BEIRUT: Sun-kissed cheeks straight from the Jbeil beach, Fairuz-colored eyelids and lips like Haifa: Makeup artist Bassam Fattouh infuses a little local flair into his signature cosmetics line. Fattouh, whose celebrity clientele range from diva pop-star Haifa Wehbe to MTV news anchor Jessica Azar, is the only makeup artist in the region who’s developed his own line of beauty products, which can be found in international department stores such as Harvey Nichols and Saks. His line is filled with whimsical shoutouts to local culture. For example, he’s even used a little Internet Arabic in a green hue titled “Na3na3,” meaning mint.
Before becoming a celebrity in his own right, Fattouh trained at a Paris institute for cosmetology and opened his own business in 1997. He’s worked with big makeup groups such as Clarins and Dior, and he eventually started making his own cosmetics inspired by his experience working with high-profile Arab women.
He spends more than half the year away from his institute in Verdun, traveling across the Gulf states and elsewhere to pretty up socialite brides and Arab pop stars. This month, the jetsetter was named a top Arab beauty expert by London-based research group Anderson International.
He took time to speak to The Daily Star before heading off to another lineup of high-profile clients.
Q: You’re the only makeup artist in the region with his own product line. Tell us about your cosmetics.
A: I launched the makeup line almost three years ago, and we have distribution now all over the Middle East in the biggest department stores. ... The brand is based on the know-how that I have built on throughout all these years. It’s makeup for every woman, it’s not complicated. It’s more like advice, as if I were advising a woman: If you want a good concealer, that’s the one I’m advising you to use. It’s not about having four, five different kinds of the same product for commercial reasons; it’s a straight-to-the-point concept.
Q: Do you produce your line here in Lebanon?
A: Oh, no! [Laughs] We don’t produce in Lebanon; we produce mainly in Italy. In this industry, not every country could have a cosmetics manufacturer. ... Really the best worldwide, he’s in Milan in Italy. He’s the main one, the only one in the whole world who has some big machines to mix for example the powders with the glycerin. We have our main suppliers in Milan; we produce some in Japan – two novelty items, one for the eyebrows and one eyeliner. I also produce in France and in Germany.
Q: So you spend a lot of time traveling for work?
A: [I’m traveling] definitely more than half the year. ... I go everywhere. For the research and development of the makeup line, I go to Europe and the States.
As for my clients, they are mainly in the Middle East, in the Gulf area. For example, today, I am traveling to Kuwait, and I will go from Kuwait to Doha and from Doha to Jeddah. I’ll be back on March 1. For weddings and private clients, they’re mainly in the Middle East. Sometimes I fly to Europe if they have an occasion there or the States.
Q: What are some of the biggest mistakes you see women making?
A: Blending, blending, blending. It’s the biggest mistake. When I say blending, it’s the blending of their foundation, of the eye makeup, of everything. I always advise women to just invest in some tools. That means makeup brushes and sponges: This would really help them to update their makeup.
... The second mistake would be picking out the right foundation, the right color of the foundation, because they don’t really know how to enhance their undertone. ... For example, in the region, especially in Gulf, they have olive skin so they should go for a yellow or orange undertone. It’s not like mandarin orange, but it’s like a yellow.
So for olive skin you should go for yellow and not for pink [undertones], for example.