This Make-Up Artist’s Book Shows Beauty as You’ve Never Seen It Before

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All I Want to Be Thomas de Kluyver book Harley Weir IDEA
All I Want to Be by Thomas de KluyverPhotography by Harley Weir. Courtesy of IDEA

Peek inside Thomas de Kluyver’s first book, All I Want to Be, launching today at Dover Street Market

World-renowned make-up artist Thomas de Kluyver is completely self-taught. His style of application throws caution to the wind, with a freehand, textural approach that jumps out from the pages of magazines. Such publications include Vogue Italia and Dazed, where he’s contributing beauty editor, and De Kluyver’s work has also graced the runways of Simone Rocha, ASAI, and Gucci, where he was just announced as the brand’s first global make-up ambassador.

De Kluyver’s love affair with make-up began in Perth, Australia, where he grew up. As a teenager in the early 2000s, he would daub friends with brightly coloured paint before they headed out to raves. “It was quite similar to a lot of make-up I do these days!” he laughs over the phone. However, it was when he was gifted the book Beauty Flash by the legendary Stèphane Marais, that De Kluyver realised make-up artistry was his calling. “The book contained all these old Polaroid pictures from backstage at shows,” he says. “I would recreate these looks on my girlfriends at school – that was how I learned.” 

Now, at a pivotal stage of his career, De Kluyver is set to release his own book. Titled All I Want to Be and published by our friends at IDEA, it focuses on his experimental aesthetic, and celebrates imperfection and character diversity. Here, he talks through the process of assembling the book, working with some of his closest friends – from Harley Weir to Zoë Ghertner – and explains that when it comes to a realising a creative vision, staying on your own path always pays off in the end. 

“I have a very specific style of make-up and I’m always trying to push the idea of using make-up as a form of self-expression. I felt that this was the right time to capture this sentiment in a different context than in a magazine, because with magazine work there are always limitations. You have to hit a certain number of pages, and you have to be sensitive towards the voice of the magazine. So the idea of doing a book of my own work allowed me to totally experiment.

“All I Want to Be started out as something very small. I did a shoot on the back of another shoot with Zoë [Ghertner], and we thought maybe we could make a little zine out of it. And then I did this huge project with Harley [Weir] in Japan, and we ended up making so much more work than we ever anticipated. So I thought, ‘you know what? I’m going to produce a book!’ It’s a book that aims to break down prescribed ideas of beauty and gender, vanity and identity. I want to inspire people to use make-up as a tool to express how you feel on the inside – not just a mask that you hide behind.”

“The whole project was very personal to me. I collaborated with six different photographers and artists – all who are friends of mine. Alongside Zoë and Harley, I worked with Sharna Osborne, Oliver Hadlee PearchFumiko Imano and Lea Columbo. There’s styling from Fran Burns and Haley Wollens too, and a poem that opens the book by Wilson Oryema. IDEA came on board as the book’s publishers and Ben Kelway designed and art-directed, which has been amazing. Ben’s input was invaluable and the way he laid out some of the stories gave them a new life. The glittery make-up look on the cover is printed on holographic paper – the book is a beautiful object in itself.

“I meticulously went through my archive when putting together All I Want to Be. I had to make sure I didn’t repeat myself, but also I felt like I needed revisit certain looks and shoots from the beginning of my career to now and I really wanted to own my style of make-up within the book. We shot so many different people – it was a very diverse cast which reflects what I do: from supermodels, like Saskia de Brauw, to porn actresses, to skater boys and teenagers. Because it’s such an interesting group of people, it really does examine beauty from many different perspectives.”

“If I could impart any advice to those who are starting out in their careers, it would be: ‘never divert from what matters to you. Never compromise your work.’ I’m always pushing my work forward, trying do something new every season, in line with what I think is beautiful. And then huge things will happen naturally. For example, now I’m working with Alessandro [Michele] at Gucci, as the brand’s global make-up artist. I think people can tell when what you do is authentic, and Alessandro really responded to that. I’m driven and ambitious, but I never sought fame or to make the most money – I just wanted to create beautiful work and still do.

“I also have to mention the wonderful team of people I have around me. I would have never been able to make this project happen without my assistants who help me everyday – researching, testing out looks in the studio. Producing the book has been quite a gruelling experience and I didn’t really anticipate just how much work it would be. But it’s also one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’m so proud of the result.”

All I Want to Be is available to buy at Dover Street Market London, published by IDEA. A share of the proceeds will be donated Mermaids UK.