‘ieStyle Live’ will bring cutting edge trends to Cork in an unmissable fashion show next month, hosted by Brendan Courtney and Sonya Lennon. Ruth O’Connor talks to celebrity make up artist Christine Lucignano about the beauty trends she’ll be tapping into on the night
The client list of international makeup artist Christine Lucignano resembles a celebrity who’s who of the great, the good, the not-so-good and the gorgeous. With her career in makeup spanning over three decades and crossing time zones and disciplines from fashion campaigns to catwalk shows, lunching with Christine and her assistant John Paul O’Sullivan at Green & Bean in Brown Thomas is like dining with the coolest best friend you wish you had.
Not only is she warm, pragmatic and funny but she’s worked with the very best in the business. Having previously worked in fashion design, Christine discovered her passion for makeup and beauty while working with hairdressers and makeup artists on fashion campaign shoots and was driven to change career, leaving behind a well-paid job in fashion but quickly rising through the ranks of the cosmetics industry Stateside where she lived for many years.
“I used to look at the people doing the hair and makeup for our catalogue shoots and think ‘Wow! They’re having so much more fun than I am’. So I left a huge paying job much to my parents’ absolute disgust and went to work for my friend who managed a Nordstrom store in California,” says the native of Cabra in Dublin who has retained an American twang from her time in the US. “I was an artist but I had no training and started to assist really big names - Dick Page, Kevyn Aucoin, Bobbi Brown, Jeanine Lobell, Diane Kendal… I can’t believe it’s been 33 years – I’m officially an aul’ one!”
Christine’s job as National Beauty Director at Nordstrom at the time, in charge of trends, education and PR for the cosmetics division, put her in contact with the big players – Kevyn Aucoin one day, Anna Wintour the next and she has worked with many international fashion brands including Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Versace, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Hererra, Bill Blass and Michael Kors.
She is totally embedded in what’s happening on the fashion scene. “I still do my own moodboards every season. I am aware of everything that goes on in fashion. I look and keep everything. Back in the day before everything was online I would buy two of every magazine - The Face, V, Vogue - Italian, French, British, US, W magazine...”
Things were going well for her in the US until the horrific events of 9-11 made Christine reassess where she wanted to be.
“I was working at the shows and 9-11 took place and I just thought: ‘I’m done. I’m going home.’ It took me just over a month to get home, that’s how hellish the US was around that time. The smells, the reaction… it was like being in a movie, it didn’t seem real… I came home that October and I met my husband the following February. I went to a phone booth because I didn’t have a mobile phone,” she says of those first few weeks back in Ireland.
“1st Options was the first company I rang and they signed me that day. The thing was, a lot of stylists didn’t like my portfolio despite the fact that I had campaigns in it with Old Navy, Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic and Nordstrom. I kept getting asked for more dramatic makeup or smokey eyes. In my head what was happening on a global scale was different in fashion and cosmetics. It was artistic but it was always about skin - I want skin to look real, I don’t want to cover it up.” This attitude to real provides an insight into what Christine Lucignano is truly about. As the industry has changed over time, so has its priorities and while Christine always wants to use the very best products she can in aesthetic terms, it is also clear that she favours both cruelty-free and women-led brands, both of which will feature on the models at the ie Style Live event on October 17 at Cork City Hall.
“What I have planned is a focus on makeup that is not only cruelty-free but also that focuses on female-owned or -driven businesses, brands such as Fenti and Anastasia Beverly Hills. I want to champion women in beauty a little more. Also, the idea of make-up not being diverse blows my mind.
When I see a makeup artist that doesn’t have the skill set to work with all skin colours it is not acceptable. Irish Examiner Style Editor Annmarie O’Connor has worked with me in terms of casting for the ieStyle Live show to ensure that there is diversity there - and it is not just token diversity. I would love to say that the makeup is also fully sustainable but unfortunately the industry is not there yet. However the aim is to be as ‘conscious’ as possible.”
This conscious approach to makeup is similarly important to many of Christine’s celebrity clients who are becoming much more mindful of issues such as cruelty-free products, recyclable packaging and brand inclusion and diversity.
“There are some clients with whom I can only use a 100 percent cruelty- free makeup kit,” says Christine. “Take Aisling Bea for example or Evanna Lynch. Also Laura Whitmore... Angela Scanlon… I think Irish women have a good conscience and are mindful of these things. Also younger people are so conscious now.”
While the majority of her clients are terrific - she cites Amy Huberman and The Corrs as such, as well as all her regular non-celebrity clients - she has had some hair-raising moments over the years.
“There’s a lot less pressure from some celebrity handlers and their PR people. I had a really nasty moment, and I don’t care if you print this, with Faye Dunaway,” she says. “I packed up my kit and walked out and my exact words were: ‘I wouldn’t come back if the Blessed Virgin Mary was assisting me.’” Despite an impressive back catalogue as long as your arm, Christine Lucignano continues to set her sights high and her current client wish-list includes rapper, singer and producer Missy Elliot. “I would love to work with Missy Elliot. My friend Victor Chamberlain (global makeup artist with MAC) used to look after her and I would love to do her more than life. I’d love a crack at J. Lo and Beyoncé, and, at the same time, Helen Mirren and Iman.”
For the rest of us mere mortals she recommends using makeup to look like the very best versions of ourselves rather than attempting to emulate others. “It’s about being the best version of yourself,” she says. “I think a lot of people want to look like someone else and feel that they are not good enough and that makes me sad. And makeup brings joy. There’s no harm in it. Even if you’re feeling a little bloated - a lipstick doesn’t see size.”
The Irish Examiner presents ieStyle Live on October 17. Join our hosts Brendan Courtney and Sonya Lennon at Cork City Hall at 6pm, where the latest trends will be showcased in a fashion show curated by Style Editor Annmarie O’Connor, with looks from stores including Brown Thomas and Samui, with make up by Christine Lucignano.
Plus, join Sonya Lennon in conversation with best-selling author and Irish Examiner columnist Louise O’Neill for ‘Celebrate, Share, Support’, as they talk careers, parenting, relationships and wellbeing. And it’s all to be enjoyed over a seasonal three course dinner, with goodie bags and prizes also on the night. The evening will help raise much-needed funds for Enable Ireland, our charity partners, who provide services to over 8,500 children and adults with physical, sensory, and intellectual disabilities.
Date: October 17
Venue: Cork City Hall
Tickets: €100 or a table of 10 for €1,000.