Ruby Hammer MBE is one of the world’s most respected make-up artists, whose illustrious career includes editorial work for Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, couture catwalk shows and a host of A-list stars, as well as TV appearances on The Clothes Show, This Morning and ‘Ten Years Younger’. A successful businesswoman, she was instrumental in the UK launch of Aveda and L’Occitane and co-founded the award-winning cosmetics brand Ruby & Millie (with beauty expert Millie Kendall) in 1998, before developing her own capsule collection of make-up, nail care and skincare tools.
You’ve worked in the fashion industry for many years – how has that shaped your style?
I have to be aware of trends because I am working with art directors, photographers, brands, designers and stylists who reference different looks. However, when it comes to my own wardrobe, I always adapt fashion to my taste and lifestyle: I don’t care how trendy something is, if it doesn’t suit me, I won’t wear it.
I like to experiment and try new styles, so I’m conscious of how I put together an outfit, but comfort is a priority for me because when I’m on a shoot or backstage at a catwalk show, I have to focus on my subject and I can’t be wearing fussy, restrictive clothes. I tend to wear layers, so I can adapt to cold or hot environments easily – we often have a really early call time to get models ready and it can be very chilly, but then we can be working under studio lights. I think that I have a similar approach in my off duty style, too
Has anyone in particular influenced your personal style?
I was born in Nigeria to Bangladeshi parents and came to live in the UK when I was 12 so I have various cultural influences and love some of the bold shades and prints that are prevalent in Asian and African textiles. My mum carried off colour with flair and panache: she wore Western clothes but also imbued her style with her ethnic heritage, especially with jewellery. She wore amazing colourful saris and beautiful prints. I grew up with that around me: if we had celebrations in the family all the women would be dressing up in these spectacular clothes.
My father was a doctor, and was a very conservative dresser: he never owned a pair of jeans and his default was smart. As a teenager, he wanted me to have quality clothes that would last a lifetime, and I wanted to wear fun, experimental clothes. However, he taught me the value of investing in quality pieces that are made to last. I think that’s where I get the mix of classic and flamboyant.
I have also been privileged to work with a whole variety of creative women and stylists over the years, so I have been exposed to the concept of working out what is flattering and playing with clothes to find a look that works. I love Lauren Hutton’s boyish, playful style, and admire Bianca Jagger’s signature look too. Kate Moss throws outfits together with incredible nonchalance that I think every woman would love to emulate: whether it’s skinny jeans or flares, she makes it work. I think that Instagram has allowed us all to find relatable style influences from different walks of life, which is very exciting.
Are you drawn to particular colours, fabrics or shapes?
In the Eighties, I wore a lot of black, but my natural instinct is to wear brighter, stronger colours, with denim, black or cream as a neutral – I love the champagne silk blouse from Winser London with a pair of ripped jeans. The tactile nature of textiles is important to me, so I love the way silks and cashmeres feel on my skin.
You must have travelled a lot in your career. What have you learned about packing efficiently and how to create a hard-working capsule wardrobe?
Comfort and simplicity are key for me. I have my jeans, a beautiful silk shirt that I could dress up with jewellery for the evening, a cashmere jumper or sweatshirt, and some silk narrow trousers that I can wear with a sandal or heel. I’m just under 5’5”, so I like to wear a heel, but that’s not always practical. I tend to wear trousers for work, because they are practical, and then wear skirts or dresses for evening or on holiday.
You have worked as a successful make-up artist for many years – what would be your tips for women who have perhaps got stuck in a rut with make-up and what to refresh their look? (Or who haven’t been wearing much during lockdown!)
I use two shades of concealer, perhaps in two textures, that I use under my eyes and also to blend over pigmentation. Everyone benefits from a good concealer and it can work, even with the lightest touch, to even out the complexion in place of a foundation. I think a blusher is vital, especially for slightly older women: I tend to use a cream formulation as it’s easier to apply and has a natural glow to it. I love mascara, and wouldn’t go without, and use a hybrid tinted lip balm (Mulberry Sheer Lip Tint by Trish McEvoy or Victoria Beckham’s Bitten Lip in Cherie), which is moisturising and you can dab it on with fingers without a mirror. If I have time, I use a brow product to tidy up brows. I carry my Magnetic Brush Sets everywhere, as I have designed the two sets (01 & 02) with interchangeable heads, so they are the perfect multi-purpose tools to use at home or on the go: they are great for touch-ups or applying full-make up from scratch. That’s my everyday basics, but of course I also love playing with shadow and lipsticks to create different looks.
As you approach 60, do you feel your approach to style and wellbeing is changing?
My daughter, Reena (who is the Soho House Health Club Director), is in her thirties and I’m just as interested in style, wellbeing and health as she is. We are a similar build and sometimes swap clothes or find we’ve gone to the same shop at different times and bought the same thing. She’ll encourage me to try styles that I might not naturally think are right for me, and I’m pleasantly surprised. I think that we are all more youthful in our approach to style in that we are taking care of ourselves better throughout life and we are in touch with culture and use social media, so we are inspired by women of all ages to play with our look and less likely slide into a rut. Of course, comfort is important to me, but no more so than it always has been.
My body has remained pretty much the same shape throughout my life: the first time I did any formal exercise was just before I got married for the second time, in 2010. I planned to wear a vintage dress and wouldn’t be able to wear Spanx underneath so I trained three times a week, doing running, dancing and general gm-based fitness. I also worked with a trainer before my daughter’s wedding in 2019, and continue to do so, because I don’t have the discipline to workout alone. We do kettle bell and other small weights for strength, plus cardio and stretching. I have some excess flab on my belly, but keeping fit and healthy is more about living a good life: there is heart disease in my family and I want to have a strong immune system. I eat well, but not obsessively so, and do daily meditation, to ensure I have that sense of calm that is important to mental, emotional and physical wellness.