Unmistakable, gorgeous, sometimes terrifying, Isamaya Ffrench’s art is taking beauty to new levels of creativity. The unconventional makeup artist tells Eva Wiseman how she went from painting kids’ faces to working with YSL, Tom Ford and Christian Louboutin
Ask Isamaya Ffrench how to achieve the perfect smoky eye, and her face will take on a glazed, if polite, blankness. As the most important makeup artist working in Britain today, she could certainly do it, she could certainly reel off tips on how to apply a matte lip or blend your bronzer, but within seconds of meeting her it is clear she would far prefer… not to. She would prefer, if it’s OK with me, to scrape all that away, and discuss what’s underneath. Things like: the evolution of beauty ideals, and beauty as a symbol of wealth, and the changing face of femininity. I am fine with this.
She arrives for coffee on a Saturday afternoon, having just dashed through London to buy a new suitcase. Her last one broke from overuse, as did the one before that – this is the downside of being extremely successful. She returned from Paris this morning and is flying to LA first thing tomorrow, because there is something Ffrench offers that no other makeup artist does, which is a sense of the uncanny. At 29, she has elasticised the idea of what a makeup artist is for, stretching the brief between prettifying tricks and gender politics – she’s less a makeup artist, perhaps, instead an artist who works with makeup.