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Future Beauty at the Barbican: Beauty Party

An evening of make-up, nail art and hair at the Barbican as part of the Japanese fashion retrospective. No fun for a boy, right? WRONG!

Written by Matt Bramford

WAH Nails, illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ll have seen me banging on about Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Fashion at the Barbican. I did a mammoth post about the exhibition last week; it’s one of my favourite fashion exhibitions ever, and I couldn’t wait to go back for a second look.

So I was delighted to attend the Beauty Party last Thursday. The name flooded my mind with images of middle-aged women guzzling Lambrini and exchanging salacious stories while passing underwear around a living room on a cul-de-sac somewhere in Huddersfield. The roster of participants was pretty alluring, though – Alex Box, Charlie le Mindu and WAH Nails to name a few.

All photography by Matt Bramford

I went to a Viktor & Rolf event like this a couple of years back and it isn’t the easiest thing to navigate – you have to seek out the various special events – they’re usually tucked away. In tiny rooms behind the exhibition itself, each of the aficionados of beauty had set up their wares. Nails, make-up and hair were covered. What exactly was I going to get out of this? I have very little hair, I bite my nails, and I rarely wear make-up. ‘This is for girls,’ I thought to myself. Well, here’s a little round-up of the night’s events:

Charlie le Mindu

Illustration by Gemma Sheldrake

I’d subconsciously blocked Charlie le Mindu out of my mind after fashion week’s debacle. I feel lucky to be alive after that display, and I thought I had at least six months to recover before braving his (what will undoubtedly be fabulous) show for A/W 2011. Thankfully there wasn’t an arse or tit (or, er, y’know – the other bit) insight this time.

Charlie had created, especially for the occasion, a sculptural creation from human hair that descended from the roof and featured a rider’s helmet with a huge, yellow horse tail that dropped to the ground. On its own, it was beautiful; hanging motionless from the ceiling, it looked like magic. Attendees were able to slip underneath the creation and have their photograph taken, with hilarious results… Some were too short, some were too tall, some just couldn’t make it balance on their heads, but oh, what fun!

Look, it’s Amelia’s Magazine illustrator Naomi Law!

It’s Jenny, who isn’t an illustrator, but a friend nonetheless.

WAH Nails

I love how WAH Nails have single-handedly made nail art cool again. Their incredible designs have had so much press and attention since their debut in 2009. Most recently, they were part of the Eley Kishimoto Flash-On Week pop-up at the Shoreditch Studios, transforming nails with the iconic Flash pattern. Sadly, between the two of them, no matter how quickly the duo revamped nails it was clear the girls I’d gone with weren’t going to get a look in. The list to put your name on was full after fifteen minutes!

Still, it was fascinating to watch the designs come to life.

Alex Box

Illustration by Emmeline Pidgen

I’ve been a fan of Alex’s for a while but I wasn’t sure what to make of a make-up demonstration. A world-famous make-up artist demonstrating her skills in make-up at the front of a cinema, for an hour and a half? Oh, go on then I thought – what’s the worst that can happen? It turns out it was one of the most mesmerising things I (and my pals) had ever seen. Resplendent in a vintage floor-sweeping red frock and fashion glasses that would make half of Shoreditch envious, Alex began creating the first look to the sound of haunting classical music.

To see how quickly she works and how naturally it seems to flow was utterly hypnotising, and surprisingly relaxing. The first look was a Marie-Antoinette inspired ghostly creation, complete with a headpiece and fabrics that were added at the end – absolutely beautiful.

The same poor model then had her face wiped before Look Two began – a more playful look with vibrant colours and jazzy fabrics. ‘Sometimes you have to go against the rules,’ relayed Alex, to a room full of gripped onlookers. A truly wonderful experience.


Illamasqua‘s team of make-up artists were on hand to provide makeovers. I couldn’t see much of what was going on here because a gaggle of excited teenage girls surrounded them in the hope of a dab of powder from one of these ‘world-famous’ experts. Nothing to see, here.

Of course amongst all this was a chance to see the incredible exhibition again, and it was equally as wonderful as the first time. I’d definitely recommend these evenings, and ooh look – there’s one tonight, starring Fred Butler amongst others!

See all the details here.


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