Meet Rae Morris, the makeup artist in charge of MFW’s Opening Town Hall Runway

Photography by Jackson Grant
Words by Maeve Kerr-Crowley

What to expect from this year’s runway beauty looks.

Behind the scenes of Melbourne Fashion Week, preparation is well and truly underway.

In the lead up to the runways, there are countless moving parts involved in putting together the looks we’ll eventually drool over. In fact, as you read this, designers, models, hairstylists and makeup artists across the city are likely planning and practising every aspect of their shows.

This year, makeup direction for the Opening Town Hall Runway is in the capable hands of long-time pro, Rae Morris.

Now the director of her own beauty brand stocked exclusively at Mecca, Rae has more than two and a half decades’ experience and 161 fashion shows under her belt.

We caught up with Rae at the Mecca headquarters in the midst of the runway makeup trials. In case you’re wondering what kind of work goes into planning runway beauty looks, we’ll paint you a picture.

On the day of the trials, models see Rae and her fellow makeup artists in one room. Next door, hairstylists are similarly set up. Then there are members of the Mecca team, representatives from MFW, a photographer and a videographer.

Looks are tested, fine-tuned and confirmed right there, under Rae’s watchful and experienced eye.

By this point, however, she’s been working on these concepts for weeks. In collaboration with the show’s stylist – in this case, Kate Gaskin – she’s curated three distinct looks to suit the clothes we’ll see on the runway.

While the specifics of what to expect remain a closely guarded secret, Rae promises bold looks with an element of surprise. This is balanced, however, with an over-arching industry trend that declares “skin is in”.

Understated, natural-seeming makeup is in demand, which Rae admits changes the way she and her team approach each design.

“We’re actually seeing less contouring, less over-highlighting, and it’s more about the face and the skin looking really healthy,” she explains. “Instead of taking the skin and putting so much makeup on to make it look radiant, we’re making the skin radiant before we apply makeup.”

She goes on to explain that so much of this process happens before a drop of makeup touches a model’s skin. Skincare products like face masks, balms, oils and rosewater sprays are vital in keeping the face looking healthy and fresh.

When it does come time to apply makeup, however, the understated look is greatly helped by Rae’s own line of brushes, which are designed to blend products easily and seamlessly.

As well as being the first-ever magnetic makeup brushes, the range features precision calligraphy technology, crafted for Rae’s brand by the last living Japanese master in calligraphy brush making – one of only 40 people in history to be awarded the title. The company he works with, which has been operating for over 180 years, had never made brushes for any other brand before partnering with Rae Morris.

“In a nutshell, what takes a standard brush 10-20 strokes to blend, takes mine 2-3,” says Rae. “That’s what you need when you’re under time restraints like at fashion weeks.”

That’s because backstage on the night of the show, chaos is pretty much a given. After a couple more practice runs, Rae and her teams of Mecca artists – yes, teams, plural – will set up shop at Town Hall and have no choice but to embrace the ensuing madness.

“It’s organised chaos, because I’ve done this for a very long time. My big thing is I like to keep a very kind, calm vibe, because I’m all about looking after the girls and making everyone enjoy the experience.”

Because a lot of the models and artists Rae works with are first-timers, she takes it upon herself to nurture them and soothe their nerves. This is something she’s learnt from working big, international shows – brands like Jean Paul Gaultier, Armani and Prada float around her resume – where she insists the environment is much calmer and gentler than anyone would guess.

You can book tickets to the opening night runway here. But be quick, because seats are selling fast.

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