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Is High-Octane Makeup the Next Big Thing?

By Renée Batchelor

The campaign image for the new makeup range was created by digital artist Jesse Kanda. “It was partly to reinforce the idea that this isn’t one person, and it’s not any idea that you’ve seen before. So there was almost this alien emotion, but also this image that has captured human emotions in its purest form,” says Byredo founder Ben Gorham.
 
Leak© Jesse Kanda
The campaign image for the new makeup range was created by digital artist Jesse Kanda. “It was partly to reinforce the idea that this isn’t one person, and it’s not any idea that you’ve seen before. So there was almost this alien emotion, but also this image that has captured human emotions in its purest form,” says Byredo founder Ben Gorham.

Niche Swedish perfumery house Byredo was founded on the idea of the creative possibilities of scent. While the minimalist packaging and stark labels of each bottle are pleasingly uniform, the perfumes inside and their respective scent names are inspired by founder Ben Gorham’s exotic travels. When it came to expanding Byredo’s offerings to include makeup, Gorham was keen on what he deemed an “innovative, vibrant and emotional approach to colour.”

Enter Isamaya Ffrench, the British wunderkind responsible for such iconic makeup looks as Rihanna’s British Vogue cover in September 2018. Gorham wanted to collaborate with the artist, because of the way she pushes the boundaries between artistry and makeup with her daring and unconventional creations. “I’m a true believer in not telling people how to wear perfume. And Isamaya and I were in agreement that this Byredo makeup [range] would not be dictating in that manner either. It wasn’t about selling a look. It was about selling a series of tools to help people express themselves through colour,” says Gorham.

Bohman + SjöstrandThe products in the Byredo makeup collection are meant to look eclectic when grouped together.
The products in the Byredo makeup collection are meant to look eclectic when grouped together.

True to its ethos of not selling a look, even the campaign image for this makeup launch is not what you might typically expect — a famous face peddling a specific set of colours. Instead, Ffrench commissioned digital artist Jesse Kanda to create an almost alien-like image that reinforced the idea that this makeup line is not for any one specific person, but for anyone, while still emphasising human emotion in its purest form.

Another way that this brand differs from the usual collections is that its packaging doesn’t “match” in a conventional sense of the word. The mascara comes in a bold, lipstick red wand that gently curves at the top. The eyeshadow palette meanwhile resembles an oyster shell with its organic shape, but it is swathed in what Gorham describes as “dripping, liquid gold.” The colour sticks are sleek, silver tubes with magnetic closures. Assembled together they look like individual objets d’art rather than the different parts of a single makeup collection.

We just wanted to focus purely on creating new, exciting, beautiful colours.

“I like the fact that it’s not just a brand or everything’s in a black packaging, or everything’s in a silver packaging. There’s something really beautiful about having all these objects at home, where all of them are things that could stand alone on your shelf and look great. The concept behind it is not that it looks like a monotonous family of objects, but really, that there is this eclectic mix that looks really interesting when put together,” says Ffrench.

Hugo YangüelaThe makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench. On Ffrench, Byredo founder Ben Gorham said, “She was completely unique. And she was creating images, stories and products that I felt resonated with our sensibility and also came from a very real place.”
The makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench. On Ffrench, Byredo founder Ben Gorham said, “She was completely unique. And she was creating images, stories and products that I felt resonated with our sensibility and also came from a very real place.”

Packaging aside, the products were designed around their functionality, performance and desirability. “With Byredo, it’s a much more personal approach to makeup. We’re not saying, let’s do a collection that will last for three months. We’re saying let’s make products that are beautiful luxury, that will last 10 years, and not 10 weeks. And we have the kind of freedom to really start from scratch and develop things that don’t exist on the market and create new areas of opportunity, like a colour stick, for example, that doesn’t exist,” says Ffrench.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Unlike other brands who rely heavily on trend forecasts to decide what shades to sell in a big market like China, Byredo’s approach was a lot more flexible and creative. The aforementioned colour sticks for example, are what Ffrench calls pure sticks of colour. “They’re multi-functional, so you can really wear them on your lips, on your eyes or on your cheeks, and all of the colours have their own specific texture. Some are very creamy, some are iridescent and some are very glossy. The idea was to find the perfect combination of colour and texture,” says Ffrench.

To find these perfect hues, she created a big colour library at Byredo and curated beautiful images and colour references to base the shades on, before coming up with the most vibrant and interesting shades that sparked excitement. “We just wanted to focus purely on creating new, exciting, beautiful colours,” she says. From iridescent orchids (Mesolithic) to a brilliant teal-tinted blue (Medium Blue) to an intense fuchsia (Sick Pick), the end results do not disappoint, resembling pure pigments to be mixed and matched like paint on a canvas.

Marcus OhlssonGorham holds the eyeshadow palette that has been described as an oyster shell dripping in liquid gold.
Gorham holds the eyeshadow palette that has been described as an oyster shell dripping in liquid gold.

As a practising makeup artist who works on high-profile editorial projects, runway shows and campaigns, and a graduate in product and industrial design from Central Saint Martins, Ffrench also had high standards for the products and specific design details that she wanted incorporated. The mascara has a very tiny brush because, “It is perfect for getting in very close to the lash bed so that you can really coat the lashes and apply [the mascara] for maximum coverage,” says Ffrench. The eyeliner also has a very long tip to create a very straight line. “Having a longer tip on the eyeliner allows you to do a straighter line, which is something I know a lot of people actually struggle with. So I wanted to offer a solution to that,” she says.

Courtesy of ByredoA closer look at Byredo’s eyeshadow palette.
A closer look at Byredo’s eyeshadow palette.

The brand is also starting with 15 lipsticks that address what Ffrench calls the classic shades — for example coral, dark chocolate and rich red. “These are really our kind of Byredo staple lip colours and as we move forward, we will start to introduce other colours into the lip range as well. It was really important that we didn’t create anything that would be temporary. All of the things that we’ve created now really feel like these lasting sort of heritage products,” says Ffrench.

It is clear that Ffrench has a vision for the brand moving forward, and more additions to the line that she would like to include. And it seems that the partnership, which started two and a half years ago, is one that Byredo fans can expect to continue into the future. When asked if this is a one-time collaboration, Gorham quips, “Isamaya signed a lifetime contract. She just doesn’t know that yet.”

Byredo’s makeup collection is available at the Byredo Boutique at Takashimaya Shopping Centre, #B1-34.