Girls with halo braids, silver glitter lips and elaborate winged eyeliner throng the stairwells of The Saatchi Gallery. Immaculate scarlet mouths match the distinctive red cloth goody bags that weigh down shoulders. Mums, 20-something daughters and a pre-teen future #girlboss or two queue patiently for yet another panel debate or free makeover. Welcome to day two of the Glamour Beauty Festival, where all who attend are here to self improve, whether in terms of physical wellbeing, inner serenity, career goals or just a bit of jolly pampering.
This is the second year of the Glamour Beauty Festival, Condé Nast’s latest brand franchise. It follows on the success of the Vogue Festival (which is on hiatus this year) and is the continuation of a broader trend in publishing. Newsflash: Magazines aren’t just magazines any more. As printed magazines attract fewer readers it’s become more about the brand extensions. In particular that word du jour, ‘experiential’, whether that’s the Elle Style Awards, Vogue Cafes, Monocle shops or ticketed public events such as the this one. They all serve as awareness drivers and can help encourage print subscribers and – hopefully – send eyeballs to websites.
The two-day line-up for this year’s Glamour Beauty Festival is expansive. Where last year was almost a practice run, this year boasts over a dozen beauty participants, 3 hair stations, a Facebook Live element and better value for money all round. If you plan carefully, you can squeeze in a few talks, a couple of makeovers slots, umpteen selfie opps and all of the beauty sampling into your allotted morning or afternoon (tickets are £47 for a half day or £70 for the full monty). Plus, did I mention the £200-worth goody bag?
The talks formats vary but there’s an overriding ‘girlboss’ vernacular to the interviews. It’s not dissimilar to the BeautyCon conventions and recent Girlboss Rally in which ‘beauty’ is the hook but entrepreneurial spirit the real appeal. In the main room are panel debates with vloggers and wellness influencers, one-to-one interviews, and beauty demos with celebrity models and make-up artists. On the day I attend, it’s model Winnie Harlow interviewed by Erin O’Connor and model-turned-baker Lorraine Pascale interviewed by Glamour’s Helen Whitaker. The running theme is a ‘that could be me’ sense that if you work hard and stick at it, you can be a successful model/entrepreneur/beauty guru/superstar – as long as you navigate a few high jumps along the way.
While the inspo talks are the best attended, the most entertaining are those that feel more candid. Example: ‘Jim Chapman and Friends Talk Style’, a relaxed panel of male-models-slash-influencers discusssing everything from Dougie Poynter’s sensitive skin issues to the dangers of parabens in skincare. Who knew guys were so product-savvy? It feels like a male IRL version of the Mrs Gloss & the Goss Facebook group but with better bantz, including Oliver Cheshire’s unfortunate wee-meets-fake-tan mishap overshare (you had to be there).
But possibly the most successful format is the make-up masterclass by Marc Jacobs’ Hung Vanngo (Instagram followers: 466K). Demonstrating his favourite techniques on models – “always prep the skin! Don’t overload with illuminizer! Powder the T-zone but leave the rest fresh!” – abetted by Glamour Beauty Director Alex Steinherr (Instagram followers: 127K), this is another talk that’s banter-filled and educational without sounding like an infomercial. Not that it doesn’t shift product. A Marc Jacobs eyeliner pencil mentioned mid-demo causes a virtual stampede with spectators shopping the John Lewis site from their phones as he speaks. Others dash downstairs immediately post-talk to shop his recommendations.
But don’t think everything about the Glamour Beauty Festival is geared around sales. Most of the makeover stations are free and I love the Fragrance Foundation area, manned by CEO Linda Key. Her groupings of perfume types (chypres, orientals, fougeres) attract curious noses, happy to be educated in a non-sales-y environment. I leave with a new scent discovery, Romilly Wilde’s ‘Idle’ and I now know what a fougere is!
My main takeaway from the event is the overall vibe of positivity and possibility. After all, the promise of ‘a better you’ is what the beauty industry is based upon. And to be sure, beauty is the money-spinner that powers all this. Call me cynical but I can’t help feeling that ‘The Glamour Fashion Festival’ would likely not have attracted the influencer talent (Estee Lalonde, Niomi Smart, Pixiwoo and In The Frow were all major draws), nor the brand sponsorship needed to stage an event this size in central London (side note: Fiat was the main sponsor).
For this mostly-millennial audience, the festival is a successful way of bringing Glamour magazine to life. And the interactive experience provides perfect fodder for their social feeds because hey, everyone has a personal ‘brand’ narrative to maintain. As one PR puts it to me, “today print publications need wider visibility, while live events benefit from the kudos of being attached to a print mag.” She’s right and at the Glamour Beauty Festival, the punters get it all. The brands, the talks, the live-casting opportunities and at the end of it – a magazine subscription.
Disclosure: I attended the Glamour Beauty Festival as a guest of Condé Nast. I am also a freelance contributor to Glamour.
WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES TOP TO BOTTOM: Estee Lalonde and Alex Steinherr/Shaun James Fox; Pixiwoo/Shaun James Cox; Winnie Harlow/Shaun James Cox; Jim Chapman panel/Shaun James Cox; Hung Vanngo beauty demo/Ambra Vernuccio
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