Gucci Westman gives us the lowdown on her career as one of the industry’s best makeup artists
By Iantha Yu
Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / March 13 2019
Plus, we find out more about the makeup extraordinaire’s very own beauty brand
By Iantha Yu
Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / March 13 2019
When it comes to talent like Gucci Westman, the title ‘makeup artist’ simply doesn’t cut it. She has a track record of being a beauty trendsetter and a true icon in the makeup industry. With roles such as Lancôme’s International Artistic Director and Revlon's Global Artistic Director on her resume, a portfolio full of makeup cover looks for Vogue, Vanity Fair and W magazine (to name a few), and as the makeup artist of choice for a slew of A-list celebrities such as Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Aniston, there’s not much that Westman hasn’t achieved in her career.
Now, the makeup mogul has turned her attention to creating her very own makeup line, Westman Atelier, which has just landed in Mecca stores. The launch of her brand was certainly no after-thought for the artist. In fact, it took four years to develop and includes a tightly-curated set of just nine products that are all base-related and boast added skin care benefits. The foundation, bronzer and blush sticks, highlighting and bronzer compacts, and face brushes all echo her attitude towards makeup: that it should never look like a mask, but rather it should bring out your natural features. The saying “your skin, but better” may seem cliché, but it really is the perfect way to sum up these products.
Here, Westman chats to us in an exclusive interview where she shares stories from her upbringing and career, along with more details on her Westman Atelier makeup brand .
On how she got started as a makeup artist…
“The early, early days, my mum never let me wear makeup when I was younger, until I was way older, which I thought was a little aggressive. Of course, it caused me to rebel and made me want to wear it more than anything. I started doing all of the girls’ makeup on the bus to school and I just became super into the idea of making women and girls feel good and more confident by just doing their makeup. You know that feeling? It’s almost like when you just buy someone the perfect Christmas present and they’re so happy.
Then I was an au pair for a family in Switzerland – in the French-speaking region in Neuchâtel – the woman was a fashion journalist and so she would bring me to fashion shows and that was obviously very impactful. I was just blown away by that, and then a few years after I was an au pair, I had talked to her about maybe wanting to do makeup and she suggested I should go to makeup school.
We found a French makeup school because I didn’t want to waste my time; if I’m not that good at it at least I will have kept up my French. So, I ended up going to that school.
I then moved to LA where I thought I was only going to be there for three months… I ended up staying for five years. I went to a bad makeup school there called Joe Blasko, it was terrible. Then I started to meet some people that became very important in my career, with Spike Jonze being one of them. I ended up doing all of his commercials and videos for many years and then I did ‘Being John Malkovich’ and another movie before that called ‘Buffalo 66’.”
On the moment that shaped her career…
“Somewhere around that time I decided that I wanted to try fashion and so I moved to New York because I decided I didn’t only want to work with actresses – I wanted to be more creative. I thought ‘I have nothing to lose, let’s just do it!’ So, I moved and I met lots of different editors, and the one that really changed the game for me was Grace Coddington, who really brought me under her wing. I worked with everybody who was on my dream list with her for many, many years. She really gave me my whole career. [After some shoots together] she said to me, ‘I just have to tell you, I haven’t seen talent like that since I discovered Pat McGrath.’ I was really blown away and obviously so happy. She went back to New York and she told all of the editors about me and then I just was so busy, I cannot even tell you. I was always working, always working, always.
For a long time I had every story and every cover of Vogue. I remember once, my best friend Ashley and I used to take these vacations in Europe, and one year I remember us going to Italy and the South of France, we were at the airport and I remember looking at French Vogue, Italian Vogue, American Vogue, British Vogue, W and Vanity Fair and I had done all of the covers in one month. That’s crazy.”
On her career highlight…
I’m so grateful for having had all of the experiences that brought me to this place [of launching my own brand]. I had a tremendous editorial career, I still do shoots but I’m nowhere near as busy as I used to be and it’s changed so much, the industry. I still work with several actresses like that but I’m happy that I have something that’s my own.
I love products, I love making women feel confident. I had so much experience working with product development working with Lancôme and working directly with the chemist and understanding how pivotal it is to work with the chemist as opposed to having someone else relay your messages to them. It’s like a game-changer when you work directly with them and so I insist always on doing that [for my own brand] and being very hands on.
Working with a prestige brand like Lancôme and then working with Revlon was also really beneficial for me in terms of having a global understanding of what products work in certain countries and regions. I’ve gained a lot from those experiences and they were vastly different but so great. I’ve always been interested in ingredients and products and my parents were sort of very strict when I was younger and they caused me to question everything ingredient-wise because we always ate very clean [growing up]. We cooked everything, we made our own cheese, we made our own butter, and we didn’t have any sugar or processed foods, really, growing up.
Even though I rebelled for a while growing up, I would take my lunch money and buy candy because I wasn’t allowed candy. And I did makeup because I wasn’t allowed it. It makes sense now, where I am, that I should be relentless and demanding when it comes to the best ingredients I can possibly incorporate, the highest amount of natural ingredients. But I can’t compromise on the performance because as a makeup artist I’ve been exposed to all of the best formulations.”
On why she launched her brand with a range of base products…
“I guess over the years every journalist I ever talked to was like ‘you’re known for this beautiful skin you create on Jennifer Aniston, Julianne Moore and Cameron Diaz’ and so I thought I should really harness that. I do foundation with two to three shades because I like to maintain the integrity of the skin as opposed to masking it and making it look flat or non-dimensional.
The Vital Skin Foundation Stick is very easy to use, both as a concealer and foundation. I wanted it to be intuitive and make your lives easier; we’re all so busy, we don’t have time to be fussing with tons of stuff. I wanted it to not have silicones because I wanted to be able to incorporate skin care benefits [in it]. I have rosacea and a lot of inflammation and redness so I wanted to incorporate these active ingredients that have functioning doses as opposed to marketing [doses]. They wouldn’t be able to do anything if there was a big barrier of silicone.
Also, I have to wear foundation every day and I’m sensitive and I wanted something that would be soothing and calming and healing as opposed to just covering. What’s the point of that? Every other brand can do that. There’s no need for another brand – that sets us apart I think, because we can speak to specific skin care benefits and they’re not at fake levels, they’re at real levels. Whereas, it’s not a solution but it helps with the overall health of your skin and I would say improves the quality of your skin, which is really nice for me and I feel like if I have to wear it every day, I want it to feel nice and I want to know what’s in it. I try to be as clean as I can be and transparent about this journey because it’s an evolving space, the clean world, and I’m happy that we’re in it and we’re well on our way as opposed to trying to do it as an afterthought because that’s tougher.”
On why her brushes are so special...
“The brushes are handmade in Japan by the oldest brush maker in the world, sustainably made with birchwood, and I wanted the handle to be shorter, closer to your face, so you’d have more control. The hairs are ivory [in colour] so you know when you have to wash your brushes because sometimes women wait forever to wash their brushes.”
On whether we’ll see more products added to her range…
“I really consider it to be a lifestyle brand, so it’s more like what do I really need? I don’t see the need to have 50 foundation shades ever – you don’t need too much – I don’t want to become a battleship full of products. I want to be curated and tight and your makeup wardrobe really; like, you add to it, there are really nice choices but not overwhelming amounts of decisions to be made so you can have if you want, a matte bronzey finish with the plant butter bronzer, or if you want an ethereal rosy finish, or if you want a luminous bronzer – there’s a lot of options.”
On whether she prefers contouring or highlighting…
“Ooh that’s a tough one, I mean, can I say both? No? I like them both together but I would probably opt for contouring if I had to choose one because then I can use it on my eyes and my nose.”
On whether she prefers lipstick or lip gloss…
“Lipstick because gloss you get sick of quickly and it’s so goopy and messy. I just think with lipstick you can really make a statement.”
On whether she prefers liquid or pencil liner…
“Very different again. Pencil for me because I like the ease and I feel like liquid is fussy and messy and it’s much harder to do on yourself.”
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