After becoming known for her natural-beauty signature in Geelong, freelance make-up artist Hilary Holmes has opened her first Melbourne make-up studio. Her aim is to empower women in Melbourne by bringing her applications and hair styling to a permanent space. “I think a lot of women have that fear and anxiety around getting their make-up and hair done because they don’t want to not look like themselves,” says Holmes. “I don’t want to go and put a full coverage on you when you don’t feel like you. We’re not about masking. We’re about really bringing you out.”
Before Holmes became a celebrated make-up artist she studied agricultural science at Melbourne University.
“I used to weigh 135 kilos. I just had no self-confidence and I was significantly bullied at uni,” she says. “In my time out I found that I was going into the city and just walking around make-up counters and I felt quite drawn to that. Even though I was a big girl, they were always saying I had a pretty face so I felt like it was one thing that I could show off.”
After getting her agricultural science degree in 2007, Holmes began working in stock feeding and animal production in Geelong before quickly realising it wasn’t for her. “It really fought against my optimism – I’m a bit of a ‘Chatty Cathy’,” she says. “I really enjoyed connecting [with people] and I think that was probably the wrong industry for me to be doing that in.”
In 2009 Holmes moved to London and landed a job as a make-up artist at Smashbox on Oxford Street. She went on to work as counter manager at MAC, before moving back to Melbourne in 2011 to freelance, specialising in natural bridal looks.
“Whenever I had a client who came in wanting to be vulnerable, telling me that she has lost her eyebrows to chemo, or [had] really bad hormonal acne, I was drawn to that because I could relate to that feeling of vulnerability,” she says. “And so, I was starting to really build clients that way.” In 2016 Holmes opened her first make-up salon in Geelong.
A tight curation of Holmes’s favourite beauty products – from labels including Embryolisse, Velvet Concepts, The Ordinary, Eye of Horus, Pixie and Modelrock – are all on high rotation in-store, and are available to buy.
The light and bright South Melbourne parlour – with industrial white-brick walls, concrete floors and exposed metal rafters – has been made warm and inviting with plush rugs, sleek dressers, fluffy blankets, amber lighting and romantic installations by Melbourne florist Stasia Fox.
For Geelong-based Holmes it was important to consider each of the five senses when designing the space: custom essential-oil blends burn, Beyoncé plays overhead, and customers can sample each beauty product. A “selfie studio” has been fitted out with decals of mantras such as “You are worthy” to help inspire, and complimentary prosecco, non-alcoholic G&Ts and generous cheese platters are offered on arrival.
In-salon make-up applications start at $110. Customers can come in for a $20 lash application, or visit the “dry style” bar, which involves them arriving with washed or dry hair for a $50 styling job.
Holmes also hosts monthly self-applying masterclasses, which have been popular in Geelong and go for three hours, spanning everything from how to create the perfect smoky eye, to mastering winged eyeliner.
Hilary Holmes Makeup
20 Ross Street, South Melbourne
(03) 5242 8845
Sun By appointment
Mon By appointment