Makeup artist and noted bookworm Val Garland shares her favorite books in her new column for The Violet Files. First up: an absorbing beach read set in
1950s Italy.

Val Garland is a fashion industry icon in her own right. The UK-based makeup artist is the skilled hand behind scores of British Vogue cover stories and a constant presence backstage at fashion shows, creating extreme looks for Alexander McQueen and Gareth Pugh, as well as soft and natural ones for Giambattista Valli and Erdem. Whenever Garland has a spare moment between shots (or shows), you’ll find her with her nose in a book—and later posting the cover to her popular Instagram feed. In her new column for The Violet Files, Garland brings #valsbookclub to life. Below, Garland reviews a beloved page-turning beach read, Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.


Beautiful Ruins | Written by Jess Walter

Category: Fiction

Key subjects: Love/Romance, Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Hollywood, the Amalfi coast


By Val Garland

Beautiful Ruins is essentially a love story that starts in 1962 in Porto Vergogna (The Port of Shame), Italy. Moving back and forth in time, the plot circles around five characters, detailing their flawed yet fascinating lives as their paths intertwine across 50 years. It’s a story of life, love, hopes, and dreams, but also war, treachery, greed, and despair. I found it a poignant reminder of how one life can affect so many others.

Photo courtesy of Val Garland


My friend Annette Porter from Nylon Films recommended it to me. I read it in August 2012, while on vacation in Montauroux in southeastern France.


It’s a great beach read. Love, heartbreak, hope, and Hollywood. I couldn’t put it down.

“Then she smiled, and in that INSTANT, if such a thing were possible, Pasquale fell in LOVE, and he would remain in love for the REST of his life–not so much with the WOMAN, whom he didn’t even know, but with the MOMENT.”

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter


If I was casting a film adaptation, my picks would be: 

Alicia Vikander as Dee Moray

Paul Dano as Pasquale Tursi

Lily James as Claire Silver

Steve Carell as Michael Dean

Ben Whishaw as Shane Wheeler


Dee Moray would definitely wear Tom Ford Lips & Boys in Rocco.  


Name: Val Garland

Known For: Spontaneity

Where to Find Her: London

Clients: Kate Moss, Karlie Kloss, Gigi Hadid, Vogue, I-D, Dazed & Confused, Giambattista Valli, Erdem, Gareth Pugh

Years in the Industry: 30

Instagram: @thevalgarland

Beauty Essential: Sisley-Paris Supremÿa at Night

Agent: Paula Jenner @ Streeters London

In the world of editorial beauty, Val Garland is queen bee. Her creativity is legend, having colored countless Vogue covers, advertising campaigns, and runway shows for the likes of Gareth Pugh and Alexander McQueen (late designer Lee McQueen was a close friend), and more. Many artists from VIOLET GREY’s community, Kate Lee included, cut their teeth assisting the brassy beauty boss. 

Garland came onto the scene in the 1980s, at a time when the world embraced experimentation. She did it all: made her own clothes, styled hair and makeup, even shot films. Her strategy when starting out was to say yes to everything, but “it was a natural progression for me to focus on the one thing that I was best at, and that was always makeup,” the autodidact recalls.  

At her best when under pressure, Garland says nothing compares to the adrenaline rush she feels backstage at a fashion show, when the stakes are high and everyone is just a bit crazed. “My approach to makeup is very spontaneous,” she explains. “Every time is different.”

And while this spontaneity makes it hard to define her specialty (“Some say my signature look is an eyeliner; others say that it’s a lip”), Garland’s willingness to take chances is what consistently inspires the artist (and those around her) most. After all, who else could create brash, do-me-now pouts with the use of a concealer brush? Color us inspired. 

your tan

Basking poolside is best when complemented by a novel and a fresh manicure. Here, the ideal shades to flatter sunkissed skin.