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Thomas de Kluyver All I Want To Be book make-up artist
ShibuyaPhotography Harley Weir

New book All I Want To Be is a defiant, tender exploration of identity

Dazed’s contributing beauty editor Thomas de Kluyver joins forces with Harley Weir, Fumiko Imano, and more to present an intimate snapshot of what it means to be yourself

Where teens once spent ten minutes daubing pearlescent shadow on their lids and acid bright blush on their cheeks, before finishing everything off with one too many sticky layers squeezed out of prized, Juicy-emblazoned tubes, in 2019 they’re skipping the awkward phase and instead landing in straight-up supermodel territory. Following the rise of the YouTube make-up tutorial, kids around the world are baking, bronzing, and contouring – and becoming flawless, carbon copies of one another.

“It’s never been about that for me, I want people to have fun with make-up and experiment with their identity,” explains Thomas de Kluyver, the wildly talented make-up artist making a case for something altogether more unusual.

A rising star in the realm of high fashion, de Kluyver has created unique looks for rising stars Rokh, Asai, and Sies Marjan, and collaborated with everyone from Simone Rocha and Gucci to Chanel and Chalayan. Given that he’s also a much-loved member of the Dazed family, having been appointed contributing beauty editor last year, his work has graced the pages of more issues of the magazine than we’re able to even remember.

In de Kluyver’s masterful hands, skin is often buffed, clean, and bare – with pores and so-called imperfections left defiantly on show – as flashes of bold colour are smeared across cheeks and eyes, lashes are extended to unfathomable, outlandish lengths, and lips are circled with chalky-bright pencils and paint. It’s about being raw, and experimental, and free.

Now, de Kluyver is set to launch his first ever book, All I Want To Be, as published by creative powerhouse IDEA. The result of six months spent flying around the world, landing as far as LA and Tokyo, and as close to home as Clapton, East London, All That I Want To Be comprises six different shoots, and far too many beautiful images to fit into a zine, which was the initial plan. “It wasn’t meant to be anywhere near as extensive as this,” he laughs. “I just kept meeting up with friends and we were coming up with all these ideas, and it just kept snowballing until it ended up being 150 pages!”

“There’s a beautiful poem by Wilson Oryema at the beginning of the book, which really sums it up I think. It talks about how our identities are never fixed, or set, and how important it is to be able to express ourselves the way we want to” – Thomas de Kluyver 

Among these friends were the likes of Harley Weir, Lea Colombo, Sharna Osborne, Fumiko Imano, Fran Burns, and Haley Wollens, all of whom de Kluyver has forged strong creative bonds with having joined forces with each previously. It’s perhaps these relationships which add to the overarchingly intimate feeling of the book, as de Kluyver and his collaborators lens a series of young people exploring their identity and gender, as they try to work out, as the name of the book suggests, exactly who they are and what they want to be.

“There’s a beautiful poem by Wilson Oryema at the beginning of the book, which really sums it up I think,” explains de Kluyver. “It talks about how our identities are never fixed, or set, and how important it is to be able to express ourselves the way we want to. Our starting point for All I Want To Be was making sure we captured the people that feature in it somewhere they felt safe. So many of the images are shot in bedrooms, bathrooms... The kind of places we’re able to shut the door and experiment with who we are freely and without any judgement.”

Among those photographed are a group of teens, whose skin is punctuated by spots and teeth are smeared with lipstick. Lensed by Oliver Hadlee Pearch, the shoot is a tender celebration of adolescence and awkwardness: “And one of my favourite things is seeing blemishes, and scars, and whatever other flaws people might have. I understand why kids want to cover them up, but I think they’re beautiful and fascinating.” Also featured are a series of haphazardly painted skater boys, shot by Sharna Osborne, and portraits of Fumiko Imano which riff on her ongoing series ‘Twins”.

Perhaps the most provocative of all the works included in All I Want To Be, though, is its closing shoot. Photographed by Harley Weir in a Tokyo hotel room, Shibuya documents a number of Japanese women lying, for the most part, in the bath. Naked but for lurid pink and orange body paint, iridescent glitter, and Geisha-inspired make-up, the flesh and folds of each woman’s body are brought into sharp relief. Presented against the backdrop of a society that determines a woman’s value based on the thinness of her waist, the gap between her thighs, and how desirable she is when placed in front of a man  Shibuya explores and brings into focus an alternative, with the resulting images defiant, challenging, and tender at the same time.

Touchingly, at the end of our conversation, de Kluyver reveals he will be donating his share of the proceeds from All I Want To Be to Mermaids UK. Given the themes of the book, it’s a fitting choice: the charity supports gender-diverse and transgender children and their familiies throughout adolescence. “It was really important to me to do this,” says de Kluyver. “Growing up in Perth, I came out quite young, and while I was lucky to be surrounded by people who supported me, I knew plenty of gay and trans kids who didn’t have that. What Mermaids are doing is so vital. It felt like the perfect fit.”

All I Want To Be is released on May 16 at IDEA Books, Dover Street Market.