Pat McGrath MBE (born 11 June 1970) is a British make-up artist. She has been called the most influential make-up artist in the world by Vogue magazine and other commentators.
McGrath was born on 11 June 1970 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.
Before becoming one of the most sought of makeup artist across the world, McGrath used to work as a receptionist to help support herself, slowing building her career. She advises: “Build your career slowly; then people start to trust you and pay you well.” McGrath’s career breakthrough 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, Metalmorphasis 005. The limited quantities add to the frenzy of obtaining these products. Sephora has begun carrying McGrath’s products. McGrath’s sequins packaging and mystical advertising sets her products apart from others. Her collections have been sold out in nanoseconds, speaking to the popularity of the artist.
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. McGrath told New York Magazine: “I felt uncomfortable doing something that everyone’s already done, you don’t want to be boring.” McGrath’s makeup line seeks to bring back artistic makeup to a broader audience who aim to invent and perform their appearance, promoting individuality. McGrath says herself, “I want to change how people think about makeup, and disrupt the status quo.”
According to Vogue (2007), Pat McGrath is known for her unique, adventurous, and innovative make-up techniques which include using her hands as opposed to brushes. She has a talent for using bold hues and material experimentation ranging from feathers to ornaments. McGrath is limitless, a mindset that enables her boundless creativity and diverse range of looks. Her art lies within the reinvention of makeup and experimentation. She has created trends ranging from thick eyebrows to coloured lashes, making a statement out of every face. Her innovative and intuitive outlook to life help create the vibrant and legendary looks we see throughout numerous catwalks and fashion shows.