Isamaya Ffrench’s debut beauty line substitutes beige for BDSM
One of the industry’s most boundary-breaking makeup artists has finally given her legion of fans the brand they’ve been waiting for
Tuesday 5 July 2022 By Isabella Truman
Two of the biggest beauty launches of the year happened within seven days of each other last month: Kim Kardashian’s SKKN by Kim – a nine-step regime that’ll set you back over £500 – and Hailey Bieber’s Rhode – four products promising to give you a ‘glazed doughnut glow’. Different as their ethos may be – Bieber’s ‘less is more’ and Kardashian’s true Kardashian levels of extra – both celebrity-backed brands are interchangeable in everything from their muted-toned packaging and pared-back campaigns to their Glossier-like focus on skinimalism.
The two new businesses may be all the mainstream is talking about, but for those who not only follow the celebrities at the forefront of the industry, but also know the specialists working in the background (aesthetician Joanna Czech to Kardashian’s SKKN, for example), the only beauty release worth obsessing over is that of famed makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench’s namesake brand, Isamaya.
If you’re not familiar with Ffrench’s name, you will be with her work. A creative force in the industry, she is behind the runway looks of Junya Watanabe and Thom Browne, has masterminded viral moments such as Rihanna’s barely-there brows on the cover of British Vogue and, most recently, transformed Ashley Graham into a punk-goth busker. Ffrench’s individual, experimental and nonconformist way of seeing the world – and the way she incorporates it into her artistry – has seen her become one of beauty’s most sought-after names, advising the likes of Byredo, YSL and Burberry, the latter of which is where she still resides as global beauty director.
Unlike her competitors, who tend to lean towards ‘clean’ beauty or the bright, glittery, festival-worthy looks Gen Z are currently embracing, Ffrench stands in a league of her own, proving makeup doesn’t have to sit in one of those two worlds. Like the looks she has created on clients such as Cher, Madonna and Bella Hadid, Ffrench shows beauty can be dark, transformative, and, above all, personal.
Today, the fashion and beauty industries have never been more accessible. With a swipe of your thumb, you can now find minute-long educational TikTok videos teaching you decades worth of brand history, and instantly track down the latest cult items to be ‘in the know’. The result is a bored and weary sameness seeping out of social media and into the world: no brand, person or product, it seems, can stay niche for long.
As an antidote to this ever-accelerating trend cycle, a rise in self-expression and individualism has been building. In mainstream terms, this can be seen on the likes of popular HBO show Euphoria, in which each main character has a distinct and unique sense of style to match their personality. This is depicted everywhere from their Depop-salvaged wardrobes to their diamante-teared eye makeup and embellished nail art. Ffrench takes this philosophy one step further: she’s not trying to appeal to a specific generation, or create a viral look for TikTok – instead, she’s pushing her consumer to be truly creative in their individual self-expression.
You won’t see any beige when it comes to ‘Industrial’, Ffrench’s first collection that has been two years in the making. Rather, she continues the boundary-breaking beauty she’s known for with her first five-piece drop – an eyeshadow palette, serum, Rubberlash mascara, lip serum and brow laminator – accompanied by a dark, BDSM-inspired campaign video, which shows her leather and latex-bound. A radical new expression of what beauty, and its products, can be, Ffrench says her aim is to create a world for a ‘new generation of makeup lovers… To liberate them from the ideals of the mainstream.’ As Vogue notes, this new beauty brand is ‘as much a statement about the beauty industry as it is about beauty’.
It’s easy to focus on Ffrench’s visuals and subversive messaging alone, but behind the (wearable) hard metal piercings that sit atop the lids of her serum and mascara tube, Ffrench has created products that are as technical as they are eye-catching. Her Rubberlash Latex Lift Mascara doesn’t just give the effect of fuller lashes, it also uses the brand’s new patented latex technology to actually curl them, while conditioning oils nourish to promote growth. The eyeshadow putty melts with your body temperature to make it more blendable; the glow serum contains active ingredients that stimulate collagen production; and a lip gloss packed with hyaluronic acid deeply nourishes for a noticeably volumising, plumping effect.
Ffrench plans on releasing new products in seasonal capsule drops – like the fashion industry does – to ensure she’s always pushing herself to create and excite consumers. Some of these will be collaborations with other artists, but she also notes core products are coming. Given the fervour over her first drop, these releases can’t come soon enough.