Thomas de Kluyver 'All I Want To Be'

I want to be a little more of me / Constantly changing / Never fixed / Or set. Makeup artist Thomas de Kluyver’s beautiful new book is a tender exploration of identity, and a celebration of the self. As ‘All I Want To Be’ is launched we talk to Thomas about characters, fantasy and using your fingers. “I just hope to inspire people to use makeup as a form of self expression.”


Beauty Papers: What is “All I Want To Be” about?
Thomas de Kluyver: It’s a little different than your classic makeup book. I collaborated with 6 different photographers and artists on projects that explore vanity, gender, identity and insecurity within the context of makeup and beauty. The book opens with a poem by Wilson Oryema and I think the first two lines of it kind of say it all really.

‘I want to be a little more of me
Without external challenge or threat
I want to be a little more of me
Constantly changing
Never fixed
Or set’

The project took me all over the world. I travel lots with my work and tried to fit in things around my schedule. The book features everyone from Supermodels to Porn Actresses and even Skater boys. It really has been a lot of fun and I’m so happy to finally see it printed.

Photography Harley Weir

BP: How did the book come about?
TDK: I’m always working on new ideas for projects and the idea of doing a book had been on my mind for a while. I love the idea of doing something that feels permanent and that can capture a moment in time. I met my publishers IDEA and explained the concept for the book and they were into it. They said they’d never done a beauty book before but were very interested in collaborating with me. Having travelled as far as Tokyo and LA to shoot, after a lot more work than I had anticipated, nine months later here we are.

BP: How was the process of putting together a book different to working on an editorial?
TDK: I love editorials but the permanence of books is new to me – it could be daunting but actually feels exciting when you are used to moving on from projects so quickly as we do in fashion. You can get really deep into a theme because it spans several stories, not just one – you can explore all these different facets and it means the work can become much more sensitive and personal. It was a really interesting process for me and also very different from what I expected when I started the project.

Photography Harley Weir

BP: What is it that makes an image right for a book – that may different from what makes an image right for a magazine page?
TDK: A book can be purely about ideas and characters, whereas a magazine can also be this but often has to balance many other priorities. So it’s very liberating creatively. My overall aim was different too – it’s all communication but a book is less reportage and more trying to capture a moment in time or a specific idea. The process has solidified the way I approach all my work – conveying characters and ideas rather than doing makeup to make someone conform to an idealised standard of beauty, or showing what happens to be a hot colour this season. That approach feels dated to me.

BP: Was it liberating to be “in the driver’s seat”… when so often it is the photographer who has the last word?
TDK: As a makeup artist you are so often part of someone else’s vision and part of making that come to life. Even a makeup story in a magazine still has limitations – you may have to use particular products, meet a required page count, consider the idea the editors have in mind for the story, as well as keeping within the identity of the magazine. This project was so much more free than that. Everyone I collaborated with on it are close personal friends and it was so nice to have the space to create something without any constraints.

"I think as artists it’s vital to reflect and also pause to enjoy the moment you’re in. Fashion is so fast paced and is always looking for something new, but I think reflecting on the past is very important as well."

BP: How does it feel looking over your archive? Are you brutal or sentimental with it?
TDK: I’m always trying to push things forward with my work, doing new things and working on new ideas every season. Coming into this project I actually went through my archive quite thoroughly. It was interesting to see stuff that I loved and that still feels quite fresh today and also things that feel very of their time – it can be so unexpected. I think as artists it’s vital to reflect and also pause to enjoy the moment you’re in. Fashion is so fast paced and is always looking for something new, but I think reflecting on the past is very important as well. A lot of my work is inspired by mixing very modern things with vintage references too. I actually ended up reworking some old looks from my archive for the book

BP: What was the last beautiful thing you saw?
TDK: Watching my ten year old sister paint a sign to take to the Extinction Rebellion protest against the government’s inaction on global warming.

BP: Tell us one of your favourite make up techniques.
TDK: I use my fingers for everything. I love how products blend and sink into the skin when they are warmed up. I even use them when applying powder eyeshadows, pigments and blusher.

BP: What is your favourite red?
TDK: Gucci Voile Lipstick in Goldie Red

Photography Lea Colombo

BP: What does the word glamour mean to you?
TDK: It’s funny, as a young artist I used to be terrified of the word glamour. I felt like my work was so anti that. I also think in your teens and twenties the notion of glamour is so scary. As I grow older – Do we ever grow up? – I see that glamour can be subjective and comes in many forms. It can be something out of the ordinary and strong, when you can see the freedom someone has to express a fantasy. For me an element of fantasy is inseparable from the idea of glamour. So I guess creating that fantasy is what ‘glamour’ means to me.

BP: What is your first memory of glamour?
TDK: My grandmother used to wear the same rose lipstick everyday and I remember her tapping it onto her lips with her fingertips. Any leftover colour she then rubbed into her cheeks as a creme blush.

Photography Harley Weir

BP: What is the future of glamour?
TDK: I think we’re moving more towards a place where glamour is recognised more than ever as a fantasy, I think what’s nice is when that fantasy isn’t an external projection but more something internal being expressed outwardly.

BP: Living, dead, real or imaginary … who has the best make-up look?
TDK: I mean Siouxsie’s is pretty special… Also I’m obsessed with Bette Davis’ makeup from the film ‘Whatever happened to Baby Jane’. She didn’t wash her makeup off once during filming and just let it build up more and more everyday because she felt this is what the character would do. I find that level of passion and dedication in anything so inspiring.

Featured Photographers Zoe Ghertner, Sharna Osborne, Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Fumiko Imano, Lea Colombo and Harley Weir
Published by IDEA
Designed by Ben Keyway Studio
Poem by Wilson Oryema