A Family Affair

November 21st, 2014

November 21st, 2014

The Scandinavians have a reputation for minimalistic chic with a key eye for design – and that’s certainly the case with Martina Arfwidson, the Swedish makeup artist and the second generation creative force behind FACE Stockholm.  A brand that’s been around for over 30 years, Warpaint gets chatting to find out how Martina is stamping her own mark.


Martina Arfwidson

FACE Stockholm is an expansive cosmetics company which offers make-up and skin care that remains true to the Swedish beauty ideal – naturally-based and trend-forward;  simple, clean, and fun.  The brainchild of Gun Nowak, this brand captures the unmistakable Scandinavian styling that has made so many fans or their design and television exports.  In the early 1980s, Gun was the owner of three über trendy fashion boutiques in Sweden, already showcasing her ability to pick out the next big thing.  FACE Stockholm actually developed out of her frustration of being unable to match the neon fashions of the time to any available cosmetics, in order to complete her looks.  “I didn’t set out to do makeup,” Nowak claims, “but I wanted every colour and I couldn’t find them anywhere. I saw the opportunity.”


Gun Nowak

And so, starting with her first shop in 1982 in the Swedish capital, FACE Stockholm was born, and it quickly proved itself to be a huge success.  As the business grew, Gun turned to her daughter, Martina, for help.  With a similarly talented eye for design, colour and style, Martina revealed to us that it wasn’t just her love of cosmetics which prompted her to get involved.  “It wasn’t only about working with make-up, it was also about working with mum,” she said.  “I was in NYC studying music, and the time was right both for me and for the brand to expand.  I could see the link between music and make-up — bringing out a woman’s inner beauty is the same as finding your inner voice.  FACE Stockholm became a mission about healing, getting to one’s inner truth and, ultimately, about self expression.”


In fact, we were surprised to hear that despite her depth of product knowledge, Martina has never received formal MUA training:  “While I’m not formally trained as a make-up artist, my familiarity with the product from concept to development to marketing, as well as the years I’ve spent working with our team of professional artists, has definitely allowed me to develop my skill and knowledge.”

The link between mother and daughter clearly remains extremely strong, despite the many trials and tribulations which surely must accompany the expansion of a brand over 30 years to where they are now.  Currently retailing in over 100 countries, Martina credited the bond between mother and daughter as one of the crucial aspects of their success.  “We know each other so well and that insight, that intimate knowledge I think is an advantage.  Plus we share a passion for colour and design, as well as our values and goals for the brand.”  When asked whether she thought that working with a family member made things easier or more difficult than it might with someone unrelated, Martina knew it could only be a positive.  “Our bond as mother and daughter can only strengthen that; we have an incomparable commitment to each other and the work that we share.”

Their commitment to making their consumer feel great from their products is clear from their company slogan, “More Than Make-Up”, and Martina delved further into the choice of words reflecting their brand.  “‘More Than Make-Up’ really refers to two aspects of the brand,” she explained.  “One is that we really strive to let FACE Stockholm envelope a full lifestyle concept, which has opened the doors to partnerships which have allowed us to create extensions of the brand, like an eyewear collection, bicycles, and an amenities line.  And then there is also the commitment to a deeper meaning in our work; through education and make-up artistry we hope to encourage learning and joyful creativity that inspires women to discover their inner strength and their own unique beauty.”

As with other Swedish beauty brands, such as skincare brands Kerstin Florian or Estelle & Thild, FACE Stockholm has been designed to reflect and resonate with the Scandinavian approach to wellbeing.  “We have always said we want to offer make-up and skincare that is true to the Swedish beauty ideal, and for us that means creating products that are naturally-based, simple, gorgeous and fun – everything make-up should be!”


Talk turned to the products themselves – and we’re not exaggerating when we say it’s one of the most broad and comprehensive ranges we’ve ever seen.  Chic, functional packaging, able to appeal to both pro artist and consumer, houses a rainbow of colours, a plethora of formulas.  No matter what medium you’re searching for, we’d be surprised if you couldn’t find it in the FACE catalogue.  Martina, of course, has a handful of favourite products –  “I think our Primer is amazing, and our Eyelash Curler is the best on the market.  And of course Lipstick – my favourite right now is ‘Hjärta‘, the perfect orange-red!”  As for her on-set saviour products, she instantly singled out “Our Neutralizer Red and Blue – they have come to the rescue many times!”

Having spent so long with the brand, seeing it go through so many changes and evolve into the company it is today, we were keen to know what moments have stood out in her varied experience.  Luckily, Martina had some great occasions to share, some real ‘pinch me!’ events.  “When Kevyn Aucoin called in for 30 of our Lipsticks in the shade ‘Naked’ for a major fashion show, that was huge.  That shade is, to this day, one of our top sellers.  Then there was the time Whoopi Goldberg came into the store and declared that her favourite lipstick shade is our ‘Black’!  It’s not opaque, but rather a sheer brown/black shade.  It was such a surreal moment.  And when we opened with Barneys on Madison Avenue, Barry White performed at the opening party right in front of my eyes, I thought I would die!”  Reassuringly, her life isn’t all glamorous parties and soirées with A-listers;  Martina insisted that her favourite part of her job was actually “Interacting with my unbelievable, outstanding co-workers!”


Martina and Gun are dedicated to not only developing fantastic products which MUAs want to use, but also to providing training courses for aspiring or existing MUAs to begin and progress their career.  With schools in Sweden, Norway and the US (no plans yet unfortunately of one in the UK), prospective students can expect a huge variety of education available.  “We are passionate about advancing the art of makeup and our schools teach creative, cutting-edge technique and application,” Martina explained.  “The training is in-depth and hands-on, covering beauty, fashion, print, film, TV, video and theater, with unique opportunities for practical application at photo shoots, fashion shows and media events.  There’s really something for everyone; our classes cover all levels, for the novice looking to launch a career or the professional who wants to enhance their skills.”  This fantastic scope of subjects, degrees of difficulty and (perhaps most importantly) chances to test your skills in practical application, has ensured huge popularity across all three of their schools.

So with an enormous product range, a chain of make-up schools and shops in over 100 countries – what could the future possibly hold for FACE Stockholm?  “We are positioned for growth in 2015 with plans to expand distribution and a very exciting partnership set to launch in March,” Martina coyly revealed.  “We have a unique story that always seems to garner interest and, as I mentioned before, has resulted in numerous creative partnerships.  We are deeply passionate about the brand and we continuously invest our time and love in finding new ventures and opportunities that express our commitment and dedication to the FACE Stockholm brand concept and philosophy.”


Her love for the brand, and for what make-up has the power to do, shines through effortlessly, so when pressed for advice to give to inquisitive or prospective MUAs, Martina’s enthusiasm was unsurprisingly forefront in her answer.  “Passion and talent is of course key in every artist’s career, but it is also crucial to remember the importance of maintaining professionalism.  Being on time, being organized and having an impeccably clean make-up kit can make or break your career.  And don’t forget the importance of thank you cards and a sincere smile!”  Her own smile is wide, inviting and genuine, and we can imagine that whatever else these two forces of nature turn their attention to will also prove to be a huge success.




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By Deborah Murtha

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