When Sumaya Khan answered a job posting for MAC Cosmetics in London, the law student had no idea how it would turn her life around. As she entered through the doors, she wasn’t even sure she would get the job; after all, she didn’t actually know much about makeup at that point. She was just looking for work, and having seen the posting, among many others, she had signed up, not even expecting to be called in.
“The interview was a nerve-wracking experience” she recalls. “They started quizzing me about skin tones and makeup shades, and I felt like they were speaking some different language. Luckily, there was a practical test as well, where I had to apply makeup. I must have done something
right because I got the job.
What followed was a massive crash course in makeup and beauty. From MAC, she moved to Charlotte Tilbury, picking up on the fundamentals of skin care, and learning the nuances that differentiate one brand’s style from another.
As par the course of working with these two houses, she was also invited to work behind the scenes for London Fashion Week in 2011 and 2012.
“It was overwhelming, working with fashion to create the looks. I had a star-struck moment when I saw Victoria Beckham walk by and I just froze” she exclaims, eyes wide at the mere memory.
Now a make-up artist in her own right, Sumaya had still not thought to pursue this as a career, because law was (and still is) her primary focus. It wasn’t until 2015, when she was getting married and had her makeup done by someone else that she realised that this was something that she could also be doing, considering she had the training.
And that’s how Rendezvous – Makeup by Sumaya Khan came into being. A small studio near her home in Banani, Sumaya, who is also employed as a lecturer at the London College of Legal Studies (LCLS), boasts a busy roster of clients. “I thought I’d start slow, with one or two orders so I could really focus on the brides instead of treating them like an assembly line, but I wasn’t expecting such a rush of clients, especially during wedding season” she exclaims. “I hardly had time to set up my studio!”
On someone else, that comment might have sounded like a humblebrag, but sitting at Peyala Cafe, nursing a mug of tea, not a lick of make-up besides her signature red lipstick, Sumaya Khan is refreshingly frank and down-to-earth.
A major feather in her cap arrived when the organisers of the Dhaka Lit Fest last year invited her to do the makeup for their headlining panellist, Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton. “It was a novel experience, a reminder that, while North Americans and people here really like packing on their layers, Europeans really prefer makeup to be minimalistic, focusing on creating the appearance of clean, flawless skin. By the second day, I had left my makeup box in favour of a tiny pouch with a few brushes and just two or three products. It was also intimidating, because Tilda’s partner Sandro Kopp, who is a celebrated artist, would come over and closely examine my handiwork, and I had to wait until he was satisfied before the job was done.”
At present, Rendezvous offers both bridal and party makeup. What sets her apart from more established salons? “I like to take on a limited number of clients every evening so that I can give them my full attention. And I like to be there for the whole process, from the sari draping to the hair, which I have an assistant to help me with. I also use high-end products, which I pick and buy myself. I’m not going to use anything on you that I wouldn’t wear myself.”
5 quick questions:
The one beauty product you can’t live without?
Red lipstick! If I had to pick just one product to wear, that would be it
What’s the one thing people get wrong about makeup here?
Not paying attention to skincare, and instead slathering layers of makeup.
What is the most common beauty faux pas people make?
Well, again, this has more to do with skincare, but I think not wearing sunscreen is a common mistake, and really, the worst thing you can do to your skin.
What’s your makeup confession?
When I was younger, we had a dawat to go to, and I wanted to wear eyeliner, but my mother said I was too young for it, so a cousin and I drew on “eyeliner” using ink pens. I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe whenever I remember that.
What trend would you like to see more of?
Not a trend, really, but I would love to see more quintessentially Bengali makeup. Everyone is so invested in the Middle Eastern-inspired looks