Illamasqua cosmetics: making a bold statement for midlife women
Why should it be the case that you hit 40 and morph into a dull, boring version of your original self?
September 6, 2012 | By:
A major make-up brand is, finally, celebrating the beauty of girls our age. Josephine Fairley reports on the dramatic Generation Q campaign, launching today

Karen, not that far off 50, shows that the in-yer-face look is not just for youngsters

Years ago, I remember the agony aunt and feminist Irma Kurtz telling me in an interview that “one of the best things about ageing is becoming invisible”. At the age of 60 or so, she was enjoying not being hit on constantly by men, and becoming one of life’s ‘observers’, watching from the grey-haired, unmade-up sidelines.

When it comes to Illamasqua, however, shrinking violets need not apply. Illamasqua is the in-yer-face-not-just-on-yer-face make-up range now owned by Joseph Corre (talented progeny of Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren).

When Illamasqua does violet, by the way, it’s shot with shimmering metals, with a depth of colour that you generally only see at the Motor Show.

Its new Generation Q campaign has prompted a bit of a rethink about the brand. Like many 50-somethings, I suspect, I’d written off the bold make-up range as something best enjoyed by smooth-skinned, nightclubbing 20-somethings. But this Generation Q campaign, unveiled today (6 September) prompts a volte face.


What you’ll see in the groundbreaking ad campaign are real women, including older role models as well as young. Think of it as a bit like those Dove ads, but with more slap on.

Hallelujah for a brand that features gorgeous older faces, rather than simply the smooth and unlined countenances of models who haven’t finished their A Levels. Illamasqua’s creative director Alex Box says: “To us, hiding your age is like hiding your true identity.”

So what you see are the faces of real make-up lovers, recruited through the brand’s Beauty Before Age shout-out earlier this year. Among the beauties who landed the assignment are the divine 72-year-old Evelyn Ford, with alabaster skin, Magnetism deep rose lipstick and film star eye make-up beneath that ‘badger’ hair colour. (Daphne Guinness can dream of looking this good when she reaches pensionable age.)

Evelyn, a life-long lover of make-up, says of her Illamasqua re-vamp: ‘I feel more confident all round. I am me but a newer me (with ‘inner shimmer’, as Illamasqua’s make-up artist would say), and I hope that others will embrace this, too.”

Patricia Phillips, 53, shows the facelifting effect of beautifully groomed brows while rocking a smokey eye, with statement cherry lipstick and fab-bu-lous matching Charisma (deep raspberry pink) nails.

Poignantly, 45-year-old Karen Jones is to undergo a course of intensive radiotherapy this month, and will be putting not a brave but a fabulously made-up face on things. She says: “I’ve been told to expect my hair to fall out in patches, but my make-up will help me to feel and look better and give me the emotional boost of having fab make-up, glossy bright lips, sculpted eyebrows and super cheekbones!

“No one will notice if I have to do a ‘Sinead O’Connor’: they’ll just think I’m having another crazy image change!”


Patricia, 53, backstage at the shoot


Patricia: lookingrock-star ready!


Karen, 45, backstage (and, top, her final look)


Evelyn, 72, gets a final touch-up

Now, my perennial advice to women of un certain age has long been to go for regular department store makeovers. Applied well, I put money on make-up removing ten years from any woman’s face. Up until now, I’ve always pointed them in the direction of ‘safe’ counters such as Bobbi Brown and Laura Mercier.

But on seeing the Generation Q campaign (and the make-up itself, packed with flattering light-reflective pigments), I’m going to suggest they take a deep breath, ditch their prejudices (Illamasqua ‘artists’ can occasionally appear to have arrived direct from a Goth convention), and submit to a Generation Q revamp, instead. I’ll be doing it myself.

Because now, I’m viewing Illamasqua as the make-up equivalent of Jenny Joseph’s poem, Warning: “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, with a red hat, which doesn’t go and doesn’t suit me, and I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves and satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.”

Only this make-up clearly does suit these models. And will, I hope, inspire women to forsake taupe and soft rose and embrace glamour, colour and sexiness – at least sometimes.

As Joseph Corre puts it: “Why should it be the case that you hit 40 and morph into a dull, boring version of your original self? Bombarded by products to hide your age, rather than celebrate your experience and vitality?”

So actually, I think Illamasqua should (with its signature mischief) dispatch a Generation Q collection to Irma Kurtz. Because strutting your don’t-give-a-damn, colourful stuff has surely got to be way more fun than being invisible.

Video: see behind the scenes at the Illamasqua shoot

[field name=Illamasqua_GenerationQ_behindthescenes]

See all articles by Josephine Fairley