2015: the power you're supplying, it's electrifying!
Val Garland is a beauty legend. From runway to editorial, glossy advertising campaigns and beyond, one wave of her make-up brush and true fashion magic occurs.
We catch up with British make-up artist Val Garland at her beautiful abode just off Borough Market. She has a rare day off before flying off to her next job. "I got back to London last Wednesday, then I did the photo shoot for i-D on the Thursday, had a few days off, and tomorrow I go back into it and I won't have any time off until Christmas. It's full-on."
Born in Birmingham and raised in Bristol, Val was only 15 when she left school and got her first job in a hair salon. "I used to draw and paint and make things, but I had no intention of being a hairdresser. One day at school I had a fight with one of the teachers and I just walked out. I thought, 'Shit, I can't just go home and tell my mum and dad that I've left school and I don't have a job.' In those days you had to have a job," Val recalls. "So I walked into the first salon I saw on the way home, and said, 'I've always wanted to be a hairdresser, can you give me a job?' and they said yes! I fibbed and told them that I could cut and blow-dry hair. I basically taught myself by watching other people. I liked the tips and the success of it all."
At 17, Val met a guy, a drummer in a band, and four weeks later they got married. "He said, 'Let's live in Australia,' and I went, 'Yeah, alright, why not?" she explains. "He was into music and I was into hair and we were both punks - we were everything, punks, New Romantics." In Australia, Val owned her own salon, called Garland & Garland. "I was quite happy to be a hairdresser, all the magazines would come to my salon. It was quite revolutionary at the time," she reminisces. Soon she began helping out on photoshoots and she got a taste for session work. "In Australia you had to do hair and make-up, so I started doing both," she says of her first foray into make-up. "In 1989 I came to London for a photoshoot, and I called my husband and said, 'Oh my God, we've got to move back to England. I can just feel the buzz here! We've got to come home!' But he didn't really like England; he liked Australia, so our marriage unravelled and three years later, in 1994, I left and came to London."
Val soon found herself in the middle of the young creative London scene with people whose work would go on to define a generation. "I met a director called Zanna Wilford, she's more of an artist now. There was a stylist that she worked with, who worked in this club in London called Fred's, her name was Katy England, and one of her good friends was Sam Gainsbury, who produced videos, and then there was Eugene Souleiman. I first met Katy doing shoots for the Evening Standard, back when you had to pay for it. It was the only place we could work, nobody else would employ us because we were street kids. Katy went on to work at Dazed and Confused, so she was one of the pioneers. She had amazing style and wore things before anyone else - she was amazing and still is. She met this guy, a designer who wanted her to work with him on his shows - that was Alexander McQueen. Around the same time I worked with Nick Knight for an album cover, which might have been for Peter Saville. I'd say all of those things were my big break." Nowadays, Val regularly works with the movers and shakers of the fashion world - Patrick Demarchelier, Willy Vanderperre, Mario Testino and Mario Sorrenti as well as clients such as Rimmel, MAC Cosmetics, Moschino, Marni, McQueen and Mulberry to name just a few! "Everything just naturally happened, I wasn't calculating. It was just this great movement of people, this great wave." She lovingly cites her shining contemporaries as influencers in what she does: "Lee [Alexander] McQueen, Steven Klein... Obviously I absolutely adore doing beauty with Sølve [Sundsbø], he is one of the most amazing beauty photographers there is. Tim Walker, Shona Heath, all the hairdressers that I admire, Sam McKnight and Julien d'Ys. Joe McKenna is incredible. Alex White, Katy England, Katie Grand, oh and Panos too!"
An avid Instagrammer, Val's account boasts over 43,000 followers and documents her heady portfolio of work, as well as tidbits from her everyday life, but Val doesn't let the fleeting notion of followers and likes affect her. "We live in an age when you're not judged by what you've achieved, but by how many followers you have, which is a big shame really, because I think the magic has gone. When we're backstage or we're on a shoot and we're surrounded by cameras and microphones, you find yourself closing off. You don't want to be doing someone's make-up and having a heart-to-heart like you would have done in the past; you don't want anyone overhearing your conversation, knowing that it might end up out there."
"In the beginning on Instagram, you could see people looking; nowadays I see so many people just scrolling. We've lost interest, the whole thing has got really boring," Val says of the desensitising effect of social media. "It has also sterilised the idea of beauty, there is a stereotypical woman: she's got a tan, [perfect] tits, a washboard stomach. She has a certain way of doing her eyebrows and she has fluttery lashes put in and it's fake. I like the ugly kid. Conventional beauty, blow-dried hair... it's too perfect. I want to throw something at it."
When asked where beauty is headed, Val names young beauty superstars Anthony Turner, Yadim and i-D's own Isamaya Ffrench as ones to watch, "They are all like, 'Let's just do it!' without the fear that would probably hold some people back."
Val's passion for what she does comes through in everything she does, from her work to when she talks. She has the uncanny ability to nostalgically take you back to a time where you did it for the love and not for the money. "At the beginning you haven't got this, you haven't got that. You've got to make it happen and you do. I love that." Val truly believes in the transformative power of her craft: "I think make-up empowers you, it gives you confidence. You always feel better when you've got your make-up on." Her distinctive skills will surely see her working for many years to come, and in the meantime Val manages to find the beauty in the little things. "Beauty is life. I love cooking. I love my garden. I love beautiful surroundings, but I also love changing my surroundings. You go out in Borough Market and smell the food, it's beautiful; you walk in Regent's Park really early in the morning... Beauty is everywhere."
Text Lynette Nylander
Photography Sølve Sundsbø
Make-up Val Garland
Hair Angelo Seminara for Davines
Nail technician Marian Newman at Streeters using M.A.C.
Photography assistance Moritz Kerkmann, James Whitty
Digital technician Anna Hendry
Make-up assistance Veronica Martinez
Hair assistance Tomomi
Retouching Digital Light Ltd
Production Sally Dawson and Paula Ekenger
Models Nika Cole at IMG. Diana Khalitova at Select
All make-up M.A.C