In Depth

Byredo make-up: Ben Gorham and Isamaya Ffrench talk colours and shapes

The Swedish luxury brand is launching debut cosmetics collection

byredo_make_up_ben_gorham.jpg

“A few years ago, I came across her work, which kind of blew me away,” says Byredo founder Ben Gorham about British make-up artist and beauty director Isamaya Ffrench. Fast-forward to the present and the pair have teamed up to launch the luxury lifestyle brand’s debut beauty line, which hits the market this month.

“I truly felt like she had an outsider perspective and shared that emotion of being in an industry and practising the craft but from a very different background,”  says Gorham. “That really resonated with me.” 

A native Swede who once harboured dreams of playing professional basketball, Gorham launched Byredo in 2006 with just a fragrance and has gone on to expand its well-designed repertoire into the realms of homeware, leather goods and accessories. And “after meeting Isamaya, it became clear that she could be the perfect person to define and frame the world of colour for Byredo”, he explains.

Gorham is by no means her only fan. “The way in which Isamaya can look at a collection we have made and create a look that both sings beautifully with the clothes whilst simultaneously provoking a conversation about make-up and beauty is really astounding,” says London-based American designer Michael Halpern. “We have worked with her since we started doing runway shows and it has been an amazing experience.”

“We were inspired by an image of an emerald-encrusted eye look designed by artist Giorgio di Sant’Angelo and photographed by Gianni Penati for Vogue in 1968,” says Ffrench of glitter lids she dreamed up for Halpern’s Autumn/Winter 2020 show that are Instagram-bright and RGB-ready. Both are hallmarks of Ffrench’s make-up style. An alumnus of Chelsea College of Arts and Central Saint Martins, she has worked with well-known photographers including Tim Walker, Steven Klein and Mert & Marcus, and on shows for Louis Vuitton, Olivier Theyskens and Junya Watanabe.

Ffrench was approached by Gorham two years ago about translating Byredo into the beauty sphere. “It started to be clear in my mind that I wanted to get into cosmetics and make-up because I felt it could become a strong visual, physical manifestation of beauty at Byredo,” he says. 

The brand had always set out with a mission to be meaningful and relevant, timeless and inspired. “I started to apply the same process and the same theories that I’ve used previously in Byredo when developing products of other categories,” Gorham continues. “I wanted these objects to look like a curation of objects. There’s an alien quality to them. There is also this idea of the completely timeless, they reference relics thousands of years old.”

Covering the traditional categories of lipstick and lip balm, mascara, eyeliner and eyeshadow, as well as a new multi-purpose “colour stick” (or Bâton de Couleur), the line’s packaging is beautifully weird. A warped and arching lipstick case gives a very satisfying “click” upon closing; an eyeshadow palette looks somehow meteoric. The colour sticks come enshrined in slim bullet-like silver cases. “There is a part of me that enjoys being an engineer, so I like to develop these ideas of magnets and textures.”

Make-up fans who love a good name (Divorce, Commuter, Solid Ground and Red Armchair are just some) or a product that isn’t overly scented will especially enjoy the collection. The lipsticks, for example, have a nice but subtle vanilla smell.

And the whole collection has been designed rather cleverly, with a democratic approach. Ffrench explains: “We agreed we didn’t want to have a picture of a girl in a lipstick or in eye make-up or whatever, because choosing a model in some way defines who our Byredo woman or man is and we really didn’t want to define that person. We wanted to this to be a brand that has products that are really kind of inspiring and are for you to feel that they’re yours.”

Instead, the emphasis is on ease and efficiency. “I think that’s something that’s really missing: a very easy and approachable product that people can use every day,” she reflects. Cue that colour stick, a magic make-up wand of sorts, which comes in 16 shades, such as Kumato, a great metallic dirty green, and Kinda Blue, a shimmery turquoise, which you can smudge and smear, dab and dot about your face, from cheeks to lips to lids.

“People are becoming a lot more experimental with make-up and that’s down to social media and the relationship people have with beauty and gender fluidity and those kinds of self-expression,” says Ffrench. “What’s become obvious to me as a make-up artist, and someone who just wears make-up, is that people’s relationship with colour and their face is really changing.

“I wanted to create a series of products that were universal and not defined by where or how they were worn.”

BYREDO Make-up images by Bohman SJÖSTRAND

BYREDO Jesse Kanda campaign images

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