thomas de kluyver's makeup looks are based in feminine power
Known best for his celebration of the raw and the real, Thomas de Kluyver is the Australian-born makeup artist turning the fashion industry on its head.
On this year’s Business of Fashion 500, a ranking of people shaping the global fashion industry, there were just eight Australians listed. Six of those names had been featured before, with only two newcomers making their debut. Perth-raised makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver was one of those people (the other was Troye Sivan, another Perth-raised superstar).
In the past year alone, Thomas has collaborated with fashion heavy-hitters like Jil Sander, Opening Ceremony, Sies Marjan and Acne Studios; as well as most of our favourite style titles. Following recent collaborative efforts with the likes of Harley Weir, Johnny Dufort, Mert and Marcus, and Collier Schorr; it comes as no surprise that Thomas is now being recognised by his industry.
Through his unwavering appreciation of female leaders, ranging from singers to scientists, Thomas has been able to cultivate a refreshing approach to beauty. His world lends itself to the women who inspire him (think Siouxsie Sioux, Kim Gordon and Viv Albertine), blending their aesthetics with his own to create something new. On the heels of a busy fashion month, we caught up with Thomas to discuss all things beauty, and how he went from a department store makeup counter to one of fashion’s most in demand artists.
Can you tell us what it was like growing up in Perth?
It’s pretty isolated, but in a weird way I think that really helps breed a certain kind of creativity. You have to work so much harder to find inspiration, but also all the creative people find each other pretty quickly. When I was a teenager, it was pre-social media, so my only connections to the fashion industry were magazines and books. We used to get magazines like i-D about six months after they were out in Europe, and they were very expensive, so a copy was like gold. I was obsessed though — it was like a vortex into a different world that I knew I wanted to part of.
What were your interests as a kid growing up in Australia, and how did they lead you to where you are now?
As I teenager I was pretty obsessed with live music and going out. I started doing my friends' makeup before we went to raves or clubs and met this guy who worked at the MAC counter. He suggested I apply for a job and that’s kind of where it all started.
At what point did you realise that being a makeup artist wasn’t just something you could do, but that you were in fact good at?
I started working at the MAC counter in Myer when I was 17. I just thought it seemed like a cool place to work. They played really loud music and had great people working there, so it seemed like the dream job for me at the time. When I was 20 I moved to London and that was when I decided to take things more seriously. That’s when I started getting booked for magazine shoots.
Which makeup artists did you admire growing up?
I think Inge Grognard really paved the way for the new style of makeup. For me, she was the first person to do something outside of the constraints of classic makeup. I also loved and still hugely admire the work of Stephane Marais, Francois Nars and Peter Phillips. I remember as a teenager recreating that famous lace face Peter did in i-D on my friend before going out clubbing.
What about inspirations outside of makeup artists?
I’m inspired by lots of things and it constantly changes. I’ll be super into something and then once I’m over it, it’s gone. My current obsessions are Isabella Rossellini in the 80s, David Lynch films, and also early 2000s makeup. I have a notebook that I always carry with me that I write and sketch all my makeup ideas in. For me it’s so important to retain the beauty in any of my looks, whether it be minimal or something more extreme.
It’s hard to miss references to punk and feminist iconography in the characters you create. Are there any favourites that come to mind?
Oh wow, there are so many. Siousxie, Viv Albertine, Kim Gordon… I’ve always been drawn to female rock musicians and the way that they use makeup to give themselves strength and create these powerful onstage personas. I used to have posters of PJ Harvey, Courtney Love and Shirley Manson on the inside of my locker at high school.
When you’re working, how do you mix a character you have in mind with the subject you’re working on?
I’ll study every face very closely before a shoot and then I try and think what looks might work best. I always like to play up interesting features on people’s faces or use specific colours that I think will compliment them in an unusual way. Before I start the makeup, I always like to do quite a strong facial massage which really allows you to feel the bone structure and understand what look will work best on them.
How would you define beauty?
What I try and do with my makeup looks is to create these strong feminine characters. I want people to feel like they don’t have to hide behind a mask of makeup and to feel inspired to use makeup as a way to be creative and expressive.
You’ve had a hugely busy year so far, what should we watch out for next?
I’ve been working on some personal work that I’ll be releasing as my first beauty fanzine early next year.