‘Slowly something is mounting, some more desire and excitement,’ Miuccia Prada said in her A/W 2021 post-show discussion with collaborator Raf Simons, and it’s certainly true that there was an enthusiastic undercurrent running through many of the beauty looks in the A/W 2021 shows.

The season’s helmet haircuts, body paint, face stickers, crayola colour palettes, goth extremism and other inventive takes on beauty, suggested a readiness to get playful, to experiment. Skincare and wellness dominated the conversation last year, but this season hints that there is ‘desire and excitement’ around the return to a bolder makeup.

Below, we share some of the most memorable looks from the season to inspire your own cosmetic creativity.

Burberry 

Burberry beauty A/W 2021 show showing model with slicked back hair and silver stars on her face

One of the chief inspirations for Riccardo Tisci’s latest Burberry collection was the Arts and Crafts movement of early 19th century Britain, which saw artists like William Morris rebel against the rise of industrially produced goods in favour of handmade craft with wildlife motifs.
 
To translate this aesthetic into cosmetics, Burberry’s Global Beauty Director, Isamaya Ffrench, built on the hyper-minimalist makeup of last year’s show, maintaining the same high-polish skin and no-makeup makeup, but this time faces were scattered with delicate silver stars and face crystals. 

To complement the look, hair artist Jawara Wauchope created a series of military-style buzzcuts and gelled back styles so severe they looked almost as if they were painted on. 

Molly Goddard 

Molly Goddard A/W 2021 model with frizzy hair, red lipstick, and bright pink blush
Molly Goddard A/W 2021. Photography: Ben Broomfield

There’s always been a certain playfulness to Molly Goddard’s work, and that sensibility was complemented this season by Luke Hersheson’s whimsical hair, and colourful makeup by Miranda Joyce. Bundles of candy-floss hair were accompanied by crescent moons of neon-pink blush around the eyes and bright red lips.

The effect is like an artistic take on a child’s first experiments with their mother’s makeup cabinet. Hair blow-dried to the max and makeup applied freely and experimentally, without following any rules about where it should go. Its one of the many looks this season that suggests extravagant makeup and hair will be on-trend come autumn 2021.

Ahluwalia

Still from Ahluwalia A/W 2021 showing model in Ahluwalia clothes with blue face paint
Ahluwalia A/W 2021

The spraypainted prints of Priya Ahluwalia’s A/W 21 collection were reflected in the airbrushed steaks of colour that adorned models faces. London-based makeup artist Bari Khalique accented cheekbones, brow lines, and chins with strokes of iridescent blue for a painterly take on cosmetic colour application. 

Simone Rocha

Simone Rocha A/W 2021 show with model in black dress and elaborately braided hair

Some of the most memorable hair looks of the season came courtesy of hairstylist Cyndia Harvey at Simone Rocha. Rocha was inspired the naivety of adolescence for this collection and Harvey’s long rows of plaits harked back to the uniform hairstyle of many school girls.

Yet, the formation of those braids into gravity-defining sculptures added an edginess to the delicacy, in a nod to Rocha’s signature blend of fragility and ferocity. That mixture was echoed in Lauren Parsons’ makeup, which features sweet, peachy lips and brown eyes that added a suggestion of sleepless nights. Ama Quashie nail art, featuring delicate flowers on a clear base, was a particularly delightful detail. 

Prada 

Prada A/W 2021 model wit slicked back hair by Guido Palou and Pat McGrath makeup
Prada A/W 2021

Within the first few seconds of Prada’s A/W 2021 digital show, the camera turns and follows the model through the OMA-designed set, showcasing her helmet of slicked-back hair. The extravagant minimalism of the look is the perfect foil for the exuberant textures, patterns, and colours that characterised Miuccia Prada and Raf Simons’ latest collection. While Pat McGrath’s clean, barely perceptible makeup added an element of understatement. 

Salvatore Ferragamo 

Salvatore Ferragamo beauty A/W 2021 with woman in silver body paint and silver chain mail

The beginning of Paul Andrew’s A/W 2021 collection for Salvatore Ferragamo started off with beauty not all that different from the looks in many other shows this season – minimalist makeup paired with slicked-back hair. Yet, as the sci-fi inspired show film, continues shimmers of something different appears.

A model emerges from the white-lit tunnel, a nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey, with splotches of silver paint around her lips, the same appears again, until by the end of the show, models emerged almost entirely covered in silver body paint that complemented a matching silver trench or a revealing chainmail gown.

Yohji Yamamoto

yohji yamamoto A/W 21 ready to wear makeup with models wearing black hair and pale skin
Yohji Yamamoto A/W 2021. Images by Takay

Spooky is probably the best word for describing the hair and makeup in Yohji Yamamoto’s latest A/W 2021 collection. The show’s mixture of 19th-century structures and contemporary streetwear influence was reflected in beauty looks which walked the line between Romantic-era ghoul and modern-day punk.

Long black mains were crimped and flipped into Edward Scissorhands-style disarray, bouffant hair-dos are deflated and tinged with streaks of grey, shorter updos were styled into elaborate braids or gelled upwards and dyed blue, red, and black.

The gothy-punk hairstyles were accompanied by exaggeratedly pale skin and blanched lips for a corpse-like pallor.

Christian Dior

Christian Dior A/W 2021 show with model in blue dress wearing smudged black eye makeup
Christian Dior A/W 2021

Maria Grazia Chiuri called her latest collection for Christian Dior ‘Disturbing Beauty’ and it’s true that there was a certain element of creepiness to the beauty looks Peter Philips and Guido Palau constructed for the show.

Philips’ created a black smoky eye that was dark around the eye’s corners and more lightly shaded across the crease for a withdrawn, eerie effect. Palau’s hair emphasised the drama with a severe middle part or curtain of glossy bangs.

Dries Van Noten

Dries Van Noten A/W 2021 beauty model with smudged glossy red lipstick and slicked back hair

It’s near impossible not to catch sight of the slightly smeared, vinyl lips in Dries Van Noten’s dance-filled A/W 2021 film. Ranging from rosy pink to brick red and deep berry, the punchy lips were emphasised by slicked back hair, minimal eye makeup, and the occasional bleached eyebrow.

Paired with free-flowing choreography and a Massive Attack soundtrack, the bold cosmetics of this collection offered some much-needed inspiration for the evenings of party makeup that, hopefully, aren’t too far away. §