Smudgy Eye Makeup Makes a Comeback

The look made waves at the Paris haute couture shows when Julia Fox sat, vaping, in the front row at Schiaparelli in an all-leather outfit, golden padlock bag and extreme black cat-eye makeup that covered her entire eyelids.

There it was again at the Chanel couture show, where makeup artists painted smudgy black circles around some of the models’ eyes, a look reportedly inspired by 1920s avant-garde art. And then, again and again, it has appeared on TikTok, where in the last few months a lot of Gen Zers have been experimenting with thickly rimmed black liner straight out of the mid-2000s Tumblr era.

On the new season of “Euphoria,” too, makeup has taken a turn from glittery to gritty, with plenty of black eyeliner. Just look at Maddy’s sharp reverse cat-eye or Jules’s inky inner-corner liner.

Smoky black eye makeup is back. And it’s over the top, a bit gothic and very powerful. It’s the kind of makeup that spurs conversation, creates fandom online, where people are recreating the look, and provokes some strong reactions, as it did to Ms. Fox’s look.

“When I arrived backstage at the Schiaparelli show, I was just about to start makeup on a model when Pat McGrath said, ‘Pack up and dash to Ms. Fox’s room!’” said Daniel Kolaric, the makeup artist behind Ms. Fox’s look.

As he repacked, he and Ms. McGrath, the British makeup maestro, discussed her vision for a bold, beautiful and graphic eye. She had already seen Ms. Fox’s dress and designed several looks, including something involving graphic lines, something deconstructed, a pulled out wing and the bold graphic eye that Ms. Fox ultimately chose.

Though rumors swirled that Kanye West had directed the makeup look, Mr. Kolaric took inspiration directly from Ms. McGrath and her archives.

“If you look into Pat’s archive, you’ll see variations throughout her editorials and runway shows,” he said, citing the graphic eye makeup Ms. McGrath designed for the Comme des Garçons fall 1997 show and the deconstructed black eyes she did for John Galliano’s fall 1999 Dior couture collection, in his homage to ‘The Matrix.’ “Pat also designed amazing graphic black eyes for Yohji Yamamoto in the 2000s,” Mr. Kolaric said.

The smudged circles painted around the eyes of models at Chanel suggested nothing so much as a black eye.Credit…Valerio Mezzanotti for The New York Times

Part of the appeal of this eye makeup is undoubtedly the so-called editorial mood of it all. “I love that it wasn’t intended to be flattering or beautiful, like most of the makeup we see in mainstream media,” said Aoife Cullen, a makeup artist who often experiments with audacious eye makeup on TikTok, and who also recreated Ms. Fox’s look.

“It’s refreshing to see a woman in the media defy the norm and standards of beauty she is expected to meet,” Ms. Cullen said.

For others, the allure of the look is its inherent boldness. “It just looks so sexy, bold and edgy,” said Mia Anjelica, who also recreated the look on social media. “I love the sense of power you get from just looking at Julia. Yes, the makeup is bold and black, takes up almost the whole lid space, but the darkness of the eyes makes you have to stare at them. Which to me feels like power. By the end of my makeup session, I felt dominant, hot and even a little superhero-esque.”

The secret to getting the look is all in the application. Mr. Kolaric stressed that it’s important to start concealing around the eye and on the lid first, then draw your intended graphic shape around the eye with an eye pencil, like the Pat McGrath Labs Perma Precision Liquid Eyeliner he used.

“Backstage, we always start the look with pencil eyeliner,” he said. “What’s great about starting with an eye pencil is that you can draw the outline and correct the shape before you fill it in. This helps get you the perfect, seamless graphic eye.”

Mia Anjelica recreated the Julia Fox makeup on her Instagram page.Credit…Mia Anjelica

Then you use a flat brush to pack on midnight black shadow within the shape you created and extend it outward toward the brow bone. Use a detail brush to define the lower lash line with the same black shadow. Finally, you sharpen the edges of the graphic black shape with the darkest black liner you own and coat your lashes with mascara.

If you want to go softer, or aren’t ready to fully commit to the look, the Byredo makeup artist Sabrina Rinaldi suggests applying a sheer wash of black or choosing brown instead of black, which gives you a softer, more wearable look. “You can create a toned-down version of the look by just rimming your eyes with liner,” Ms. Rinaldi said.

Another way to get the deep, dark black eye is to use an eye shadow stick or larger liner as the solo product, as Ms. Cullen did.

“I use Byredo’s Kali Kali Kajal liner, which is a chubby stick liner,” she said. “It is one of my favorite products to use to create these dramatic, dark, raw statement looks that I love so much.”

“I started by outlining the shape of the look and just filled it in with the pencil,” she said of her re-creation of Ms. Fox’s makeup on TikTok. “I went back around the outline with a cotton bud to manipulate the shape a little more to be more identical to the original work.”

Since black eye makeup can smudge, Ms. Cullen suggests dusting two or three layers of translucent powder on top. “The key is to not be afraid and just go for it,” she said. “It’s OK to ‘make mistakes’ because that in fact adds to the impact of the look in my opinion, and it’s the best way to learn and grow and be more comfortable with nonbeauty looks.”

To get a crisp look, you can add concealer at the end to sharpen up the lines. Simply paint it on with a flat brush against the black lines and blend.

So, layer that liner on thick and embrace the black.

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