When we approached Violette Fray for an interview and sent her a list of questions, she came back with answers to all of them – except two. She wouldn’t answer what products she’d reach for to create a more dramatic look, nor would she detail what she’s wearing for the upcoming holiday season. “Fray is very passionate about not following trends or making make-up decisions based on the season, so she just wears what she feels like all the time,” we’re told.
That’s fine, we say – that’s what we love about Fray anyway. Currently the global beauty director for Estée Lauder, the Brooklyn-based Parisian make-up artist and social media influencer (who goes professionally by “Violette”) has a steady fan base in the United States and Europe, but is still a relatively new name in Asia. Her social media posts and YouTube videos have an endearing quality to them – she’s just your girl-next-door, dabbing shadow and glitter on her eyelids with her ring finger, rather than the fanciest make-up brush. Her Instagram is her mood board. She posts everything from flat lays of food and beauty products to colour and art inspirations – and she loves matcha lattes and avocados.
I started experimenting with make-up when I was very young. I think I was 14. I was wearing red lipstick all the time, because I was in France, so I thought that was – you know, you were a woman, you wear lipstick. But I had red nails at maybe 12 or something – the very deep red. And then I started to have fun with glitter pretty early. Age 18 was my big glitter phase in my life, but on myself. When I started to play on other people as a make-up artist, I was 19.
For make-up, I have concealer – always. It’s the Estée Lauder Double Wear Waterproof All Day Extreme Wear Concealer, because I don’t have to touch it up at all during the day. Then I apply black mascara. And I like to use a lipstick also as my blush, so it’s the same kind of colour – the colour depends on the day. Last, a little bit of highlighter. That’s my go-to look.
Beauty is a way of expressing yourself, a way to celebrate femininity. It’s also a ceremony for me. Because the time I’m going to take for myself in the bathroom, doing my skincare or make-up – or even in the car when I do my make-up – it’s like my minute for myself. Just the gesture of applying the products, it’s something really caring.
My main focus right now is creating very strong products that are as good as having a make-up artist in your bathroom. So you don’t have to overthink it, you don’t have to struggle with the technique – you do you. It’s going to be so simple that, you know, it’s going to make the magic by itself. And then I’m also going to give information to women with tutorials to help apply the make-up. But I really want to make them independent so they can just, like, break free from the beauty – how do you say this in English? In French we say “beauty code”, like the beauty rules.
It’s not about looking beautiful, it’s about feeling beautiful. Whatever makes you happy, then that’s great. If you’re into blue, I’m going to show you how you can make it work on you so you’re not hiding yourself, so you can feel pretty with very strong colours – stuff like this. The idea to me is to create tools for women to feel confident enough to try bold looks, but at the same time my French philosophy is about never trying to hide. It’s not about hiding women with make-up; again, it’s about celebrating them. So you can still wear something very strong and people won’t fear it.
Like the other day, I had these glitter eyes, and I was kind of – I always do that, I’m kind of looking for people’s reaction to see if it’s too much or not. No one reacted by saying “Oh, it’s so nice,” but, like, when you do very creative make-up, then people react like, “Oh it’s a bit intense – what’s the occasion?” I don’t want people to say, “What’s the occasion?”
Women. All women. I don’t have one icon. I walk on the street; New York is an incredible source of inspiration because there is so much diversity and the women here dare to try. I love to look at them and imagine a little story of how they decided to wear a particular look. It’s like every woman is showing you a little part of herself.
Glitter! I love glitter all the time.
I’m a Brooklyn girl. It feels a bit more European. You can go to a farmer’s market – there’s something smaller about it. Manhattan is so huge that I can feel lost. When I’m in Brooklyn, walking through the street and hanging out, I feel like it’s a mix of New York and Paris.
Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. Jane, because, even though she’s not French, she’s part of us because she was the muse of the most incredible artist, Serge Gainsbourg. And Bardot when she was really young. I don’t have tons of beauty icons. I’m more influenced by [French filmmaker] Jean-Luc Godard or some artists than beauty. I love women and I think there’s something that can be so charming in so many women – I’m more general than just one person.
This article originally appeared in the December 2017 print issue of #legend