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Illamasqua – making-up history

Illamasqua – making-up history

From the First Dynasty in Egypt where the woman lined their eyes with khol made from antimony or soot, to the veritable artists’ palette of substances we adorn ourselves with today, make-up has been in use for thousands of years. Through the ages the most extreme use has always fallen to the Aristocracy or the Bohemia. And whether intentional or no, this use has exaggerated the social divides and provided an instant recognition of standing.

It was not until 1909, however, when Selfridges first opened their doors in Oxford Street, that make-up was openly sold to the public and becoming more widely accepted and used. But the First World War slowed the progress of the cosmetic revolution and brought people back down Maslow’s hierarchy, focusing on the necessities of food, safety and shelter. Rather than the self-actualisation and/or glorification offered in the creams, potions and pigments.

But in 1920, amid the shady scenes of the smokily lit Berlin clubs, where the post war renaissance brought with it both a desire to escape into flights of fancy and the sudden availability of cash with which to fund such extravagance; The theatre also sprang up from the underground, bursting at the seams with light, costumes and backdrops. The actors became celebrities of their craft rather than the workhorses of the theatre and the stage was set for the professional art of the imagination. Set designers, lighting technicians, costumers were all brought to mould the actors, and it was here the “professional makeup artist” was born. For what is an actor without a face?

At the time Arnold Langer was a young chemist and became part of the whole realisation of this “professional make-up”. His business went on to be Kryolan, which, to this day, is a world leader supplying makeup to film and TV industries. However it has never really been available to the public, leaving those of us that tread the boards of our own making to make do with what we could find.

And those boards we did tread! The Glam, Punk, Burleque, Transvestite, Goth, Club Kids of every scene, using their body as a canvasses to host a hybrid of lines, and colour and form. The bohemian of each era playing their part. Parts that so inspired a man named Julian Kynaston.

Julian wanted to bring professional makeup, in its true sense, to these people. The bold, long lasting, boundless substances with which they create their characters. He knew that it would require the input of a company such as Kryolan, with its long standing history and widely respected quality. So the alchemy was born, between a master of the trade and a visionary with passion, Illamasqua was brewing.

But the fire was not yet lit under the cauldron, what was needed was a spark! That spark came in the form of Illamasqua’s art team, a trio of artisans, of nonconformists, of those with a history and passion to rival none. That trio came in the form of Dave Vanian (The Damned), Anja Huwe (Xmal Deutschland) and Alex Box, a renowned makeup artist with a flair for the darkly dramatic. And my next installment in this blog series will be an interview with that very lady.

Illamasqua hit the market in November 2008, initially holding pride of place in Selfridges, in an act one could almost see it as a homage to past.

Published in Unscene


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