“People often talk about my work being transformative, but actually the way I use makeup is just to be more of myself,” says Isamaya Ffrench on a spring afternoon. Today, that manifests as a fluttery lash, paired with a sheer tiger-striped top and leather pants; other times, the makeup artist’s tool kit for self-actualization veers from ice-blue contact lenses to alien prosthetics. In My New Flesh, her 2021 short film with WePresent, she reclines in a tub, her skin translucent, as octopus arms sprout from her head. “More of myself,” in her singular dreamscape, is broadly defined.
The Londoner has long played the wizard behind the curtain, painting experimental runway looks (Junya Watanabe, Thom Browne) and advising cosmetics houses (Byredo, Burberry, YSL). But the conventional wisdom that rules the beauty industry—“all pretty same-y,” as she puts it—doesn’t factor into her debut brand, Isamaya. “The idea of having the same thing on a shelf for 10 years doesn’t make sense to me.” Instead, she envisions a series of collections, each a portal to a “whole new world.”
Ffrench’s initial lineup is less safe than safe word, with aesthetic roots in BDSM. The Rubberlash mascara—inky black with a mesh-effect lift—sports a chrome hoop, partly inspired by a Japanese piercing book; so does Skinlacq, a clean-formulated boost of hyaluronic acid. The lip-plumping serum with ginger root lends a sooty tint, while the strong-hold Browlacq cracks the metaphorical whip. “Everything about this brand should feel like cinema,” she says.
That applies to the campaign video by Steven Klein, starring Ffrench, a former dancer, in head-to-toe custom latex. The look inspired the shadow palette—“industrial Berlin” tones with brighter flares. “It’s great to have crazy ideas, but at the end of the day, these are super wearable,” she says, adding that core products will eventually follow. “But I’ve got so much to get out of my system first.”