Isamaya Ffrench

The reactionary who’s turned makeup art on its head

The mind of makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench is a cauldron of magic and alchemy, often subversive, and with a fascinating narrative bent. Having studied product design at Central St Martin, she gave up the inanimate in favor of the animate, starting with painting kids’ faces and graduating to creating astonishing looks on adults that have completely revolutionized the concept of makeup art. And actually, she’s really only just begun…

Isamaya Ffrench

Did you always feel destined for the world of fashion/art? How did you get your start?
I’ve always enjoyed tackling things expressively and creatively, so there was never any doubt that I would end up in a field that supported this inclination. After exploring the worlds of dance, art, fashion and design, I ended up choosing makeup as my medium of expression.

Where do you find inspiration for your work? Does it hit you suddenly, or do ideas gradually emerge over time?
Most of my ideas come to me at night when my eyes are closed. I think the less you wrestle with a subject, the more it serves you—don’t try and think too hard about something!

When did you start working with Swarovski? How did you discover our crystals?
I’ve always used gems and diamanté cosmetically, so it was wonderful to apply real Swarovski crystals to the model’s face in the portrait photographed by Tim Walker for the Swarovski campaign. They sparkle like nothing I’ve ever worked with before.

The image of you shot by Tim Walker is remarkable. Was it fun? Any interesting moments when you were posing for it?
It was really fun! I love working with Tim. I like the fact that he can make a strikingly beautiful image through the art of storytelling. He creates characters in his work, much like I do, and it was fun to become a character and to create some kind of narrative with the jeweler’s eyepiece and model’s head. The red paint transformed into crystals was a little hint too!