Last week I was invited to attend a presentation by Dany Sanz of MAKE UP FOREVER. I did not really feel much like going out. Honestly, I was in full Bowie Bereavement mode but decided to do something good for myself and get out of the house and away from all the music I was listening to, which was bringing great joy for the gifts he gave us, but also buckets of tears at the loss. So I touched up my makeup, and off I went on a very rainy night (not good for the hair) to the Curlique makeup store in downtown Vancouver which was hosting the evening. I even found rock-star parking which was a sure sign I was meant to be there.
I have long been a fan of the MAKE UP FOREVER line, which is a fantastic French pro brand that gives me every colour under the sun if I need it, and a host of products no other company makes. I am very glad that I didn’t miss this event. Not only did it cheer me up, it inspired me when I really needed it.
Dany Sanz is a sixty-nine year old powerhouse with gingersnap hair, a Parisian makeup artist who started her career while the Glam Rock movement was in full swing, lucky lady! She is tiny like a bird but with such immense energy, intelligence and wit that she fills a room.
This is what I learnt about her and her work…
Like me, Dany Sanz never had any intention of becoming a makeup artist, also like me, was unaware of it as a job when she was young. Ok that’s enough about me. She came from a poor working-class family, showing a great talent for art as a child and went on to study fine art and painting, later stumbling into a career in makeup. During the 1970’s she was painting sets for a play, and one of the actors in the production needed to be painted to look like a white mask. As she recalls, the makeup artists there were classically trained, and didn’t know how to do it, but she did. Within a few years, fashion magazines were hiring her to paint clothes from the collections onto models’ bodies, and soon after that designers began requesting her to do this during collection seasons. As a trained painter influenced by the masters, she brought her knowledge of colour and texture to a marketplace when there was no one else doing this and carved out a unique career for herself.
Dany set up (and began to teach at) the Ecole Chauveau makeup school in Paris, and started making products using her kitchen mixer because those that were in existence at the time were pretty poor in quality, and she and her new students and were in need of different things. Again, her painting training aided her in this, and a line of professional products was born. As more and more makeup artists and students began to request the products, and their production line grew, Dany and her husband Jacques Waneph, launched MAKE UP FOREVER, the name of which came about over a few bottles of red wine. According to her, it sounded better in English than in French! That was in 1984. The pair opened their first boutique at 5 rue de la Boétie in September of that year. Dany designed and drew the logo herself.
Dany’s philosophy is a beautiful thing. Above all she emphasizes the importance of education, and generosity of information. These things are indeed gifts. She is ever grateful for her own teachers and consequently passes on her knowledge to all who want to learn it. Two of France’s superstar makeup artists, Stephane Marais and Tom Pecheux, are former students of hers.
Dany shared a sweet story of the stress that went along with success in business; her immense feelings of responsibility for the livelihood of her employees and their families as the brand grew and grew and her worry about making mistakes in business. She has followed the opportunities that arose in her life, emphasizing the need for a real strength of spirit due to the competitiveness of the business. Despite all her success she remains a hands-on artist with a true humility instead of a superego. Unlike me.
Today the line is under the umbrella of LVMH which acquired the brand in 1999 and accelerated its growth. Although still hugely popular with professionals for it’s HD Foundations and concealers, it is no longer just a pro-line, but available to everyone through retail outlets and online. The label, which is sold in 50 countries, opened its second Paris boutique, which is less of a pro store and more for all make up fanatics, in the Marais. Make Up Forever does huge business with Asian markets, most notably Korea, without which, she says, the label would not be the cult beauty brand it has become. Dany Sanz, with all her tenacity and talents, has made MAKE UP FOREVER a huge success story.
There are jobs I could not have completed without this line. At work, I am an obsessive labeller of all my supplies. My MAKE UP FOREVER products are in an area labelled “Unicorn Corner“. This makes my assistants laugh (“it’s in Unicorn Corner!”), which is no bad thing. Glitter, rhinestones, creams in a billion colours, glow-in-the-dark powders, feather eyelashes, star powders, dry pigments…all these are from the company I most often turn to when called upon to create something out of the ordinary. Beautifully, all the stuff I use to do a full Glam Rock make-up comes from the woman who started her career at that time. Which is why I love it.
All in all it was a fabulous evening. Even the parking ticket didn’t bother me (well it was rock-star parking after all and still cheaper than valet). The night gave me some much-needed positivity and she even answered my question about how Bowie inspired her work. A good way to kick off the new year in make up. And out of it.