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Gucci Westman: Makeup Maestro

Gucci Westman

Legendary makeup artist Gucci Westman recently launched her own complexion-focused makeup line, Westman Atelier. Westman has spent years styling cosmetic looks for magazine covers and movies and fashion show runways, and working as an artistic director for worldwide brands Lancôme and Revlon. With a loyal following of celebrity clients including Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz, Westman knows makeup and she knows skin. “As a makeup artist the skin is really at the beginning and end of everything I do,” she says. Westman’s multi-tasking products are the answer to looking polished without drawers of makeup. “I don’t want anyone to ever spend an hour doing their makeup.” The life-long vegetarian grew up with “super holistic” parents in Sweden and believes a good glow comes from within. “This company is an extension on my life philosophy of 80/20. I like to enjoy life but stay as mindful and healthy as possible.” Westman and husband (Rag & Bone co-founder) David Neville teamed up to create the new line. The fashionable couple have three young children (Dashel, Gray and Petal) and divide their time between an apartment in NYC, a horse farm in Bedford, NY, and a beach house in East Hampton, NY. Over glasses of strawberry hemp milk (yes, she really is that healthy) served at her East Hampton home, Westman chatted about the importance of face masks, why facials are worth it and how to age naturally.

Westman with daughter Gray, wears a handknit Fair Isle alpaca pullover and floral chiffon skirt by Michael Kors Collection, Abalone mix charm necklace by Chan Luu, gold beaded chain bar earrings by Glamrocks and shoes by Stuart Weitzman.

Getting Started

I started doing my friends’ makeup on the bus to school when I was an early teen. My parents were very strict and I was not allowed to wear makeup myself. I was an au pair in Switzerland when I was 18 and the mother in the family was a fashion journalist. I was completely mesmerized with the boxes and boxes of makeup that she very generously gave me to play with! She helped me apply to a makeup school in Paris called Christian Chaveau. A real fire-starter for me was when a teacher said, “I’m going to be honest. This is not really a business for females and if you’re not a homosexual male you will most likely not succeed in this industry.” I sort of had that fire in my belly that I was going to prove them wrong. 

My Big Break It was in increments. I moved to LA to learn how to do movie makeup. I was introduced to the director Spike Jonze and worked with him regularly on his music videos and commercials. I also worked at a special effects lab and we were commissioned to do the 1996 Olympic athletes cover for Vanity Fair with Annie Leibovitz. I was to do the makeup for the mountain bikers and by that, I mean cover them in mud. I was super-duper prepared because I knew this would be my one shot with Annie. I had 10 different colors of soil I had to go all over the place to find. I really cared about the details and asked Annie, ‘Are we at the Olympics or are we where the athlete is training, because the soils are different all over the world?’ They ended up cancelling the other makeup artist and I got to do the Vanity Fair cover myself. Annie’s producer then asked if I would go on the road with them for a month to shoot her Olympics book. 

Vogue Steps In Grace Coddington, then creative director at Vogue, opened up a whole new world for me. We did two back-to-back shoots for Vogue together—one with Bruce Weber and one with Arthur Elgort—and I couldn’t get a read on whether she liked me or not. I was so nervous and she didn’t talk to me much. We were at the airport after it was over and Grace got out and said, “You know I haven’t seen talent like that since I discovered Pat McGrath. I want you to be on my team.” I was dying! She introduced me to a whole new level of opportunity.

Fashion Show Prep For a fashion show, I usually don’t know what the collection will look like so I prefer to see the designer in advance and have a conversation about their inspiration for the show. Some designers want as much help as possible to translate their vision through hair and makeup and some do not. I work closely with the hair stylist so our looks are in sync. For an editorial magazine shoot the editor will tell me what the shoot is about, but I don’t see the clothes until I get there. The stylist walks me through the collection and then they tell me what they are thinking makeup-wise. My favorite thing is working fashion shows in Paris because it’s such an inspiring city. The venues are so beautiful. New York City shows are more commercial. 

Beauty Advice 

Beauty & Fashion
Oftentimes we think fashion sets trends but now, with all of the social media platforms, there is much more beauty influence. Makeup can be less of a trend and more of a state of mind because the trend is more about following YouTube tutorials and trying different things. I saw a woman at a party recently and she had a simple brown dress on, but her makeup stood out. She had used a cool blue eyeliner and it was so chic. If you are someone very specific in your style then you can add whatever you want makeup-wise and it will make a statement. 

Clear Beauty is the New Clean Beauty
I’ve always been intrigued with how products are made, and I had the privilege of working with Lancôme and Revlon and spending a lot of time in their labs. I first thought I would create an organic line but it just wasn’t working. As a makeup artist, I couldn’t create something that didn’t have the performance I needed. Westman Atelier is not all-natural and all-organic but it is clean of a lot of harmful ingredients and toxins. We are clear and transparent about what we are using. Clear beauty instead of clean beauty! I have a super strict black list of ingredients I will not use. That list has evolved and continues to evolve. I know every single thing that is in my products and what purpose they serve.

Westman’s new complexion-focused makeup line, Westman Atelier, includes (from left), the Lit Up highlight stick, Beauty Butter powder bronzer, Super Loaded tinted highlight, Baby Cheeks blush stick and Vital Skin foundation stick, all sold at Barney’s.

Beauty Influences
Christy Turlington and Cindy Crawford are two of my influences because they are empowering, inspiring and stand for more than just being pretty. Confidence makes women amazingly beautiful.

Skin Saviors
If a client arrives and has had a late night out—and looks it—I always do a mask. I’ve used the SK-II facial treatment masks forever. They have true reparative and hydrating qualities. I also implement facial devices. I will do some facial massage because I think inflammation is such an issue. I use Talika eye therapy patches. They were developed for post-surgery for a quick recovery so they work fast. I just got this incredible device from Japan, Rantania Miracle K, but it’s not available in the U.S. yet. It sculpts your face, gives you definition and helps with lymphatic drainage. The results are dramatic! 

Beauty Indulgences That Are Worth It
I get regular facials with Georgia Louise. Preventative measures are important to me and I think facial stimulation really helps. Microcurrent and light treatments really work but it’s about consistency to achieve results. We exercise our bodies, not our faces, but muscle has memory so you need to stimulate your face. In Korea and Japan they do these intricate beauty routines and they look so frickin’ young! 

Europeans Do It Better
European drugstores are amazing. The EU is much stricter on chemicals and has a more controlled system on what goes into their products. There are some really nice sunscreens like La Roche-Posay and I really trust them. Dr. Hauschka products are great and they have a medical line developed for people with skin sensitivities like rosacea and dermatitis that I love. 

Skin First
The skin is really important. Prepping the skin with exfoliation and moisturizer, layering products and blending properly. It’s all about various steps that make a huge difference in the overall look. 

Beautify While Traveling
I take all of my makeup off, do a mask or use a device. I’ll re-apply oils and creams several times during the flight. I use SK-II Facial treatment essence in the spray form and the SK-II overnight facial, which is a good restorative treatment.

Sarah dress by Zero + Maria Cornejo from Barney’s, Agnes necklace by Parpala Jewelry, Attelage plain cuff by Anna Sheffield, sunglasses by Valentino

Beauty Staples
I vary a lot between products because people send things to me and I’m trying them out. Right now I’m using Dr. Haushka Rose Day Cream, which gives a reliable moisturizing finish. Isoi is a Korean brand I really like because it’s clean and effective. Biologique Recherche is another staple—the gentle p50 and Crème Masque Vernix are really solid products. I also really like some of the new Peach and Lily products; they recently came out with a clean line. It’s important to alternate product lines because skin plateaus when you use the same products all the time so you need to switch it up or your skin won’t respond.

Simple Style
I love what you can say about yourself with clothing. You can be unique in how you carry something and it can make you feel confident when you are owning a look. I like to layer classics pieces and not be too fussy or tricky. I like button down shirts. Currently I’m really into my vintage military pants that have a higher waist. In the winter, I will wear Céline sweaters until I die.

Aging in the Fashion World
The conversation on aging is interesting because why aren’t we allowed to age? Why are we supposed to stop it? It’s not possible! You just look like you’ve had a lot of work done if you’re trying to stop it. Aging is natural. We should be encouraged to embrace what happens and that we are living much longer lives in a healthier way. The health knowledge we have is such a luxury for our generation. When I was little, my mom didn’t even know to put sunscreen on me! 

(opening image) Rose print tiered dress with metallic leather by Coach 1941, white gold bar necklace and white gold twisted strand earrings by Gabritel New York, hat by Helen Kaminski

Text by Holly Parmelee
Photographs by Fabrice Trombert
Styled by Jennifer Greene; hair by Alex Umaña for Hopscotch Salon, Greenwich, CT; flowers courtesy of Winston Flowers, Greenwich & New York; makeup by Gucci Westman

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