Fashion: French kissing

Topolino is the make-up artist Alexander McQueen and co turn to when they want the face to be as extravagant and pace-setting as the clothes. Tamsin Blanchard watches Marseilles' finest craft his creations backstage for hat-maker Philip Treacy. Photographs by Derek Santini

here are four hours before Philip Treacy's hat show is due to begin (and six hours before it actually does) and there is tension backstage in the tent built for London Fashion Week outside the Natural History Museum. The hats have not arrived; Philip is still adding a few finishing touches in his Victoria studio. The empty hat stands are lined up on the table waiting. The models are already here - Jade, Jodie Kidd and Susy Bick - slouched in front of a row of mirrors, cigarettes in hand, chatting to each other like sixth-formers on afternoon break. The hairdressers are getting on with their work, constructing giant horns at the back of the girls' heads. But the make-up team are getting agitated. It is not Philip Treacy they are waiting for but one of the fashion world's most legendary and creative make-up artists, Topolino.

There are two shows happening at this venue tonight: one front of house, when the latest Treacy confections will be unveiled to an audience that includes Princess Michael of Kent, Alexander McQueen and the couturier Antony Price. The other will be backstage before the show. The camera crew is all ready. Topolino is about to be filmed at work for a new advertising campaign for Max Factor.

Finally, the boyish, Puck-like figure from Marseilles arrives. The make- up artist is a similar build to Prince but doesn't feel the need to sport Cuban heels. He wears a midriff-exposing child's-size T-shirt printed with a spine up the back and Hysteric Glamour's Sex hipsters. The bridge of his nose is pierced, almost between his eyes. You can sense straightaway that this man has limitless energy as he sets to work.

Topolino is known for his extravagant work on Alexander McQueen's own label shows and his first Givenchy haute couture collection, as well as for creating some of the most extreme beauty looks for glossy magazines. Extreme he may be, but Topolino's work influences the make-up we actually wear, however diluted his visions may become by the time they reach us.

For the filming, his two models are Susy Bick and Honor Fraser. He and Susy go way back. She worked with him on his first job over 10 years ago. "I thought he was like a Nureyev when I first met him," she says. It was an advertising campaign and the photographer was Stephan Sednaoui. "I've worked with him quite a few times over the years and he's always done incredible things." In particular, Bick remembers a time when they were doing a job with the photographers Pierre et Gilles. Topolino made her face completely white. It took seven hours.

Today, Susy's mascara alone takes about 40 minutes. If anything is going to sell mascara, this will. Topolino takes a mascara wand and bends it as Uri Geller might a spoon. With the modified instrument, he begins work on the eyes, building up layer upon layer of black. He is famous for his spider eyelashes, long and straggly like tarantula legs. I am amazed there is any mascara left in the tube by the time he has finished squashing the lashes upwards, pressing them hard up against her eyelids. It looks painful.

As he works, Topolino briefs his team. "Pas de blush," he says, wiping off the excess mascara with cotton buds. He looks closely to examine his work and then pulls out the mascara brush again, bending the lashes so they stand up on end. He lights a cigarette for Susy who looks totally unperturbed and not the least bit worried about the future of her eyelashes, which are now as stiff as cardboard. Then he applies pancake foundation, starting with her ears.

Meanwhile, the hats are beginning to arrive, but there is still no sign of Philip. And in the middle of the backstage area, Isabella Blow, Philip's most ardent fan and collector, is busy being tied into a kimono and shown how to walk in it. It is only later that I realise she is not in the show; she is merely preparing for her front row seat. She has her own make-up done Topolino-style. Now Topolino is finally convinced that the lashes are exaggerated enough and turns his attention to the lips. Instead of lipstick, he is going to dust the lips with rectangles of glitter. He covers the area in Vaseline - the make-up artist's best friend - and marks a perfect rectangle around the lip area with masking tape. The model Jade Parfitt watches fascinated in the mirror as iridescent glitter is applied to the area. Topolino uses tweezers to peel off the tape and, voila, she is ready. Susy looks like she has just drunk a big pint of glittery milk. "Yes you can eat, Susy," he says. As long as it is liquid sucked through a straw.

Next, it is Honor Fraser's turn in the hot seat. "He is extremely artistic. He doesn't use make-up as something that has to be practical," she says. The completed look has a strange luminous beauty about it. Honor and Susy positively glow. Now, all Max Factor has to do is get its head around redesigning a new mascara wand - one that bends at right angles on itself. Alternatively, you could always try it yourself, but be careful not to poke your eye out

Caption: `The boyish, Puck-like figure from Marseilles' (far left) waves his magic wand at Philip Treacy's autumn winter '98 show; the square lips are drawn out with the aid of every make-up artist's favourite tool, masking tape. Left: the tenth coat of mascara is applied. Above: Topolino goes back to his drawings for an accurate translation

Above: the finished results on the catwalk for Philip Treacy's autumn winter '98 collection.

Above left: time for a quick fag break. Left: a last minute consultation for Topolino with Philip

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Project Director / Operations Director

    £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an incredible opportunity for a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Administrator is requir...

    Recruitment Genius: EWI / IWI Installer

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

    £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'