"The world is full of duality. Good and bad. Dark and light. I wanted to capture that," lead hairstylist Eugene Souleiman told a group of reporters backstage at Thom Browne's Fall/Winter 2020 show in Paris. He was discussing the dual-nature of the show, one in which he, designer Brown, and makeup artist Ismaya Ffrench created a whimsical version of the biblical story that dealt with duos.
"They're going to Noah's Arc," Souleiman notes. Indeed, the models, who walked in twos, did seem to be marching toward some utopia where there was a match for every pair. "But our arc is all inclusive," Souleiman says. "The models are of all colors and genders, and they're not all coupled in traditional ways. Guys are with guys. Girls are with girls."
Thanks to the structural headpieces featured in the show, the models looked pretty much the same as they walked down the runway two by two — a difficult feat when you're pairing models of different genders and races. To achieve this, the hair and makeup worked more to blank out differences than accentuate them.
Ffrench opted for blocked-out brows and sculpted cheekbones. She took the old school route, pasting them down with glue sticks before powdering over them with MAC Studio Fix Perfecting Powder. "The sculpting is done with cooler, ash browns instead of warm bronzers," Ffrench notes. "The shapes and contours of the cheeks are more straight instead of curved." She achieved this by contouring with a darker foundation before powdering over. There was no mascara — just a touch of gloss on the lips. "It's just a hair short of being theatrical," she notes.
For the hair, Souleiman really wanted to focus on the duality of natural versus unnatural. So he created silicone wigs that sat atop the models' heads to create an intense shine. "I was watching the nature channel and I saw seals coming out of the water," Souleiman says. "There's this synthetic feeling to their skin, but it's tactile. You can touch it."
Inspired by this, he paired the unnatural silicone with bits of models' natural hair peeking out from under the veils and wigs. To get a similar, cohesive shine, Souleiman lacquered the hair down with Wella Sculpt Force Gel. "You can build a house on it," he chuckles.
Between the slicked-down hair, the blocked-out brows, and the face-obscuring veils, models did have a twin-like vibe to them — even when it was obvious that they weren't similar looking. But this duality created a subtle, yet beautiful message: Our differences make us similar. The dualities in our lives are a familiar thread between us. It was a vision of unity that was dream-like, but also a hopeful reality.
When a reporter backstage noted that the duality even existed in the headpieces, which were structured, but soft with their draping, you could hear the smile in Souleiman's voice. "That's exactly right," he responded. "We're kind of like the misfits, all put together, and we're all kind of thinking a similar way." And that's a Noah's Arc worth marching toward, don't you think?