Inside a Bushwick warehouse space this afternoon, the backstage mood at Eckhaus Latta was predictably serene. Winter sun blazed through the double-height windows; multicolored knits and shearling clogs in the Fall 2019 collection offered up a kind of offbeat hygge. Designers Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta had once again gathered longtime friends and collaborators—Holli Smith, orchestrating the soft-focus hair; a radiant Paloma Elsesser, slated to close the show—but today there was a new face in the crowd. The London makeup artist Isamaya Ffrench, whirring airbrush tool in hand, was making her mark with painterly smudges and bandit-like masks around many of the models’ eyes.
“I was really inspired by some of the furry jackets that have these great two-tone off colors, like vintage-y oranges with grays,” Ffrench explained, her own caramel hair streaked with salmon pink. “How do we make an extension [of that look] in a very beautiful way and not feel face-paint-y?” The Londoner, well-known for her technical superpowers and experimental approach, turned to the airbrush and a rainbow of MAC pigments. She liked how the dappled colors mimicked the tie-dye effect of the denim on the runway; she also embraced the tool’s inherent variability. “You can’t guarantee what you’re going to get, so there’s a little bit of risk in using it. I really like that because it means everyone’s going to be totally individual.”
That one-of-a-kind feel is second-nature to Eckhaus Latta, which Ffrench (a self-proclaimed “massive fan”) knows well. “Often we like to explore makeup in more atypical ways,” said Eckhaus, referring to past looks that incorporated unexpected materials (watercolor on lips) or placements (clay brushed across cheeks and hairlines). The key here was softness, he added—an idea that carried from the diaphanous makeup to the plush fabrics and gently mussed hair.
“It’s about airiness and no hard lines,” explained Smith, who left models’ natural texture and idiosyncratic cuts alone, layering in Redken’s Guts volume spray as needed, “just to bring out a few frizzes so that when they walk, it moves.” The effect was subtle, but “it’s not quiet by any means,” she said, as the room buzzed with models of all identities and creative stripes: Susan Cianciolo, Bobbi Salvör Menuez, Michael Bailey-Gates. “The casting already says so much.”