Since taking the creative helm of Gucci in 2015, Alessandro Michele has created a singular visual identity for the house. One that’s exuberantly twisted, where disembodied heads make runway appearances, gender is fluid (See: Harry Styles in pearls), and the soundtrack is often set to Lana Del Rey.
It’s in this bizarro dimension that Thomas De Kluyver thrives. As the global makeup artist for Gucci Beauty, he’s framed smiles—full of missing teeth—with bright red lipstick and hand-painted mascara tears on fall 2020’s runway models. That mascara—Mascara L’Obscur—is now available for $35 at Sephora. How you choose to wear it—thick and layered or just a light swipe—is totally up to you.
On the eve of its launch, De Kluyver spoke with ELLE.com about his progressive approach to beauty:
You’ve been fundamental in ushering in this new wave of experimental beauty. What’s been your inspiration?
It’s all my friends and the people around me. So much of my work focuses on gender identity and self-expression and makeup that can be worn like a fascinating accessory rather than to cover up things.
My friends will be wearing makeup or lipstick, and I’ll take a picture of them, and I’ll use that as inspiration for a campaign. There’s nothing like surrounding yourself with people who are passionate and inspirational who and have always pushed boundaries. We’ve been wearing makeup like this for years, it’s so nice that now it’s speaking to everyone.
How can we all be pushing beauty boundaries in 2020?
Just be yourself and do what it is that you feel beautiful doing. I never do things that are the trendiest thing at the moment, I do things that feel natural. I’ve always wanted to be an individual. I remember as a kid I always wanted to be different and not like everyone else.
What are you inspired by right now?
I spot flowers and I have this app on my phone that can see colors and show the Pantone color of the flowers. It’s really fun because I can spot colors and take that influence into makeup.
What’s it like working with Alessandro Michele?
Alessandro is so incredible because he has this understanding of makeup and attention to detail. He gives you so much inspiration, but he also gives you space to take that and run with it.
He’s almost like a magpie with references. He loves everything from popular culture references to 15th-century art. It’s really crazy. He knows so much about everything. You can show him a picture of something and he’ll know the details. I wish I had that encyclopedic knowledge.
You use your fingers when you apply makeup and this past season you sent models down the runway with mascara-filled tears. What are you doing right now to experiment further?
I always like using products in ways that are different than what they are expected to be. The runway show was quite difficult because the new mascara is long wear, so it doesn’t run. I made paint by mixing up the mascara with a few drops of water. Even though it looks like they are dripping down the face, we actually painted them on. I am really interested in little things and appliqués at the moment. I’ve been using lots of foils and stuff in my work. I found all these colored foils from these Japanese websites and I’ve been using those. I might be over those in a bit, though.
What do you love about the new mascara?
It’s got this creamy texture to it, which means you can use it in a lot of ways. You can do something with a lot more volume or lean into something more punk rock like we did for Dani in the new campaign.
The Gucci campaigns bring a lot of celebrity and creative geniuses into one room. What’s it like to be on set?
The campaigns for the fashion house are like film sets that they build. We have up to 100 people, and it’s like doing a fashion show every morning at 3:30 am. I’ve never worked on sets like that before. It’s a dream come true—a very inspiring, enjoyable place to be, but also a little bit stressful.
Do you see a change in beauty? Is it becoming more inclusive with shade ranges and beauty boys?
In an ideal world I wish there wasn’t a boundary there at all. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, the makeup is there for everyone, and this isn’t a trend. I always wore bits of makeup when I was young. But now I’ve been more comfortable wearing more makeup because society has changed. People are feeling more comfortable being themselves. It’s fun to explore different facets of your identity, and if it’s for you, it’s for you, and if it’s not, it’s not. We are living in a world that’s becoming less and less judgmental, and people are exploring their identities in a fascinating way.