with Ben Gorham and Isamaya Ffrench

The collection is selling quickly – check back for restocked items in the coming days


with Ben Gorham and Isamaya Ffrench

Shop now

The collection is selling quickly – check back for restocked items in the coming days

Words: Grace Gargini

What happens when one of the industry’s most innovative fragrance brands and a trailblazing make-up artist get together? Something pretty special, that’s what. Cue Byredo Makeup, the brand’s debut cosmetics collection conceived by Byredo’s Founder and Creative Director, Ben Gorham, and world-renowned make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench. Launching exclusively at Selfridges after two years in the making, the ground-breaking new collection raises the beauty industry bar with its striking curved packaging, gender-inclusive pigments, ethical ingredients and stand-out CGI campaign images. So how did one of the coolest collabs in beauty come about? We talk to Ben and Isamaya to get the lowdown
and see the products in action.

In conversation with...

Ben Gorham

Founder & Creative Director, Byredo

Isamaya Ffrench

Make-up Artist & Collaborator, Byredo

Byredo is renowned for making iconic fragrances – what made you want to branch out into make-up? 

Ben: I founded Byredo almost 15 years ago and initially focused on creative work and an exploration of the connection between smell and memory. As our brand and company grew, I had this idea to diversify so ventured into other categories outside of the traditional beauty world through accessories, jewellery, eyewear, but about five years ago I had this feeling that make-up could be a strong visual manifestation of beauty at Byredo. But it was one of the only categories that I’d never used myself, so I found it difficult to relate to in an emotional way. I knew I needed to collaborate with someone – and that’s when I started to see the work of Isamaya Ffrench…

Model wears on eyes: Colour Stick in Chin of Gold, Colour Stick in Great Sands, Mascara in Space Black. On lips: Lipstick in Red Armchair, Colour Stick in Kinda Blue
How did you know you wanted to collaborate with Isamaya on this?

Ben: I came across Isamaya’s work, which blew me away because, beyond the talent and the creative expression, I truly felt like she also shared an outsider perspective. Her creations were very much about a pure expression, not referring to what I saw as the norms or framework of an industry. So, I reached out with the hope that we’d find a way to have a creative dialogue and, after meeting her, it became clear that she was the perfect person to frame the world of colour for us.

You both come from creative backgrounds, so it’s no surprise the campaign imagery is so beautiful. What was the inspiration behind this?

Isamaya: The entire project has been a very artistic and creative approach to building a brand and designing a cosmetic range. For our campaign images, we worked with artist Jesse Kanda on a few iterations, and what he shared made sense to me. I hadn’t really seen a make-up brand – especially not at launch – using digital and CGI to narrate what they’re doing.  I think I’ve always loved and admired brands that look to other artists and artworks to represent what they’re trying to say.

For this project, I knew that I didn’t want to launch Byredo Makeup with just a girl wearing a lipstick.

– Isamaya Ffrench

What’s your favourite and most surprising part of collaborating together?

Isamaya: Ben and I have mutual friends in common, but we hadn’t met until he contacted me. We have this shared passion for the outdoors, and we have taken trips together since we met. Ben has seen me terrified at the top of a mountain in the pouring rain, so at this point, there isn’t much to hide. But, honestly, that’s just created an even closer friendship and a deeper connection towards the project. We have very free and open conversations about what we want to do, which ultimately leads to a better final product.

What was the most challenging and rewarding part of creating Byredo Makeup?

Ben: We wanted to ensure the products were mainly composed of clean, natural ingredients without compromising on their performance. From the inception of the project, there was quite an extensive blacklist of materials and ingredients that we didn’t want to use. This took some time to get right with the lab and technicians. One of the most rewarding parts of the journey was the first time Isamaya demonstrated the Colour Sticks for me in our studio in Stockholm. She might have done five or six different looks in what felt like 30 seconds – even for someone who doesn’t wear make-up, I thought it was amazing to see the transformation that was possible with just one product.

The packaging is amazing and unique – what was the inspiration behind this? Why the curves?   

Ben: There is an alien quality to them, but there is also this idea of being completely timeless; they reference ancient artefacts and yet are modern at the same time. The ambition was to create objects that you want to pick up and use, so we considered the optimum weight, shape and even the satisfying click of the magnet fastenings. It’s a complex process with many variables, but I think, in the end, good design is really about something you feel, which is just as important as the product itself.

Isamaya Ffrench using Colour Stick behind the scenes
Model wears on eyes: Colour Stick in Medium Blue (as base), Colour Stick in Kinda Blue (to shadow). On lips: Colour Stick in Kinda Blue

It’s less about the practical, technical part of make-up. It was very much about creating a series of products that made people feel things.

– Ben Gorham

Isamaya, how did your day job of being a make-up artist influence Byredo Makeup?

Isamaya: There are so many ways in which my work as a professional make-up artist has challenged and shaped the way Byredo Makeup exists in the world. From a technical perspective, I was able to influence certain design details, such as the small, product-loading mascara wand, the width of the Colour Sticks, the length of the eyeliner (that helps you draw a super-straight line) – these all contribute to the way the products perform. As I will be using them professionally as well as casually, it’s important that they deliver in what they say they will. But, also, from a creative standpoint that goes beyond the products, I was bored of seeing the same format of commercial advertising and imagery that’s so often seen by make-up brands. I wanted to create new, exciting images and throw Byredo into a creative arena all of its own!

What are the Holy Grail products from the collection everyone should try, and why?

Isamaya: What was also really important for me was to have a truly universal Colour Stick, and after doing a lot of research on colour, we ended up with this concept. We developed 16 multi-use sticks, ranging from iridescent khaki green (with a white-gold undertone) to a midnight purple, which has a blue and a silver undertone, and an amazing sparkly orange. The mascara is pretty special because we really insisted on a very small brush, so you can get really close to the eyelash bed for maximum impact.