REPORT BY ANNE-MARIE SOLOWIJ
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MORGAN O’DONOVAN

Topolino (Italian for ‘little mouse’), one of the greatest make-up artists of all time, was in London this week to work with long-standing creative partner Philip Treacy on his show (he’s only missed one in nearly 20 years).

Marseille native Topolino was my generation’s make-up hero throughout the Nineties. A maverick, his approach is instinctive, purely artistic, tribal and totally out there. His signature metal facial studs were 20 years ahead of the times; he was at the vanguard of nail art, creating claw-like talons using lacquered red rose thorns; he elongated lashes to spider-like lengths decades before the boom in false lashes; he repositioned and re-shaped lips and exaggerated eyes. He’s famous for using beetles, butterfly wings, feathers and bits and pieces of beautiful detritus to create fantastical looks for photographers such as Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Jean-Paul Goude, Mario Testino, Pierre et Gilles, Bettina Rheims and Raymond Meier. His style is hugely influential and much emulated today.

For someone so inventive, it’s ironic that for Philip Treacy’s extravaganza of a show, dedicated to Alexander McQueen and Isabella Blow, Topolino’s work was barely visible. The star presentation of the season so far (an homage to Michael Jackson, with a lot of face-covering hats) featured a mere smidgeon of M.A.C. gloss on eyelids and a wet-look lip. Does he find it frustrating to rein in his natural creativity? “What’s important is that I’m working with friends. I don’t care about make-up, so it’s easy for me to step back,” said Topolino. Did I mention he’s a maverick?

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