The Genius and the Legend That Is Pat McGrath

The makeup artist we call Mother: a look back at Pat McGrath's colorful career, the iconic looks that made her, and most recently, her renaissance at Margiela couture.
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The makeup artist, one of the most revered in the industry, recently collaborated with John Galliano to create porcelain makeup looks that the internet won’t stop talking about.

Time stopped for beauty lovers worldwide when John Galliano and Pat McGrath unveiled their creations at Maison Margiela’s Couture Spring/Summer 2024 show in Paris. The duo goes way back to the early 2000s, when Galliano, then the creative director of Dior, brought on McGrath to create makeup looks for almost all of his couture shows. Their partnership resulted in iconic looks that people still talk about today, like the crystal-adorned eyes and lips at Maison Margiela’s spring 2015 couture show or the colorful 1920s-inspired looks at John Galliano’s Spring 2011 runway show

This year, the haute couture show featured thin brows, pastel shadows, diffused lips, and iridescent cheeks in every shade imaginable, all under a glazed layer that brings new meaning to the term “glass skin.” The beauty world was abuzz, with everyone from fellow makeup artists to casual beauty lovers recreating the looks and theorizing on what products could have given Galliano’s models their porcelain doll appearance. Indeed, this show has shown the new generation of beauty lovers the genius that is Pat McGrath, and it has reminded seasoned beauty editors and makeup artists why the fashion industry calls her Mother.

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Mother of Makeup

The stunning looks at the Maison Margiela show may have brought you here, and if you didn’t know who she was before, you might be thinking: Who is Pat McGrath? It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that McGrath might be the most influential makeup artist of all time. Her love for beauty started at an early age, thanks to her mother Jean McGrath.

McGrath tells InStyle how her mother would experiment with makeup looks, customize her own shades and colors, and even create an elaborate beauty routine that involved taking a steamy bath with a full face of makeup on to make the products look more dewy and natural on the skin. “She also taught me the idea of, if something doesn’t exist, make it,” McGrath says—and knowing that she takes 87 suitcases of makeup and other materials with her to shows and shoots just proves that there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to create the perfect look and flex her creativity muscles. 

In her 25-year career, she’s done more than 3,000 runways—doing about 35 shows per season with illustrious fashion houses like Prada, Givenchy, Louis Vuitton, Versace, Maison Margiela, and Balenciaga, to name a few. She’s also received many awards and accolades for her contributions to fashion and beauty, and in 2021, Queen Elizabeth II even awarded her damehood in the British Empire for services to the Fashion and Beauty industry and Diversity—being the first makeup artist to receive this honor. 

Not only is she a makeup artist, but she’s also British Vogue’s beauty editor-at-large and the founder and CEO of her own cosmetics brand Pat McGrath Labs. When she launched her debut product GOLD 001 in 2015, it sold out immediately and kickstarted the creation of runway-worthy products and collections that we know today. The Mothership palettes have become iconic in their own right: the sleek black packaging with its luxurious weighted feel opens to reveal buttery, pigmented shadows that come together in a color story dreamt up by the Mother herself. It’s no wonder that these palettes are usually the most covetable items in a makeup lover’s collection. In fact, the Mothership palettes, among a whole host of Pat McGrath Labs products, were used to create the looks in Maison Margiela’s viral runway show.

Career-Defining Moments

Season after season, the powerhouse that is Pat McGrath has never let up. From runways to shoots to new makeup collections, there’s a lot of material we can gain inspiration from from Pat McGrath. While her latest showcase with Maison Margiela makes the top of our list, here are some of our other favorite Pat McGrath Moments:

i-D Magazine, January 1995

Super early Pat McGrath editorial (i-D Magazine, January 1995)
byu/yuckobucko inMakeupAddiction

Early in her career, Pat McGrath worked as a makeup artist for i-D Magazine alongside Edward Enninful, then 18 years old and the youngest-ever fashion director. The two forged a lifelong friendship, and the work they did for i-D Magazine’s January 1995 edition was one of their first collaborations together. Here, McGrath stamps pastel blues and blends in iridescent shades across the eyes—making them the focus against flawless skin and neutral lips.

Christian Dior Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2007

Titled “Bal Des Artistes,” the runway was John Galliano’s tribute to Christian Dior and Steven Robinson, head of the Dior Studios, who had passed away that year. Inspired by some of history’s greatest artists, we can easily spot the references in Pat McGrath’s looks: Pablo Picasso, René Gruau, and Jean-Antoine Watteau, to name a few. 

Alexander McQueen Autumn/Winter 2014

The training stables of the Garde Républicaine served as the backdrop to Alexander McQueen’s chilling runway show. Here, texture was king, with sheer frocks, billowing feathers, and stacked ruffles gracing the mossy runway. These dark elements also found their way into the makeup. The pale, luminous skin added an ethereal vibe to the looks, and McGrath adorned the models’ eyes with black feathers to match the couture.

Givenchy Autumn/Winter 2017

Designer Riccardo Tisci describes his collection for Givenchy as “Victorian-Chola girl,” and he merged the two seemingly contradictory aesthetics together by playing with silhouettes and patterns. The classic gangster bomber jacket was given new meaning by being created with peacock-patterned fur, billowy dresses were given a cool edge with mesh bodices, and, makeup-wise, faces were adorned with faux piercings feature crystals and pearls.

British Vogue December 2017

We mentioned that Edward Enninful and Pat McGrath forged a lifelong friendship from their days at i-D magazine. Years later in 2017, they collaborated once again, but this time with Enninful as British Vogue’s editor-in-chief and Pat Mcgrath as its beauty editor-at-large. The result is Enninful’s retro-styled debut issue in December 2017 with Adwoa Aboah as the cover girl.

Get The Look

McGrath’s looks at the Maison Margiela show have definitely inspired us to create our own renditions of her porcelain doll looks. If you’re feeling inspired, too, these runway-worthy products are worth trying. 

Mothership I: Subliminal

This palette was one of the products that was actually used in the runway show. In fact, McGrath even says that it’s backstage-inspired, and it has a bunch of different textures and finishes that are fun to play with—from emollient neutrals to holographic Blitz Atrals, McGrath’s signature formula. 

Mothership I: Subliminal

P7,500 via

Temptu Airbrush Makeup Air Pro

Rumor has it that McGrath’s team created their own concoction for the glassy layer, and they applied it over the top of the makeup using an airbrush. Airbrushes might be a little intimidating to the casual makeup user, which is why we love this one by Temptu. Its compact and ergonomic design makes it easy to use on yourself, and thanks to the makeup pods, you don’t have to fuss around with messy products or cleaning.

Temptu Airbrush Makeup Air Pro

P12,950 via Lazada

MAC Veluxe Brow Liner

Skinny brows are in, and we love how this pencil gives a precise, pigmented application. It has a velvet texture that stays on all day, even through hot weather, and it also comes with a spoolie on the other end so you can blend and groom your brows.

MAC Veluxe Brow Liner

P1,800 via Lazada

Makeup By Mario Master Secret Glow

This hydrating balm promises to give the skin a glass effect, and while it might not be as exaggerated as the porcelain skin at the Maison Margiela show, it’s definitely great for wearable everyday looks. All you need to do is tap it on your skin or over makeup as a final touch to your look. Also worth exploring, of course, is one from the Mother herself: Pat McGrath Labs has their Skin Fetish: Highlighter + Balm Duo, which comes with a pearlescent highlighter and dewy clear balm so you can customize your look. 

Makeup By Mario Master Secret Glow

P1,650 via

NARS Blush

One of the key factors of the McGrath’s makeup looks is blush. For the show, McGrath, in her own words, blushed without caution. The heavy-handed application worked for the haute couture looks, and it’s easy to copy the look with a dependable product like NARS’s blushes. We recommend classics like Orgasm or Dolce Vita. We also love Pat McGrath Labs’s Skin Fetish: Divine Blushes, which offers buildable coverage and mistake-proof application. 

NARS Blush

P1,900 via Lazada
Cover image courtesy of Pat MacGrath Instagram. The fresco of assumption of virgin mary by © sedmak. Gold vintage frame by © krimkate via

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