‘It was this extreme version of perfection.’

Thomas de Kluyver on Alessandro and Gucci Beauty, and the importance of always challenging your vision.

By Dominic Cadogan
Photographs by Carlijn Jacobs
Styling by Katie Burnett
Make-up by Thomas de Kluyver
Hair by Olivier Schawalder

Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine

Thomas de Kluyver on Alessandro and Gucci Beauty, and the importance of always challenging your vision.

Growing up in Perth, Australia, in the 1990s, a young Thomas de Kluyver was figuring out his place in the world. He decided to lean into his natural creativity, which he attributes to his mother, an artist and theatre director. Poring over issues of Dazed and i-D – six months old by the time they reached his local newsagent from Europe – he would copy the make-up from Alexander McQueen shows, experimenting on himself and his friends. ‘That’s how I taught myself to do make-up,’ he says. ‘There was no option to go to beauty school because it just wasn’t there and you couldn’t go on YouTube like you can today.’

After moving to London aged 17, the fledgling make-up artist quickly connected with burgeoning creatives including photographer Harley Weir and stylists Lotta Volkova and Robbie Spencer, further developing his aesthetic, while living with a pair of drag queens. ‘Those girls really know how to paint,’ he jokes.

Today, de Kluyver is one of fashion’s leading make-up artists, regularly contributing to the same publications he dutifully studied as a teenager, as well as brands including KNWLS, Simone Rocha, and Gucci, the last of which he joined as global make-up artist in 2019.

In de Kluyver’s world – which is equal parts childlike naivety and refined glamour – crystal, pearl and rhinestone adornments are used in place of eyeliner; skin shimmers with a pearlescent glow; and glitter is heaped on in excess. And he continues to go bigger and bolder: he recently imagined individual make-up looks for 68 sets of twins at Gucci’s Spring/Summer 2023 show.

‘I still feel like the same person,’ he says, reflecting on his career to date. ‘But the other day I was recently at a Gucci Beauty event in Selfridges, where I had my first job in London, working on the make-up counter. There was a big screen at the Gucci counter playing a video of me working, and it felt like a nice full-­circle moment.’ System beauty spoke to de Kluyver about his ongoing collaboration with Gucci Beauty, using make-up as a tool for self-expression, and how he continues to grow as an artist.

Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Juwon wears a dress by Jean Paul Gaultier Couture. Make-up: Gucci Beauty 06 Warm Berry Blush De Beauté., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears Lucite bangles on breasts by Marion Godart, bangles on arms and feet by Marion Godart and Lorette Colé Duprat, nipple concealers by Commando.
Make-up: Gucci Beauty 01 Noir and 02 Anthracite Stylo Contour des Yeux, 05 Poudre De Beauté Éclat Soleil, and 714 Jody Wild Mauve Rouge de Beauté Brilliant., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears vintage gold tourbillon rings by Balenciaga at Pyrn Archives, stylist’s own head and neck piece, nipple covers, and metal coils.
Make-up: Gucci Beauty Éclat De Beauté Effet Lumière and Baume Nourrissant Universel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Juwon wears stylist’s pink sheer jumpsuit. Make-up: Gucci Beauty 06 Warm Berry Blush De Beauté., System Magazine

Dominic Cadogan: You have such a clear signature style. What informs your aesthetic?

Thomas de Kluyver: I worked really hard to create my own style of make-up, but I got a better understanding of make-up as a whole when I looked at it in a more personal way. So a lot of my work looks at gender, self-expression and identity. I’m inspired by people and who they are, rather than taking references, and I do what I love on people’s faces – that’s when it became its own thing. Once I crossed that boundary, I realized there were so many possibilities with make-up. This was at a time when there was a lot of contouring and everyone wanted to look like the Kardashians. It was all hyper-retouched and ‘fake’, which I wasn’t into, so my make-up was a big ‘fuck you’ to that.

Using make-up as a tool for self-expression is a concept that we see more commonly in beauty today than when you started out as a make-up artist. What does it mean to you?

Thomas de Kluyver: I love the idea of make-up being about people’s own identity and then being worn like a fashion accessory. It’s so nice when it’s honest and instead of trying to cover your face or hide from the world, you’re trying to express yourself and who you are. Make-up should be personal, rather than the prescribed ideas of what it should look like.

Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears stylist’s own headpiece, blow-up suits, gloves and socks. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Brume de Beauté and Baume Nourrissant Universel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears stylist’s own headpiece, blow-up suits, gloves and socks. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Brume de Beauté and Baume Nourrissant Universel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears stylist’s own headpiece, blow-up suits, gloves and socks. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Brume de Beauté and Baume Nourrissant Universel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christie wears stylist’s own headpiece, blow-up suits, gloves and socks. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Brume de Beauté and Baume Nourrissant Universel., System Magazine

You’ve been working as Gucci Beauty global make-up artist since 2019. How do you collaborate with Alessandro Michele?

Thomas de Kluyver: A lot of designers might know the feeling they want, but they don’t necessarily understand the physicality of products or which colours to put together. Alessandro loves beauty and he really understands make-up and hair. His attention to detail is so fascinating to me. He will say, ‘I’d like sheer purple gloss on top of the orange lipstick’, and it’s something I would have never thought of but it works. It’s lovely to work with people who really push you and make your work better or make you think of things in a new way.

How does your personal definition of beauty align with the ethos of Gucci Beauty?

Thomas de Kluyver: It’s a really nice fit working with Gucci. We really try to create products that aren’t just for one specific group of people or to be used in one specific way – everything is multi-use. A lot of the lipsticks you can also use on your eyes and cheeks; the mascara can be made thick or worn more naturally. These are things we do every day as make-up artists and it’s really nice to bring that to the consumer. When we started, beauty in that way was unheard of, especially on the scale of a large fashion house. Even the first campaign [in 2019], which was the first shoot I worked on for the brand, the lipstick wasn’t perfect, and that was a really powerful message.

‘I love the idea of make-up being about people’s own identity and then being worn like a fashion accessory. Make-up should be personal, rather than the prescribed ideas of what it should look like.’

Thomas de Kluyver

Beyond Gucci Beauty, which projects you’ve worked on make you proudest?

Thomas de Kluyver: My book, All I Want To Be, with IDEA Books felt like a real moment at the time and it allowed me to give myself more of a voice to showcase my specific idea of beauty. The projects I’ve done with Harley Weir over the years have also been really special.

How do you continue to hone your craft at this point in your career?

Thomas de Kluyver: I’m a bit of a magpie, every season I always try to find something new – new techniques, different ways of doing things, or reworking old ideas in new ways. Some things are more successful than others, but it’s really important to keep challenging yourself and staying connected to what’s happening right now as an artist. After working in beauty for over a decade, it’s nice to feel like the voice I had and what I’ve been doing on a small scale in fashion has trickled down into the mainstream. I still feel really proud of the work that I did when I started and also of the work that I do now; it feels honest and that’s important.

Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christina wears stylist’s own zipper thong. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Beauté Des Yeux Gorgeous Flora, 03 Chocolat Stylo Contour des Yeux, Mascara L’Obscur,
208 They Met In Argentina Rouge de Beauté Brillant Flora, and 120N Fluide De Beauté Fini Naturel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Vintage acrylic shoes by Yohji Yamamoto at 20Age Archive., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christina. Make-up: Gucci Beauty Mascara L’Obscur and 208 They Met In Argentina Rouge à Lèvres Mat., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Christina. Make-up: Gucci Beauty 120N Fluide De Beauté Fini Naturel., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © Eline wears dress by Loewe. Make-up: Gucci Beauty 05 Gris Stylo À Sourcils Waterproof, 01 Fresh Rose Blush De Beauté, and 114 Grace Cinnamon Rouge à Lèvres Liquide Mat., System Magazine
Thomas de Kluyver. - © System Magazine

Looking ahead, what does the future of make-up look like to you?

Thomas de Kluyver: When I started, it was this extreme version of perfection and then things moved towards imperfection. Now, I’ve noticed things becoming more perfect again, but in a new way, so maybe we’ll see it pushed back towards imperfection again. Instagram and the internet have given people access to so much inspiration and there’s been a huge surge in creativity within beauty, so I’m excited to see more of that and what the new generation has in store for us.

Taken from System beauty No. 1 – purchase the full issue here.

Casting: Julia Lange at Artistry Production. Production: Cinq Étoiles. Set design: Sophear at Art & Commerce.