The reason Rae Morris is one of Australia’s favourite makeup artists is because she spends more time teaching and less time preaching.
To quote award-winning beauty editor (and founder of this site), Eleanor Pendleton, “[Morris] the is one makeup artist I interview that I still learn something new from”. The fast-talking, hand-waving, exuberant beauty oracle isn’t afraid to get technical, which is why she is one of the only experts who won’t give you a beauty tip you can Google and find 20 other entries on.
It is this winning personality that must’ve convinced one of only two living Japanese calligraphy brush craft masters to exclusively create state-of-the-art makeup brushes for her, an honour not lost on Morris. “These brushes are a piece of history! This man is one of the last LIVING masters. People, don’t you get it?!” she exclaims during our chat.
Today, Morris’ Jishaku brush collection launches into MECCA Cosmetica, the first time it’s ever had a physical presence anywhere. We highly recommend you go feel it for yourself. For the top makeup artist, whose career accolades include four times Australian Makeup Artist of The Year, best-selling author and longest serving Makeup Director for L’Oreal Paris, this day is a dream come true. “MECCA is like home,” Morris says of the partnership.
Gritty Pretty caught up with the celebrated makeup artist last week to discuss what makes her brushes so damn special, which ones to invest in, and her holy grail beauty buys.
GRITTY PRETTY: Since your last book, Makeup Masterclass (which is excellent, by the way), what have you been up to?
RAE MORRIS: The brushes have been one of the biggest things. I’ve had them for about six or seven years now, but they have evolved. They were made by Korean technicians and then moved to Shanghai and now they’re made in Japan. The reason for the evolution is I started to get copied [by other brands]. I had a patent but to fight it in court was just too difficult.
GP: And you don’t want to spend all your money on that either…
RM: Look, Louis Vuitton can’t [stop knock offs] so I had to do something that no one could do or copy me. People can obviously copy the the magnetic function, so I wanted to find the world’s best brush maker.
In Japan, they have what’s called a ‘Master of Craft’ award, which you can only be a samurai sword maker or a calligraphy brush maker to qualify for. I found out that there are only two men left in the world that are a Master of Craft and one of them is the man behind these brushes. So I can now claim that I have brushes made by one of the only living Masters. The other man is 108, so we couldn’t quite get him.
Brushes can sell for $10,000 to $100,000 a brush in Japan. And what makes them so special is they’re all hand-done, but also the brush has to have so much precision that if you put it into wet paint once, you can lift it and put pressure and every brush stroke is smooth and blended for you. My brushes have calligraphy technology in them. For example, what would take a standard good makeup-artist brand brush 10-20 strokes to get black blended, mine would take 3 strokes.
GP: That reminds me of the Kill Bill movies, there’s a samurai sword maker and he’s vowed not to make anymore swords – but he does for Uma Thurman’s character. Did it take much convincing in your situation? Did he have any conditions?
RM: It took a lot. [Brush-making] is one of the oldest crafts and calligraphy brushes are the hardest to make. To give you an idea, to make a chemist-brand brush takes 3 to 5, maximum 7 steps. Up to 20 steps is a expensive, high-end over-the counter brush. Calligraphy brushes are 90, and mine are 72 steps.
When I went to see him, I had to be introduced. I found the most amazing blogger, Sweet Makeup Temptations. She only does reviews on very high end brushes (she’s got $20,000 brushes) and she’s a very good client of Japanese brushes. She knew him so I got the intro that way, otherwise I would have never gotten in. His son-in-law also studied in Australia for a year so he had a bit of that Australianess.
They originally said no actually, because I think what he thought was that I just wanted to make a simple makeup brush. He also originally did not let me have the magnetic function, which was so difficult because of the weight to get right ergonomically, but they agreed to do it in the end. I did ask them, why did you say yes, and I think he’s getting older and he’s got younger family members but he just said he liked my character and the fact that I wanted to keep the standard so high. And he promised me too that he would never do this for anybody else.
GP: Let’s quickly segue into your personal beauty routine, which I think a lot of people are interested in. What’s your skincare regime?
I do love the La Mer The Moisturising Soft Cream. I’m on Roaccutane right now so I have to use really over the top moisturising. I love Darphin’s serums. And this is my new favourite, the French Girl oil moisturiser. [Morris runs across the room to grab her overnight bag, filled mini unbranded sample pots which she’s labelled and popped products into.] Oh My God, it’s AMAZING. Because I’ve got skin that reacts, sometimes organic does not work on me either but I haven’t had a problem with these. Oh and my favourite lip balm is the MECCA Lip Balm.
GP: Oh, how are you finding Roaccutane?
RM: Great! Oh it’s the best thing I ever did, but I’m on a really low dose. Apparently it’s anti-ageing as well. I know the depression thing can come up but I get more depressed if I have bad skin and because I work with dermatologists for my brushes, I’m around them all the time and they’re like “Rae, go on it!”.
GP: What fragrance do you wear?
RM: I wear a men’s ones – Tom Ford, Maison Francis Kurkdijan Paris Lumière Noire Pour Homme, or Commes des Garcon Wonderwood.
GP: When you’ve got a work event like this, what do you wear on your skin?
RM: I don’t really do a lot. Chantecaille is my favourite foundation. It’s the best thing in the whole wide world. My new discovery is those NARS concealers in the pots. I always say, if you’re going to use a concealer, use the strongest coverage but less of it. And my favourite lip balm is the strawberry MECCA one, it’s got sunscreen in it. And if I want a bit of glow, my new favourite thing is Tatcha Dewy Skin Mist. It’s so fine; it sits on the skin and doesn’t look artificial.
GP: What is your most repurchased beauty product?
RM: Ellis Faas Eye Colour 105. You can ring up any of my assistants, I use it on every shoot. It is the holy grail of eye colour.
GP: What brushes should a beginner start with from your range?
GP: I’ve seen a lot of makeup artists use your brushes on set.
RM: I originally made the Radiance Brush for Guido [Palau, Hair stylist and Global Creative Director for Redken] and his team. He orders them every season. What he used to use it for is if you have a ponytail with fly-aways, spray a bit of hairspray and use this to brush it down. NikkieTutorials (vlogger) bought the range and it sold out. Lady Gaga’s makeup artist bought the set and paid for it; Val Garland, Guido Palau, Peter Phillips, Mario (Kim Kardashian’s makeup artist) posted about it …it’s just mind-blowing.
GP: Final question: was it hard to get the brand into MECCA? How did those discussions happen?
RM: I love this story someone told me, it’s so magic. What MECCA do when they release new brands is they put all this new stuff out and they bring in a group of people to judge everything – to see what they would like in store and they have to score it from 1 to 10. I got number one from every single person. I’ve never had that before.
MECCA feels like home, and it is a dream come true. I’ve had other big companies approach me and I wouldn’t have my brushes anywhere else. To be amongst the brands [stocked at MECCA] is a dream because as a makeup artist, my working kit is MECCA.
Rae Morris’ makeup brushes are now available at MECCA Cosmetica nationwide and MECCA online.