IT'S AMAZING, for such an abstract ideal, how much of today's beauty really comes down to science. So when Gucci decided to launch its cosmetics line, while it had longtime collaborator (and P&G Prestige Creative Director) Pat McGrath to conceptualise colours and visions, technological innovations were also of paramount importance.
A mascara, for example – official name Opulent Volume Mascara – pleases the eye instantly with its oblong, logo-debossed vessel, though the real star is the wand – fitted with 204 bristles and an additional 42 flat “paddles”. The little fins, visible if you squint hard at the brush, are reservoirs that deposit product on the lashes, while the thinner quills separate and define. It's a buildable formula that doesn't smudge, and requires an alternative application technique that's different, though not difficult: simply apply from the top of lashes, instead of the bottom, and rotate as you go. It's a thin formula so it doesn't clump, and isn't waterproof, so no fancy eye make-up remover is needed.
To those who generally prefer their lashes au naturel, this may seem like a whole lot of boring gobbledegook, but beauty geeks will appreciate the thought and care that went into the creation of this product.
Others will go gaga for the colours, some hundreds of product options all launched in one go, with hues iconic in the Gucci repertoire: Ottanio, a shimmering, threedimensional turquoise; Black Gold, a luxe golden rust that's both dark and daring; Iconic Red, a bright, bold crimson that's an amalgamation of McGrath and Gucci Creative Director Frida Giannini's favourite reds.
Giannini herself was intimately involved in the conceptualisation of the line, having spearheaded its creation and offering input on everything from formula to packaging, fulfilling a dream that began almost from the day she became creative director in 2006.
Your vision for a beauty line came when you joined Gucci some 10 years ago. Why is now the time for the launch?
Frida Giannini: When you do a collection or a fashion show or an advertising campaign, you're always taking care of every single aspect. The make-up is one of the most important things, because it really defines and completes all of it. So [Pat McGrath and I have] been working very well together; she understands what I like and what she can propose to me. And I know that I can ask her the most, most, most impossible things and she'll do it in a modern and sophisticated way. So the reason I didn't do this before is because I was so passionate about this project that I wanted to do this so seriously. I wanted to have the best partner ever; I wanted to have the best factories and the best suppliers and the best quality in every single aspect. Then we found Procter & Gamble.
How did you first meet Pat?
FG: When I became creative director, Pat was already working for the brand, so she had more knowledge than me, because she was also working for Tom Ford before. I think she's the best make-up artist ever. Our relationship grew throughout the years, so to me, when I took part in the project, I had no doubt Pat was the person to follow.
Many of the colours are inspired by particular runway looks. How did you choose which ones would be most suitable?
FG: We picked the most represented colours, the colours that I used more frequently. We understood that certain shades of blue and green, certain shades of red, certain shades of purple were used often. We started to edit, edit, edit.
Pat McGrath: A lot of them were actual colours that we'd used in the past that a lot of women were like, “Oh, could I have these colours,” and we were like, “A lot of them were custom made” – and we were able to make them.
Your red is called Iconic Red. What makes it iconic, and how does it differ from other reds?
PM: Everyone has a red. We actually matched a lot of the fabrics [from the collections], and we matched a lot of the leathers, and really chose reds that resonated with Frida. As you know, we've done a lot of red with Gucci – burgundy on the lips and reds on the nails – and so it was very natural to choose a red.
Who is the Gucci woman?
PM: I think that she's very changeable, but I think also she's a very powerful woman and very much, in a way, knows what she wants and really doesn't have any fear of make-up or colours, and knows how to use them.
How do you hope to grow the collection?
FG: Honestly, it's too early to say. To me, the most important thing was to arrive at today. It's quite rare to find a launch that is so complete, in terms of colours and products, for the first time, for a brand that has never done cosmetics before. But of course, we'll follow the collection, we'll follow the fashion shows. So if I'm introducing an incredible new green, probably that will be a new colour.
Which are your favourite items in the collection?
FG: For the colours, honestly one of my favourites is the gold, because it's a colour I will use, it's a very iconic colour for Gucci and it's something that's quite rare to find in the market. The Iconic Red of Gucci is perfect for the lipstick. The mascara is one of the best things of the line. It's the make-up that I use every day, basically. This mascara, together with this new technology – we found this very interesting brush; I think it's a very good one.
Speaking of the brush, a lot of the technological sides to the line are quite interesting. How much of that was driven by you?
FG: The packaging and the box were driven by me because what I didn't want is, when I use make-up, when I put it in my bag and they open and make a disaster. [So the] packaging is with this invisible magnet, and it's quite safe. I like the weight and the sound it makes. So other things, part of it was designing certain formulas, respecting a lot of certain types of skin – Asian, Eurasian, Caucasian, black. Every one of us has something to say, of course, and at the end, the technology side for us was really important.
Gucci has had a long association with film and, since you came on board, music as well. Are there people you work with in those industries that you envision using the products?
FG: I can tell you we had a lot of friends and ambassadors, they can't wait to have the products. I was talking to Blake Lively two nights ago, because she likes make-up and is always on the red carpet. She can't wait. Beyoncé said the same. Gucci has always been part of this world, part of this celebrity scene and the jet-set world. And now, with Charlotte [Casiraghi, the new face of Gucci Cosmetics] – she's this beautiful personality. She's not only a model, she's not only a beautiful face, but she has a strong attitude. I think that even more people will be interested.
What are your own daily cosmetics musts?
FG: I'm not that exciting. I use three things, basically. One is the concealer. It's always with me, especially when I'm travelling a lot. Then good base and foundation. And a lot of mascara. I'm obsessed with very long eyelashes.