Photographer / Matt Hurley. Model / Awa from Self Agency. Hair and makeup artist / Shirley Simpson. Words / Lara Daly
The latest nostalgic beauty trend to resurface is neither surprising nor unwelcome, its scruffy realness an antidote to the sterilised ‘morning routine’ videos saturating our TikTok and Instagram feeds. ‘Indie sleaze’ - named by TikTok trend forecaster Mandy Lee - is the antithesis of matcha-drinking early-risers with their ‘no-makeup makeup’, Glossier Cloud Paint applied to the cheeks just so, each slicked eyelash separated with a pin.
Polished, type-A personalities have been the face of aspirational beauty in the mainstream for years, never mind the recent idolisation of full-face glam squad makeup. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with prioritising your health and presenting a fresh-faced version of yourself to the world. But the mounting pressure to live a ‘non toxic’ lifestyle and consume only ‘clean’ beauty - whatever that means - can only add to a feeling of burnout, like we’re never doing enough.
Right now, we’re craving messy, unfiltered fun.
LAST NITE: To create this undone rock 'n' roll look, makeup artist Shirley Simpson started with a base of Aleph concealer/foundation, $62, and Stila Convertible Colour in 'Magnolia', $41, on the cheeks and lips. Layer the shades of Tom Ford's Eye Colour Quad in 'De La Creme', $166, then black eyeliner (any pencil will do) and benefit's BADgal BANG! Volumising Mascara, $48, applied loosely - chunks are good. Awa wears an Acne Studios sweater, $750. Photographer / Matt Hurley
The beauty icons of the original indie moment - that is, the years between 2006 and 2012 (and we include London’s neon-tinged new rave moment in this) - were too preoccupied with partying to bother trying to look perfect. All they wanted was to be snapped by The Cobrasnake, sitting on a skateboard outside some party, mascara smudged from the sweat of dancing inside, hoping to end up on a Vice ‘DO’ list.
Think of Cory Kennedy in her slept-in eyeliner and turban atop greasy day two or three hair, Shirley Manson (more ‘90s, but a blueprint for later generations) rocking her signature clumpy mascara, eyeliner and smudged raspberry-red lipstick, or Karen O caught up in the moment in her sweat smeared lipstick and colourful eye shadow.
Other icons of that era whose nonchalant yet experimental beauty attitudes still hold up, years later, include Beth Ditto and her retro cat eye, Santigold’s heavy eyeliner, Alison Mosshart and her perfect unbrushed hair, Natasha Kahn’s love of theatrical blue eyeshadow (surely on the Euphoria moodboard), MIA’s early DIY makeup, Alexa Chung’s preppy version… They all have one thing in common: it’s personalised beauty that’s lived in.
LIGHT’S OUT: Add to the messed-up eye, sharper but not perfect lines. Try MAC Eye Kohl in 'Smoulder', $41, a smudgeable soft pencil in a deep blue-toned black. Awa wears a vintage House of Holland T-shirt. Photographer / Matt Hurley
This was party makeup before makeup tutorials existed. Pre-Instagram and our obsession with Facetuned influencers, there were ‘internet celebrities’ like Kennedy - everyday girls who gained fame simply by shooting themselves amidst the action of parties and posting them to blogs or Tumblr (raw and ‘real’, yes, but it was also simply an earlier version of presenting oneself online).
This real aesthetic was pioneered by photographers like Juergen Teller, Corrine Day and the problematic Terry Richardson, who each glamourised the mundane and captured imperfect images that resonated deeply with viewers.
New Zealand’s - or really Auckland’s - version of indie sleaze and new rave had its own flavour: CSS performing at the King’s Arms, Girl Talk at Whammy Bar and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the St James after the roof caved in, the Black Luck Club night at Pony Bar, Crow Bar, 1AM magazine, Zara Mirkin and NO magazine, Stolen Girlfriends Club, the early years of Ponsonby bar Golden Dawn, that time The Cobrasnake came to NZ Fashion Week (2012, nearing the end of the indie sleaze reign).
I BET YOU LOOK GOOD ON THE DANCE FLOOR: Add a bold colour, blended onto the earlier makeup - in this case, a vivid iridescent green, from the Too Faced Major Love Eye Shadow Palette, $44. Awa wears a vintage denim jacket. Photographer / Matt Hurley
With hindsight it is clear to see that the scenes both here and overseas were breeding grounds for an exciting new generation of creative talent, and sleaze, of the bad kind. Immersed in the NYC scene was queen of the afterparty, Cat Marnell. She wrote about beauty while famously battling a serious drug addiction: “My skin underneath the faux-glow was full on Corpse Bride,” she would reveal in against-the-grain platforms like Vice and xoJane.
Marnell’s brand of “fairy trash glam” was clearly a dangerous extreme that was - and still is - pretty problematic in being glamourised, and she counts herself lucky she survived to tell the story (her 2017 memoir How to Murder Your Life is an absolute must-read).
Thankfully, this new return of messy makeup is less about self-destruction and life-murdering, and more about ditching the idea of perfection.
FEVER TO TELL: Go home, take it all off… but there's still a bit left. Invited out again? Just add a touch of Benefit Dandelion Blush, $32, a wash of baby pink, to the cheeks and Smith's Rosebud Salve, $18, to the lips. Awa wears a Penny Sage dress, $420. Photographer / Matt Hurley
A 2022 example capturing the no f…ks given attitude of the mid to early aughts: Julia Fox (who coincidentally grew up in Marnell’s crew) and the charming, slightly unhinged makeup tutorial she posted to Instagram in March. Millions were captivated as they watched her demo that black graphic eye.
Despite the “low budge” set up and her slap-dash application, she looked incredible. Haters are gonna hate (cue Youtube reaction videos from the makeup police), but Fox’s popularity demonstrates our hunger for something more relatable and risky than another PR-approved beauty tutorial.
Auckland expat and artist Pipi Nola is probably the best (and only) local example of who’s doing this trend justice right now. She moved to New York, where she’s been exhibiting her art, partying, and literally getting photographed by The Cobrasnake himself (yes he’s still at it; in fact this week he releases a book of his mid-aughts party photography with Rizzoli). Pipi embodies the hedonistic attitude of indie sleaze pretty well, and she’s proof that you never look better than when you’re actually having fun.
(Another sign from the universe of a returning indie sleaze moment: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have just announced their new album and first song in nine years.)
So how can you achieve this look, now? You could start by revisiting your forgotten Facebook albums from 2008, or an old digital camera that’s sitting in a drawer somewhere, the flash still on - there’s probably a lot of good inspo there.
Those who were there the first time around may also remember these beauty staples of the era:
• OPI nail polish in ‘Lincoln Park After Dark’
• MAC lipstick in ‘Ruby Woo’ (applied in the back of a taxi, no lip liner)
• Literally any black eyeliner
• Lancôme Juicy Tubes lip gloss
• Maybelline Great Lash Mascara
• MAC Studio Fix Powder Foundation
• Viktor + Rolf Flowerbomb or Yves Saint Laurent Babydoll
• Thin Lizzy
• A side fringe, or a blunt brunette fringe