Makeup artist Gery Penaso spills on how he created the gorgeous beauty looks at BYS Fashion Week
For every fashion show, the clothes will always be the main focus, naturally. But we like to think of runway makeup as the cherry on top of a scrumptious ice cream sundae. It completes the whole look and really sets a show’s tone and mood. And not for nothing, but some runway makeup looks transcend trends and become genuinely iconic. Think of the dramatic feather lashes from Valentino’s 2019 spring couture show or the Yves Klein-blue body paint at Schiaparelli’s 2023 spring couture.
Gery Penaso knows all of this by heart. As the chief makeup artist for this year’s BYS Fashion Week, he and his team painstakingly created jaw-dropping beauty looks for a diverse set of designers ranging from HA.MÜ to Vania Romoff. Ahead, we chat with the beauty expert and find out just exactly what goes into creating and executing the perfect runway makeup look.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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W: In your opinion, how does makeup complete a runway look?
Gery Penaso: Fashion shows are composed of different creatives—from the designers to the production to the stagers. They are all needed to stage a runway show. Makeup, I would say, helps in setting the tone or creating a mood. That's why for fashion shows, it's very important for makeup artists to be aligned with the designer's vision. It's really a collaborative effort from all of the creatives involved.
Foxy, sultry matte smokey eyes at Chris Nick.
W: What exactly makes a makeup look runway ready?
GP: Creating runway makeup looks is such a specific skill set that’s totally different from what most makeup artists are used to in the Philippines. For most paying clients, usually and in general, it's so plakado (exaggerated). Complete brows, with foundation, all the layers, false lashes and all. But if you’re creating a runway makeup look, you need to learn how to hold back—which is difficult if you’re used to doing full-glam looks for your clients. When you do makeup on models, it's entirely different. There’s a lot to unlearn.
For the runway, what's important is your taste level. You really have to do your research and study up on international beauty trends. And to make a huge impact, you have to have an element that stands out, like the lips or the eyes. For example, at Chris Nick, the look was a matte smokey eye. So everybody in the team needed to be aligned and calibrated. Marami kasing klase ng smokey, so kailangan aligned lahat (There are several types of smokey eyes, so we needed to be aligned).
Icy, storm-inspired beauty at Antonina.
W: This BYS Fashion Week, what was the most challenging makeup look you created?
GP: Honestly, nothing felt that challenging. I made sure that the artists I got for each lineup were equipped with the skills required for a particular designer's look. But all in all, this year’s BYS Fashion Week is the most challenging project I've ever worked on when it comes to runway makeup.
For Rafa Worldwide, a lot of looks that were already drag makeup. As in, we blocked out brows and the eyes really popped. So I got makeup artists who work with drag queens. There was one look inspired by Doja Cat [at the Schiaparelli 2023 spring couture show] where we needed to paint the model red. But we really worked as a team—there were five makeup artists working simultaneously on one model. So it was really fulfilling, creativity-wise.
Raging avant-garde makeup looks at Rafa Worldwide.
GP: For Cheetah Rivera, since her collection is all about being fun, flirtatious and in love, we chose to do an eye-popping red lip. We used the same BYS lipstick on all the models, and I was very particular with the shape of the lips. Since it was all about love, I wanted to do a very romantic heart shape. To execute this well would really separate a makeup artist from a pro who can do advanced beauty looks. A few days after the show, I got a call from Cheetah, and she told me she was happy because the red lips really captured her vision about love.
The perfect red lips at Cheetah Rivera.
W: What’s your personal favorite makeup look that you created this BYS Fashion Week?
GP: I can’t pick just one look. If I'm going to compare this year from last year’s BYS Fashion Week, the lineup of designers is so much more diverse. There are younger avant-garde designers like Rafa Worldwide or HA.MÜ alongside more seasoned designers like Vania Romoff or Neric Beltran. So it's really hard to pick a favorite because the makeup looks per designer are just all so different.
Day 1, of course, had the more adventurous looks, and I really liked that. But for Vania Romoff, which was very no-makeup makeup, when you look at it you might think “ah, simple lang ‘yan” (“that seems simple”). But when you look at the show as a whole, the minimalist makeup made everything so beautiful. That is something that we don't see a lot in Filipino fashion shows.
Restrained but elevated no-makeup makeup at Vania Romoff.
GP: For Orias Studios, we did a very raw, international look with glowing skin. It worked really well with the location and the clothes, which was this merging of the city and nature. And then you have the classic glam look for Chris Nick, the matte smokey eye which was so foxy and sexy. And with Cheetah, again we did the glam red lip. The diversity really says a lot about BYS as a brand. They're so true to their name: “be yourself.”
Dewy, bronzed glowy complexions at Orias Studios.
W: What’s your process in conceptualizing makeup looks for each designer’s show?
GP: I don't want to take full credit for creating the makeup looks. It's really a collaborative process. In fact, for the Day 1 designers (Rafa Worldwide, Antonina, HA.MÜ, Randolf), the makeup was really part of their vision. My role was to step back and make sure their vision was executed well.
But also, since I'm the makeup expert, if I have input, I have to voice it out to the designer. Like for Neric Beltran, during the pre-show look test he showed me his peg. We executed it, but right before the show I spoke with his team and showed makeup options that I thought suited the vibe of the show. It was really a lot of collaboration and trust.
Blushing bridal beauty at Neric Beltran.
W: How do you get inspiration for your more editorial, out-there makeup looks?
GP: Inspiration is really a never-ending learning process, and you need to be open to it and be really fearless. I've been doing this for 14 years now, and I've grown so much. You need to have that hunger to learn, and you shouldn't let that go. And if you are a makeup enthusiast, know that there are no rules. Makeup is an extension of who you are. You can express yourself through makeup, and it can get very liberating to send a message through your everyday looks.
Club-kid theatrical makeup at Randolf.
W: What’s the experience like working backstage right before a fashion show is about to start?
GP: Backstage? It really is chaotic. But we enjoyed the chaos (laughs). I mean what's a fashion show without backstage chaos?
Logistically, it was really challenging because some days, the shows would be held in different locations and with only two hours apart. So you can imagine managing manpower was a huge challenge. It was a really big help that I had key makeup artists that led each show. We had Janica Cleto, Vince Leendon, Japeth Purog, Jay Salcedo, Angeline dela Cruz and Bryan Cuizon. Since we all worked together so many times before, I knew that they would lead each show perfectly. They would calibrate each makeup look and make sure every model looked cohesive. I oversaw everything, but they really helped me.
I hired 40 artists all in all for hair and makeup. I wanted to make sure that they all had a very nice working experience. That's what's important. It may be really tiring, but it's really fulfilling. Just to see everyone working really well together, for me at this stage of my career it was a totally different level of fulfillment.
Bold, captivating eye looks at HA.MÜ.
W: Do you have any tips for those who want to replicate runway makeup looks in their day-to-day life?
GP: This generation is so lucky, because we're living in an age that's all about expressing yourself in all the ways that you can, including makeup. Remember that no matter how extreme runway makeup looks can get, you can always personalize it, make it your own and make it wearable for everyday. Makeup has no limits; there are no rules. So just go for it and be yourself.
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Words Jer Capacillo
Art Macky Arquilla