Like a breath of fresh air, legendary makeup artist Gucci Westman bottles her famous celebrity “skin” in Westman Atelier; a clean, curated, luxury beauty line. A powerful voice of reason in the beauty industry, GRAZIA talks to Westman about transparency, social media and how being true to yourself – and your skin – trumps all.
GRAZIA [CHRISANTHI]: You’ve said that everyone has a makeup line now. Why did you feel compelled to create a makeup range within this saturated climate, and what sets Westman Atelier apart?
GUCCI: I’ve always wanted to do my own line. I’ve always been really intrigued by ingredients and formulations. I was very involved with formulating when I was with Lancôme and that experience of being in the labs taught me so much. It is a saturated market for sure, but when I was doing research, I felt there was a void for something that was luxurious, but spoke to the efficacy, performance and the wellness. You know, the conscience kind of ingredients. It was like there is a distinct divide between natural and luxury and I wanted to marry the two. It’s something that really sets us apart. We chose active ingredients in efficacy levels instead of marketing levels, to target specific things, because I have rosacea and I wanted to try and improve this really frustrating condition.
GRAZIA: You maintain a relatively holistic lifestyle rooted in Eastern philosophies. How does this kind of holistic approach translate in the brand?
GUCCI: Growing up we lived in an Ashram. My parents always cooked everything; they made all the butter, the cheese, we didn’t have any sugar, white flour or processed foods. When we moved to Sweden, we had a massive vegetable and fruit garden and grew all of our vegetables. When I was a little girl, my mum always spoke of carcinogens and things like dyes and it always just stuck with me. So it’s kind of a natural progression that I do something that is reflective of that This is a lifestyle brand. 1000%. It’s a complete extension of me. I feel at one with this product.
GRAZIA: Transparency is a big part of your brand. Why do you think this is important in the beauty industry today?
GUCCI: It’s important to me, I wanted to be as transparent as I could. And I won’t ever back down until it’s as good as it can be. I live my life 80/20; sometimes I need to make a compromise for a better reason. I use as high amount of natural ingredients as I can, but sometimes I need to incorporate a synthetic ingredient, where it’s going to be more responsible and it’s going to be a better choice for the performance of the product.
GRAZIA: How does your famous “skin” translate in the brand?
GUCCI: I wanted to start with a complexion system because I’m most known for my “skin”; how I create this Jennifer Aniston, this Gwyneth Paltrow, this Gisele skin. It’s the kind of skin women relate to and like. There is something so appealing about skin that looks like skin and that’s what I wanted to create and teach women, that it’s actually really easy.
GRAZIA: Tell us a bit about the products and why they’re so special.
GUCCI: The products are super-fast, I wanted them to feel effortless, like how French girls look. For the foundation, for example, I chose active ingredients like dried Squalene that would work on soothing redness and inflammation. There are anti-aging benefits in the Squalene oil but I feel like we are allowed to age, it’s more about keeping your skin health in order. Anti-aging sounds really old fashioned to me, it’s a nice benefit, but I feel that idea needs to shift a bit.
GRAZIA: The foundation, blush, highlight and contour are all stick products? Why?
GUCCI: I learnt to do makeup using sticks when I went to makeup school in Paris. I feel like you just have more control, it’s less waste. You also can fluctuate between seasons better. I like that they all work as a family who support you and make your life easier and better.
GRAZIA: So how do we achieve that famous “Gucci skin”? What’s your trick?
GUCCI: I always use two shades when I do foundation because that helps maintain the integrity of the skin, instead of looking like a flat foundation and one-dimensional. I use the lighter shade under the eye and in the t-zone, and then the deeper shade around the perimeter, then I kind of dot them together. It’s very intuitive. We have so many tones in our skin and then remove them all with one colour. That’s what all these actresses love so much, they’re like, ‘Oh, it’s my skin! It just looks so much better.’ Westman Atelier is basically Jennifer’s [Aniston] skin, it should just be called ‘Jen’!
GRAZIA: Your ethos is about skin looking like skin. How does this fare in the context of social media, whereby there’s this kind of overblown, filter-heavy aesthetic. Is Westman Atelier reactionary to this?
GUCCI: That’s nice, I like that, it is a little reactionary. I have never quite understood the idea of having to change yourself completely for others approval. It’s one thing if you need to express yourself for your own affirmation, for your personal approval, I’m not at all judging that. But when you’re told, even inadvertently, that you need to change yourself – if it’s surgically, through injections, or through a complete face transformation – and that’s how you should go out in the world, I feel like that’s degrading and what message is that sending to our little girls? That they’re not good enough as who they are?
GRAZIA: Do you believe this whole phenomenon on Instagram is condoning and perpetuating this for a generation who’s going to think it’s the norm?
GUCCI: I’m the opposite of that, I find it’s really taking over too much. If you look at who started this whole concept, or took it to the next level, it’s like somehow we just accepted that; it was great, we should go with it. But we didn’t question it. We didn’t say, “Wow, this girl is 16-years-old and she’s changed her entire appearance,” and we have all celebrated it. It’s not okay. I think there needs to be some type of paring-back and I’m ready for a shift. Of course, we all want to feel better and sometimes need a little boost to the confidence, but I’ve never been a fan of transformation. I don’t want to be judgmental, but I don’t think it’s giving the right message. I think we are worth so much more than that.
GRAZIA: You’ve been doing makeup at fashion week for years now, long before social media. How do you think the role of beauty has changed backstage?
GUCCI: Gosh, I get this question all the time now, I think it’s because of my ballsy interview. [Westman told Business Of Fashion backstage beauty looks “really tired” and there was “not a lot of newness”] I just think everyone is trying to understand what it is that gets a reaction now. That’s the big goal. What can we do to make it more buzz worthy? Backstage, obviously there is amazing makeup and hair and the experience is incredible with so much collaboration and adrenaline involved. But capturing newness backstage is challenging because everybody is so competitive with what the story is now.
GRAZIA: With so much importance placed on social media, do you feel increased pressure as an artist to create the biggest and the best?
GUCCI: For sure. The conversation is there and I feel it. I have to be nimble when it comes to this and do my own version of what feels okay for me, because it’s not going away. But I do like the idea of having an interactive narrative, it’s really nice and it’s humbling.
GRAZIA: You openly share your experiences with beauty. Why do you think this is important?
GUCCI: I’ve always liked to share information. If I fancy something, I always like to share it, because I think it can’t be good unless it’s experienced by many people. If you keep it to yourself, what good is that? I remember years ago Orlando Pita said to me, “Why do you always tell people the best products, why don’t you do your own and stop selling other people’s?” I just think it’s so generous when people share their lovely experiences. If it’s something that makes you feel better…why not? It’s love that makes the world go around.
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Westman Atelier Vital Skin Foundation Stick, $103. SHOP NOW
Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick, $76. SHOP NOW