In Pursuit of Luminous Skin

The makeup artist Gucci Westman is known for giving her clients the look of perfect skin.

“My motto is correct where you don’t want it and add where you do want it,” she said at her office in the Flatiron district in Manhattan. It was an overcast day in February, and Ms. Westman was going to travel to Italy that evening to do Anne Hathaway’s makeup for a Bulgari campaign.

“I like to work with what you have and amplify it,” said Ms. Westman, who has been in the industry for 25 years. She has done the makeup for Gwyneth Paltrow’s 2018 wedding, for Reese Witherspoon on the cover of Vogue in 2019 and, more recently, for Emily Ratajkowski at the 2022 Met Gala.

Since 2018, she has had her own beauty brand called Westman Atelier, which she started with her husband, the Rag & Bone co-founder David Neville. The first six products were focused on complexion, including Vital Skin, a stick foundation, and now the brand sells about 35 products in five categories.

This week Westman Atelier will introduce its first skin-care product, Skin Activator.

It is a serum created in partnership with a Korean scientist, Raymond Park, and includes 12 active ingredients, including four kinds of hyaluronic acid for moisture and niacinamide to correct pigmentation. Less common ingredients include fermented algae to even skin tone and prickly pear cactus extract for soothing.

“I wanted to do this perfect-storm product with more active ingredients,” said Ms. Westman, who explained that she often uses skin-care products and lymphatic drainage massage before applying cosmetics.

Like the rest of the Westman Atelier line, the $150 Skin Activator is packaged in a heavy matte tube with a magnetic cap that snaps shut with a click. The design was inspired more so by packaging for fragrances than that of skin care or makeup.

“We were not shy about not targeting millennials,” Mr. Neville, 47, said.

Ms. Westman nodded. “So many brands are for Gen Z and millennials, and it’s refreshing to have something for someone a little older in terms of price point and sophistication.”

Not that products like Face Trace, a Westman Atelier contour stick, don’t have a youthful following. “Our 13-year-old daughter and her friends want to use it,” Ms. Westman said.

She is aware of the popular videos on social media and YouTube that showcase drastic transformations, even if she is unenthused. “It is all Barbie-esque variations of the same thing,” she said. “I don’t feel like it’s very creative.”

Ms. Westman, 52, was wearing a vintage Yves Saint Laurent navy sweater, Celine jeans, white sneakers from the Row and a scarf by Schostal, a 150-year-old shirting store in Rome she is especially fond of. She spoke candidly about her eccentric upbringing growing up in a kundalini yoga ashram in California and then moving to Sweden at 10 with her Swedish father.

Chelsea was the name she was given at birth, but she was named Gurucharan in the ashram. Gucci became her nickname and, not long after, her legal name.

She wasn’t supposed to wear makeup in the ashram, but she enjoyed doing makeup for herself and her friends. “I loved the feeling of making someone feel beautiful,” she said.

Ms. Westman, who speaks “English, French, Swedish, a lot of German and some Spanish and Italian,” thought she might work as a translator. Instead, she moved to Switzerland after graduating from high school and worked as an au pair to a fashion editor. Later, she enrolled in makeup school in Paris before moving to Los Angeles to study special effects makeup.

She worked on films doing makeup for “Buffalo ’66” and “Being John Malkovich” and met the fashion photographer Bruce Weber, who introduced her to Grace Coddington at Vogue. Artistic director posts at Lancôme and Revlon followed.

Ms. Westman and Mr. Neville began their relationship in 2002. “I thought he was cute and cool, and we went bowling and I won,” she said. “A lot has happened since then.” They have three children, Dashel, Gray and Petal, and after moving out of an apartment they leased in the Langham on the Upper West Side earlier in the pandemic, they now live full time in what was once their weekend home in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

Sephora began carrying Westman Atelier in 2021. It was a modest rollout with products available online and in a few Sephora locations. The brand is now carried at 136 locations in North America, according to Alison Hahn, the senior vice president of merchandising, makeup and fragrance at Sephora.

The development process was exacting. “I wasted nine months trying to do an organic line,” Ms. Westman said. “But I wanted the performance. I needed science, I love science, I wanted to be known for innovation. Labs would show us the muddiest, crappiest, like, poop-brown clean formulas, and I’d say, ‘I don’t want natural, I want modern.’”

The $68 Vital Skincare Complexion Drops, a sheer skin tint, took about four years to develop. Her brief, she said, was, “I want something light but rich with a supple glide onto the skin that is cushiony and bouncy and easy and not too liquid and not too matte.”

In recent months, it has been rumored that Westman Atelier — which has raised funding from Prelude Growth Partners may be a target for a beauty conglomerate. “Acquisition is flattering, isn’t it?” Ms. Westman said. “It’s fun to be courted a little bit — like, you must be doing things right.”

She and Mr. Neville said that they had a five-year plan that includes eyewear, but for now Ms. Westman is happy to be embarking on skin.

“We have another skin product in the works, and then you’ll never need anything else again,” Ms. Westman said. She pursed her lips. “Except you’ll need a cleanser. We’ll do that, too.”

Source: Read Full Article