Ellis Faas was way ahead of the selfie trend. The Amsterdam-based makeup artist and photographer bought her first camera at age 14, enrolled in a narcissism-themed photography course at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and began taking self-portraits, which led to her multifaceted career.
"I kept changing myself with makeup, and that's when the makeup took over because I thought it was so fascinating the way that you can [re-imagine] yourself so easily and instantly with makeup," says Faas, now 53 years old and called "one of the most influential makeup artists of her time" by Vogue Paris.
A collection of Faas' 1970s-era selfies was on display in the "Icon Gallery" exhibition at the Makeup Show L.A., a two-day trade event at California Market Center last weekend, which was attended by 4,800 beauty industry professionals. Makeup looks created and photographed by Faas are in her first book, "On the Edge of Beauty" ($20 at ellisfaas.com), which debuted at the show.
"[I]n addition to her tremendous influence within the beauty industry, she is also a true artist," says Shelly Taggar, owner of the Makeup Show, of Faas. "[S]he has amassed an enormous and exquisite body of work."
Faas' work is transformative — arty and dramatic, even a bit macabre — and grounded in her training in special effects.
She studied makeup and special effects at Christian Chauveau's Technical School of Artistic Makeup in Paris and then moved to London in the early 1980s to work on music videos and special-effects projects. After the birth of her daughter, Flavia, she returned to Amsterdam and launched Face Value, a now-defunct makeover and portrait studio, and collaborated with Dutch fashion photographer Inez van Lamsweerde. In 1999, Faas was discovered by renowned fashion photographer Mario Testino, who selected her as makeup artist for a L'Uomo Vogue magazine shoot.
Beyond editorial work, Faas has orchestrated runway and advertising beauty looks for fashion brands including Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Givenchy and Gucci. She created a makeup line for L'Oreal's upscale Biotherm skin care brand in 2002 before launching her own self-named cosmetics line in 2009 — available at Nigel Beauty Emporium in North Hollywood and net-a-porter.com as well as on ellisfaas.com.
Designed to flatter any skin tone, the hues of Ellis Faas lip, eye and skin products ($34-$90) are inspired by the human body, "like the colors of a bruise or the color that runs through your veins or the colors of freckles," says Faas. Her signature Ellis Red lip color is a rich blood red that comes in three textures.
Silver pen packaging, evocative of bullets, can be stashed in sleek cylindrical canisters or linked together with ammunition-like clips. "As a makeup artist, I always wore this army belt with little pockets," says Faas. "On the sets, you have so much stuff with you, but your hands need to be free, just like in the military. As a woman, I had a big, messy bag and couldn't find anything. I wanted to organize things. So you have your beauty case and basically load your 'gun' with the looks."
"Ellis Faas was one of the first [beauty] brands we launched about two years ago, in our top 15," says David Olsen, vice president of global beauty and grooming for Net-a-Porter. "Her line is like functional artwork, the product is of the highest quality, and it's definitely got that 'It Girl' factor."
Yet Faas almost has an aversion to talking trends.
"I would love to make classics," she says. "I know that sounds like a cliché. But I want to make colors that last. I don't go for the latest. I never have. I've never been a trendy makeup artist."