isamaya ffrench
Photograph courtesy of Burberry

In Conversation With: Burberry’s Global Beauty Director Isamaya Ffrench

Here's what she had to say about starting a new job in lockdown and how to perfect mask makeup.

In May, Isamaya Ffrench was named as the Global Beauty Director for Burberry – and starting a new job amidst a global pandemic is undoubtedly strange but Ffrench has taken it all in her stride. When we ask her what it’s been like she says, “A beacon of light!” with a laugh adding that its been “great because it meant that we could do a lot of talking and planning. It meant that I could really get stuck into something whilst looking forward to creating things once everything was back to normal.” And whilst we’re still in our new ‘normal’ at present, Ffrench did get to make her debut for the brand during its S/S21 show earlier in September.

Read on to find out more about the beauty inspiration for the show, her top tips for nailing mask makeup, as well as the unconventional beauty trick she recently tried…

What was it like working on your first show for Burberry under these exceptional circumstances?

It wasn’t usual show circumstances obviously but it was really amazing because it meant that I could actually go and watch the show myself. We [also] had a lot of time to prep for it. Normally, you get a very short amount of time to work with the models – and we had [a lot more]. It was just really nice and a lot more relaxed. For me, I felt really lucky that it was just kind of the perfect circumstances – no stress, really exciting, you could watch it, and the show was amazing anyway, so it was lovely.

Where did you get your inspiration for the beauty look?

The show look was, in a way, quite sort of simple. Obviously it was this very elevated, polished look but we had a lot of performers in the show because Riccardo was working with an artist called Anne Imhof and her vibe is a little bit grungey but very natural, very intense. I’m pretty sure none of her dancers were wearing much makeup and we wanted to keep some kind of continuity. We wanted to elevate [the models’] skin a little bit and treat them like models so we tried to keep that balance between looking very natural and fresh, but also having that intensity that the dancers bought.

What has working with Riccardo been like?

I just feel very lucky that we have a very strong vision guiding the brand. I’ve worked with many brands before and it’s quite rare that you have the fashion house and the beauty house trying to be as close as possible in terms of mood/vibe/message. He really oversees everything we do, he will approve things, he will give direction. So for me it makes my job a lot easier and lot more rewarding because I feel like everything we’re doing is really creating this 360 vision, his vision of the brand.

The brand recently launched the Essentials Glow Palette – why is this a key piece in your kit?

Palettes are key because they’re so useful and it’s great to get a lot of possibilities in one small thing. For me, the Glow Palette is your everyday palette but it is a very well-thought-out palette in that it’s a mixture of cream-based and powder-based products. I’m really into gradients, I really like things that work beautifully together [like this palette]. It creates a really beautiful, quiet subtle finish to the skin.

Photograph courtesy of Burberry

How would you describe your overall beauty philosophy?

That’s quite a hard question because I never like to tell people what to do – I like to give advice or my opinion. I think this relates back to Burberry’s beauty philosophy – obviously a great foundation is key but it’s really about confidence, your own personal identity and using makeup as a way to enhance yourself and your features, not to create a mask.

What have become your makeup staples during the pandemic?

I’ve always really been into natural skin but it really made me rethink my approach to skin and become even more detailed oriented because people aren’t going for big looks anymore. They’re spending more time on their skin and trying to be healthy. My makeup is normally very, very creative but it’s so important to have a really polished and elevated base to carry anything so I sort of went back to basics in lockdown. I also took time to do my makeup which I never do because I’m on the go [laughs].

What are your top tips for makeup application now that we’re all in face masks?

In terms of base – because everybody is getting a bit oilier and a bit sweatier with this mask situation – to have a product that you can really rely on to mattify you throughout the day is key. One product we’ve had a lot of feedback on is our Matte Glow Foundation.

You recently shared an image on Instagram of you using ketchup to tone your eyebrows. How did that work out?

That’s supposed to be one of those old wives tales where when you bleach your hair and it goes green you put a load of ketchup in it and it sort of colour corrects it [laughs]. It kind of had a desired effect but to be honest I wasn’t really up for stinking of vinegar – I forgot that that’s what happens when you put ketchup on your face so I had it on for about five minutes and then I thought, I’ll just use a toner. [laughs].


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One hot potato ? ketchup toner ?

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What’s coming up next?

We have an extensive Kisses collection and we’re going to be renovating that line, introducing new colours and formulas – we have a matte formula, a really lovely satin formula with a couple of interesting colours. People have been very eye-focused because of all of this mask stuff but actually lips is still a really huge part of most beauty brands and people don’t stop wearing lipstick, so I’m really excited to be working on that.