Art and fashion often collide in the most unexpected but fulfilling ways and nowhere is that more evident than in the artistry of the beauty world. Makeup artist Violette is living proof that coloring within the lines is a thing of the past and has created memorable looks for the pages of CR Fashion Book, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue Italia, Vogue Japan, Beauty Papers, Numéro and beauty powerhouse, MAC Cosmetics. The French beauty paired up with photographer Steven Pan for this exclusive MDX story with fanciful, uninhibited looks on Hot List member, Frances Coombe. Violette sat down with us to discuss how she got her start in the business, her inspirations and creative process, and just what continues to draws her to the overflowing world of makeup.
Makeup Artist Violette (Management + Artists)
Stylist Jessica dos Remedios (Chris Boals Artists CBA)
Hair Cameron Rains (The Wall Group)
Manicure Alicia Torello (The Wall Group)
Model Frances Coombe Muse Management (New York)
Retouching by Silhouette Studio
Special Thanks to Fast Ashley’s Studios
Interview and text by Irene Ojo-Felix
After a few minutes in the French face painter’s workspace, one starts to notice it resembles a lab: large apothecary jars of brightly colored powder pigments adorn one wall, chalk pastels seem to be in every corner, cases of iridescent butterflies and beetles align shelves, a print from Tamara de Lempicka peeks out from an inspiration board. One can say that the only thing that changed for Violette from her art background was the canvas. She took her schooling at the prestigious École de Louvre and transformed it into a prestigious career in beauty, however protracted it was to find her final calling. “I learned how to paint bodies, naked people,” she explains. “It’s amazing because this taught me how to create volume on a flat canvas, to have shadows. I was already doing contouring on canvas, back then. Then I went to school to be a fashion designer because I was into fashion a lot. Then I decided to do what I do now.”
Without having ever assisted anyone, at 19 she dropped everything to move from her familiar homeland to the concrete jungle of New York City. With a few agency contacts she offered her services to provide makeup for new face models. A few short years later, familial obligations meant she had to move back home to France and she signed to her first agency at 21. Her shameless tenacity led her to boldly cold calling the Vogue office of fashion royalty. “My luck was when I called Carine Roitfeld’s office and said I wanted to have a meeting with her,” she describes the pivotal moment. “Good for me, she knew about me through people that I worked with. That’s a good thing to be different I guess, is people notice you more.” The editrix gave her a test opportunity to art direct a book of stories in order to prove herself and she took the assignment fully to task. “I worked with all new faces, all new photographers. It was insane! I cast 120 new girls and I produced the whole story myself.
I did everything, and with no retouching. Back then it was all retouched it was really not what we do now,” stressing her aesthetic of less is more when it comes to digital polishing of visuals. That stamp of approval from French fashion’s dame gave her the final push into the spotlight and she never looked back.
When it comes to Violette’s aesthetic the makeup artist thinks of the duality between fantasy and reality. “I really have two profiles in my work. There is one about the woman, like what I would do on myself or my girlfriends and then the painter work,” she describes. “Either I will treat this woman as a muse and make like art of her or I will treat her as I will treat myself.” These contrasted approaches to beauty both share a common thread – experimentation. Violette’s on set process is very unique compared to most. While others rely mostly on brand name pressed palettes for eyes and lips, almost all of her pigments, paints, and gelatins are arduously custom blended on set, a technique she calls “cooking.”
With no kitchen in sight she goes to work mixing and boiling until she gets the perfect consistency or shade and the process happens with little margin of error. “I hate to test. For some reason, I’m never nervous. I always know that something good will happen from it. So, I always arrive with these weird textures on set and when I try it, it has to happen fast.” Her laser focus on texture results in the uncanniest of results – perfectly imperfect application. “It’s like playing an instrument – slowly and controlled but you have to let go because you want to feel something. Some people might say how can you feel something with makeup? But honestly I put all of my sensations into what I do and I try to feel.”
Then again it makes sense – her philosophy applies also to the everyday approach of beauty and is quintessentially French. “I know that my French beauty education is a huge influence on my work and also for women. In France, they teach you to love yourself as you are. That’s why we don’t really wear foundation, we don’t really do our hair, we kind of have this raw thing because also we have other priorities in life which are focused on fun.”
This youthful approach has also worked in her favor when it comes to social media and all of its benefits in helping promote her artistry and aesthetic. “We’re able to share who we are now. Thanks to a picture I could post about a work, you could understand more about the creation of texture and it tells you so much more about who I am. People are much more curious and welcome to your differences.”
When it comes to the future, developing a product line isn’t too far off from her mind. “I have this signature, my red velvet lips that I do. I’ve had so many people asking where to buy products and I feel so sad to tell them I did it on set. Sometimes I feel like I wish I could do it and share with them,” she laments. “I wish in the future I could do a brand and have an open discussion. I want to ask people what do you want, what would be your dream product. I would love to have this kind of interaction. Also it’s so fun! To design products is something I really enjoy.”