by Karim Rahman & Johan Sandberg for AALTO

Decorating one’s face with painted patterns and shapes has been a part of the cultural codes of tribes and communities since the beginning of time. Now as much as then, the art of reinventing ourselves with make-up and masks remains a universal phenomenon.

In this project, we explore and take inspiration from various ways of using face paint and make-up across diverse regions and traditions. These influences are then mixed, layered and combined to bring focus on the beauty that emerges from cultural clashes and encounters. Make-up is a strong form of self-expression, and, paradoxically, a powerful means of questioning beauty-related clichés.

No matter how strong the make-up, it will always remain a layer applied on top our faces’ natural need and ability to express emotions. Across the world, the language of facial expressions is universally understandable, allowing us to communicate emotions where words fail us. Happiness, sadness, surprise, fear—we document and play with these facial expressions and forms of non-verbal communication to arrive at the conclusion that we are, in essence, all the same.


Special thanks to AALTOGIRLS Mona, Esther, Athina, Otto, Mao and Yom.

Hair: Sergio Villafane