Meet Isamaya Ffrench, the ‘Salvador Dalí of Fashionable Make-up’ Who Sees the Face as a 3D Canvas

At first blush, one would possibly describe Isamaya Ffrench as a make-up artist (or MUA), however the label proves woefully reductive. Whereas her painted faces have graced the runways of Thom Browne, Junya Watanabe, and Vivienne Westwood, she is an artist with a capital A.

Citing English painter Francis Bacon, French photographer and perfumer Serge Lutens, and Japanese illustrator Hajime Sorayama as inspirations—visible artists who have been as soon as on the vanguard of innovation—Ffrench is now carrying the torch ahead in her personal manner.

Utilizing the human face and physique as her canvases—together with these of Cher, Bella Hadid, and most just lately Kate Moss for the September 2022 cowl of French Vogue, to not point out her personal—she typically conjures whiplash strains attribute of Artwork Nouveau whereas using Brutalist supplies like concrete and metal. Armed with an in-depth data of prosthetics and a Dadaist shade palette, her oeuvre integrates the visible legacy of the twentieth century with an elevated Ex Machina-model twist that feels eerily overseas.

In My New Flesh, a 2021 efficiency piece she created for WePresent, Ffrench slithers out of a tub onto a ground of concrete slabs beneath flickering lights, her head coated in tentacles. In a world of pretenders, she is the real article—one thing unflinching and avant-garde.

“Isamaya Ffrench is a actual visionary,” mentioned Edward Enninful, the editor-in-chief of British Vogue. In the meantime, Fashionista dubbed her the “Salvador Dalí of contemporary make-up.”

Swatches of the Industrial Color Pigments eyeshadow palette by Isamaya Beauty. Courtesy of Isamaya Beauty.

Swatches of the Industrial Colour Pigments eyeshadow palette by Isamaya Magnificence. Courtesy of Isamaya Magnificence.

Ffrench’s artistry is just too idiosyncratic for comparisons, nonetheless. And now, she has actually launched her personal model, Isamaya Magnificence. It presents vegan in addition to cruelty- and paraben-free cosmetics in themed capsule collections, dropping each few months in restricted editions.

“Surrealism really feels too contrived for me, or too removed from the reality—a bit like vogue versus artwork,” Ffrench advised me over matcha lattes one current afternoon at Soho Home in London’s Mayfair. Sporting a structured black bodysuit with peekaboo cutouts, figure-hugging acid-washed denims, dramatically winged eyeliner, and a broad smile, she exuded la présence (because the French would say).

“Folks would possibly assume I’m drawn to fantasy due to the artistic nature of my work, however I’m really not. I’m a fact seeker.” (By the way, for the Might 2020 cowl of British Vogue, Ffrench painted the phrase “fact” throughout Rihanna’s eye line.)

She continued: “I’ve at all times been taken by Artwork Nouveau’s appreciation for the pure world. I’m additionally a sucker for Dada and Brutalism—I really like the graphic, fierce honesty that comes with these types and supplies.”

Ffrench’s uncanny, sculptural creations have bedecked the covers of assorted Vogue editions, in addition to the pages of Harper’s Bazaar and Love Journal. For an October 2017 Dazed unfold shot by Daniel Sannwald, she reworked musician Yves Tumor’s enamel into cracked white-and-blue porcelain veneers with gold seams, each nodding to the traditional Japanese artwork of Kintsugi (which mends damaged ceramics with lacquer and gold) and enjoying with the pop-culture imagery of blinged-out grillz.

Ffrench turned musician Yves Tumor's enamel into her canvas, shot by Daniel Sannwald for <i data-recalc-dims=Dazed. Courtesy of Isamaya Ffrench.” width=”1024″ peak=”787″ srcset=”×787.jpg 1024w,×231.jpg 300w,×1180.jpg 1536w,×38.jpg 50w, 1580w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

Ffrench turned musician Yves Tumor’s enamel into her canvas, shot by Daniel Sannwald for Dazed. Courtesy of Isamaya Ffrench.

“Isamaya has such genuine creativity,” mentioned Riccardo Tisci, the chief artistic officer of Burberry, for which Ffrench has served as the worldwide magnificence director since 2020. “She isn’t afraid to push boundaries” (see the prosthetic Bambi-inspired ears she created for the model’s Spring 2022 womenswear presentation).

Ffrench’s non-traditional story started in her hometown of Cambridge, England, the place as a toddler she fell in love with the Kevyn Aucoin tomes The Artwork of Make-up and Making Faces. Later, whereas finding out in London, she discovered face portray to earn some more money, which led to working at posh youngsters’s birthday events (suppose Coldplay offspring).

Earlier than lengthy, she discovered herself portray grownup faces at British designer Christopher Shannon’s 2011 menswear presentation. Her playful creations have been noticed by i-D Journal, which employed Ffrench for her first vogue pictures shoot—and the remaining, as they are saying, is artwork historical past.

“I used to be alien to the make-up trade,” mentioned Ffrench, who studied product design at Central Saint Martins and educated as an expert dancer. “My first ever shoot was as a physique painter” (in 2011, with British digital artist Matthew Stone, she reworked the mannequin Alek Wek right into a dwelling clay sculpture for i-D Journal). “I suppose that was refreshing to the artistic individuals who employed me for editorials.

“With make-up, you’re portray on a 3D canvas, however I method it as a way, not an finish. I exploit it as a part of a much bigger image, and if that larger image requires me to create one thing make-up can’t attain, I’ll go additional and use different issues.”

In Paco Rabanne’s 2019 Phantom perfume industrial, she used elaborate face, ear, arm, and horn prosthetics, mixed with snake-eye lenses and facial rhinestone appliqué, to create a glowing menagerie of horny aliens. And for Put It On Your Face, a brief movie that she made with Byredo (the place she was beforehand the artistic director) and Italian Vogue in 2022, Ffrench tapped her outdated dance troop—the multidisciplinary, London-based Theo Adams Firm—to choreograph a Chicago-esque routine.

Along with make-up, Ffrench typically works with prosthetics. Shot by Daniel Sannwald for <i data-recalc-dims=Interview Journal. Courtesy of Isamaya Ffrench.” width=”778″ peak=”1024″ srcset=”×1024.jpg 778w,×300.jpg 228w,×50.jpg 38w, 1166w” sizes=”(max-width: 778px) 100vw, 778px”/>

Along with make-up, Ffrench typically works with prosthetics. Shot by Daniel Sannwald for Interview Journal. Courtesy of Isamaya Ffrench.

“Isamaya is a maestro within the discipline of ‘It shouldn’t work, however it does,’” the British painter Benjamin Spiers advised me. “It’s fascinating to speak together with her about artwork as a result of her extremely particular and deeply astute visible intelligence at all times brings one thing new into the sunshine. That intelligence manifests in all the things she does, from her personal artwork to how she attire.”

He added, “It’s at all times a pleasure to see her as a result of it’s at all times a shock. Which is one other manner of claiming she’s a risk-taker, she’s stressed; she’s an explorer, at all times inclined to try to discover a novel manner of doing issues.”

The debut Isamaya Magnificence assortment, Industrial, dropped at Selfridges in July, that includes a flexible eye shadow palette and BDSM-inspired packaging with wearable chrome rings and earrings. Accompanied by an erotic efficiency piece filmed by Steven Klein, it solidified Ffrench’s position because the patron saint of artistic nonconformists in every single place.

“There are such a lot of artwork types and subcultures that by no means make it into the industrial magnificence world, and I’m excited to champion these,” mentioned the artist, who’s on the brink of drop her subsequent assortment this fall. “It will be wild—with a capital W.”

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