DUNCAN by Michelle Duncan

“Beauty is a personal creative expression that is equally as important as the garments one puts on.” On top of her day job working in the beauty industry, Michelle Duncan designs DUNCAN: “Armor for the goth girl gone corporate; but also a sultry alternative for those who like their tailoring with a hint of after dark glamour.” We catch up with the multi-tasking, multi-talented, heavy-black-eyelinered designer.


Beauty Papers: What was the last beautiful thing you saw?
Michelle Duncan: It’s 6:05am while I’m writing this and the sun is rising. I live in a high rise in Manhattan so I can directly see the display. The sun is making part of the sky fire red and the rest is still black. Before right this second, the most beautiful thing I saw that resonated was probably the Edward Burne-Jones exhibit that was at the Tate in London earlier this year. My whole collection was inspired by him and the Pre-Raphaelites.

BP: Our current issue is all about Glamour. What does the word glamour mean to you?
MD: It means enchanting. Glamour is bewitching, luxurious, over the top, glitter, self-indulgent, defiant, dominant, confident and above all else decadently chic.

BP: What is your first memory of glamour?
MD: Rummaging around my grandmother’s jewellery box.

BP: What is the future of glamour?
MD: Makeup is coming back in the most exuberant way. I think (hope) contouring is done. Bright eyes, adornments on the face, extra sparkle, extra makeup designs around the lips. The little Gen Zs are shifting us into the most glam beauty moments and self-expression.

"The brand is all about the woman who does both, owns her life and the night."

BP: Tell us about your choice to start a clothing line…
MD: I decided to start a ready to wear brand because it’s something I always dreamed of doing but never actually committed to until this year. I want to make a statement and a garment for the woman who is multi-faceted. She’s dynamic and completely complex. I wanted to build frocks that made women feel like they have armour on to take on the world, but in a totally embellished, dark, luxe way. 

BP: And how on earth do you balance it with your “day job” at in the beauty industry?
MD: It keeps me busy. I work in the beauty industry during the normal work hours and work on DUNCAN after-hours; which is kind of on brand with the line anyway. The brand is all about the woman who does both, owns her life and the night. I also have an amazing team around me, which makes it easier to do both.

BP: How would you describe your collection in three words?
MD: Multifaceted, dynamic, complex.

BP: And the make up look?
MD: MAC Cosmetics sponsored the makeup and Anti Collective sponsored the hair and this was the first time I have used girls in my show. I, myself, have a distinct makeup look and wear a heavy black cat eye and Ruby Woo red stained lip religiously. I was talking to Chris Peters (Creatures of the Wind) about the direction I wanted to go for make up and he said “there’s no question, make an army of you.” So that’s exactly what I did.

BP: What is your own beauty routine?
MD: This is a favorite of mine to talk about because beauty is a personal creative expression that is equally as important as the garments one puts on. I clean my skin with Lab Series Skincare for Men and a Clarisonic. I feel like I’m the only one still using this thing but honestly if I didn’t, I’d insufficiently wash my face in 4 seconds! I use Clinique Step 2 Toner and Clinique DDML cream as a next step. Make Up has been exclusively MAC Cosmetics since I was a teenager, occasionally with a dash of Tom Ford. I’m always with a heavy cat eye which is Blacktrack Fluidline and an Eye Kohl in black by MAC. Mostly I forget mascara because my eyes are rimmed black. I have over 75 lipsticks but I always go back to Ruby Woo.

Fragrance I change every season; when I go back and smell the scents it sends me back into whatever period of my life I was wearing that perfume. Right now I’ve gone back to Black Orchid Noir by Tom Ford. I just presented my SS20 collection which is super, super intense and emotional, so I put TF back on because it reminds me of another very exciting time in my life about 4 years ago. To smell it gives me strong energy.

BP: And for an especially glamorous moment?
MD: I add a Lady Danger MAC color on top of my Ruby Woo. For a vampy glam, a By Kilian dark red lipstick. The texture is very sultry.

BP: Living, dead, real or imaginary … who has the best make-up look?
MD: Obviously, Liza Minelli as Sally Bowles.

DUNCAN collection available here.