A woman stares into the camera, her pearly white teeth framed by a glossy rouge pout, applied within a millimeter of perfection – the quintessential lipstick campaign. Of course, there’s nothing stereotypical about Alessandro Michele’s Gucci. Ever since the house launched an Instagram account dedicated to beauty last fall, its first makeup collection has been eagerly anticipated. Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, and Gucci’s international guests are sitting in a New York restaurant, scrolling through Instagram. Suddenly, loud gasps can be heard and debates erupt from every corner of the room. Punk singer Dani Miller’s idiosyncratic gap-toothed smile, with its two missing incisor teeth, has just been revealed as the first campaign image. A hint of lipstick lingers on her two front teeth. To see a yellow-tinged smile that’s not cosmetically altered in a beauty campaign is surprising, with commenters quickly chiming in: “I’m sorry Gucci I know you’re all about inclusion and all but this smile is just not selling lipstick… it sells urgent dental care, instead,” writes size-inclusive model Camila Afane. Another commenter argues, “I’ve dealt with the insecurity and shame of my missing lateral incisors all of my life. There is something truly dehumanizing about feeling like you’re not allowed to smile or talk excitedly out of shame. This is beautiful.” The comment echoes the campaign tagline: For the bold, the bright, and the beautiful.
“Uniqueness is being celebrated more than ever,” says Thomas de Kluyver, Gucci’s newly appointed global makeup artist. He is dressed head to toe in the brand, complete with fluorescent yellow trainers that instantly brighten up the room. “The things that make us different are being perceived as beautiful.” De Kluyver and Michele’s first collaborative looks were spotted at Gucci’s FW19 show, where models walked down the runway decorated with silicon tears and piercing colored contact lenses. Their foundation-free skin left spots and other imperfections undisguised. It was a celebration of normalcy, if you will.
Originally published in the June 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia
“I love the idea of makeup as a form of self-expression and something that can show your identity, rather than something you use to cover up. I feel it’s the same for Alessandro,” says De Kluyver. This new lipstick collection and the way it is designed to be worn showcase this sensibility. The first chapter begins with a collection of 58 lipsticks. For Michele, “Lipstick is the most beautiful object you can find inside a handbag.” Inspired by the screen sirens of Old Hollywood, the creative director adds, “I thought back to the lipsticks in my life when I was little; my mom’s lipstick. She was always inspired by the 50s. I wanted to give it the most powerful meaning, that of the Hollywood divas and the mythology of cinema, which first put lips under the spotlight.” The lipsticks are named after these stars of the silver screen: Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Bette Davis. Michele’s favorite, 25* Goldie Red, is named for the 1931 movie, as well as the creative director’s lucky number. “It’s a classic red,” states De Kluyver.
The lip colors come in three formulations: the satin finish Rouge à Lèvres Satin, the sheer Rouge à Lèvres Voile, and Baume à Lèvres, a trio of lip balms with a translucent finish. The first forms the bulk of the collection, with 36 shades. “The color payoff is amazing,” De Kluyver says. “We have the highest concentration of high-quality pigment you can get in that texture of lipstick. They are longer-lasting due to the texture.” Rouge à Lèvres Satin glides onto the lips with ease, with a rich color payoff, while Rouge à Lèvres Voile and Baume à Lèvres offer buildable color. Each color wears in its own way, showcasing a unique look and embracing imperfections.
The casings are as luxurious. The tubes are housed in metal bullets inspired by vintage makeup, much like Gucci’s The Alchemist’s Garden fragrance collection, which features apothecary-style bottles. Each of these objects of desire has been decorated with house motifs and vintage sensibilities, with the three variations all having a distinct style. Rouge à Lèvres Satin, encased in a golden tube, features an art deco-inspired motif drawn by Michele. Rouge à Lèvres Voile features a pink rosebud print, reminiscent of vintage wallpaper. Lastly, Baume à Lèvres is housed in a striking turquoise tube – which used to be the color of choice for girls, before pink became the symbol of femininity after the second world war. Each lipstick is also scented with a powdery violet fragrance, evocative of old-fashioned sweet shops.
The collection has been formulated to be used on cheeks as well. “I use my finger to warm up the lipstick; heat it up a little bit. And then I just tap it on,” shares De Kluyver. “I love using the Voiles – they are slightly glossy and give this really nice shine.” Nine of the formulations can also be used on the eyes. “We’ve been doing it for years,” De Kluyver says of this technique, rarely advertised by other makeup brands. “Alessandro is so open to pushing beauty in an interesting direction.”
Gucci takes its commitment to showcasing diversity a step further than just campaign images. This is not just about breaking from uniformity – it’s about starting a new conversation centered on industry beauty ideals. Michele says, “Makeup is something poetic and fleeting that you can add to your face, changing or highlighting something about yourself.” For many, this would mean underscoring what society perceives as their best feature. For Michele and the rest of the Gucci squad, this translates to looking at what sets you apart from the norm.