Who is Pat McGrath? The make-up artist's brand is now worth more than Kylie Cosmetics

19th Jul 18 | Beauty

She's widely heralded as one of the most important figures in beauty.


Considering Pat McGrath only launched her make-up line – Pat McGrath Labs – in Europe last year, her success has been truly astounding.

The 48-year-old has been called “the most influential make-up artist in the world,” by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, and now her own line is set to grow.

New investment into Pat McGrath Labs puts the company’s value at an estimated $1 billion (£770 million), which surpasses Forbes’s $800 million (£610 million) estimate of Kylie Jenner’s beauty empire.

Sending you all LEGENDARY LOVE xx Pat ⚡️⚡️

A post shared by Pat McGrath (@patmcgrathreal) on

This means that the iconic make-up artist is only going to get bigger, so here’s everything you need to know about her.

Her background

McGrath was raised in Northampton by her Jamaican-born mother Jean, a dressmaker who instilled in her a love of make-up.

She often speaks in interviews how difficult it was to find make-up to match her skintone in the 1970s and 1980s. This didn’t stop her from indulging in an obsession with cosmetics though, and in an interview with the Guardian she describes how she and her mother would regularly mix their own make-up to match their skin.

These experiences shaped her future approach, and she says: “I was working all the time with pigments to make sure they work on all skin tones, particularly to make sure dark skin doesn’t become ashy, pigments that are so rich they work on everybody.”

McGrath has no formal training in make-up, but did an art foundation course in Northampton, before moving to London and breaking into the club kids scene of the 1980s.

Her career

McGrath wore outlandish and colourful make-up when going out in London, helping her break into a notoriously tricky industry. Hanging out with the club kids meant that she was meeting the right people, and her career was launched when the pop group Soul II Soul asked her on tour with them as a make-up artist (even though at that point she admits she didn’t even know that was a job).

With her remarkably free and colourful style, McGrath was a breath of fresh air among the grungy vibe of the Nineties fashion scene.

The Cut says the moment McGrath was solidified as a superstar came in 1994, when she worked with photographer Steven Meisel, who loved her work and went on to become a frequent collaborator. Afterwards, the big names came calling – everyone from John Galliano and Versace to Dolce & Gabbana and Dior. Now, it’s not uncommon for McGrath to work around 80 shows in a fashion season.

She often worked with i-D magazine, which is where she met her best friend Edward Enninful, who is now the editor of British Vogue.

Pat McGrath Labs started small – just with a 1,000 units of a glittery gold powder that sold out in six minutes. It then expanded with more shades as well as lip and skin products, but it was only last year that the brand became available to buy in the UK (exclusively on Net-a-Porter).

Her style

In her personal line and when working with fashion clients, McGrath is all about experimentation. Think bold colours, glittery shades and unusual ways to apply make-up.

She can’t be accused of trying to achieve the “no make-up make-up” look, but is instead unashamedly obsessed with cosmetics and playing around with them.

In terms of skin, she’s all about achieving a luminous look and really knowing how to match skin to cosmetics. Supermodel Naomi Campbell told The Cut: “I don’t like to talk about colour, but we’ve not had so many black female make-up artists. She knows all types of skin and how to work with them.”

Her muses

Amber Valletta was one of McGrath’s original muses, who introduced her to Meisel and helped her career really take off.

Other supermodels that McGrath frequently works with include Naomi Campbell, Hailey Baldwin, Ruby Aldridge and Jasmine Sanders.

continually coming with the xXxtras for @patmcgrathreal 🕺🏽~

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Being such a force in fashion, McGrath has herself helped to launch careers – including that of plus-size model Paloma Elsesser, who’s face McGrath told Allure is “the ultimate canvas”.

© Press Association 2018