Businesswoman Feature: Pat McGrath
Who is Pat McGrath?
If you have followed the online beauty community within the past five years, you have likely heard of Pat McGrath. Take a look at her Instagram account - @patmcgrathreal - and you’ll find a dynamic, shimmering, and colorful assembly of makeup product demonstrations and photo shoot montages. Her bold style- high on the glitter factor- has carved an irreplaceable niche for McGrath in the beauty market, and her honed combination of business savvy and wild creativity shines through every new campaign and product launch.
While young hopefuls in the beauty world may consider McGrath something of an untouchable icon, her story illustrates the importance that working hard and making smart connections can have in anyone’s career journey. She was able to make a name for herself in an incredibly competitive field by sticking to her vision for her craft and expressing her love for what she does in every item she creates.
Pat McGrath was born in Northampton, England on June 11, 1970. Raised primarily by her mother, McGrath credits her love for beauty and encouragement to experiment with fabrics, colors, and makeup for introducing her to her career. She claims that she “was always obsessed with make-up and creativity in all its forms” citing that they “fueled her irresistible urge to create.” Having never received a formal education in makeup or fashion, McGrath completed a foundational course in art at Northampton college before stepping into the field of makeup artistry.
Her career began in the 90s, when she was introduced to famous photographer Steven Meisel during a photoshoot. Since meeting Meisel, the two have worked together to produce covers and editorial stories for every following issue of Vogue Italia. She also connected with Edward Enninful, a previous Fashion Director for i-D Magazine, and scored a position as a long-time contributor to the publication.
McGrath’s first break into the beauty industry began with working as a makeup artist on photo shoot sets for Enninful at i-D. Although such a high-fashion job sounds glamorous, McGrath recalls some of the hardships that came from working in the background. “I can very clearly remember coming home one day and crying,” she says, “after a really disappointing day of test shoots.” She claims that she often felt like giving up, but keeping her head held high, she persevered until she was able to make her next move.
In 1999, the global luxury fashion brand, Giorgio Armani, hired McGrath to help them launch a cosmetics line. This partnership was a major win for McGrath, as it gave her a taste of what it was like to be the leader of a major creative project, and allowed her to experiment with makeup production and branding.
She moved from backstage makeup artistry, to leading product development teams for luxury cosmetic brands, developing runway show looks, and launching major ad campaigns and editorial spreads for beauty companies and publications. McGrath has a long and impressive list of contributions from 25 years of working in the beauty industry, including producing 500 magazine covers, creating makeup looks for 190,000 models, and working backstage at nearly 3,300 runway shows.
In 2004, she was brought on as the Global Beauty Creative Design Director at Procter & Gamble, which houses Covergirl and Dolce and Gabbana: The Makeup. Currently, McGrath creates over 60 makeup looks for read-to-wear fashion shows across the world for names like Prada, Gucci, Louis Vitton, and Valentino, among many others, and contributes to British Vogue as the beauty editor-in-chief.
Despite having met so many life-changing opportunities during her career journey, McGrath does not believe there was any single major event that impacted her career above the rest. “I don’t feel like I ever had a ‘big break’,” she claims, looking back on her career. She considers her journey to be “a series of micro breaks” that have continued to motivate and challenge her creative and organizational skills over the years.
Developing Her Brand
After years of producing makeup for other brands, McGrath decided in 2017, that it was time to create some makeup that reflected her own vision. She launched six limited-release collections of makeup before releasing a core collection of makeup products, which consisted of lipsticks, eyeshadows, and much more. That same year, she was given the Founder’s Award at the CFDA Fashion Awards.
She recalls working on the idea for the brand, which she had incubated for years beforehand, and discovering “the most diving gold pigment” that inspired the project. It’s this passion for what she creates that distinguishes McGrath from other big-name makeup brands. She expresses her love for beauty and experimentation with makeup through her brand personality and the quality of her products, and it keeps her loyal customers coming back to enjoy her latest designs and formulations.
McGrath has become an icon of British fashion and makeup. She has had the honor of being inducted into the Order of the British Empire for her great successes in beauty and fashion, a crowning achievement for anyone in the industry. But, the fame and fortune is not what keeps McGrath motivated. “I want my legacy to be one of change and positivity,” she says. McGrath understands the difficulties creators of color face in the beauty industry, which has been predominantly focused on white consumers for many years. By using her raw talent and visionary ideas to push herself into the front lines of production and development, she has helped broaden the horizons for racially diverse creators and consumers in luxury merchandising. Representation matters to McGrath, and to many of her loyal followers, and her brand’s booming popularity demonstrates viability of great success for creators that were often sidelined in the past.
A great piece of advice McGrath has for young people coming into the professional world is this: “You really have to keep that joy because that’s what keeps you going. Just go forth and continue. Make something new and really hone your craft. Find out what you are.”
Take a moment to check out her company website https://www.patmcgrath.com/, and experience her bold, engaging, and boundary-pushing style. McGrath and her team have masterfully captured the essence of the brand throughout all of their online customer touchpoints, from their social media accounts to the buying experience. If you are interested in the beauty industry, be sure to keep an eye out for McGrath in the future. She’s changing the landscape of the industry for the better with every new lipstick, foundation, and eyeshadow she creates.
By: Lauren Miles