Joe Zee sat down for an exclusive interview with the designer— a favorite of Lady Gaga and the First Lady— to talk about his makeup collaboration launching this month, red carpet dos and why disheveled hair and barely there makeup is not a good look.
JZ: So you’re launching your brand new makeup collection. I just picked it up and it’s really heavy and solid, and very gold. Oh my god — solid gold. I can’t believe I even said that. I mean, I can.
PG: I can believe you said that.
JZ: I love it. But the first thing I noticed is the colors are so vibrant. Color is such a big thing in your collection. How long did it take you to develop this collection?
PG: I think it was two years.
JZ: Two years!
PG: The minute we started the conversation, we started to develop the colors and the packaging. I wanted to make sure the packaging was also reflective of what I do in my ready-to-wear.
JZ: But what about the colors themselves? How do you start? Do you hand them a swatch of fabric and say match this color? Or is it a Pantone chip? And how close — you know, I think people forget like ‘oh, red is red,’ but there’s like a million shades of red.
PG: There’s a gazillion shades of red. I did a mood board for them — where I wanted it to be, what I wanted it to feel like. The starting point was a red lipstick. I just love the idea of this incredibly beautiful red lipstick. You can wear it during the day, and then you can darken it at night. And I just think it’s also such a bold, confident color to wear. When you wear it, you don’t really need much.
JZ: I love a red lip. To me, a red lip is the ultimate accessory.
PG: You could be wearing a tuxedo and just that.
JZ: Was it important for you to develop a makeup collection that was accessible to everybody? Not everybody can afford your clothes, but everybody can afford a lipstick.
PG: Absolutely. You know, it’s our fifth year in the business and ever since I was a kid I’ve always had milestones for everything I achieve.
JZ: And did MAC come to you or was this something you had wanted to do all along?
PG: I’ve always wanted to do it and MAC has been a partner since my first collection. I reached out to them before they had any idea who I was. I met with them and they’ve been a partner ever since. Then they came to me, and they were like, ‘Listen, would you be interested in doing this?’
JZ: When you design clothes, you design it over a few months and then it changes again— every six months. But to start this two years ago, you had to keep with the same color they liked. Did you get bored? At some point along the way did you say, ‘Oh, I should have done blues, or I should have done…’
PG: When it came to this MAC said ‘Okay, this is how many things we need to do,’ and I was pretty sure about it. I wanted to keep it focused.
JZ: Did someone help you with the packaging or did you do that all in house?
PG: We did it all with MAC. But, the ideas and everything came from me. When I was in Nepal I used to see my mother putting on her makeup in front of her dressing table with her vanity case. It was such a transformation. She’d have YSL, Dior, all those little makeup kits and lipsticks… I was just mesmerized. I also watch my girlfriends get ready in taxis. They just take out these plastic things. I thought I want packaging to have a wow factor.
JZ: So is there something that you always notice first about a woman?
PG: I always notice poise. But I also like different kinds of beauty, so there’s not a particular thing that I’m drawn to. The second thing is how they talk. But in terms of makeup related stuff, I really don’t notice unless someone is overdone or underdone.
JZ: Well you can be overdone, but can you really be underdone? PG: Absolutely.
JZ: You can?
PG: For me, there are two sides to it. There’s overdone obviously, but the underdone – and I think especially in our industry – you know where it’s undone, disheveled hair. It’s like everyone thinks it’s cool because they’ve seen this on the runway. But these models are sixteen years old. Their faces have been primed to look like they haven’t been done up, their hair has been teased to look like they haven’t been done. It’s an illusion. So when I see people with no makeup on, it doesn’t work. I’m talking about the fashion world.
JZ: So what is the perfect thing for makeup? If you don’t want to be overdone or underdone, what is that thing?
PG: I mean, one thing or the other – whether it’s the eye or lip…
JZ: But not both.
PG: I don’t think so. You can do both, but it’s a balance. I don’t think you should be highlighting both.
JZ: Which women are doing it right at the moment?
PG: I would say the one who never fails is Diane Kruger.
JZ: So sophisticated. But never too much – you’re right.
PG: I would say the other person who does really well on the red carpet is Rooney Mara. Then there is Angelina Jolie and her red lip. I love when Zoe Saldana does those cat eyes. And I would say Audrey Hepburn from all those movies.
JZ: So in terms of beauty, but also fashion – because you do both— women should just try to push that a little bit more.
PG: Yeah, just a little bit. It’s one life to live – why not celebrate it? Try it. Embrace life.
JZ: I love it. This is a limited collaboration and it goes on sale November 26. So everyone has to get it quick.
PG: Makeup reaches everyone. It’s hope in a jar. It’s hope in a package. It’s such a personal thing for me. I think about all these designers like when I was looking at the Hollywood Reporter’s “25 Designers” and it’s like Prada, Dior, Chanel…and then it’s me. These were the people that I thought about when I was growing up in Nepal and those were the makeup brands that my mother used. Like you dream about it but you don’t expect it. So when it happens, I don’t know. It’s just so surreal and I don’t think it’ll ever be…
JZ: You’ll never get jaded from it.
PG: I would never. Because you and I, man, it’s like – when you tell me about your career path…. If somebody had told you that in ten years you’d be doing this, you’d probably be like “Oh, whatever,” you know?
JZ: It is surreal, but you just go with it, and you’re like “I’m so grateful, I love it, it’s so different.” But this is awesome. So is there a fragrance maybe? Are you working on that?
PG: I’m hopeful, yeah.
JZ: Maybe something in the works?
PG: I mean [laughing] you’re so bad. Okay, so basically my goal is to get into beauty and fragrance when the time is right.
JZ: Okay, good. And men’s? What about men’s?
PG: Definitely, that is like my –
JZ: We need it!
PG: That is one of my biggest goals.
The Prabal Gurung x MAC Cosmetics collection will launch Nov. 26 in MAC stores in North America and in December internationally.
Photography Peter Ash Lee
Styling Moses Moreno
Hair Styling Yohey Nakatsuka for Bumble and bumble
Makeup Regan Rabanal
Model Gian Yoo at Elite Models Management
Model Jenny Ade at New York Models