Like many of her contemporaries, Val Garland didn’t start out as a make-up artist. Born in Birmingham, she grew up in Bristol (her voice still has a captivating West Country burr) but moved to Australia at the age of 17. Having walked out of school at 15 with no qualifications and having had her plans to paint and write dashed by a dose of realism from her parents who told her to get a job, she found herself in a hairdressing salon in Bristol. Having met and married a hair dresser, they moved to the ‘New World’ together. At 18, Val was running a hairdressing salon and she set up her own business, Garland & Garland in Sydney at the age of 20. It was here that Val established herself as a make-up artist.
Val arrived back in London in 1994 and quickly became immersed in the creative fashion scene. Her first job as a make-up artist was with photographer Albert Watson for the influential but now defunct magazine The Face. She soon became an important part of a group of creative individuals that included stylist Karl Templer and hair stylist Eugene Souleiman. Her career grew along with the style magazines she worked for and she found herself busy creating make-up looks for pop videos and working with her contemporaries, including stylist Katy England.
Val’s collaboration with Alexander McQueen grew from her association with Katy England who introduced the two after his first London show. After this, Val did the make-up for McQueen’s shows and the creative partnership has continued for the past seven seasons through many memorable collections including clowns and schoolgirls. This autumn/winter’s Botox Beauties was reviewed by Vogue and perfectly sums up Val’s unique talent for creating culturally relevant make-up looks: “In the way that fashion sometimes mirrors what is happening in a wider context, make-up artist, Val Garland created a ‘post-op’ look for the models at Alexander McQueen’s autumn/winter show. With face-life tape, blanked out brows, nude lips and frozen facial expressions helped by whitened shading on the faces, Garland’s Botox Beauties for the catwalk eerily echoes what is happening today in the cosmetic business” – Vogue
Through Alexander McQueen, Val met her idol, the photographer Nick Knight and in working with him perfected her trademark ‘flawless make-up’. Val explains: “Nick works on a large format camera, 10×8, so you see everything, every speck of powder. It teaches you to work with the ultimate precision”. Val’s obsession with detail manifests itself in what has become her ultimate make-up accessory – a magnifying glass which she uses to check that the make up will stand up to the camera’s scrutiny. She is know for the beautiful quality of the models’ skin and will regularly spend half an hour making a girl’s complexion come alive for a picture, massaging it with creams and lotions. She loves skin food and is an authority on products that make the skin look beautiful. Her advice on all matters that relate to beauty and make-up is frequently sought and then quoted by beauty editors on magazines across the globe.
Val’s other trademark is her use of brushes – many make-up artists apply cosmetics with their fingers but Val prefers the accuracy and hygiene of brushes. She is also sensitive to the feelings of the models and celebrities she works with including
Gwyneth Paltrow, Kylie, Gwen Stefani, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Lopez: “a stranger’s hands on your face can be intrusive,” she comments. Her legendary brush collection includes the ultimate gadget – a special powder brush that she uses for foundation – a widely copied technique that Val pioneered. It helped her achieve the hugely influential ‘sexy/sweaty’ look on Gisele and Rhea Durham for a Christian Dior campaign shot by Nick Knight.
On a shoot the colour and silhouette of the clothes inspire Val, but also who the woman is that she is helping to portray. Her ability to create subtle characters and build personalities using cosmetics means that Val is the make-up artist of choice for photographers including Mario Testino, Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot, Richard Burbridge, Solve Sundsbo and Steven Klein. She regularly contributes to magazines including W, British, Italian, Japanese and US Vogues, Bazaar, Dazed & Confused, Numero and Another. Her show roster includes Alexander McQueen, Martine Sitbon, Lavin, Chloe, John Galliano, Jean Paul Gaultier, Givenchy and Ungaro. Advertising clients include Dior, Anna Molinari, Bulgari, Giorgio Armani, Donna Karan, Lancome, Rimmel, Just Cavalli, Gucci and MAC. Val lives in London but spends more time on airplanes than at home and enjoys painting, reading, boxing, fishing and gardening – when she finds the time.