There's no doubt that Isamaya Ffrench stands as one of beauty industry's most in-demand talents. A multi-hyphenate in the truest sense of the word, Ffrench has seen success as a make-up artist working on infamous magazine covers and editorials, a creative director, global make-up ambassador and beauty director.
Her signature blend of avant-garde make-up and artistry is instantly recognisable. Byredo and Burberry Beauty are just two of the brands that were imbued with the Ffrench touch, giving them an instant edge in an industry inundated with uniformity.
Now, Ffrench is taking matters into her own hands with her new beauty line, Isamaya. Pushing new boundaries as to what a beauty line can encompass, as is routine practice for Ffrench, the new line will discard traditional formats of a beauty brand, and will instead encompass the duality of fashion and beauty as one.
"Because I worked in fashion where life is constantly changing, I just couldn't make sense of having a brand that looked the same for ten years," Ffrench told Bazaar. "So I decided I wanted to take the fashion model and do four or five collections a year and have limited editions. It's better for the environment like that and keeps it feeling collectible. It allows me to just have so much fun with my make-up development and creativity."
Rather than trying to be everything to everyone, each collection will focus on a different concept. To combat the disposable nature that can be so insidious in beauty, Ffrench wanted the products in each drop to be covetable and completely unique in design. "I've worked with Vivienne Westwood for years, and their concept is 'do more with less', so I want to bring the idea of reusability into the collection," explains Ffrench. "Eventually you'll have compacts that can also become jewellery boxes when you're finished with them, or you can repurpose the chrome piercings."
The first collection drop, launching late June, is influenced heavily by BDSM culture. While brands such as Nars and Charlotte Tilbury have flirted with the notion of sex, engaging with the darker underbelly of modern culture is something that beauty has typically shied away from in comparison to the fashion industry. "Fundamentally [the collection] is not anti-beauty, I think it's more anti-industry in terms of what we know as make-up products," she says.
"We see this in fashion all the time; references of BDSM culture – leather and latex, but you never see that in beauty, and so for me that was super inspiring. As a concept, it's all about self-possession, empowerment and domination, and it just felt like all of the right sentiments for my first collection."
In Isamaya's initial drop, you can expect to find a plumping lip veil, which is infused with ginger root and caffeine to improve microcirculation, a brow lacquer which doubles as a styling and brow lamination product, and a mascara with mesh fibre technology that Ffrench explains "works a bit like elastic to pull them back so you have amazing, curly, deep black lashes".
True to her word, Ffrench has done more than just create a beauty collection. Tangibly, the first drop also includes jewellery and clothing in small, curated edits. But it's her refreshing attitude that also marks a perceptible shift from the mainstream approach to beauty brands. "I was talking to someone about the idea that people are always interested in transformation and make-up to help you transform but for me, actually, make-up I think is helping people become more of themselves," she says.
"So I'm approaching beauty with that lens. Not 'here’s stuff to turn you into someone else'. More, if you align with this, this can help you be more authentic with yourself. Red lipstick can’t be for everyone, but maybe it makes sense to have a piercing in your mascara because you're that kind of person."
As for what's in store with the next collection, Ffrench is keeping her cards close to her chest, but reveals that she'll be looking to make the second drop this autumn. Watch this space.