May 18th, 2015
When Warpaint caught up with Kryolan’s Paul Merchant at last years’ IMATS London he was about to leave on an assignment that seemed as incredible as it did impossible. To travel the world, quite literally, shooting make up stills that encapsulated the culture and identity of each of the countries included in this adventure. Now a year later I have the very calendar they went to create hanging on my wall and absolutely amazed at the sheer achievement of Paul and the team and their suitcase full of make-up dreams.
There’s no disputing that Kryolan is one of the biggest boys in professional make up, I’d struggle to think of any other company that would have the resources to be able to pull a project like this off, but even knowing that, you cannot fail to be blown away by what a team of six created.
The project – ‘suitcase full of make-up dreams’, was designed to encapsulate what Kryolan is all about, their six fields of competence as they see it: beauty, fashion, theatre, body art, SFX and film/TV. The calendar, for which this project had been conceived to create, needed to demonstrate those factors. At its heart was the suitcase that accompanied the team, which carried the kit that allowed them to create 12 looks, capturing a different culture on a different continent over the summer of 2014.
Starting in London, they travelled to Niagara Falls in Canada, then onto New York City USA. Next they went to Tikai and Antigua in Guatemala, followed by Lake Tahoe, Twin Peaks and the Golden Gate Bridge in California. Then came Ayers Rock in the Australian Outback, Singapore, Bali in Indonesia finally coming back around to the Badgerleur Bush in South Africa and Dubai in the UAE.
The intrepid six were led by Nadine Langer and Paulina Deptula, the Project Directors. Paul Merchant was Head of Make Up, Joey Bevan the Hair and Fashion Stylist, Chris Davis the Photographer and Paul Bates the Cinematographer. There’s no question that this experience was one of a lifetime for all of them. “This was a truly overwhelming experience,” explains Paul Merchant, “And it encouraged me to challenge my style, my technique and myself. There is so much beauty in this world, I just hope I managed to do a small amount of justice.”
The pressure was most certainly on Nadine and Paulina. “Being responsible for such a big project with extremely high expectations was a huge challenge,” explains Nadine, “but one I loved and which allowed me to personally grow tremendously. The right team was key and we were more than ready to create something epic, but such an inspiring team opened my eyes in so many different ways, it will stay with me my entire lifetime.” Paulina agreed “apart from the enriching personal experience of this trip, it was incredible to see our products perform under extremely challenging and difficult conditions. I can’t forget how all the work and the concept for the calendar came together in these incredible looks. Seeing people’s enthusiastic reaction all over the world was a true positive.”
So first stop was Niagara Falls. Created in the Ice Age and so the image for January was a frozen enchanted look, a love story between mankind and the elements, the beauty and power of the ice represented by the female, the vulnerability and strength of the earth is symbolised by the frozen man. The illusion of a translucent, supernatural being was key to the story behind this look, with elements such as icicles, glitters and crystals incorporated. This was day one and already it could have been a complete disaster with models cancelling at the 11th hour and restricted shoot time, not to mention the unique misty conditions, but with January under their belts the team packed up the suitcase and moved on.
New York City was the back drop for shoot two. 1920’s Art Deco the era. This look celebrated the glamour, beauty and elegance of that decade, the strong lip and smoky eye, an eternal theme from the city that never sleeps. Prep was much easier, or so the team thought. They scouted the perfect location, secured a light, bright room to prepare, but as with all best laid plans….the dress was too small, new model or new dress was Joey Bevan’s impossible decision. It had to be a new model and with no time to spare and some extremely interested Boys in Blue, the final shots were done as the sun set on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Next came Mayan magic. Tikai is an astonishing piece of architecture and its intricate designs was the inspiration for this look. The model was to be goddess-like and drenched in gold, a challenge for any MUA working in the heat of the Guatemalan jungle. As the location was in the heart of the national park which needed special permits and permissions, the challenge for Nadine and Paulina was logistical. Humidity, time and free English speaking locals all meant that Kryolan’s tribute to the Mayan people was a hottest and stickiest challenge so far.
Shoot four saw the team travel from the Jungle to the island of Antigua. The bright and colourful life of Frieda Kahlo the inspiration for this look. Her style of application and vibrancy of colour was fantastical which the team recreated this in a make-up look that appears to be a painting. The team took a bus from Guatemala City to Antigua in scenes reminiscent of Romancing the Stone. The model fainted, local TV were filming and the team had acquired numerous assistants from interested bystanders, all keen to help. As the final shots were taken the heaven’s opened and the team were thankful this day was done and dusted.
For the next assignment the team left the sunny Caribbean and travelled across the States to San Francisco and the lunar landscape of Lake Tahoe. Rich in tales of mythical creatures lurking in the deep waters, this look used SFX and pulled on pure theatre to create a sci-fi fantasy character. The location was stunning, but was also one of many the team could choose from, after much to-ing and fro-ing the final spot was chosen just as the sun was setting.
Back in the city for shoot six and the location and inspiration was Twin Peaks. The traditional look out and hunting grounds of the Native Americans Twin Peaks in San Francisco was the perfect back drop for a high fashion interpretation of their tribal markings. As there’s a Kryolan facility in SanFran, that side of the shoot was a breeze, but the weather was not. The location was high up, windy and cold, the clouds made the light unpredictable, then came the famous fog, but still the team pulled it off and were half way through.
Staying in San Francisco for shoot seven and using the iconic Golden Gate Bridge as the backdrop, the team went over to the dark side using UV and matte black paint. The style for this make up look was deliberately abstract, to counter the rigid engineering of the bridge itself. More model dilemmas a rather despondent team sat in Starbucks trying desperately to source a new model, who in the end turned out to be the girl who just served them their coffee. This make up was one of the most challenging so far to apply as it had to be done in a dark room. The shoot itself was at night, high up, freezing cold and so windy the kit needed two people to secure it, the use of black light outside was stressful making this one of the longest shoots so far.
Time for a change of scene and continent for the next shoots. The team travelled down under to Australia to create looks that encapsulated this nation. The fireworks over Sydney’s iconic Opera House are often the first celebrations the world sees of a New Year rung in and the first make up was all about the colour and sparkle of this, but set against the rugged coastline Australia is so famous for. A six hour drive on the famous Ocean Road from Melbourne took them to the location, the 12 Apostles. This time the challenge was for Chris, the photographer and Paul, the cameraman as the light was so intense it was almost blinding, but as once again the sun was setting they got the shot. Next the team headed into the Australian Outback. The make up look here drew inspiration from the Country’s Aboriginal people, their ceremonies and tribal markings. Where else but Ayers Rock, was the setting. The make up paid homage to the sun set and rugged terrain of this magical place.
Next stop was Singapore, a unique place that has ancient history and modern design sitting side by side. The make up here was artistry at its best, honouring the culture with the ultra modern city as its back drop. This was the location that provided the most colour and atmosphere as it was in downtown Chinatown. The lanterns and neon signs in the background, the beautiful butterfly creation from Joey and Paul’s very own twist on the classic mandarin make up, all went to make this my absolute favourite of all.
The team then took themselves away from the hustle and bustle of 24 hour Singapore to the altogether more tranquil setting of Bali. Balinese design in sculpture, paintings and fabrics is delicate and intricate and what better way of celebrating that than in the traditional art of tattooing. The model was male and the tattoos that Paul carefully hand-painted were based on traditional designs. The location was the rice fields of Tegalalang and with a little help from the local farmers this proved to be one of the less stressful of the whole tour.
With only two more locations to go, the team and the suitcase were heading towards home but not before stopping in Africa. They headed South and to the Badgerleur Bush, the inspiration of this look was the traditional Witch Doctors with make up designed around the traditional tribal paints. This time the shoot was scheduled for sunrise not sunset, so with the prep, this was a very early start. Paul Merchant deliberately fused traditional with a modern twist and was very creative in his use of products. Look closely at the models eyes, the red is HD Blood, “it was glossy and rich is colour but the consistency allowed me to manipulate the product, it didn’t run and stayed in place perfectly,” Paul explained.
The final shoot and the final location was the desert of Dubai with a theme of One Thousand and One Nights. The colour was the key to this look. A royal blue to contrast the muted shades of the sand gave Paul Merchant the opportunity to explore metallic bronzes and golds and for Joey Bevan to dress the model in stunning flowing blue silk to create a hairstyle that was soft and romantic. With the desert winds blowing the final shot of the tour captured.
As they headed for Heathrow, this phenomenal Kryolan team had clocked up 10s of thousands of miles, dealt with foreign laws, enthusiastic locals, experienced unbelievable scenery but Joey Bevan can probably sum it all up better than me. “Travelling the world with a team so close to my heart was an amazing and life changing experience. The memories, culture and bond will last forever in my heart. I loved every second of it and will never forget.”