Interview – Janie Ireland-Bridle

Janie Ireland-Bridle

Interview – Janie Ireland-Bridle

Aviator caught up with mannequin make-up artist Janie Ireland-Bridle, whose humble childhood in Glasgow turned into exciting career spanning 35 years and has seen her travel around the world from Malta to Stuttgart and New York to Dubai.

I was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1954 in a beautiful part in the countryside and grew up with my elder brother, several dogs, cats and eventually, ponies and horses. School was a private girls? school, which specialised in the arts with a good dose of sport, fairly suitable for me as academia was a bit of a hit and miss affair. I do remember being at nursery school and painting on big pieces of imperial paper, which I found to be great fun.

I started painting at a very early age and that always seemed to be the way forward. At 15 we moved, as my dad decided to retire fairly early. Malta was the chosen destination as he, who had been a pilot in the Fleet Air Arms during the war, had flown in and out of Malta many times and apparently had a thoroughly good time. Not a bad idea, but life changing, to say the least. It was 1969 and great fun. Academia took a back seat yet again.

School in Malta was Tal Handaq, essentially for the kids of service people but it included non-service kids, lots of ex-pat Brits and Americans. It was huge fun and it had an excellent art and pottery department. The friends I met there are still very close.

In 1973, I ended up in Stuttgart where I began to paint more seriously, always in oil, my lifelong chosen medium, hence my eventual gravitation towards mannequin make-up.

Janie Ireland-Bridle


At the age of 17, I landed my very first job. My parents sent me to Jersey to gain some ?life experience?, and there I worked in an exclusive lingerie shop in St Helier called Sugar and Spice. As I had explained at my interview, somewhat nervously, that I really liked things artistic, I was immediately asked if I could dress the window. What a relief! Little did I know that the world of display would stand me in great stead for the rest of my life.

In 1973, I ended up in Stuttgart where I began to paint more seriously, always in oil, my lifelong chosen medium, hence my eventual gravitation towards mannequin make-up. I learnt a huge amount and shared exhibitions in Germany and indeed in London. The most prestigious, by invitation, was at the Austrian Embassy in Belgravia. My husband at the time was most definitely the lead artist, but I still had 15-20 paintings on show.

Malta called again, where I studied with Vasco Lazzolo, a fantastic tutor and a highly successful portrait painter. He wanted to paint my mother, and while that sadly didn?t happen, he did sketch me many times. Malta was very influential for me as a developing artist; I was surrounded by many creative people, and my dad was an excellent blues pianist so our social circle reflected that.

I moved to London In 1977 and started looking for an art related job as I knew a decent living as an artist / portrait painter was unrealistic. I could not believe my luck when I found myself as a trainee make-up artist at Adel Rootstein, one of the finest and most sophisticated mannequin companies in the world. Adel was the first mannequin manufacturer to develop mannequins from real people; it was a huge step forward for the industry. That was when I knew what to do with my life.

During another break in the proceedings, in around 1983 I went off to Spain to run a riding school and break horses for a year; it was kind of a sabbatical. I had ridden all my life so seemed a great opportunity to get back in the saddle. On return to London, I got a job working with wax models, fabulous training for a portrait painter, which I really enjoyed but I also missed the buzz of the world of mannequin make-up and display.

One of the strongest influences for me as a make-up artist, is the fantastic fashion week shows. Fashion designers from the Tudors to the amazing French Renaissance really knew how to push the boundaries, including wigs and make-up. I went to see the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A this year and I have to say, he embodied genius and captured every sense, feeling and emotion, understanding the beauty of nature and the depth of human complication. He is without a doubt, a huge influence on the possibilities of art in fashion.

I have been lucky enough to have worked with several, wonderful clothes designers. In the early days I met Zandra Rhodes, Yves St Laurent, and Jasper Conran. During the wax working days I worked on the Virgin Record store in Tottenham Court Road, working with lots of rock stars.

All projects are a joy for me but Christmas is glorious fun. I have worked for, at some time or another, most of the major department stores in London including Harrods and Selfridges, to name but a few. And this year has been no different; I have been particularly busy this year with Top Shop, Debenhams, Bentalls. Fenwicks and Harvey Nichols.

I always carry my work bag with me, which has all my brushes, palettes, full colour range of oils, eyelashes, glitter, all sorts of extra festive goodies.

Janie Ireland-Bridle


What I find interesting is that the Christmas windows are all in now and entertaining everyone but the minute you have opened your presents, everyone jumps into action again to turn Christmas campaigns and Christmas window displays into a new look for a new inspiring year, a very busy time for the industry indeed!

The last four years have also seen me in New York and Dubai. Dubai was a real turn up and I love going there, it is really full on. It?s a case of landing at the airport and going straight into a design meeting. I always carry my work bag with me, which has all my brushes, palettes, full colour range of oils, eyelashes, glitter, all sorts of extra festive goodies.

I have worked alongside several mannequin producing companies in my time, but most of my work nowadays is concentrated in renovation. Mannequins, especially good quality mannequins have a potentially very long life span. I am still painting Rootstein mannequins I painted 30 years ago. This enables the renovators to repair and respray, make-up artists to paint completely new looks and the wig makers to make new wigs.

I also love working with the visual merchandise display creative directors and their teams. Without their awesome inspiration we would all be left standing! They are the people without whom none of the exciting windows and interiors would exist. They come up with a plan and make-up artists, wig makers, renovators and sprayers follow through. It is most definitely a team playing industry.

Art is part of me which makes me tick; all art ? visual, musical, theatrical and literary. They all deserve admiration but I am somewhat drawn to paintings. The energy and development in progressive art and especially how the younger generation translate visual art is diverse and fascinating. I also think mannequins have a part to play in art too in that they can capture any situation. Not only can they display clothes or create a scene in a film, but they are also three dimensional canvases and installations to awe and inspire. Your use here at Aviator is a fantastic example!

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