While essential, the make-up artist has traditionally played a supporting role to that of the photographer, model and stylist, but Ffrench’s unmistakable work, which has been described as ‘unconventional’, ‘macabre’ and ‘futuristic’ pushes the possibilities of make-up far beyond traditional notions of beauty to take the starring role. One of the most famous examples can be seen on a 2018 British Vogue cover starring Rihanna, in which the singer was given a much-discussed set of pencil thin eyebrows, adding an unsettling edge to the conventional beauty ideals of a magazine cover.
Her contribution to the Jo Malone London Spring Artist Series produced in conjunction with digital artist Jon Emmony has a similarly dramatic quality. A colour-saturated 3D animation of a fantastically ornate floral arrangement gradually transforms into the face of a woman. ‘I was inspired by spring, of course!’ says Ffrench. ‘I loved the idea of showing an intricate arrangement of flowers with the roots also exposed. Jon [Emmony] and I wanted to create a trompe-l'œil, where the arrangement takes the shape of a face.’
‘For me spring and autumn are the most enriching times of year, one is full of hope and the other full of decay, but both equally beautiful and inspiring – especially the colour palette.’
Isamaya Ffrench, Make-Up Artist
The transformative nature of animation speaks to the drama of spring and also connects Ffrench’s aesthetic with that of her collaborator. ‘It’s an image that combines both of our worlds,’ says Ffrench. ‘I've always loved his treatment of flowers and wanted to create something that related to my world, so we abridged the two with a vision of spring in mind.’
Like many artists she is fascinated by both spring and autumn because in different ways they both bring about change. ‘My favourite months are spring and autumn, says Ffrench. ‘For me they are the most enriching times of year, one is full of hope and the other full of decay, but both equally beautiful and inspiring – especially the colour palette.’
Lockdown has been tough for Ffrench but a sense of gratitude for having made it through safely has helped to keep her grounded emotionally. ‘Although everything is relative, it's hard to be too angry or depressed when most of us are so fortunate to be safe and warm and well fed,’ she says. Not that lockdown hasn’t been without the odd benefit. ‘I've enjoyed not being on a plane every week but I’ve also missed my creative community around the world and I think it's made me a lot more appreciative of all the things I previously took for granted... such as early nights!’