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Isamaya Ffrench

The London Beauty Alchemist

Sector: Futurefashion
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Seamlessly shifting between beauty and art, Isamaya Ffrench is a self-taught and tech-savvy innovator who is redefining the boundaries of make-up

Isamaya Ffrench is no ordinary make-up artist. At 25-years-old, the self-taught innovator had already worked with some of the world’s most revered fashion photographers. Her facial art has graced the pages of Dazed and Vogue, and she was recently appointed YSL’s UK make-up ambassador, a position she juggles alongside her stewardship as beauty editor of i-D Magazine. Ffrench has gained a reputation for her simultaneously iconic and iconoclastic work, as she redefines notions of beauty, pushing the limits of what make-up art can be.

“In faces we seek truth and understanding, so when you challenge that by painting them,” Ffrench says, “it disturbs our normal interaction and sense of who someone is. I love to challenge that – I like the idea of creating imagery that catches you out!” Such an element of surprise is distinctive to her playful treatment of the face as an artist’s canvas, onto which an unexpected story might be told. Often experimenting beforehand with the help of illustration apps, scribbling on her tablet in a fusion of techno-art. For her, make-up art is not a question of making someone look “pretty”, but of stimulating “emotional responses, such as nostalgia, euphoria, fear, or surprise”.

She studied Product and Industrial Design at university – a course, Ffrench says, that favoured “mass production for mass consumption, rather than subjective creativity for the individual”. Luckily, her side-job as a children’s face-painter proved to be fruitful, leading Ffrench to leave Central Saint Martins, before joining a London-based collective of avant-garde performers across music, dance, drama, art and fashion.

Industry guru Nick Knight even stated that she is the first make-up artist since the legendary Pat McGrath to make genuine waves in her field. But it is precisely because Ffrench refuses to stick to the confines of make-up art that makes her work so original.

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