May 11, 2019 By King
If a fashion house’s beauty manifesto is writ large on its runways, Alessandro Michele has seemingly planted Gucci in the uncanny valley. Silicon tears glisten on the cheeks of blank-faced models. Lime-green contacts give off a reptilian glow. Carrot-top mullets imagine a Bowie cameo in The Fifth Element. And that’s just the Fall 2019 show. Since the creative director’s surprise appointment in 2015—Michele designed his debut men’s collection, replete with pussy-bow blouses and fur-trimmed mules, in an abracadabra five days—his magpie world has sparked a collective fever dream. (It has also doubled the brand’s revenue in four years, with 2017 bringing in a reported $7.1 billion.) When whispers of a Gucci makeup revival started swirling, the mind reeled with far-flung possibility. What kind of eye shadow goes with a poet-haired man wearing gilded ear cuffs?
All of that might make the first run of products—a 58-piece lipstick lineup, which dropped to breathless fanfare this weekend—seem rather tame at first glance. “This is not your grandmother’s _______” is the cliché description for anything that disrupts a given category, and yet these dainty, postwar-style tubes could have been fished out of her beaded evening bag. The creamy formulas (there are three: richly pigmented Satin, sheer Voile, and tinted Baume) carry a whiff of powdery violet, like the candy-store pastilles. Even the shade names pay homage to Hollywood legends, including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Jean Harlow, whose title role in 1931’s Goldie (together with Michele’s lucky number) inspired the line’s signature color, 25 Goldie Red.
But for Michele, the brand’s cinematic nostalgia is rooted in the present. “It’s not easy to live now,” the newly installed designer told Vogue in 2015. “I think we need to dream. So I wanted to present an idea of something romantic, in dream time—like in a movie.” He’s doing exactly that with the lipstick rollout, starting with a pop-surrealist campaign video playing out across pocket-size screens. Only here, the leading lady—Surfbort frontwoman Dani Miller, joined by a trio of models—wears a black mullet, devilish cat eyes, and the kind of smile that makes an eager orthodontist swoon.
“You’ve got the best teeth in the world!” makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver raved on Friday morning in New York, as he swiped Goldie Red across Miller’s lips. Her one-of-a-kind mouth—with gaps you could seemingly drive a chopstick through—gets a delicious closeup in one campaign image, alongside the tagline, “For the bold, the bright and the beautiful.” Stretching those beauty norms is a big part of Gucci’s mission, which makes de Kluyver such a coup as the newly named global makeup artist. (Those silicon tears and colored contacts on the runway in February were a preview of his offbeat handiwork.)
An Australian transplant to London, de Kluyver self-experimented with rave makeup before diving into the fashion world; more than a decade later, he still flexes those off-leash techniques. Turning back to Miller, he uncapped the lipstick shade Crystal Black and traced a pair of inky points onto her eyelids—exactly the kind of freehand paint job that the musician would do herself. “Growing up,” she chimed in, “I didn’t know if I could wear makeup if I wasn’t femme enough or if I wasn’t a certain style. But it’s cool being able to wear lipstick and makeup and feel really good and beautiful in my own way.”
The Instagram likes on her toothy campaign shot—a combined 750,000 across Gucci’s two handles and counting—is one way to gauge the impact of this idiosyncratic slant on beauty. (Not to mention the power of a spot-on red lipstick; consider your Mother’s Day shopping sorted.) As Michele put it in a profile this month, “Perfection doesn’t exist, so let’s celebrate the things that are wrong in a good way.”