Here, she recalls the dynamic beauty scene of the 1980s and reveals how the look – which is big news in beauty again this year - has been updated for 2009.
Any final tips that are fresh for now?
KM: This season, avoid darkening eyebrows too much with pencil or shadow; it's all about natural full brows and eyes being darker than the brows.
What products are you using?
KM: I love Pot Rouge For Lips And Cheeks in 11, £16, by Bobbi Brown, a bubblegum pink shade or Powder Blush in Desire, around £11, by LORAC – it gives you the kind of natural flush you’d only otherwise get from a bracing walk in the cold.
How is the 1980s look being re-worked for today?
KM: ‘It’s by taking elements out! Take the white powder base out! Take out the flat, heavy fuschias and oranges on cheeks and use a sheer, natural-looking pink blush instead. It gives a healthier glow, which is always flattering.
By the late 1990s, everything was really pared down…
KM: Yes, the recession came and after that fashion and beauty became rather more pared down. One of my first jobs after moving to New York was to make up Kate Moss for the Calvin Klein Obsession fragrance campaign and I just used moisturiser. She looked absolutely perfect.
What was your signature look in the 1980s?
KM: Full skin make-up was the look back then and although I had the most beautiful porcelain skin, I religiously covered it up with a powder-white base, contouring and big, red cheeks – a bit like the Marc Jacobs show this season.
KM: Model Lara Stone is a refreshingly fleshier girl who rocks to her own tune. I also love singer Grace Jones and actress Tilda Swinton. They’re both creative women, undefined by their age and gender. Grace is actually 61, but much more contemporary than any of the sexy girls making it on the pop scene or into celebrity gossip mags, and pretty much the only person who makes me go ‘wow’. Girls see ‘mini women’ with big hair like Cheryl Cole as beauty icons, but it’s a very generic beauty – a bit too Stepford wives.
Who were your icons back in the 1980s?
KM: ‘It was women like Debbie Harry, make-up artist Barbara Daly – who did all of the Stanley Kubrik films – Jerry Hall and a make-up artist called Yvonne Gold. [Yvonne] had big, blonde dreadlocks and worked with Vivienne Westwood and her partner Malcolm McLaren who at the time had a new-wave band Bow Wow Wow. A signature technique of hers was to use gold paint over the Cupid’s bow, which make-up artist Pat McGrath uses a lot now.
ELLE meets Kay
This year London Fashion Week celebrates 25 years and, in a timely twist of fate, the trends that dominated the fashion agenda back then are influencing a whole new generation of fashion mavens in London today. In beauty, as in fashion, influencers have been moving things forward by looking back. And while the 1980s is sometimes called the decade that fashion forgot – yes, until recently, people laughed at leggings and bum bags– designers and make-up artists have been plundering these flamboyant times for inspiration. The result? A look that feels bold, edgy and totally now.
Kay Montano has been working London Fashion Week since the day it started. Now an internationally renowned make-up artist, she was responsible for creating some of the iconic looks from the 1980s, including Nick Kamen’s cover for Face, where he was covered in white ink, and Jeny Howorth for ELLE – all dramatic contouring and matte red lips.
But even Kay is the first to admit that while 2009’s make-up scene may not be as directional as it was in the 1980s, the way the look has been pared down and modernised is absolutely right for now. ‘I loved the unique strong expression of people like Human League, Madonna and John Galliano,’ she says, ‘as well as the dense, heavily-pigmented make-up from Mary Quant and Biba, but today’s look is healthier and more wearable.
‘Still, I wish there was more of a sub-culture surrounding fashion. But nothing is left alone these days. It all ends up in the papers and becomes commercialised. The people doing interesting things are likely to be approached by LVMH or running Gucci within a year.’
The upside, though, she says is that modern make-up formulations are much more accessible and you can afford to make mistakes. We asked Kay to recall the looks she created in the 1980s, and show us how to wear the trend so it’s right for now.