Isamaya Ffrench’s pioneering work as a make-up artist includes seashells glued to models’ skin, alien prosthetics, AI amalgamations of ‘beautiful’ Instagram images applied to a supermodel’s face, and many more elastic interpretations of beauty that snap from the classically appealing to the radically strange.
As global beauty director of Burberry and the original creative director of Dazed Beauty and Byredo Makeup, Ffrench has created strikingly visceral images, sometimes disturbingly so, but beneath their arresting surface are always serious questions: how is our perception of beauty formed? How can we subvert those perceptions? Is there any such thing as beauty anyway? Can that which is ‘ugly’ or ‘grotesque’ not be beautiful too?
Isamaya Ffrench launches Isamaya Beauty
Now, Ffrench is launching her own, much-buzzed-about beauty line. Isamaya Beauty will debut with a series of themed, limited drops, the first one titled ‘Industrial’. The latex- and leather-influenced drop (complete with detachable and wearable facial rings) comprises a 14-pan eyeshadow palette with pearl, matte, and shimmer finishes, a deep berry lip-plumping serum, a ‘latex lift’ mascara with a blue-coated triple black pigment for a super-inky consistency, a hyaluronic glow serum designed to be worn under make-up, and a brow laminator that makes it easy to create faux bleached brows.
Here, Ffrench tells us about the process behind creating Isamaya Beauty and how she hopes to change the industry with its launch.
Wallpaper*: What creative limitations were you able to transcend with Isamaya Beauty that you haven’t been able to in your past work?
Isamaya Ffrench: The freedom not to speak to an existing customer base but to create a new one. I’m so passionate about creativity that doing my own brand finally means that I don’t have to compromise on the integrity or message of the brand.
W*: What were your essential inspirations and references during the creation of Isamaya Beauty?
IF: There are not precise inspirations behind the creation of the brand. After years of working in the industry, seeing countless visuals, doing massive amounts of research, it’s more [about] unconscious references. When everything you have done informs what you do now, but you can’t pinpoint a precise element. I’ve always loved hardcore underground scenes as beauty references and many of them made their way into my moodboards.
W*: Do you remember a specific moment when your conception of beauty changed? How has it impacted you?
IF: Launching Dazed Beauty in 2018 was a turning point – I realised not only how many underrepresented people there were out there in the beauty community who needed a voice, but that these kids were the ones who were helping shape and define new beauty ideals and they needed to be given a platform to do that credibly.
W*: How do you foresee make-up being used in our increasingly technological world?
IF: Technology is evolving by the second, so it’s complicated to keep up and see clearly what the future holds. Maybe skincare and make-up are going to become little science wonders, like a transparent foundation that would match and even any skin colour, like a chameleon? Maybe people are going to lead 100 per cent virtual, filtered lives and won’t actually need to leave their houses and therefore won’t wear any make-up at all? Who knows?
W*: What do you want people using your products to see when they look in the mirror? What do you see when you look in the mirror?
IF: I hope they see themselves and how they can take care of themselves so that they look and feel their best, without trying to look like someone else. Individuality is the sexiest, most unique quality somebody can have.
W*: What is one piece of advice you’ve carried with you through the creation of this line? Who gave it to you?
IF: ‘There’s always a way around or through the wall’, which wasn’t given to me by anyone specifically but has always been my motto in life and work. Once I felt the creative impulse was ready, I started to do deep research with my art director for every aspect of the first drop. Then we hired a few people whose expertise I trust to do specific things. The process is always the same and is that of a creative director: I’ll give them the moodboard and let them do their thing, then we’ll have several rounds of discussions and feedback to keep going until everyone agrees on the best result. I also love to ask my friends for their opinions when I feel stuck on something, it helps me see clearly.
W*: What do other beauty brands lack that you hope to provide with Isamaya Beauty?
IF: Innovative packaging, an honest and progressive approach to sustainability and a no-filtered artistic direction.
W*: What is your most valuable make-up tip for those using the Industrial collection?
IF: Don’t be afraid! Try things out to get familiar with the products and see how they work on you. There is no way to go wrong when you have fun experimenting.
W*: What is the most exciting change you’ve seen in the beauty industry since you began your career?
IF: Seeing how people respond when they’re presented with something new. I’ll take any reaction as long as it’s not indifference. But generally, you’d be surprised to see how consumers engage with a creative project, the industry just doesn’t give them enough options that break conventions.
W*: How can make-up be used as a tool of self-discovery?
IF: There’s a very fine line between using make-up to cover versus to reveal. Choose the latter always, that’s how you bring out the best in you.
W*: Which product from the Industrial collection are you most proud of and why?
F: The Rubberlash mascara! On top of being the deepest shade of black, that you can layer several times, it contains curling agents and hair conditioning ingredients to keep the lashes healthy over time.
Isamaya is now avaible for pre-order. It will launch at the 15 Bateman Street, London pop-up 1-3 July before becoming available online 4 July.
Mary Cleary is the Beauty & Grooming Editor of Wallpaper*. Having been with the brand since 2017, she became an editor in February 2020 with the launch of the brand’s new beauty & grooming channel. Her work seeks to offer a new perspective on beauty, focusing on the pioneering personalities, product designs, and transformative trends within the industry.
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