Life & Culture

Francis Jaillans, the Genre-Defying Make-Up Artist and Set Designer

The 23-year-old is a walking extension of his own universe, where baroque exuberance, Club Kid energy and occult handicraft collide

Everything changed for make-up artist, set designer and costume archivist Francis Jaillans watching kitsch B-movie parody The Rocky Horror Picture Show, aged eight. Now, based in Paris, the 23-year-old is a walking extension of his own genre-defying universe, where baroque exuberance, Club Kid energy and occult handicraft collide – partly a reflection of his childhood in Vietnam, surrounded by the French colonial influences that inform his more opulent Asian references. These take centre stage in his latest project, turning a tumbledown 19th-century chateau outside the city – full of Japanese antiques, Qing Dynasty vases and operatic props – into a grand studio for Jaillans and his artist friends in residence to use, dedicated to set building and costume design. Or, what he lovingly calls “a safe space for freaks”.

Here, he tells Another Man about hunting for treasure in squats, and the transformative power of living next door to a body-painting legend.

“My mentor is a French artist called Claude Giordano. He launched body painting in France in the 1980s and is a master of colour. I learned everything I know from him. He had a store called Tableau Vivants, selling pigments and body makeup, right next to my old apartment. I fed off his raw, free energy. He’d just go out into parks and streets with a team of assistants and paint masks on people. 

“This was when I was 18 and had just started to paint on myself. I started off doing pastels on paper, but things kind of slipped off the page onto me. He really pushed my technique. Make-up is just another form of painting really, but the paid work in Paris is so commercial – all falsies and lip-gloss! Nothing like what I want to do.

“The best experience I’ve had so far, the one that really sealed my destiny, was discovering an abandoned dance school from the 1940s with some friends. It had an entire collection of ballet costumes, all still intact, and was being used a squat. But that was where I acquired my first proper archive, and it was a revelation. It couldn’t have been more precisely what I’m into, cupboards full of gold embroideries, tiaras and feathers. And nothing had been touched in all that time.

“That was the first time I realised there was something going on, and that the universe was showing me where to go. Sometimes it just clicks, and you can’t explain why. I knew people staying there, so just took it all. You could say I stole it, but I prefer to think that I saved it. Especially seeing as how some of the other punks living there were threatening to use the tutus to mop up their dogs’ piss. They had no regard for the culture that is essential to me.

“All my stories are about treasure hunts in cellars and attics. I get a feeling when there’s something there. Mostly it’s about meeting people from older generations and them inviting me to see the things they have lying around. Once, in another squat, I found a set of traditional Indonesian armour made of whale bone. It actually turned out to be worthless – a dealer told me it was a fake antique. So, I just made it into a handbag.”

GROOMING Mark Hampton at Julian Watson Agency using L’Oréal Professionnel & MAC Cosmetic HAIR COLOURIST Harriet Muldoon at Larry King Salon SET DESIGN Paulina Piipponen PHOTOGRAPHIC ASSISTANT Stewart Capper STYLING ASSISTANT Fergus O’Reilly HAIR AND MAKE UP ASSISTANT Mizuki Kida

A version of this article appeared in the A/W19 issue of Another Man.