If you don’t already know Thomas de Kluyver by name (or from the feature in Allure ’s May 2018 issue ), you undoubtedly know his work. Not only does he create some of the most innovative and colorful looks seen on Instagram and the pages of glossy magazines, but the young makeup artist is also dominating the beauty scene backstage at some of the biggest runway shows on the planet (Jason Wu, Sies Marjan, Jil Sander, Kenzo, and Opening Ceremony are just the tip of the iceberg). Never formally trained and entirely self-taught, De Kluyver has experienced meteoric success since his days manning the door at London nightclubs in high-heeled boots and full-throttle looks that even caused one of the world’s most seasoned face painters to take pause (more on that later). Loads of makeup.
Originally hailing from Perth, Australia, De Kluyver grew up behind the scenes. His mother, a theater director, was never big on makeup herself, but she exposed her son to the arts at the tender age of four when he scored a voiceover role in one of her productions. It was around the same age that he stumbled upon a tube of red lipstick and discovered its transformative powers for the very first time. It wouldn’t be until his early teenage years, however, that De Kluyver truly “fell in love with makeup and saw how it could be used in a powerful way.” Inspired by ’90s icons like Courtney Love, PJ Harvey, and Shirley Manson, as well as artists outside of his generation such as Annie Lennox, the pro credits these dynamic female role models with shaping his entire approach. “They never used makeup to cover up,” he explained. “They used it to give them strength and empower themselves.”
Another woman key to shaping his perspective was Rebecca Williams, the founder of Becca Cosmetics. A friend of his mother, Williams gave De Kluyver Stéphane Marais’ Beauty Flash book after he spent time interning at the Becca office in high school. Filled with Polaroids snapped by the famous makeup guru, the budding artist recreated Marais’ many looks on his friends. He also practiced on his own face using François Nars’ manual, Makeup Your Mind , as his guide. His first “proper job,” however, was at the M.A.C. counter at age 17. “At the time, I was going out clubbing [in Perth, Australia] and I was doing painterly, colorful makeup on all my friends,” said De Kluyver. “I met this dude who worked there, and he told me to come work at M.A.C.” The rest, as they say, is history. Here, the pro explains how he parlayed his club kid days into a full-blown career and the lessons he learned along the way.
“When I was young, I used to do my own makeup, especially when I first moved to London [at age 21]. There was a night at a club called Boombox that was insane. You had to wear loads of makeup and dress in completely wild outfits to get in, which is how I developed my own style. Working at the M.A.C. counter was great, but you’re just doing classic makeup every day. I also manned the door at a club called Collapsing New People and I started getting booked for shoots [at Dazed and i-D ] because people thought my makeup was really cool. I even met Pat McGrath there once. She came up to me with Edward Enninful and said, ‘Oh my god, your makeup is amazing!’”
“I’ve always worked with my friends. Even a lot of the people I work with now, I know because I went clubbing with them in my 20s!” said De Kluyver of fashion industry stars like Robbie Spencer (creative director at Dazed ) and Lotta Volkova (the stylist behind Vetements and Balenciaga). “Now, I get to work with people like [stylists] Jane How and Marie Chaix who I looked up to and were real heroes for me. But I think things really started to change for me when I started directing my own shoots. About three years ago, Robbie went out on a limb and put me forward for this YSL special for Dazed . People really loved that shoot, and from there I was asked to do more of my own shoots for other magazines, photographers started requesting me, and big agencies like Art Partner wanted to represent me.” As for the “dude” that suggested he clock some hours at the M.A.C. counter in Australia? “We’re still in touch and he’s still a good friend of mine,” said De Kluyver. “He’s one of the most amazing drag queens I know and does the most incredible makeup…He just messaged me and next season he’s coming to work with me backstage on some shows. Also, Carol Mackie who was my manager and gave me my first job at M.A.C., is someone I still work with on all of my M.A.C. shows.”
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“I think it’s really important to do something different from everyone else. There are so many makeup artists out there these days that you’ve really got to set yourself apart from the pack. Try to do something that’s your unique vision. You can’t try to be someone else. You can’t think, ‘Oh, that’s cool at the moment, I’m going to do that.’ You’ve got to do makeup that you absolutely love and put what inspires you into your work. It will be brilliant because it’s 100 percent you.”
Lesson #4: Stock your makeup bag with no-fail staples.
“When I work, I often do ten different eye makeups. I take them off and put them back on again,” said De Kluyver. For this reason, he keeps a bottle of Bioderma Sensibio H2O close by at all times. “It never leaves any residue on the skin, so you can dry it off and keep going,” he added. His other must-haves: Chanel Le Crayon Khôl Intense Eye Pencil in Noir (“I do so many fine lines on the face that I go through at least one a week,” he said); Weleda Skin Food (“It’s organic and really rich, so I mix it with foundation to create a tinted balm for skin,” he said); YSL Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick in 203 (“It’s a really good red and the texture isn’t too glossy or too matte,” he said); M.A.C. Lipstick in Lady Danger (“This orange-y red looks good on everyone,” he said); and Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer (“If you’ve got a little spot it’s amazing — you can even cover tattoos with this stuff,” he said).
Lesson #5: Never leave home without plenty of inspo.
“I have ten sketchbooks full of new makeup ideas and I travel with at least nine or ten reference books at the moment…You can explain a look on set or at a show, but everyone thinks about it in a different way. It’s nice to be able to show people a visual,” said De Kluyver. “I find I can sit on a plane and sketch for three or four hours. I get into a nice zone.” Two of the tomes he’s currently hauling from place to place: Jouko Lehtola’s Finlandia and Stéphane Marais’ Beauty Flash (the book that inspired him during the early aughts).
Lesson #6: Get crafty with unorthodox materials.
After using his fingertips to smear a rainbow of eyeshadow across models’ lids at Opening Ceremony’s spring 2018 show in Disneyland, De Kluyver made a last-minute addition that took the runway look to the next level. “I have a lot of glitter in my kit, but I sent my assistant to Target to find a specific color and she came back with a mega party craft glitter set. It was amazing! I’m still using a lot of the colors because they are so good,” he said. “I applied lip balm to lids and pressed the glitter over top.” Another of De Kluyver’s favorite looks of all time involved sapphire-colored “love hearts” for a Document Journal editorial. “A lot of my work is inspired by youth subculture, so I’m constantly looking at what kids are wearing,” he said. “I used stick-on gems. They weren’t Swarovski or anything posh. They were literally cheap gems you buy at a Halloween shop. The more expensive ones looked too good.”
Lesson #7: Use makeup to express yourself instead of masking “flaws.”
“What I think was so nice about all the bold color the Spring 2018 season was that it felt really wearable. I think smearing a green or blue across your eyes is such a nice way to brighten up if you’re wearing black or a neutral outfit,” said De Kluyver of the graphic looks he created for the catwalk. As for how you pull it off IRL: “It’s about being free and picking colors you love. More than ever, I think women feel that they need to hide behind a mask of makeup or whatever society expects of them. You should enjoy makeup and have a good time with it. You can always take it off. That was definitely the spirit I was going for this season — it’s about individualism and expressing yourself.”
Speaking of makeup artists, check out Mario Dedivanovic talk us through some of the most iconic looks he's created for his client, Kim Kardashian: