GRAZIA talks to Thomas de Kluyver, Global Makeup Artist at Gucci Beauty

There’s not really any knowing what lies ahead. It’s a new decade and there’s a new mood. New thought patterns, new waves of expression, new guards and new norms. Beauty is one such industry that’s driven by this newness, be it behaviours, technology, consumer habits or trends.

Over the past ten years, beauty has been picked apart and stitched back together, emerging a more democratic, transparent and innovative version of itself. Some will say there’s still work to be done (and they would be right), but there’s no doubt the industry as it exists is in a constant state of flux. It ebbs and flows, peaks and troughs. But the one constant in all the chaos is a bold, unwavering, intrepid force of creativity. Society often codifies beauty as superfluous or vapid, but when you get to the crux of it, it’s a platform for art, for expression and for creation.

When it comes to dissecting this creativity, it’s only through the far-reaching lens of certain visionaries that we might get a glimpse into the other side, both behind the scenes and beyond the present moment. Here, GRAZIA explores future beauty through the eyes of on of the best: Thomas de Kluyver.

A custom face chart by Thomas de Kluyver for GRAZIA

Products used: Gucci Rouge à Lèvres Satin in Kimberley Rose (On Lips, Cheeks And Eye Lids), L’OBSCUR MASCARA (On Lashes). 

“Beauty for me is one of the most efficient and authentic ways of communicating with people,” Thomas de Kluyver tells GRAZIA. “We resonate with faces so quickly and makeup is so accessible to work with. It really lends itself to experimentation, even more so than fashion in a way that there’s not such a financial constraint to it.” The Perth-born wunderkid is the Global Makeup Artist at Gucci Beauty – a match made in Gucci’s eccentric, ugly-beautiful version of heaven.

From humble beginnings on Australia’s West Coast, de Kluyver is now part of a new artistic wave redefining what it means – and what it is – to be creative. His portfolio is one that showcases the garish, imaginative best beauty has to offer: lurid colour palettes, trenchant detail, lucid shapes and defiance towards convention. It might be a bubblegum blue and red-rimmed eye; lipstick-heavy looks; shocking pink blush washed high atop the cheekbone; a slick cherry lip just a little askew around the edges. But that’s the thing with de Kulyver’s work: when you see it, you know it belongs to him.

It’s this innate ability to refute expectations that saw his work with newly-minted Gucci Beauty – the subversion of what it means to be a glossy makeup luxuriate – one of the most poignant makeup-led moments of the past decade. “Working on my first Gucci fashion show was really special. Alessandro [Michele] is so inspiring and creative. He absolutely loves makeup and has such an incredible knowledge and insight about it,” says de Kluyver. The brand’s campaign (ideated by Creative Director Alessandro Michele and art direction by Christopher Simmonds) for the initial lipstick launch was a brilliant display of where makeup is heading (or perhaps what it should always be). Rather than perfect veneers and immaculate skin, de Kluyver’s work was a mash-up of toothy grins and textured lipstick. It was a wider nod to the fact that beauty is moving away from perfect ideals. “Beauty feels so much more inclusive and experimental now. I think people really are starting to feel much more free with makeup and less afraid to try out new ideas and techniques,” de Kluyver says.

With such progression, it’s a wonder where the industry-shifting ideas come from. De Kluyver’s creative process is an interesting one, often involving references from past decades such as the ‘80s and early ‘90s. “My team and I spend a lot of our time researching, going over old fashion and art books, magazine archives, going to exhibitions and collecting lots of references,” he explains, before adding, “I gather everything and draw out my new ideas in sketchbooks that I refer back to over and over again.”

It almost feels like de Kluyver is writing the blueprint of future beauty in real time: a version of beauty that celebrates individuality, refutes outdated notions and pays tribute to its underlying purpose as a means for expression. “Story-telling and identity is becoming ever more present in people’s lives,” he explains. “Being a makeup artist and creative is a chance to tell these stories.” His gritty, decorative, dare-to-see-what-I-see ethos is encouragement for the rest of us to go as bold as we dare; to celebrate uneven shapes, asymmetry and a wide colour spectrum. De Kluyver, and Gucci more broadly, are forging a path in beauty that’s unique to the industry and rich in speculation. One that kind of begs the question, what will Gucci do next?

The world got a teeny glimpse at Gucci’s Fall 2020 show in Milan this year, where Michele opened up the chaos of backstage to the style set. Inside the Gucci Hub, models got ready in plain sight, surrounded by fold-out chairs, robes and the mess synonymous with back of house. The fly-on-the-wall experience, where de Kluyver painted melancholy tears and lavender eyelids, was perfectly Gucci: the realities of life through a high fashion lens.

As for gazing forward, de Kluyver is pretty practical in terms of what we can expect to see in decades to come. “Nothing is stopping you using products however you like,” he says. “People expect and deserve a lot more in terms of diversity, innovation, colour range, quality and campaigns that speak to them and make them feel inspired. I think this is actually a huge part of Gucci’s initial success.” An educated guess is we can expect more creativity, more story-telling, more quirk and more fun. De Kluyver’s whole thing after all is not taking it all too seriously. “I always say not to be afraid to try something out when it comes to makeup, because you can just take it off and start again.” Ain’t that the truth.