Step into Alexa Chung‘s hotel room while she’s getting ready for the Met Gala, and it’s hard not to marvel at how remarkably calm and stress-free the scene really is. People are cracking jokes left and right. Once our photographer Eric begins shooting her beauty prep, Chung cheerfully hams it up in front of the lens, hair clips still in place. At one point, Nina Ricci creative director Peter Copping—Chung’s date and dresser for the evening—pops by, not to fuss over last-minute adjustments to the dress he’s custom-made for her, but to suggest that they grab a casual drink before heading uptown. It’s easy to see why the TV personality, author and fashion muse has become the poster child for laid-back cool—particularly in an industry rife with high-maintenance types.
As such, Chung’s never been one to sport a full face of makeup. Late last year, she collaborated with London-based beauty brand Eyeko on an exclusive kit containing a pen-style liquid eyeliner and classic mascara, along with a how-to poster demonstrating how to apply each. But while most associate the British beauty with her trademark ’60s-inspired cat eye, her forthcoming second collaboration with Eyeko—on a trio of smudgy shadow sticks—is meant to yield a softer, smoky eye. Called Me & My Shadow, the all-in-one product (out in early June at Eyeko.com) features a subtly sparkly waterproof eye crayon that can be used as either a shadow or liner on one end, and a blending brush on the other. And it’s a key component in her Met Gala beauty look for tonight—no sharp, inky-black swoop here!
Read on for my chat with Chung, in which we discuss her biggest beauty blunders, her custom Nina Ricci gown for the big gala and how, ironically, this style rule-breaker was once tasked with enforcing her school’s strict dress code. Then, click through above to see her eye makeup look for the 2014 Met Gala, created by the star’s longtime makeup artist Tamah Krinsky and using products from Chung’s upcoming second Eyeko collab!
Lucky: How old were you when you first started doing your makeup yourself?
Alexa Chung: I was quite old, actually. Growing up, I never really knew much about makeup. I started modeling when I was 16, but usually that just meant people were applying quite heinous stuff to my face. I never really celebrated getting my makeup done—I was always more apprehensive about it. When I started doing a television show, my makeup artist at the time, Kevin Fortune, suggested that I make eyeliner my look. We were filming a show a week, and he was like, "you should cut your hair and do a ’60s eye." He would do it for me in the beginning, and I eventually started doing it myself.
How long did it take before you got really good at lining your own eyes, though?
I still mess it up. It’s quite difficult. That’s why, for Eyeko, we did a pen instead of a pot and stick, which can be quite…floppy.
Tell me a bit about how you started working with the folks at Eyeko.
I was using their eyeliner anyway—someone had turned me on to it—and maybe because I’d mentioned it somewhere, they reached out and said they wanted to meet with me. I was in London anyway, so I met up with Max and Nina [Leykind, the company's founders] and we just immediately started brainstorming ideas for some sort of—ambassadorship, I guess you’d say. I liked the idea of focusing on just one thing—everything about eyes. We started out with a classic black eyeliner—and now we’re doing these new shadows, which are out in June!
What’s the biggest beauty mistake you’ve ever made?
I used to wear this coffee, maroon-y lipstick with silver eyeshadow and over-plucked eyebrows. I used to have a pony, and I’d go to muck out her stall and my friend’s dad would be like, "You…look…good?" [Makes disgusted face.] I was 13, with just way too much makeup on.
If you could swap beauty looks with anyone in Hollywood, past or present, who would you choose and why?
I only just watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s for the first time—pretty good! It’s my new favorite prostitute film [laughs]. That image of Audrey Hepburn is so iconic and all over Instagram all the time. You can’t really mess around with that look, can you? It’s more about her face than the beauty look, I guess, but I wouldn’t mind swapping faces with her.
Is there anything, fashion-wise, that you would never, ever wear?
Harem pants are pretty disgusting, and somehow they still happened. And one-shouldered things—that’s never flattering on the boob, is it?
Nope, not really. How about that ugly shoe trend?
I quite like a weird shoe, though. It’s funny—most things I find quite vulgar inevitably become cool again at some point. Like overalls—America finally caught on to those, and it’s to the point now where I’m actually quite sick of them.
Say you could invite any five people you wanted to sit at your table at the Met Gala, living or dead. Who would you pick?
Peter Copping, for sure—he’s taking me tonight and so far, so good! I always have fun with Erdem and Christopher Kane—we’re all pretty naughty and funny. Let me think…who else? [Krinsky leans forward and enthusiastically suggests Kurt Cobain.]
Oh, he might be a bit of a downer at the Met Gala! Maybe Miuccia Prada. She’d be fun, I think.
Agreed. For a big night out like this, how long does it typically take you to get ready, from start to finish?
It depends. For this Christopher Kane dinner the other night, it literally took me 11 minutes—and I know that because I had a nap alarm and I put it on snooze twice. I was out the door in 11 minutes, and I even had time to wash my fringe—my bangs. It was a personal best. A PB. Other times, if I’m having my makeup done, it’s more like an hour and a half. Each year as I get older, I’ll probably have to add another five minutes on.
Tell me a bit about your dress for tonight!
So I started by looking at Nina Ricci collections, past and present. There was this light blue silk dress from a collection a few years ago, kind of crumpled, floor-length. I sent that to Peter, and he invited me to Paris—and it was kind of what I imagine it’s like getting a wedding dress made. I arrived at the studio on a motorbike, which was pretty fun, and they had a number of samples and ideas ready. We discussed putting bows all over it, and he mocked up a dress that was sort of a combination of a few different dresses I loved. Since they didn’t have any more of that crumply, metallic fabric, we picked the closest possible match—it’s a very Charles James color. I’m really not comfortable with full-on glamour so I didn’t want to do a train, but this is the first time I’ve worn anything long to the Met Gala! It’s already quite an intimidating experience just being there, so to also be concerned that you’re going to trip on stuff—or that someone’s going to trip on you!—was something I wanted to avoid.
Tonight’s dress code, "white tie and decorations," has been talked about a lot these past few weeks. Who do you think will have the most trouble adhering to it—guys or girls?
Guys, 100 percent. There’s always a safe zone for girls with a fabulous, beautiful ball gown—but the boys haven’t necessarily had to dress up this much before. I’m excited to see them—they’ll look pretty dapper! Do they have to wear top hats?
I think those are optional, but encouraged. Speaking of which, when’s the last time you broke a dress code yourself?
Oh, I do it every day. I’m sure I’ve turned up at a wedding in a full white dress before, and at a funeral in bright orange. I can’t remember ever trying to go against the rules on purpose, though…
Did you have a school uniform, maybe…?
I did! But I was a prefect, which basically means I was a total goody-goody. Ironically, it was actually my job to make sure that everybody was wearing their uniform properly! I had to go around and make sure everybody had everything in order. You wear a badge and are basically the school police officer. You have to walk around and be like, "Your tie’s not on straight! Your skirt’s too short!" It’s supposedly an honor to get asked to be one—but basically, it just means that you’re a certified loser.
All images: Eric Chakeen