Beyoncé's beauty guru & Woolworths create trailblazing makeup collection
Famed makeup artist Sir John on his latest collaboration with WBeauty and what he adores about South African women
When Woolworths put out word of their industry-first collaboration between in-house beauty brand WBeauty and international makeup artist Sir John, we were on-board (literally) and headed to New York City to see it first-hand and chat to Sir John about his latest labour of love.
From being TV co-host of American Beauty Star and Beyoncé's go-to makeup artist to a member of the Woolworths family, Sir John is shifting the narrative of what makeup artists can do.
After a thriving two-year brand relationship and beauty master classes, where celebrity makeup secrets and tips were made accessible and practical, it was only natural that Sir John and WBeauty set out to plant firm roots in the market with an exclusive limited-edition collection that's a first of many.
'SA WOMEN ARE NOT FOLLOWERS'
Aptly called Volume 1, this collection is more than a hybrid of WBeauty's signature quality, cruelty-free formulations and ethically-sourced ingredients combined with Sir John's red-carpet artistry and knowledge on makeup and wellness - at its core, it's a gift to the South African woman.
"What I love about the South African woman is that she's not a follower. In the US, everyone wants to look like a celebrity so people are starting to be followers," says Sir John. "But South African women are different; they are not so focused on what's happening on the red carpet or the runways but rather on what feels right for her organically.
"This is the first group of women that have asked me: 'Why do American makeup artists contour people's faces to change their bone structure?' or 'Do you care if your products are animal friendly?' They have held me accountable in a way that no other demographic has. I have to live up to that and know I can't play with these women."
INSPIRATION BEHIND THE COLLECTION
So, what really goes into creating a makeup collection? What makes it resonate or gives it cult status? Is it the sleek packaging, pigment pay-off, captivating campaign or that name that just sticks? Whatever your personal drawcard to deeming a collection worthy, all these elements and more are carefully considered.
"For me, the non-negotiables were pigment pay-off and packaging," says Sir John. "I fall in love with packaging before I fall in love with what's inside. Also, it had to be a sensorial experience. In terms of creative direction, Woolworths let me go for it. It's an accessible brand, but it's also aspirational and speaks to a woman who's a busy mom or a business woman who likes Celine but will shop at Zara or Woolworths."
The Sir John x WBeauty Volume 1 ad campaign, shot by photographer Nagi Sakai, is a "neon lights show" featuring international models and a local face (see below). It showcases coloured lights dancing off reflective surfaces on the high planes of the face, offset by glitter-laden lids. Inspired by the collection's colour palette, the campaign depicts a play on light, colour and regality.
"For me, there was only one emblem. One day I saw a scarab beetle and I thought 'wow, that's such a beautiful, regal insect'. So something that's seemingly not beautiful, something that we might run away from, exudes such majestic beauty ... that's where I started," says Sir John.
"In ancient Egyptian mythology, it has to do with religion, but for me the beetle symbolises renewal; a journey we have with ourselves daily and a sense of wanting an optimistic new approach."
So come April, which products will you be gravitating towards? Sir John gives a glimpse into his favourites. "I love the liquid eyeshadows, they are shimmery and last all day. I also love the universal lip colour, it's a matte, beautiful colour. The brushes are great, and then there's an eyeshadow palette that you can do at least 16 looks with - it's all about the eyes."
MEET THE LOCAL FACE OF THE SIR JOHN X WBEAUTY VOLUME 1
Mom and stylist Nthabiseng Khoza is the local face of SA’s newest makeup collaboration. She tells us more
How did it feel being part of the Sir John x WBeauty campaign in New York?
It took a long time to sink in. Straight after the shoot, I had an interview with Top Billing and was asked how it felt working with Sir John, Beyoncé’s makeup artist, and Nagi Sakai, one of the world’s best photographers, plus the whole New York experience, and my exact words were: “I can’t answer your question.” I just couldn’t talk. I was in a state of disbelief and in that pinch-me moment.
What is one trick you learnt on set that you will use in your own styling?
The stylist on set reassured me that it’s okay to change my mind over and over until I’m satisfied with the look. You sometimes have looks locked up in your mind and on vision boards, but they don’t project properly on the client. Before going to the US, I’d apologise profusely about changing a look I wasn’t happy with on the client, but now I can change looks with confidence.
Good to know
The make-up in the Sir John x WBeauty Volume 1 collection is suitable for vegans.
What tips did you pick up from Sir John while sitting in his makeup chair?
That chair was the highlight of my New York trip — we talked about everything. I learnt that it’s important to prep your face before makeup. So now, if I have time, I even massage my face before application. I never put colour on the eye, but on that day I had colour and I loved it. Sir John didn’t apply foundation on my skin — he said my complexion is flawless and encouraged me to wear my skin more. As you can imagine, since then I’ve been doing just that.
• Sir John x WBeauty Volume 1 is launching in April.