Slap-happy but not slapdash

Trish McEvoy, New York's queen of make-up, is now introducing British women to her hyper-organised approach to maquillage. Belinda Morris attended her first workshop. Photographs by Philip Meech
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The Independent Online
I've just done something really rash. I've been through all my cupboards and knicker drawers and winkled out every stick, tube and palette of make-up that I could find - and I've thrown them away. Not just the long-concealed pots of cheap lip gloss and dried-up mascaras, but even the Dior eye shadows in several shades of blue and lilac; the Chanel red lipstick that should have been me, but wasn't, and numerous pots of experimental foundation. I was ruthless. Trish would have been proud of me.

Trish? That's Trish McEvoy, New York's celebrated queen of make-up. You may not have heard of her, but word has it that the likes of Sharon Stone and Trudie Styler wouldn't lift so much as a brow brush without consulting her first. And now, worryingly, it looks as though I, too, may be hooked.

Only this morning I thought I had my beauty routine down to a fine art. The combination of time (none) plus technique (minimal) and tools (ropey), amounts to a sketchy approximation of what I like to think of as a carelessly casual, natural look. It's managed to stay just this side of fashionably acceptable ever since, well, school really. And that was 25 years ago. Anyway, I thought I knew what suited me. That was before meeting Trish McEvoy. I now know better.

Despite jet lag that required regular doses of caffeine, Ms McEvoy was nothing if not perky before her first workshop sitting in front of wary beauty editors (and me). A slight, but curvy, vision in black leather and with wide-awake eyes (think Victoria Principal meets Mary Tyler Moore) she beamed happily at us. I waited for a fresh-faced, blank-canvas model to appear. Nothing in the invitation prepared me for the next bit. We were sent, cleansers and tissues in hand, to the ladies' loo and ordered to remove our make-up. Even a reborn country girl like me balked at exposing all to a roomful of strangers. We mutely obeyed, with just a hint of protest. "American women would have been screaming at me by now," Trish observed. I was screaming inside.

Indeed, she must have found us a strangely low-key bunch compared to her Stateside audiences. As the lesson got under way, little cries of delight from Trish and her two lovely assistants - "See how pretty!" - were met with rather more subdued noises of polite agreement. But, just as she said we would, we gradually warmed to her theme - make-up should be fun, not scary - and the notion of bringing order into a vanity case of confusion. And as more and more very girly paraphernalia heaped up in front of us, it was beginning to look quite exciting.

Encased in a glossy black "planner" was the "make-up wardrobing system" that looked like a Filofax and promised to "take the guesswork out of cosmetics" (and, presumably, render all previous purchases redundant). Like a patient mother with a surly teenager, she took us step-by-step through the routine and techniques which she taught herself and which have made her name. I wondered if this was teaching beauty editors to suck eggs and checked furtively for signs of boredom. Trish, too, was prepared for impatience - "No, wait, watch me first," she chided as we were ready to put brush to lid. "Let me show you how to hold the mirror. [So we looked down into it, rather than at it.] There now, how much better is that?" Actually, oddly enough, much better. Fancy not thinking of it before.

More little tricks cropped up as we turned the pages of our planners. How to hold a liner brush ("elbow in"), best way for a subtle lip-line ("all a matter of pressure"). The usually super-proficient beauty editors were soon oohing and aahing for real.

But any potential customers, especially those with set ideas, should beware. Trish can be brutal. Her system may be all about choices (customer lifestyle is assessed before oily centre panels and lack of bone structure) but she revels in debunking long-held beliefs. When asked if we preferred a matt or a shiny look we all, predictably, rejected the Saturday Night Fever effect. No matter, she had us all dipping into a shiny compact anyway. I decided it was all a matter of semantics - for "shiny" read "healthy", and for "bronzed" think "lightly sun-kissed", not George Hamilton.

Not only are American women more excitable than us, they apparently apply more make-up than we do, and despite the fact that Trish and her assistants looked ready, in my opinion, for a night out on the town at 11am, she had correctly assessed us as natural girls. And by the end of the session, we were a hooked bunch of converts who knew (temporarily, at least) how to do it properly.

The only problem was, we'd been at it for an hour. Who has that kind of time in the morning? I mentally pictured pigs, peacocks, cats, hens and husband tutting impatiently, their breakfasts forgotten. To say nothing of the 7.55am to Liverpool Street leaving without me. "Does it always take this long? Can I miss anything out?" I whined. No and yes. Apparently the whole job, with a bit of practice, can be done in 10, even five minutes (though that's still three minutes longer than my current routine). And you can skip bits, though never eyelid base, lipstick or eye-liner. Heaven forbid.

And if you're worried about organisation overload, what with your personal organiser, customised colour counselling manual and feng shui guide, don't be. The "planner", stuffed with brushes, puffs, sponges and colours, is intended to be your make-up drawer; there are at least two smaller, handy handbag wallets for daytime "essentials". Trish has thought of everything. And should it all sound just a little too regimented, don't worry. "The spontaneity," says Trish, "is in the application. I just want to make make-up easier. It should be fun - like a pyjama party."n

Large leather planner, pounds 31; each empty "page" for make-up costs pounds 8, and products start from pounds 11 (for a lipstick). The Trish McEvoy counter opens on 18 August, exclusively at Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, London SW1. All staff are trained by Trish McEvoy and her team to offer advice on colour, application and products, which together comprise the "wardrobing system" for the face.