Isabelle Kountoure, Fashion Director, Pop


"My mom’s German and my dad’s Greek. I grew up bilingual—German and Greek—and I started speaking English in school in Munich, in the 5th grade. But I didn’t move to London from Germany—I actually came here from LA. My best friend had moved to LA when I was sixteen, and eventually I moved, too. But, to me, it felt a bit like The Truman Show. I love LA, but for fashion—before LA, I’d worked for Jil Sander in the German press office, right when Raf [Simons] started—LA felt so celebrity oriented… I’ve been at Pop now for three years; before that, I spent three years at Qvest. I love being at a magazine.

Peter Gray, my roommate, just chopped off my hair. He lives more or less in New York, but I’m very lucky that, when he’s here, the few days he is, I force him—I make him—cut my hair. I used to have it really long until a year ago and since then, it’s gone up and up and up. Now, I’m going to the beach in Greece, so I wanted it chopped off. My boyfriend would like me to have a boy’s haircut; he thinks it would look good on me. But I’m already so much like a tomboy that I feel like, if I chop it off that way, I won’t feel feminine.

My roots, I don’t dye. I used to dye the tips. I think they call it a balayage: it’s painted-on bleach that they put just into the ends. I think I’ll continue doing it, otherwise I look really Greek. The roots should always be your natural color, but if you keep the ends light, it can be a thing you touch-up every six months. I’m very lazy, so I wash it with regular shampoo. Currently, I love the cheapest kind, which my roommate makes fun of: Mega from Aussie. It’s £3! And I use whatever conditioner I have left at home.

I had to learn a beauty regimen, because I have very un-clear skin, and I used to smoke up until two years ago. (Thank you, Allen Carr, the book! It worked on me.) And now, I’ve been going to see this woman in London, Debbie Costello. She’s a facialist, and she’s magical. She’s the first one I’ve gone to who’s actually managed to get ahold, get control, of my pimples so that it’s manageable. She’s given me a regime that I’m doing, but it’s still pretty basic: I’m using a Cleansing Gel by Environ, an amazing South African brand. I do it with my amazing, amazing Clarisonic. In the morning, after I cleanse, I use the AVST Moisturising Toner, also by Environ. It doesn’t completely dry my skin out. Then, I put on Phloretin CF Gel from Skinceuticals—two drops. And then I put my moisturizer on: Environ AVST Vitamin A. You can go higher up in doses of vitamin A. I don’t know much—I completely, blindly trust Debbie. She changed my life; I didn’t want to take any hormones or any of that kind of stuff, and any facialist I'd gone to before had scarred my skin. If you can go to her, go.

Before I go out, I apply Heliocare SPF 50 every day. What Debbie told me is that when you use vitamin A, your skin is more sensitive to sun. And this is what a lot of fashion editors I've met who are above 40 always say: they swear by putting sunscreen on. Me, being half Greek, I never used to put any on. But this one, I love because when you put it on, it doesn’t make your skin white. I’ve had so many different ones before. And with this, I’m set. Plus it’s only like £15.

At night, I use the Environ Sebuwash, which is more for un-clear skin; it’s quite drying.  I do the toner again and, if I do have a pimple, I dab on Environ Alpha Toner Forte. It's quite harsh but it's good for when you have a spot. Then, a few drops of the Skinceuticals Retexturing Activator serum. And finally the Vitamin A cream. I still haven’t used any eye cream yet—Debbie says I don’t need it yet.

Body cleaning: I do it twice a week. I had to learn. I really love Laura Mercier Crème de Pistache Scrub. It’s incredible; it’s not aggressive, and it leaves your body soft. And I use Korres lotion. Or La Roche-Posay, which I like because it doesn't smell.

In terms of makeup, I don’t wear any foundation. I somehow feel like it blocks my skin, though I’m sure it doesn’t. But I use eyeliner by MAC: the Powerpoint Eye Pencil in Industry. I absolutely love it—it’s a mixture of black and grey. If I go all black, I look very 'Cleopatra,' so I try to not go too dark with my eyes. And then I put my mascara on. Currently, I’m absolutely loving this Giorgio Armani one: Eyes to Kill. I like to give my my olive skin a little bit of color with a blush-bronzer called Gold Dust by Tom Ford. I love Tom Ford [makeup]. Also, his Lip Lacquer is amazing. When I wear something on my lips, it's that; it's almost like having nothing on.

For fragrance, I’m really into Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford. Unfortunately, I think Tom Ford stopped producting this one: Black Orchid Voile de Fleur. It’s like my treasure for special occasions. And I really, really love Armani Prive Bois D’Encens. I say it smells like church.  My boyfriend’s, which I love putting on, is Armani Prive Oranger Alhambra. He lives in Italy, and when I miss him, I put that one on. I’ve been in long-distance relationships my entire life."

—as told to ITG

Isabelle Kountoure photographed by Rachel Chandler Guinness in London on August 17th, 2012.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • Messamet serdane

    Love her bilingual origin. It should be a little bit difficult to learn it when she was a child. Love her hair

    • Sarita

      I think that the opposite is actually true: children pick up languages at a faster rate than adults do, which is why Isabelle was able to speak two langauges when she was little and add a third as a pre-teen.

  • Elizabeth

    Beautiful. Love her hair also.

  • Alyssa

    Can I just say how much I LOVE hearing from such a beautiful woman who has problem skin? It is so reassuring. Plus, she is seriously gorgeous.

  • Andreea

    cool trix :)

  • VotreAmie

    She's so effortlessly chic!

  • Daul Be

    Her hair is gorgeous!

  • fairytalesandcoffee

    hmmmmm....this top shelf hasn't been as good as in the past....perhaps, the subject is not that into skincare...she is kind of flip...I don't's always nice to see Top Shelf's from skin gurus....would love to see one for a well known female derm...who doesn't have her own line to promote......

  • Kdufty

    I agree with fairytalesandcoffee that this top shelf is a bit aloof. I personally love a top shelf post where the person is busting with products and almost qualifies as a junkie/addict. there is something dreamy and fantasy-like to see someone's bathroom with products scattered about....i understand if someone is simple with their day to day routine, but then why be on top shelf?

  • Beautyidealist

    I like that she talked about some new products I had haven't heard about - however I cringed so much at the thought of a retinol treatment on my face under the hot sun! Even with an SPF50, you're just asking for free radical damage! Isabelle has beautiful skin, I hope she will save the retinol for night though .

  • CrispyCrunchy

    Erm, to the commenters above: did you read the interview? I think she sounds like she is really into her skincare, and has a pretty specific routine!
    Love the sound of the grey/black Mac liner, am going to check it out!

    • therealblonde

      You just beat me to it. Seriously, she goes into such detail how she treats her skin! Maybe the brands are not glamorous enough, but seriously, I'm interested in what works for a person.

      • KayleighLondon

        Agree! And I can vouch for her love of Environ, the AVST Vit A cream has transformed my skin!

  • ashleigh @ Jolie Jouel

    Obsessed with her blunt haircut and slightly lighter tips! New haircut inspiration for Fall, perhaps?!

    My jewelry blog:

  • elle

    i always appreciate a top shelf where the person being interviewed talks about struggling to maintain clear skin. while her product collection may not be as exciting as a beauty junkie's, it definitely shows the kind of products people swear by when it's more about what is needed than what is liked. i am secretly envious of the top shelf posts where the subject can just use things they like/enjoy because they don't have to worry about their skin's reaction. as someone struggling with acne problems right now, i totally related to this post and the fact that my products are not and cannot be glamorous because my skin is whacky too

  • Guest

    Beautiful. I am so glad to see her here, and I appreciate that Top Shelf isn't only about "addicts" with tons of cosmetic products.

  • Kitchen afternoon

    I love her bone structure, what a lovely face, and such an easy approach to beauty.
    This morning I found Burt's Bees lip balms in fashion colors - I bout a handful!

  • C. Michol

    I want her hair!
    Good skin recs, too.

  • Greaseandglamour

    So so beautiful - great post!


  • elise

    I've realized on reading and viewing ITG that Americans are solely taken up by the constant colouring of hair- and having it always look "JUST DONE" I can now appreciate the slightly wornin look. As the beginning of fall/school year is approcahing, it is like the way too hideously bright white new tennis shoes you would get for the new year.
    Oh arrgh,you had to scuff them in a little or they were so gauche.
    She seems sweet- I like this one

  • Paola

    Awesome! But I'm really dying for ITG to do another top shelf featuring Emily or even Alessandra. Yes! I'd love a top shelf featuring AC :)

  • Syvany

    Finally someone mentions the amazing skin care line environ. I got the AVST cream about a year ago, and I never had a moisturizer that makes my skin look so supple and alive. And it’s not insanely expensive, just a bit hard to find in the US.

  • kate moss daily

    She's really lucky her boyfriend is encouraging her to chop her hair like a boy! When I had a pixie cut, male attention was rare...a man who actually prefers it? Where can I get one of those?

  • Ploy

    "Looks too greek" - I always celebrate everyone's most unique features and I raise my glass to the fact that she doesn't like the feeling of foundation masking her face!

  • Becca @ The Beauty Sample

    She is stunning. I've heard of Environ before but had kind of forgotten about it--now I'm on a mission to try the products that she mentioned in this post!

  • DereneB

    How exciting to finally see Environ being talked about on my favorite site! I have been using their products for over a decade – it’s the only thing that helps with my problematic skin; it’s magical. Being South African, it also makes me feel very proud to see something home grown, being utilized internationally.

    Amazing work (especially Top Shelf), Emily and team!

  • Phoebe

    What's wrong with looking Greek?

  • Sara

    I also love Heliocare, very much indeed, and the fact that it is so not well known surprises me. Hands down, it's the best SPF around (if not the best beauty product I own!) I, for one, use and worship the SPF 90.

  • nereids

    what an incredibly charming woman.