the lines were much more modern than McGrath’s designs from 16 years earlier, as the makeup artist made the decision to keep the rest of the models’ faces clean, so all the focus remained on the golden eyes.

Valentino Spring 2019 Couture

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One of McGrath’s most notable looks in recent years came from the Valentino couture show in January 2019. The makeup artist complimented Pierpaolo Piccioli’s floral-themed collection with lashes that sprouted feathers, encircling the eyes in a romantic bloom. The colors of the petals ranged from more subtle tans to bright red for maximum impact. Other models, meanwhile, were treated with flowers painted directly on their face, dusted with shimmer for an ethereal effect. And while those temple blooms were gorgeous, they have not been remembered quite like the fluttering eyelash feathers.

Anna Sui Spring/Summer 2019

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McGrath made an interesting choice for the makeup at Anna Sui’s spring/summer 2018 show. While many of the models walked the runway with fresh, almost completely bare faces, six women were blessed with a face of beautiful watercolors. Yellow, pinks, and purples draped over their brow and cheek bones, creating a work of art that stood out even more so against the simplicity of their companions.

Maison Margiela Spring/Summer 2018

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McGrath and Galliano have partnered on some pretty dramatic looks together, but at the Maison Margiela spring/summer 2018 show, the pair proved they also know how to bring intensity with simplicity. The models showed off the collection with almost bare faces, aside from graphic lips that used negative space to create an interesting and unexpected effect.

Maison Margiela Spring/Summer 2017 Couture

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For Margiela’s couture show in 2017, McGrath unleashed her inner modern artist, creating abstract three-dimensional looks using wire.

Viktor & Rolf Spring/Summer 2017 Couture

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The Maison Margiela spring/summer 2017 couture show was hardly the only time McGrath has played with thread. In fact, on the same day as Galliano’s presentation, the Viktor & Rolf couture show was also taking place with thread-covered makeup designed by McGrath. For that presentation, however the makeup artist opted for a more subtle use, placing gold-coated thread along the models’ lids to create a 3D cat eye.

Maison Margiela Fall/Winter 2016 Couture

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McGrath seemed to have a lot of fun when designing for the Maison Margiela haute couture show in 2016. She gave every model a different look, all centered in a sort of abstract, neon theme. One model had a David Bowie-esque lightning bolt striking her right eye, while another found a swipe of yellow across the bottom half of her face, the backdrop to an orange lip decorated with a silver line.

Maison Margiela Spring 2016 Couture

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The Margiela fall 2016 couture show was not the first time McGrath paid homage to Bowie through makeup. Just a few months prior, not long after the death of the artist, McGrath designed a whole slate of Bowie-themed looks for Galliano’s spring presentation. “It was celestial couture meets intergalactic glamour, with a touch of Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity,’” McGrath said of the makeup.

Atelier Versace Fall/Winter 2016 Couture

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McGrath paired one of her signatures—the sparkly lips—with ice blue lids for the Atelier Versace show in 2016.

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Over the years, McGrath has debuted many of her Pat McGrath Labs products on the runway, but the practice all started at the Prada 2016 spring/summer show when the makeup artist sent models out in a metallic gold lip. Just days later, the shade became the first-ever product sold under the Pat McGrath Labs brand.

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While the majority of the models at the Givenchy spring 2016 show walked the runway with clean faces, that only provided more of a contrast to the five who turned the corner in masks of crystals, lace, pearls, and beads. McGrath and Riccardo Tisci came up with the idea together, and the pieces used to adorn each face harken back to materials in the designer’s collection. “We were told the show was a celebration of love in all its forms,” McGrath explained to Allure. “Riccardo wanted the masks to look soft, to be more romantic and organic, but still strong and a bit strange.”

Givenchy Fall/Winter 2015

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McGrath and Tisci already had some experience decorating models’ faces with pearls and crystals before the Givenchy spring 2016 show. One season prior, McGrath took inspiration from Tisci’s Victorian-themed collection, covering models in gems and faux piercings. McGrath called the result “Chola Victorian,” partly due to the addition of hair stylist Luigi Murenu’s kiss curls.

Alexander McQueen Spring 2015

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Not all of McGrath’s masked looks are as ornate at the Givenchy creations, however. For the Alexander McQueen spring 2015 show, the makeup artist opted for a more futuristic, streamlined take on the face covering to create what McGrath called “Femme bot fantasia realized in luxurious lacquer.”

Maison Margiela Fall/Winter 2015 Couture

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Another array of abstract looks paraded onto the runway at Galliano’s couture show for Margiela in 2015. Once again, each model showed off a unique design, which ranged from a scaled eye mask, to a white streak down a model’s face and neck, giving the effect of old wall paper slowly peeling off the skin’s surface.

Alexander McQueen Fall/Winter 2014

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While in 2019, McGrath used feathers to create an angelic eye for Valentino, five years prior, she proved the same material can be used with much more sinister results. For the Alexander McQueen fall/winter 2014 show, the makeup artist stuck feathers to models’ brows for an animalistic effect. Others, meanwhile, walked with starch white faces, almost as if they’d been left out in the cold. A savage beauty look if we’ve ever seen it.

Givenchy Spring/Summer 2014

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Stella McCartney Fall 2012

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While McGrath can easily go wild with colors, crystals, and prosthetics, she can also make just as big of an impact with just some simple blue mascara.

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Two decades before all the “It” girls were bleaching their eyebrows to achieve the vampiric 2023 trend, McGrath was bringing the look to the Prada runway. For the brand’s fall/winter show in 2012, the makeup artist covered the extra eye real estate with colorful greasepaint that matched hues from the collection to create “virtual princesses” as she described it to Allure.

Christian Dior Fall/Winter 2011 Couture

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It makes sense that when Bill Gaytten designed his first couture collection for Dior following Galliano’s unceremonious departure from the brand, he would ease the transition by working with some of Galliano’s go-tos. Gaytten did not hold back for the fall 2011 collection, taking the audience on a ride from the pop art to the celestial, and McGrath kept up. While the first round of models were presented with neon lids in geometric shapes, the second grouping sported paillettes on their eyes in place of shadow. The final models, then, provided the most romantic aesthetic— goddess-like women were crystal-encrusted eyes. If any one show was ever needed to prove McGrath’s range, this is undoubtedly it.

John Galliano Spring/Summer 2011

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It seems obvious that McGrath’s work for John Galliano’s spring/summer 2011 show was on their mood board for the recent Maison Margiela couture presentation. Back then, the pair embraced a similar kind of dark-sided 1920’s look, with pencil-thin eyebrows, high-placed blush, and dark, moody eyes.

Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2010 Couture

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Inspirations ranging from Charles James to equestrians took the Dior couture show in 2010 to a whole other level as Galliano sent models down the runway in everything from full riding skirts to cocktail dresses to ballgowns designed only for the grandest of galas. Once again, though, McGrath was able to keep up, sticking to a strong eye look and ruby red lips, with the addition of an occasional model who found their skin painted porcelain white. The makeup was the perfect balance of subdued yet still impactful, exactly what the collection needed.

Givenchy Spring 2010 Couture

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If you ever wake up from a night out with last night’s makeup all over your face, just throw on a red lip and tell everyone you were inspired by McGrath’s extreme smokey eye from the Givenchy spring 2010 couture show.

Christian Dior Fall 2010 Couture

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A technicolored show inspired by La Colle Noire, Christian Dior’s Chateau in Montauroux, once again needed makeup that would compliment, not compete with the clothes. McGrath’s geometric swaths of color across the lids were the perfect answer to Galliano’s collection, while the deep purple lip added some depth to contrast against the other bright hues.

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2010

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Sometimes, makeup can go beyond the usual decorations on the eyes and lids, as McGrath proved when she dyed models’ eyebrows pastel for the Balenciaga ready-to-wear show in 2010, keeping the rest of their faces bare.

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McGrath embraced a real dragged up Valley of the Dolls look and we can’t help but think these images were on Trixie Mattel’s original makeup mood board back in 2008.

Christian Dior Spring/Summer 2007 Couture

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It’s clear that McGrath does some of her most inspired work when partnering with Galliano. It’s clear the designer created an environment among his collaborators that allowed for McGrath to truly shine in her artistry. Take Dior’s spring/summer couture show in 2007, which was inspired by Japanese art and culture, and allowed McGrath to play off traditional Japanese makeup style while adding a modern edge.

Christian Dior Fall 2007 Couture

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While in many ways, the Dior fall 2007 couture collection was another display of the over-the-top theatrics we’ve come to expect for Galliano, there was a touch of sentimentality to the show, thanks in part to the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the house. Galliano did not shrink at the task of celebrating the history of Dior, and was likely helped by the artistry of McGrath, who painted each individual model to uniquely match their elaborate designs.

John Galliano Fall/Winter 2007

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Clearly, Galliano has been inspired by the grimy ‘20s look for quite awhile because back in 2007, he commissioned McGrath to paint on those thin eyebrows and that heavy blush once again. This time, the makeup had a slightly more romantic tilt thanks to the watercolor-like application of McGrath’s pinks and oranges.

Christian Dior Fall 2004 Couture

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While clearly some of McGrath and Galliano’s favorite themes are once again at play here, the matte finish to this makeup provides an interesting effect we don’t usually see in McGrath’s work. The makeup artist is known to heap on the glitter, but her makeup for Galliano’s fall 2004 Dior couture show proves that she can be just as impactful sans sparkle.

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Two decades before Barbiecore took over the world, McGrath was embracing the bright pink hue for Anna Sui’s fall 2004 show.

Christian Dior Spring 2004 Couture

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Likely one of McGrath and Galliano’s most iconic collaborations came about closer to the beginning of their relationship, when the makeup artist designed these gilded, Egyptian-inspired looks with exaggerated eyebrows, lashes, and of course, McGrath’s signature glitter lip.

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