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From The French Riviera To The Italian Riviera: The Glamour Continues

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Cannes may be over, but June 18 holds the promise of something of equal cinematic note. That would be I Am Love, the gorgeous new flick staring Tilda Swinton as a reckless beauty determined to undo her perfect chignon. Set against the sun-drenched backdrop of Italy in the 1950′s, the film portrays Swinton as Emma Recchi, a porcelain-skinned Russian émigré who married into a high-style, old-money family in Milan. Her husband has just taken the reins at the family textile business, but all is not va bene, as far as Swinton’s character is concerned. Beneath her impeccably smooth veneer, Swinton is desperate to loosen things up and break free from her bourgeois existence. Cue the passionate love affair and dark plot twists that ensue. Equally mesmerizing to the swirling drama and midcentury Milanese scenery is Swinton’s beauty look. We caught up with the film’s Italian makeup artist, Fernanda Perez, for a (translated) lesson on how colored contact lenses, the right lipstick, and a Jil Sander wardrobe can change everything.

When I saw Tilda Swinton in the trailer, I immediately thought of Grace Kelly. What inspired the character’s look?

When I entered the production office for the first time to meet [director] Luca [Guadagnino] and talk about the film, the walls were covered by images. For every scene, Luca had chosen a picture or a painting to make us understand what he wanted—and he knew very well what he wanted. For Emma Recchi, the character played by Tilda, the principle sources of inspiration were in fact Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Onassis. These icons of elegance were not Italian but the perfection and “rigueur” of their looks were perfect to describe the world in which Emma lives. Of course, it had a modern touch, especially given the amazing dresses created by Raf Simons [for Jil Sander, and worn by Swinton].


How does Tilda’s appearance evolve over the course of the film?

Emma Recchi is Russian-born, so we tried to give her some little details from her past. Manolo García, the key hairstylist for the film, created a beautiful coiffure for Tilda and changed her hair color to a more “Russian” blond. Tilda proposed we change the color of her eyes, too, which she wanted to be more Russian as well. So she wore blue-gray contact lenses at times and a night-blue color for the dramatic parts of the film. I love working with Tilda because she always brings these amazing suggestions to a film.

It sounds like perfection was key, and we’re assuming her time spent in the makeup chair was no exception. How did you give the makeup its effortless but flawless air?

We decided that for the beginning of the film, Tilda would wear perfect, simple makeup. I used Laura Mercier’s Moisturizing Foundation in Sunny Beige, the Secret Concealer, and the translucent Loose Setting Powder to create a base. I love this foundation because it gives a beautiful light to the face, stays all day, and always looks natural. For the eyes, she wears a lot of DiorShow Black Out mascara, a metallic gray eye shadow, and a very “Russian” blue pencil inside the eye.

And the red lipstick is essential. You must have gone through a lot of tubes! Was there a specific shade you relied on?

I used Giorgio Armani ArmaniSilk Lipstick in Deep Raspberry. Red lipstick is always synonymous with elegance and gave her that final classy touch.

The scenes of Sanremo are breathtaking. The film takes a dramatic turn here, so how did that influence the beauty aesthetic?

When Emma arrives in Sanremo, Luca showed us a Kim Novak picture from Vertigo and said that was the atmosphere he wanted for her look. So Manolo re-created the now famous chignon and I changed the makeup a bit. The eyes were lined in black and the lipstick was more coral. I used MAC Lipstick in Lustering here. At the end of the film, Emma cuts her hair and isn’t supposed to appear as though she’s wearing any makeup at all, so I only used a base of Bobbi Brown Moisture Rich Foundation in Beige and sometimes a bit of Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and she looked so beautiful! This was the part I preferred. I loved the fact that she began the film looking one way and then suddenly, everything changes.

 

Photo: Magnolia Pictures / Everett Collection

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