Real Girl, Real Beauty: Cop This Crazy-Talented Set Designer's Style

When you see some of the wildly inventive, surreal tableaux that set designer Marie-Yan Morvan has dreamt up, you wouldn't be blamed for thinking the Parisian transplant also applied her avant-garde aesthetic to beauty. Surprisingly, the 25-year-old — who also pulls double-duty as a prop stylist — takes a much simpler, more classic approach to her hair and makeup. Her beauty philosophy is all about keeping things effortless, but still elegant. She's perfected a simple style that leaves her free to spend the majority of her time concocting fantastical sets.
Maybe it's her captivating curls, that flawless porcelain skin, or the inherent chicness that all French women seem born with — all we know is that we're hooked on this creative tour de force. Read on to learn her tricks for crafting fuss-free curls and her pick for the most perfect red lipstick ever.
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What's your signature beauty look?
"My hair is curly and I just leave it natural because there's really nothing I can do about it. I have two different looks with my makeup: Red lipstick and mascara on my lashes, or a little bit of smudgy brown pencil on my top and bottom lashlines. It's funny — in my work I get very crazy and I'm using all this color, but my look is very simple and clean. I would feel very confused if I was always changing my look because it just wouldn't be me."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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How do you keep your curls looking so pretty?
"My curls are natural and I never cut them — I only trim the ends about every six months. I wash my hair twice a week and the only time I brush them is when I wash them. I shampoo, then I put in some Kiehl's Olive Fruit Oil Nourishing Conditioner and use a comb to detangle the knots. Then I rinse the conditioner out, take a towel and squeeze all the water out. I let my hair air-dry, then I run some Phyto 9 Daily Ultra-Nourishing Botanical Cream through my dry hair. Sometimes, if I remember and I have the energy to do it, I'll put some argan oil in my hair before bedtime and go to sleep with it."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Marie-Yan's Kiehl's stash, alongside two mannequins she is using for an upcoming project.

What are some of your favorite beauty brands?
"I don’t use a lot of beauty products, but when I do, I want them to be good quality. I prefer buying one thing that’s very good instead of five that aren’t. I love Kiehl’s. I discovered Kiehl’s when I first moved to America six years ago. I used to live on 13th street, close to the flagship store. I first bought the Original Musk Perfume, then I wanted to get the lotion, then the shower gel. I don’t like looking for products a lot, so if I like something I will go buy most of the things from that brand. Makes it so much easier to shop."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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How would you describe your personal style?
"Very simple! I always wear the same colors: blue, gray, brown and black. I wear overalls when I am working. I love striped shirts — I don’t know if it is because I am French or what. I like simple. I feel awkward in really bright colors. I don’t like attracting lots of attention."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Your skin looks amazing! What's your secret?
"I wash my face every night, and every morning I put on a cream to hydrate. I use La Roche-Posay Hydraphase Intense Riche. I usually buy it in France, but I ran out a few months ago so I bought it here. You don’t need a lot, so it lasts a long time. I don’t put any makeup or powder on. I don’t like the feeling of foundation; I would feel like I am wearing a mask. Foundation is trying to cover up imperfections and it doesn’t really benefit your skin. When I go to the beach I use sunscreen, otherwise I burn, but I don't put it on every day. I should, but I don’t."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Where do you get your hair and makeup inspiration from?
"I think it comes from my godmother. Every time I see her, she has always been wearing lipstick, all the time. I never see her without it. She has this big mouth and with red lipstick and nothing else—I think it’s very beautiful. Right now I am wearing Lancôme L'Absolu Rouge. I have blue eyes, so I think when I put the red lipstick on that it’s a nice contrast."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Chanel polishes chilling in Marie-Yan's fridge.

Got any sneaky beauty tricks?
"I keep my nail polish in the fridge. I got my first Chanel nail polish when I was 20 — Rouge Noir, a dark red. I told my mother that I really like the polishes, but hated that they went bad after about six months. She told me to keep them in the fridge; the different temperatures in my apartment are not good for polish, so if you keep them in the fridge they last longer. I can keep them for a year this way."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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What's your accessorizing philosophy?
"I always wear the same jewelry; I never take my bangles off. Once I have something, I keep it and I’m not going to change it. Most of the bangles are from my mother — she passed them down to me. They're all from different places: India, Africa, Turkey."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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How do you hide a bad hair day?
"There’s not much I can do, so I just leave it and hope the next day will be better. If it really looks bad then I just wash my curls, because I know that will fix it. I used to wear my hair up more, but I feel like it gives me a very serious, uptight look (Ed's note: We strongly disagree. Look how dreamy she looks here!). Most of the time I leave my hair down, but sometimes, when I have to work, I do a top knot and then I just clip it in place."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Is there a beauty trend that you absolutely can't stand?
"Fake nails. How can you do anything? It’s so hard to use your hands. I really don’t like them, especially when they are long and it’s a weird design on them. Also, when a girl is wearing too much makeup, I think it’s sad. In France, people don’t wear much makeup like here in America. The girls here wear a lot — gloss and foundation. Sometimes it’s better to be more simple. And I wouldn't say I'm against it, but I'm not sure about coloring your hair. You are changing the natural way you look. If you are born with your color, why would you change it? It’s just something I would never do."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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Marie-Yan's bikini Barbies holding makeup from her favorite brand, Lancôme.

How did you get into set deisgn?
"I was studying graphic design at the School of Visual Arts and instead of designing two-dimensional things, I found I would much rather design in 3D. I love set design because I love the freedom of creating a different environment. I find it interesting that I can design something very different from the reality. It’s like a dream, something that’s not real. Transforming reality into something fantastical. I like dressing up my character and making my own clothes. These dolls were from a shoot I did a few months ago. I made the one a gold bikini out of tape and ended up liking them so much that I kept them."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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What's your best quick-fix beauty trick?
"If I want my curls to look more curly, I just don’t fight my hair in the shower. I let the hot water touch them — I don't use my hands or a brush — and then when I get out, they are much more defined."

Photographed by Mark Iantosca
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You have such pretty pale skin, so you obviously must stay out of the sun. What do you think of girls who tan?
"Sometimes I wish I was darker. In the summer, I do have a tan and I love it. I think it’s beautiful to be tan, but to go somewhere to get an artificial tan, I think is ridiculous. Why would you transform the natural way you look? Why would you go to a machine to get an artificial color?"

Photographed by Mark Iantosca