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yves saint laurent's creative director of beauty lloyd simmonds puts the punk into pout

Working within an inch of Tilda Swinton, Jessica Chastain, Cara Delevingne and Jourdan Dunn, Creative Director of Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Lloyd Simmonds knows there’s no ‘i’ in make-up.

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“My advice is: whichever woman you want to be for that day is the one you should be.” Lloyd Simmonds is obsessed with the chameleon woman, the one who changes her marks to suit her mood. “That’s what I love about fashion and make-up, the opportunity it gives you to change into somebody different for a day.” Lloyd grew up in Vancouver in a strict religious family who viewed make-up as superficial at worst and superfluous at best. “Even art, fashion, theatre, it was all forbidden,” he says, “so of course that was the thrill of it.” At the age of ten he became enchanted by the theatre, in particular by the set design and make-up at school plays “and the way it could transform people”. His path to the beauty industry started there, working on a production of The Maids by French playwright Jean Genet. “It was an unusual version where all of the roles were subversed, so the women were played by men and the men were played by women, which was incredibly interesting in terms of make-up artistry.”

It was Yves Saint Laurent who created Le Smoking tuxedo for women in 1966, a compliment to the trouser-wearing females of and ahead of his time. Helmut Newton made the look iconic in his 1975 story for French Vogue featuring the slicked-back, self-assured new breed of She: androgynous fatale, wearing Le Smoking. Since joining the house in 2012, Hedi Slimane has continued to comment on the seductive, transformative power of women, casting boyish beauty Saskia de Brauw in his debut menswear collection campaign for spring/summer 13. On Hedi’s influence, Lloyd says: “He has a much more raw approach to beauty. It seems that now we have different ways of showing it, certainly for a magazine like yours where there is already a modern attitude.” Girly girls need not apply.

“I guess you could be creative dressing as a man if you lived in England, but in France it’s really hard. I do envy the unbelievable changeability of women.” Lloyd Simmonds.

Lloyd has worked with chameleon queen and very not girly-girl Tilda Swinton a number of times, first when he was working with British make-up artist Pat McGrath’s team, and most recently on a cover shoot for the especially slick tranny mag Candy – a publication that celebrates transvestites, transsexuals and androgyny with intent. “Tilda is so totally into playing with the image of herself,” Lloyd says. “For the Candy shoot, we transformed her, with her help, into three completely different characters. It was fascinating to watch, she’s so unbelievably aware of every little angle of her face.” He admits too that he feels envious of this female power: “I guess you could be creative dressing as a man if you lived in England, but in France it’s really hard. I do envy the unbelievable changeability of women.”

Canadian Lloyd has a Brit punk heart, raving about the way English girls and boys experiment. “In England there are so many wonderful young kids with loads of wacky make-up on, it’s fabulous. Paris is really conservative in comparison. The girls here either wear a little bit of black liner or a lipstick, usually red, that’s it. It’s classic, but I would rather they were a little more curious.”

The winter beauty collection, titled Electric Chic, reflects Lloyd’s fascination with changeability. “I wanted to make it as free as possible, so you can play it safe if you want, or go full-on with bold punk looks. It’s all based on the idea of uptown and downtown New York, something like the Sloane Square girl vs the rock’n’roll East End girl, it’s about the contrasting sides of every city.”

Lloyd recently worked with enigmatic film director Nicolas Winding Refn on an Yves Saint Laurent beauty film starring Jessica Chastain covered in purple paint. Observing the director, Lloyd comments, “The way he works is really strange. He would put the music on that was the right mood for whatever scene it was, and then he would conduct like he was a conductor of an orchestra, moving his hands up and down to direct the actors and the team. At a certain point, when he wanted it to be quieter, he would move his hands down, and then up if he wanted it bigger.”

In his latest feature film Only God Forgives, Winding Refn based the lead female character on Barbie, the original plastic beauty. While Lloyd salutes the female power to change her spots, his views are very clear when it comes to extreme change, and the real-life, surgically created Barbies currently flaunting themselves on the internet. “I find that whole internet Barbie thing disturbing. It’s not ironic enough. When they take it seriously, it’s disturbing. Fine if you want to play with the look, but living the Barbie thing is just too weird for me.”

Working on the June 2013 Chinese Vogue cover, starring Ji Hye Park and Sung Hee Kim, Lloyd finds the Chinese beauty ideals similarly weird. Beijing girls want to want to look as Western as they can, undergoing painful surgery for pronounced ‘Western-shaped’ eyelids and nose bridges, and bleaching their skin. “I find it so weird that Chinese girls don’t like how they look, that they would rather be blonde-haired and blue-eyed. I grew up in Vancouver, which has a huge Chinese population, so I’ve always admired Chinese beauties. Individuality is something to be celebrated.”

Lloyd is hopeful that the model pool will continue to widen as the industry responds to new booming economies, such as Asia. “With the strength of the Asian market, we’re bound to finally be more diverse. There are already many more Asian models in the industry. Unfortunately, though, there aren’t enough black girls, but with all these secondary markets like South America, and even Africa, the fashion world is going to have to open up.”

Lloyd says he doesn’t have a type, “apart from Christy Turlington, although she’s not really a make-up kind of girl”. He likes strong, self-aware beauty: “A strong woman, not an object.” One who would happily be a boy on Monday, a punk on Tuesday and a French girl on Wednesday, with a bit more curiosity. 

yslbeauty.co.uk