Isamaya Ffrench is eclectic personified. So it’s no surprise that Dion Lee, the Australian designer known for his avant-garde and architectural creations, tapped the British makeup artist and entrepreneur to help further bring his FW 2023 collection to life. It’s impressive Ffrench even had the time. On the heels of her successful Lips collection (sold-out everywhere), the makeup mogul who puts the —art in ‘makeup artist,’ took fashion week by storm, the Ffrench way.
Dion Lee’s collection was a reptile jungle on the NYFW runway with models wearing snakeskin patterns, more literally represented as a python bag and a green snakeskin, biased cut skirt. However, Lee threw in his signature aesthetic, with models gliding down the runway in laser-cut bodysuits that favored reptile texture and even a barbicore dress with a Dion Lee twist, making it reminiscent of dorsal scales shedding—a creative approach to everyday ensembles.
While many runway beauty looks are more simple than sci-fi. Isamaya Ffrench reminds us that beauty is art and dares us to push the boundaries of makeup and how we present ourselves. Ffrench presented various makeup looks down the runway, but what captivated us was the snakeskin third eye she gave several of the models. We caught up with Ffrench, where she shared what the process was like partnering with Dion Lee, the inspiration behind the look, and her Lips campaign.
What was the ‘aha’ moment to take some of the reptile pattern from the clothing to transfer onto the models face?
IF: We had a call before the show and Dion talked me through the moodboard and there were so many beautiful references of snakeskin textures and shedding, so I suggested reptile scales airbrushed through a stencil. I really wanted to keep it fresh and clean, just like the clothes, and he liked the idea.
What made you want to partner with Dion Lee?
IF: I’ve always loved his clothes, they’re so sexy, comfortable, and modern. He’s had a very strong aesthetic and vision since the beginning of his career and I love to watch the brand grow. I feel very luck to work alongside it.
Are you making ‘reptile beauty’ a thing? From creating Rita Ora’s prosthetic fish gills for the red carpet to this runway moment—what is the obsession and why?
IF: It was totally fortuitous. I did a lot of SFX-ish work in the past, so I suppose people get in touch with me when they envision a look within that style, but I always want to give it a twist and a modern touch.
The pandemic led to more of a focus on skincare. Now that we are living in an endemic, what do you feel is driving most makeup inspiration?
IF: Probably TikTok? Trends and re-creations are multiplying even faster than before and being shared with millions of people instantly…you can’t beat that.
Many makeup and beauty looks are an ode to the 90s and early aughts. What trends is this decade creating and inspiring?
IF: If anything, it’s probably individuality. Look at how we can identify a single makeup trend that defines a decade anytime before the 90s. We’d struggle to do the same for the 2010s, for example. We can’t stick to an aesthetic for more than 6 months, but I think it encourages people to be more adventurous and see what works for them.
You recently launched Lips! Whereas the female form is often oversexualized in all aspects of culture, you chose to focus on the male form. Why?
IF: Why not?
NYFW has worked to make the runways more diverse. However, back of house still struggles. What steps are you taking at NYFW to ensure the back of house includes more makeup artists that can do all skin tones and textures? Do you feel back of house has been more inclusive this season in comparison to others?
IF: I can only speak for myself because I don’t know what’s happening backstage at other brands. My number one priority is to make models feel confident, strong, and beautiful. I’m lucky to have a diverse team of really talented and skilled artists from many different ethnic backgrounds who help me to achieve that no matter who they have in their chair.
Danielle James is the Digital Beauty Director of ELLE.com. Previously, she was the Fashion and Beauty Director of HelloBeautiful.com and MadameNoire.com. She’s bylined for The Cut, InStyle, Allure, Business of Fashion, Nylon, Essence, Good Housekeeping, The Grio, and Huffington Post. Danielle enjoys sailing, thrifting, Japanese whiskey, Naomi Campbell’s runway walk, and Rihanna in the comment section.