Charlotte Tilbury, Glossier, Huda, Fenty, Drunk Elephant: the most anticipated launches in modern beauty history have a 2019 inductee. This month, Pat McGrath Labs makeup (previously sold online only at Net-a-Porter and patmcgrath.com) launched in the London branch of Selfridges, its first physical UK space. There was a huge party, a masterclass, and blanket press and social media coverage from fans and experts, unanimous in its praise of the brand’s founder – Pat McGrath, the world’s most influential makeup artist. So, what’s the stuff actually like?
Let’s dispense with my minor quibbles: I don’t believe the packaging is as sturdy or luxurious as one might expect at these serious prices. I find the branding a tad lacking in coherence and consistency (it looks like the design team changed tack at least three times mid-brief). And I can’t see what the Perma Precision eyeliner pen is bringing to the party for a whopping £26 in store.
But the quality of the rest of the range is superlative. The lipsticks are (at a hefty £35 in Selfridges) exquisite, especially the MatteTrance shades (Elson 2, an almost glowing orangey red, is my favourite). They drench the mouth in bold, lasting, vibrant pigment, leaving neither a dry nor heavy sensation. The Skin Fetish duo – a clear, gleaming balm for cheekbones and eyelids and the silkiest, smoothest highlighter (three flattering, pearlescent shades, £45 each) that blends effortlessly and seamlessly into the skin while somehow never migrating to where it is not wanted – is simply perfect. The Permagel lip pencils , £25, really do last way longer than others.
As painfully covetable as it all is, novices beware: Pat McGrath Labs is not an easy, breezy, whack-it-on-casually-and-smudge-it-out-prettily type of brand – it is essentially the anti-Glossier. The Mothership eye palettes – 10-pan, McGrath-editorial-inspired shadow wardrobes with superlative colour pay-off, £115 each – are a gift for beauty nerds, but may intimidate anyone without serious skills (follow @patmcgrathreal on Instagram – it is unashamedly rocket science, for McGrath is a master). Fans looking for something easy should proceed to Lip Fetish sheer colour lip balm (£35) in Blow Up, a beautiful and eminently wearable Bardot nude.