“Painting your face as a ritual of getting ready always mesmerised me,” says Fabian Kis-Juhasz
Saccharine silk dresses in ethereal pastel hues with silver metal jewellery piercings, angular leather moulded forms and bold painted faces reminiscent of heavy metal bands, horror films and classic drag beauties: these were just a few elements of fashion designer Fabian Kis-Juhasz’s latest collection shown at Budapest Central European Fashion Week just days before Halloween – his first time showing at an official fashion week.
“I don’t really remember a moment in time when I got into fashion,” he muses, “I was just kind of always interested in it. I’ve always been a crafty person so it just made sense for me to make clothes.” Along with that, he’s always had an obsession with make-up and its role within fashion, whether that means using it to create a horror-inspired face to accentuate the drama of each look or fashioning used make-up wipes into whimsical print renderings which he then turns into dresses and t-shirts.
“Starting my MA at the RCA and learning to develop my voice as a designer happened simultaneously as I started to utilise make-up as a way to express myself. I bought a tonne of reduced drugstore make-up and begun experimenting with ways of applying it to my garments. I tried shading, contouring, staining the pieces with make-up but found creating actual faces with fake lashes and lipstick stains was the most impactful. It captured this idea of artificiality and beauty that I found super interesting.” Kis-Juhasz’s work became even more personal when he started experimenting with his own made up image. “I tried rubbing my face on the fabric, painting on it, but creating individual wipes and digitalising them seemed like the most successful approach.” Thus, the designer’s latest collection is a surreal form of self-documentation: the blurred shapes of lips, the murky blue eyeshadow and the inky mascara is a digital print of his own make-up.
For his Budapest show, make-up quite literally transformed the clothes as well as the faces of the models. One model wore a translucent organza bonnet accessorised with a light scarlet face. Another all-red look was topped off with an opaque neon red painted face and gold lips, while another model wore a chartreuse off-the-shoulder gown with stark white foundation, blurred red lips and smokey black eyes smudged to obliviation. “I kind of love the archetypes or characters that are the antagonists of accessible femininity and you can find those mostly in horror movies,” says Kis-Juhasz of his inspiration behind the graphic beauty looks he designed personally for each model and then had a team of make-up artists apply.
Elsewhere, the second-skin look of the moulded leathers, satins and lycras in his collection also present a different form of body modification – with the angles jutting out in unnatural places to create monstrous forms. It all goes back to the designer’s love of horror and the macabre. “The collection was actually based on some shitty Halloween costumes,” he says. Before Kis-Juhasz graduated, he interned with Meadham Kirchhoff, ASHISH and Panos Yiapanis – and the influence of those theatrical London-based designers and stylist has certainly not been lost on him.
Kis-Juhasz refers to these characters he created as “antagonists of socially acceptable femininity” and categorizes them as some of the iconic archetypes of women you often see in horror films: the witch, the demon, the she-devil and succubus. “They are still characters that were produced by the patriarchy but there is something empowering about them as they embody masculine traits in a feminine form which reminds us of the fragility of masculinity. Some of these characters are so arcane and ancient, like the witch, or the archaic mother, or the female devil but the way they are usually reimagined through special effects make-up is so artificial and silly. This contrast hugely influenced the make-up looks and the collection itself. I wanted it to be very mask-like and heavy. I wanted the viewer to experience that sensation of ritual and sensuality that a woman getting ready in a boudoir exudes but instead of applying tinted moisturisers and a lipstick she’s probably adhering a silicone prosthetic to her face using Pros-Aide.”
For the designer, who ritualistically wore a full face of heavy make-up while studying fashion in London, presenting a debut collection that’s so closely linked to beauty felt intrinsic to his DNA. His first encounter with make-up stemmed from the age of 10 when Kis-Juhasz used his mother’s vivid blue clay mask that had expired as face paint and started using concealer once he became a teenager. “As make-up became an integral part of my appearance it helped me to understand how it all ties in with clothing and gender performativity,” he says. “I was always obsessed with hyper-feminine things and the language of femininity. The concept of boudoir dressing, wearing lingerie and painting your face as a ritual of getting ready always mesmerised me and it kind of combines clothes and make-up as one process.”
“Make-up is so closely linked to everything I do,” he continues. “Rediscovering heavy make-up years later and buying obnoxiously coloured eyeshadows felt like a homecoming.”
Photography Anna Kis-Kery @annakiskery
Model/make-up Karol Muller @karolmuller5000
Artwork: David Varhegyi @david_varhegyi