As one of the premier talents within the world of beauty, Wendy Rowe is a fashion fixture whose modern take on makeup is both experimental and down to earth. Whether she’s serving as Beauty Artistic Consultant for legendary brand Burberry or off the coast of Ibiza for a shoot, Wendy brings a dynamic energy and innate style to each project. Celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Sienna Miller call on Wendy when it is time to look stunning and the world’s best publications – Vogue, V, i-D, Numero, The Gentlewoman and more, look to her to shape their vision of au courant beauty. Though Wendy is at ease creating otherworldly artistry for fashion’s upper echelon, she’s equally adept at sharing beauty secrets via her informative personal site, or active social media feeds where she offers the masses a glimpse into the stylish life of an industry insider.
WENDY: Growing up in the Eighties where everyone had a strong look, and flicking through magazines I was always drawn to the faces. I liked the way everything looked in great pictures, and I was always drawn to makeup and hair as it made me curious of how to achieve it I so began practicing on myself. To me, makeup was similar to art and painting, and I was good at that so it seemed like a natural profession. It was all about creating a look and with makeup, you are already given the face as your canvas – you just need to make it work.
Were you able to take that painterly approach and apply it to your first jobs? What was your first job?
WENDY: A fashion story for the Independent Magazine – I wanted to make a mark, so used yellow eyeshadow over the eyelids of my black model to create a paint effect. It was quite experimental and looked cool, and it got me a fashion story in i-D as it was quite different for the time.
Amazing – what would you say is the look or style you’ve become known for.
WENDY: In the industry I am known as the Master of Nudes and for creating beautiful skin – this doesn’t necessarily mean this is all I do, however all my work will make the subject look the best they can be, with whatever the brief may be. I’m either beautiful and sexy or full-on creative – there is no middle ground to my style. And even when I’m making the woman look beautiful she will always look quite strong, I never like to make someone just pretty. What I love about being a makeup artist is creating a picture that makes me want to look at it, so above all, whatever the look is it has to be attractive and gorgeous and not scary – I want you to want to look at it. So my style reflects this…
WENDY: I take a lot of references from growing up in the Eighties – music and fashion went hand-in-hand and everyone had a look, and I loved that during my youth. I also get inspired by films, paintings and the composition of natural colors. It can be anything visual really… I never try and take things literally, I always try and break it down to take part of it – then you can make it yours. I love graphics element with pictures too, which I suppose is why I’m drawn to magazines a lot and is why I like doing my blog.
The beauty world is always evolving, how do you think your style has changed over the years?
WENDY: I have always been unconventional with my work, as I don’t believe there are any rules – if a product or brush is made for a certain part of the face, I don’t like to be restricted by these and will use it how it best works for me. However, through years of experience I now have a much broader knowledge of product textures and pigments than I did when I started and my process is actually quite methodical and logical – previously if I had an idea I would just do it, whereas now I have the knowledge to know how it will work, when it will work and how best to achieve the look the quickest that will also stay on the longest. I understand the extremities and different environments, so I have the experience to create looks as quick and easy as possible without making product mistakes anymore. I’ve also learnt how to work with a team and to consider every element of the image, and how to work with brands to understand their vision and portray it.
WENDY: Doing the Prada campaign was a massive achievement, as Prada is renowned for being at the forefront of fashion and is very well respected. Becoming Creative Consultant for Burberry made me extremely proud, as it’s always been one of my goals to consult for a brand and Burberry is a great brand to work with – I was with the brand from the beginning of their beauty line too, so it’s an amazing opportunity to develop and make a footprint. And my French Vogue cover with Gisele – I always wanted a French Vogue cover and even though it’s not so much a makeup shot, it’s an iconic image that will stand the test of time, I love it.
You’ve made such an impact at Burberry as Beauty Artistic Consultant – how did you first get involved with the brand?
WENDY: I was working on Dutch Magazine with Elliott Smedley, who was the fashion editor there. Elliott became Creative Consultant for Burberry and so when Christopher Bailey asked him who he liked to work with he said me. We grew together as Burberry developed – luckily my aesthetic was the same as Christopher’s so it all worked out really well, I couldn’t have asked for a better match. We have worked together for Burberry ever since. It’s been over twelve years working on campaign images and the Prorsum show.
What is it like creating those looks each season – not just for the runway, but for the beauty line as well?
WENDY: It’s much more complex than I ever imagined – there’s a lot more to take into consideration than just creating colours and having a product idea! You need to understand how things work in packaging and you need to consider the whole world too – different skin tones, understanding what’s fashionable in one continent that may not necessarily be fashionable in another. It’s about making it work for everyone but in a Burberry way. You also have to work two years in advance, so it’s very busy and fast-paced. It’s super exciting too, especially to come up with ideas and have great team of people that can make them happen. It’s brilliant to work with such an amazing visionary like Christopher Bailey too – it really pushes you creatively.
WENDY: I love the grunge trend that’s come back for Autumn this year, that’s kind of disheveled and not considered. It’s more about the attitude and it takes me back to where I started. I also loved the gold feeling we created at Burberry for Autumn with the Trench Kisses collection, and so far from the shows it looks like the gold trend will continue into Spring next year as I’ve seen lots of gold coming through. I also think blue will be a big color for Spring which I also love.
Beauty and fashion are so linked right now – what do you think is the future of beauty in fashion?
WENDY: I think fashion brands are understanding that they want to complete their woman, so I think we’ll continue to see brands trying to offer the complete package – they’re selling a lifestyle, it’s not just only about the clothes anymore. Multimedia has contributed to this, as people can now be much more aware of everything – previously what we were doing in London would take ages to translate over to NYC or Paris and as with Chinese whispers it would change by the time it got there. Whereas now everything is instant and people find out globally the same day. Because of this I think more brands will have a stronger identity of who their woman is.
WENDY: I really like working with Nicole Kidman – she has a great presence and is a nice energy to be around, plus I like the fact that she’s a great actress. She’s also quite funny and a little bit out of the box, which I like. I think most creative people are a little bit unconventional. I also love working with Sienna Miller, who’s also talented – she’s beautiful, warm and super funny. I love her style and think she’s cool.
You’re active on social media and you’ve got a website as well – why did you feel it was important to engage with your audience that way?
WENDY: I feel like you need to move with the times and the new generation look at social media and websites a lot. I think it’s good to be part of a new movement and you need to be progressive rather than stagnate. I also like the fact that I can be my own voice and I think it’s important for people to learn, so it’s nice to be able to give people some of my experience. I can also make it very visual and instant, which appeals to me as I’m quite impatient and a very visual person.
Do you feel the role of behind the scenes talent is changing now?
WENDY: Yes, totally. You are no longer just a makeup artist in today’s world, you’re also an expert, a personality, a voice, a teacher. You need to be able to communicate what you do, whereas you never had to do that before. It used to be all about the end result – now it’s more about how you achieve that.
Is there anyone whose makeup you haven’t done yet that you’d like to?
Madonna – I have watched her change throughout the years and I reference her imagery a lot, so she’s inspirational to me and iconic. Plus Kate Middleton!