Susannah Frankel: Ready To Wear

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Indy Lifestyle Online

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then these, like our bodies, will be framed in nothing more people-pleasing, or indeed frivolous, than black this autumn. Although the Paris collections are generally disparate, in this, designers and their make-up artists were virtually unanimous – where models' eyes weren't rimmed with kohl, their heads – as at Junya Watanabe – were entirely veiled in black.

Of course, that is not to say that any one take on this time-honoured formula was even remotely similar. At Dior, the world's most beautiful women stalked the runways like an army of turbocharged Mrs Robinsons, as played by Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, with heavy black lines drawn across top and bottom lids, and Sixties-style lashes that rivalled those of a particularly blessed giraffe in their proportions. At Comme des Garçons, faces covered in fine fishnet revealed eyes hooded with a dense black semicircle of matt-black face paint. At Yohji Yamamoto, eyes were catlike to the point of cartoonish. Balenciaga – known for promoting a fresh-faced look – followed a route that was part-feline, part-Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner.

The list goes on. If there is a single thing that unifies this particular look, however, it is that it is a signifier of power. Throughout history, any femme fatale worth her credentials, from Cleopatra to Siouxsie Sioux, and from Catwoman to Elastigirl, has masked her eyes in black, and the effect is more dramatic than any other.

Black eyes are the preserve of the seductress, the vamp, the dominatrix. Black absorbs the light, and with it, it is hoped, any subtlety of emotion or trace of vulnerability, and that is what makes the look more than a little appealing just now, given the unusually empowered and adult mood.

The most contemporary way to wear black eyeliner, black eyeshadow, black mascara, whatever, is to leave the rest of the face nearly nude. There is no place for blusher or anything more obvious than a stain on the lips. Teamed with red lipstick, in particular, the appearance of black eyes veers rather too perilously close to cliché, after all.

That said, at Viktor & Rolf, opinion was divided over lips that were so glossy they might have been mistaken for maraschino cherries. Good enough to eat? Perhaps too intimidating for that. And not content with merely outlining the world's most beautiful women's eyes with black glitter, the Dutch designers stamped the word "No" across their lovely faces. Say no to a forthcoming season with eyes inky black, and risk banishment to fashion Siberia.

s.frankel@independent.co.uk

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