July 13th, 2008
One of the wonders of the human canvas lies in its ability to be customized to reflect an individual’s personality and character. The sensual nature of Cleopatra is expressed through eyes lined in dark kohl. The exotic brand known as Cher came to fame in glittering, belly-baring gowns. Farrah Fawcett capitalized on her girl next door looks with a bouncy haircut that was copied throughout the world.
In a land dominated by suits and jeans, Project Runway, a design show, became a breakaway hit. Magazines and television shows featuring before-and-after stories, where average looking ducklings become beautiful swans, are among the most popular. The aesthetics of fashion and makeup appeal, it seems, not only to our visual senses, but to our spirits of individuality. For some, leaving the canvas naked of anything except nature is the height of beauty. For others, the art of self-expression is enhanced through fashion, high style, and makeup.
The wizards working behind the scenes of fashion are known as stylists, but that sparse word doesn’t begin to cover their artistic bents or talents. They are Creators, who use both intuition and technical skill to highlight, shadow, downplay, or animate the art of human features.
Toronto recently rocked with the news that two of its favorite wizards, Jake Surrette and partner “Glamma”, were breaking out as independents with their new style enterprise, The House of Glamma. With three decades of vast experience between them, including stints at New York Fashion Week, Dior, Chanel, and Maybelline, and clients including Catherine Zeta Jones, Sarah McLachlan, and Hillary Duff, these two men – partners in life as well as business – are prepared to start a fashion fire. The House of Glamma has an all-encompassing approach to style which includes not only fashion, hair, and makeup, but custom body art as well.
Recently, the two men were in L.A., working their magic for the band Stars Down. I spoke to them as they were taking a break, in typical Jake and Glamma style, by getting the full mani-pedi treatment in a salon.
JD: Models come to you naked-faced and from what I can see, many of them are actually plain looking. What is it that creates photogenic beauty?
JAKE: Model or not, priming the canvas, the skin, is the answer to everything! If your canvas isn’t primed right, then the makeup doesn’t look good.
JD: What creates that elusive thing known as attractiveness? Is it symmetry, bone structure, eyes?
JAKE: All of the above, different for the individual. We believe in the eye of beholder. A freaky looking model can be beautiful, just not in the next door sort of way. And the eyes, of course, they are always the thing. The windows to the soul.
JD: If you could pick an ideal client, who would they be?
JAKE: Someone who is so into art, and appreciates our art as a collaboration.
JD: Have you ever had a nightmare client?
JAKE: Absolutely! There are people who are very stuck in their ways, and the nightmare is when they come in for change and don’t really want change at all. Old or young, they have dug in their heels, and nothing will get them unstuck!
JD: Have you ever had to just say no?
JAKE: We both have, yes. It’s hard, but one of the most important parts of collaborating is building mutual trust and setting boundaries. We can only get there by being honest, so if something doesn’t work, we’re going to be honest about that, and hope that it helps build the trust.
JD: The House of Glamma is also offering tattoo design. Do you have a specialty? Any tattoo philosophies to share?
GLAMMA: Original designs, our own and our client’s, will be the focus — very diverse — along with tribal and Asian art. I think tattoos should be personal, and represent something important, or a milestone, in a person’s life.
JD: Let’s play favorite products. From hair to eyeshadow, what products are you presently loving?
JAKE: For hair, definitely Redken Glass #01. Total shine.
GLAMMA: For foundation, we both like Maybelline’s mineral powder, and Makeup Forever. For lipstick, Moisture Riche or Laura Mercier. Glosses?
JAKE: Oh, Estee Lauder Steel, or Tarte. We also like the Tarte cheek stain and bronzers. And for eye shadows, Makeup Forever.
JD: What are some of the biggest fashion faux paus?
JAKE: Winged eyes that are drooping. Shimmer on an eyelid that is creasing. Frosted brows! Or over-tweezed brows. Wearing jeans that come up to the bellybutton – “Mom” jeans. People believing that they are a “season” – the biggest sham of the 80’s!
JD: What’s the best thing about working with your life partner?
GLAMMA: The best thing is we really get each other. We get each other in a way where we can sense desperation from across the room. Like during a show, when one of us has four minutes to makeup a model, and we’re not getting the look we want, the other one will jump in to the rescue. We don’t even need to talk about it, it’s just this connection between us.
JD: How do you strike a balance between your professional and personal lives?
GLAMMA: We have separate time. I like to read literature. And we make sure we have our time alone together. Work is work, like a mode, and we have places in the home where no discussion of work is allowed, like the bedroom. If you want a good relationship then you work on it. Communication is huge. We laugh at silly things and stupid things. There’s a lot of yin and yang.
JD: What do you think the future holds for you two and The House of Glamma?
GLAMMA: I’m not sure, but we’re loving the direction it’s headed in, and we’re willing to go wherever the stars take us. Life is an adventure!