On the road to ANZFW: Amber D. & M.A.C

Less than a month away now, Air New Zealand Fashion Week is one of the best places to see future make up trends up close and personal. One of the artists I spoke to in advance of the event was M.A.C’s charming Amber D., one of the most clever and likeable ladies in the business.

Amber D is undoubtedly the country's most experienced fashion week veteran, with time spent in the backstage trenches at ANZFW, RAFW in Sydney and Milan Fashion Week, to name but a few. She has also worked with some of the world's top designers, prepping models like Jessica Stam and Freja Beha Erichsen for their runway calls and mixing it with the likes of sassy M.A.C ambassadors Dita Von Teese and Eve.

She returned once again from Milan in March of this year, having worked backstage creating runways looks for designers that included Pucci, Marni, Salvatore Ferragamo, John Richmond and DSquared, the Canadian design duo who are releasing a collaborative make up range with M.A.C any time now. “The whole week is mad and out of control but you just keep going,” she says with a smile, “mainly because it's just so much fun.”

In contrast with what was happening on the runways of the world last year, she says that make up was refreshingly light for 2009, especially considering that the collections she saw being presented were Autumn/Winter and usually associated with a dark and brooding, heavier style of slap. “There were only two shows where we actually had to do a dark eye,” she explains, “and they both had a worn in, faded feel to them as opposed to the precision, angular look that is filtering down to the street now.” She also says that the crazy popping colours of the eighties' retro revival in make up didn't make its way to Milan, “which always seems to do its own, sexy Italian thing rather than follow the other capitols”. Amazingly, the highly respected artist only used mascara once during the frenzied week of high fashion - for the DSquared show - which she says was “outrageous, things had become that pared back!” She used M.A.C's mind blowingly good Studio Sculpt foundation on models' skin for every show however, “creating just the most beautiful base as it looks just like great skin - only better”. When asked if a week of shows played havoc on the girls' skin that had to be repaired as the days wore on she laughs and says “amazingly, no - it was sickening! They are all only around sixteen years old so definitely have age on their side, as well as being so fussy about their skincare and taking their own eye make up off so no one comes in and drags their skin or irritates it.”

She says it also helps that the make up teams spend a lot of time preparing the girls' skin for the application of make up, using the raft of products that the company has developed purely for that purpose. She always begins with a liberal spray of their Studio Fix + spray - traditionally used after application to 'set' make up - followed by a rich moisturiser which she massages well into the skin to lock in the goodness and create a soft, clear base. “It is almost like a mini facial,” she says, “and the moisture attracts more moisture, so the skin is ultra hydrated - add foundation and it just glows.” She also got to trial a new M.A.C Pro cleansing lotion to use as a gentler alternative to the brand's make up wipes, “because when skin is being cleansed so many times a day it can start to feel really raw and freak out a bit. The new lotion is in development at the moment and was just amazing to see in action”.

After years working internationally on weeks as chaotic as Milan Fashion Week, the veteran admits that she does look on ANZFW as a bit of a breeze these days, “as it's familiar ground and on such a small scale, which is fun in itself”. She adds that “the joy here is that the New Zealand team of M.A.C artists are just so well trained and so incredibly talented, and they deal with pressure like nothing I've ever seen. You just don't find that level of artistry everywhere”. She says that New Zealanders are recognised all over the world as true talents with a buffer brush, and that makes backstage at ANZFW such a great place to be.

She began a few preliminary meetings with designers showing at this year's ANZFW a couple of months out from the event, but says that “the real madness kicks in a couple of weeks out when I check in to see where they are at and go straight into designing a definite look for their show”. She adds that some designers have a very strong idea of what make up look they want to enhance their collections on the catwalk, whilst others are more likely to step back and leave things to her and her team to work out - and that the same situation applies when working in fashion capitols like Milan. “Some people are easier to work with than others,” she explains, “but it's like that in any job.” She says that working at ANZFW is also a joy because the M.A.C brand has so many long standing relationships within the industry, “and we work with so many people that we trust, and that trust us to create something really special for them. I've personally worked with Zambesi for as long as I can remember and they let me really have my say and work as a group to achieve the final result”.

She says that she doesn't find the experience of working with big, international labels that intimidating, adding with a laugh that “it's pretty much the same as dealing with shows in New Zealand but the models are taller, thinner and younger! It's the same quiet and then madness backstage, and there are still photographers tripping over everyone and stylists screaming and yelling!”

Lastly, she says that the products she just can't live without backstage are two: M.A.C's Studio Fix + Spray and Lip Erase “which is a combination of a lip conditioner and a concealer. I use it in every show…”


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