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Gucci Beauty

Thomas de Kluyver: make-up should be a form of expression, not a mask

The Perth-born make-up artist brings his golden touch to Gucci Beauty

Ever since Thomas de Kluyver wrapped himself up in shiny silver foil and painted his face to look like Guy Pearce in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, for one of the early iterations of Tinaween (Robbie Spencer’s iconic club night), it was clear that he was destined for big things. His most recent appointment as Global Makeup Artist for Gucci Beauty is by far the biggest. In his new role, the Perth-born make-up artist is responsible for bringing Alessandro Michele’s otherworldly visions to life both on and off the catwalk, starting with the inaugural campaign for Gucci Beauty. Pegged to the launch of a 58 strong collection of lipsticks, the Martin Parr shot campaign is a riot of colour, whimsy, and quirk, pushing the boundaries of traditional beauty imagery to include moments of awkwardness and imperfection - punk rocker Dani Miller’s lipstick smudged teeth being the most notable (and viral) example. Currently preparing the beauty looks for the Gucci Cruise show (watch it live here), we sat down with Thomas to talk about the early years, his work with one of the most iconic fashion houses in the world and what the future has in store for him.

Let's start with the beginning, how did you first get into make-up?
Thomas de Kluyver: I used to go to raves back in Perth in the early 2000s with all my friends and I would end up doing neon make-up on all of them. Then I met this guy who worked at the MAC counter, who then said I should come and work there over Christmas because they needed extra people. I just kind of learnt how to do make-up by being there on the counter and having people sit down.

How did that evolve into a career?
Thomas de Kluyver: I quit MAC and I was kind of doing some shoots but my main vocation in life at that point was to go out. I used to wear make-up myself, and then I moved to London in 2007 and was working on the door of a club and that’s where I got booked for my first shoot in for Dazed, actually.

What is it about being a make-up artist that appealed?
Thomas de Kluyver: I never really thought that I would be a make-up artist in the beginning, but what I love about it is I’m obsessed with art, fashion, and music, and it’s a job where you can put all of your loves and everything you find beautiful onto the face. I love having different people in front of me, finding out about their personality, then creating make-up to make them feel empowered or a certain way. I love the transformative power of make-up.

How do you think you use make-up to convey an emotion or a feeling?
Thomas de Kluyver: I tend not to do it in a very literal way, but so many people tell me when they see my make-up that it made them feel happy or a certain way. I always try to look outside the box or at whatever I’m shooting and try to do something special with make-up that gives it something extra or takes it outside of just normal make-up. I love the idea of make-up being a form of expression rather than a mask or something you can cover up with or you’re wearing something because that’s what you’re meant to wear.

What do you think a look should bring to either editorial shoots or a runway?
Thomas de Kluyver: I think make-up has the power to lift an outfit sometimes. Even just an orange lip with the right colour, a contrasting colour or something, it can make an outfit.

Let’s talk about the new Gucci Beauty collection. What are your favourite products?
Thomas de Kluyver: We have 58 shades of lipstick coming out, 36 of which are satin texture, which is really highly pigmented, very long lasting, and very emollient so they feel really nice when you put them on the lips. We have 18 shades of Voile which are like a sheer texture of lipstick, like a classic sheer. Again, they’ve got a bit more punch than a normal sheer lipstick. We have four balms; one of which is clear and three that have a slight tint to them. All of the shades can be used on the cheeks and there are nine shades that you can also use on the eyes which I think is nice. As a make-up artist, when I’m backstage or at a show we’re always using lipsticks and anything everywhere. So I think it’s nice that the Gucci boy or girl has the opportunity to do the same things we do. I think people do that anyway but it’s nice that the product is formulated so you can do whatever you want with it. There’s a real freedom here and I think the spirit of the collection is about individuality.

What about in terms of the campaign, what kind of techniques were you using?
Thomas de Kluyver: So we had four very different characters for the campaign. When I was speaking with Alessandro about campaign direction we wanted to do looks that really feel like what the individual characters in the beauty campaign would actually wear. For Dani Miller we did the ‘Crystal Black’ lipstick, she went straight for the bullet and just painted it across her eyes. We used ‘Goldie Red’ which is kind of the star colour of the collection – it’s number 25, which is Alessandro’s lucky number. It’s the perfect shade of red which is not too blue and not too orange, and she’s got that on her lips. All of the make-up in all of the looks use lipsticks, but there are other looks where we have used them on the eyes and cheeks.

What is it about Gucci Beauty that resonates with you as a brand?
Thomas de Kluyver: I think for me, I always want to inspire women to use make-up as a form of self-expression, to be yourself, to have fun with it and use it to feel good. The same with clothes and I think Alessandro designs clothes in the same way. I think that’s where it connects very well. Both of us are very obsessed with the past but also the future, and I think it’s that mix of the past and the future that works very nicely.

What’s it like working with Alessandro?
Thomas de Kluyver: He’s really inspiring. He loves make-up and he understands make-up. As a make-up artist, you often work with a lot of designers who are absolutely terrified of doing anything. He’s not terrified of anything. You can show him anything and he’s either like no or I love it but he’s excited that you’re there and present so he wants to see loads of things all the time

How do you think the beauty industry has evolved since you first started out?
Thomas de Kluyver: I feel like five years ago when designers would do a show, they wanted one individual look and they squished every single model into that look. I think now, especially when we do the Gucci show, we have different looks for different models. For every shoot, it’s a different look. I think beauty and fashion as well have become so much more about individuality and being authentic to yourself. Before they used to be about this trend, that trend, you have to have this coat, that coat. I think now it’s so much more about being yourself and being unique. I think uniqueness is being celebrated.

Where do you see it going from here?

Thomas de Kluyver: I think you’ll see make-up being worn in different ways by more diverse groups of people. I feel like boys never used to wear make-up, now my male friends do. It used to just be like gay boys but now it’s more inclusive of everyone. In terms of products and tech, I’m really interested to see what happens. I see something coming that’s very crazy, Blade Runner-esque and robotic. Like a machine that does your make-up, some fun little tool that puts make-up on, weird transfers or something. I love things like that, I’m obsessed with contacts at the moment. We just did a really big project in Japan and bought tons of those crazy lenses. We used some in the Gucci show, we used green ones. They’re fun. I’m obsessed with changing people’s eye colours. For me, the future is going in that direction. A little weird but I think that’s what nice. It’s expressing yourself and having fun with it.

Gucci Beauty is available at Harrods.