Make-up artist Berny Ferr creates four looks promoting the power of upcycling
Continuing our ongoing partnership with Converse, we collaborate with the London-based make-up artist on four looks that epitomise reuse and resourcefulness.
This summer, we’ve partnered with Converse to produce a series of articles and creative commissions to inspire and encourage everyone to get creative, even through the lockdown. Last week, we worked with the London-based illustrator Fredde Andersson on a series of Zoom backdrops for socially distanced Pride celebrations. This week, for the second part of our series, we’ve worked with make-up artist Berny Ferr on four looks that interpret Converse’s Renew collection – the brand’s iconic shoes made using upcycled and recycled materials including denim, plastic and cotton.
The make-up artist Bernardo Ferreira, better known by his pseudonym Berny Ferr, is walking proof of the notion that great skill takes time and a great deal of honing. “I’ve spent endless hours sat in front of a mirror, playing with make-up and practicing my skills,” says the London-based creative. He recently appeared on the hit BBC show Glow Up: Britain’s Next Make-Up Star, but his journey into make-up began a while before that chapter opened.
It was as an undergrad at London College of Fashion that he says his “creativity really began to rapidly transform, and I was able to conceptualise my ideas a lot more clearly”. As soon as he reached his final year there, he began assisting on shoots and shows, got published in Gay Times Magazine, and was part of the assistant team for fashion weeks. After that, Berny really began building a platform on social media, as people were drawn to his hugely creative, bold and experimental make-up looks, often utilising unusual materials.
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So, when Converse asked us to find a creative to interpret their Renew collections, Berny felt like an obvious choice and he was tasked with creating three new looks from Converse Renew Cotton, Converse Renew Tri-Panel Denim and Converse Renew Canvas. The Renew initiative was launched in 2019 and sees Converse finding new uses for post-consumer and post-industrial waste materials. The Renew Canvas, for instance, is the iconic canvas upper we see on so much Converse footwear, but made from 100-per-cent plastic polyester that originally came from used plastic bottles. It’s a way to make Converse’s products – starting with the Chuck Taylor All Star and Chuck 70 – more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Berny has become a pro at using supposedly “waste” materials in creative ways. “I love upcycling,” he says. “I don’t really enjoy throwing rubbish away, because it could be used for so many different things – yes, you could chuck it in the recycling bin and call it a day, but there’s no fun in that. If I can get an old shoe, or some old dungarees or even rubbish like milk bottles and cardboard, and turn it into art, then I’ll do exactly that!”
This brief felt like an opportunity for Berny “to really show people that make-up is art, and not just something beautiful to wear when you’re on your way to the supermarket.” But he also wanted this project to have a clear message around reuse and resourcefulness. “I wanted to show how there are so many ways of creating using things from around the house and I didn’t spend a penny on any of these looks,” he explains. “Each look was made only using materials that I found inside my house.”
Each look Berny created for this project required a completely different creative process and set of skills. The Plastic look, for instance, started with an intriguing seed: “I initially had the idea to create a mini aquarium structure on the side of my head,” he says. He cut a bottle in half and wrapped the open end in cling film, keeping the bottle lid off. Once it was all stuck down and secure on the side of his face, he began working with cling film along the perimeter of his face, blending any excess plastic wrap into the edges of where the bottle was stuck down, giving it more of an illusion that it was attached to his head.
Berny then added the finishing touches to the make-up and began chopping up labels from water and milk bottles to stick around the perimeter of his face. He stuck down some plastic bottle lids, and poured a small amount of water into the bottle attached to his head (“this was a very messy job”). “I did want to fill the bottle up more, but unfortunately water began leaking out from the cling film so I thought rather than potentially ruining the whole look, I would settle for a small amount of water,” he concludes.
Of all the looks, Berny says, this one was definitely the most challenging, because plastic is “a stubborn material to work with” and “the adhesive I was using wouldn’t stick too well”. He goes on: “In the end, I got there and I’m super pleased with the result of the water bottle (even though I got absolutely drenched during the process of pouring it in).”
Utilising a process of upcycling developed in-house, Converse Renew Denim saves denim jeans from the landfill to be upcycled into one of two Converse products: a Chuck Taylor All Star of Chuck 70. For Berny, this Denim-inspired look involved a lot more prep. He started with a vegetable dye using onion skins to give some warmth to the tone of the denim, and then the next day he bleached each scrap of denim and allowed it to dry over the course of a few hours whilst topping up the spots with more bleach to create a stronger dye. When it came to actually creating the look," Berny adds, "I thought it would be interesting to create a ‘half mask’ made out of denim. I'm a big fan of animé and wanted to give an ‘animé super villain’ vibe to this look."
For this look, he coloured his face in a mix of oranges and reds, and applied a thick and messy liner to the eye along with some mascara to make his eyes pop. He then cut the bits of denim to size and began sticking them on where he wanted, using prosaide, a prosthetics adhesive. “Once all the pieces of denim were stuck on, I added some finishing pieces such as safety pins and screws, just to give the denim a bit more dimension, rather than having it look like I had just randomly stuck denim on my face,” Berny explains.
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The Denim look is Berny’s favourite, he admits, largely because of the inclusion of the screws. The final look “screams ‘Berny!’” he says. “I always use screws, computer parts and metal in my looks and I love giving an almost ‘steampunk’ vibe when using these materials,” he says. “This was definitely the one I experimented the most with, as there was a more in-depth process and I think it paid off well in the final image.”
The Cotton look involved a different process and a new set of craftwork. Inspired by Converse Renew Cotton – which transforms cotton waste from the manufacturing process into a composite recycled cotton with polyester – Berny devised the look starting with a heap of old clothing. Berny bought the mound at a vintage kilo sale last year and then chopped it up. He started the look with a base – “skin, eyes, lips” – and then stuck buttons all around the perimeter of his face, wanting “this look to appear more editorial”, he says. “I gave myself my classic blown-out lips and rosy cheeks, but used these features as blueprints for where I was then going to apply coloured thread,” he goes on. So, green cotton went around his face; the red thread was on his cheeks and lips; and then the black thread was used to match the eyes, “almost making it look like really intricate liner work”.
If you want to see in more detail how Berny created these individual looks, the artist has made a series of tutorial videos, so anyone can follow each step and learn as they go. If you’ve been inspired to give it a go yourself, please do share a picture of your interpretation on Instagram, including the hashtag #ConverseRenew.
Looking back on the project as a whole, Berny feels that it delivers a powerful message around creativity, sustainability and resourcefulness. “You can create pretty much anything using many different materials that would otherwise be chucked in the bin,” he says. “This project is a perfect example of that.”
For the make-up artist, the final look was all about paying homage to Converse, so he got some old Converse shoes he had lying around the house from years ago and chopped them up. This look started with a base layer of make-up, the contouring and eyes. Then he began figuring out how to stick the strips of canvas onto his face. “A lot of testing was involved during the process of this look,” Berny goes on. He tried applying small studs on the strip of canvas with lace fasteners on my forehead, but then “realised I had pointier studs which would have looked more dramatic, so I went for it!” He finished the look off with lips. Paying homage to the Converse ethos of upcycling, this final look is all about giving something old a new lease of life.
But it also shows us an important element of the make-up industry. “As a make-up artist I’m always very mindful of ways in which I can be more sustainable,” he goes on. “Small things like avoiding wipes, using wooden disposables and reducing any plastic waste, which I may accumulate from doing make-up.” There is still more that can be done, though, he explains. “I would love to see more brands use recycled plastic to create their product components, and find ways of being able to top up products rather than having to buy a whole new product and making more waste. Many fashion brands use recycled materials to create their products, and the end result is great quality and fashionable footwear,” Berny continues. “I feel more brands should take this same approach, and it’s a great way to promote sustainability whilst also creating incredible pieces of fashion for someone to wear”
This is why he is only going to continue using unconventional and experimental materials – old shoes, scraps of denim, and plastic bottles very much included – in his make-up looks. “It really makes people think outside of the box when using different items to create looks,” he says. “Now that I have a growing platform, I plan on continuing to do this, so I can fuel my creativity whilst also being a sustainable make-up artist.” This brief “has definitely inspired me more than ever to continue creating, and more importantly it taught me not to be scared to go that extra mile with my looks, every small detail counts!”
This project is the second in a series of activations this summer created by It’s Nice That in collaboration with Converse. Keep an eye out for more articles and creative commissions over the next few weeks, each one designed to inspire and encourage everyone to get creating, even through the lockdown.