Sir John is at the forefront of the beauty industry. Not only Beyonce’s right-hand man when it comes to make-up, he also tends to other famous faces (from Chrissy Teigen to the Kardashians), is a brand ambassador for L’Oreal, plus a producer and mentor on reality show American Beauty Star. Besides testing new Glossier goodies on Beyonce at the Grammys, Sir John’s latest big gig was creating the make-up for Gap’s new Logo Remix campaign. Like the iconic clothing company, the make-up artist is a longstanding advocate of inclusion and diversity – something which is only recently being celebrated en masse in the fashion and beauty worlds. Here he talks exclusively to Bazaar about their perfect partnership and the politics surrounding ‘pretty’ – as well as his spilling some incredible insider secrets.
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty has been celebrated for championing diversity and inclusion in the make-up market, do you use the products in your kit?
“Absolutely, I do. I’m a big fan of packaging, I love a beautiful package. As a society, I’m in the ball park with you ladies – I want to see a beautiful package, I want to fall in love with the packaging before I fall in love with the lipstick and using it should be an experience – so I do love the Fenty collection based on the packaging alone, but the products are really good, I’m actually surprised by the pigment payoff. They’ve done their research, they’ve took their time, and you can tell that the budget is expensive as well.
“I have friends who are from the Ivory Coast or Senegal, and a friend who is albino, and from either side of the spectrum, they can now find their foundation for the first time. This is the first time they can walk into a store and immediately find a match. I think we haven’t served them well in the industry, and we should also look at ourselves and what we think beauty is, so I love that Fenty has changed the landscape of the conversation, and it becomes inclusive.”
How do you think we can collectively move forwards to celebrate diversity in the beauty industry more?
“It’s not just about spending more money at the cosmetic counter by having a shade extension, it’s about visual representation. If a little girl who happens to have a lot of melanin, she could be from Africa or Senegal, or wherever, or she happens to have no melanin, she’s albino, can see herself in a campaign or on a billboard on sunset boulevard that changes the conversation of how she sees herself, it changes how far she feels her beauty can go – visual representation is far more impactful for me. Fenty have done that in a really organic way where it looks believable, it looks modern, it looks like it’s anchored to the now. Social media have rallied around it. I come from the fashion industry and we have our view about what we think beauty is, but the people are going to speak, and they have spoken.”
How did you create the make-up for Gap’s new Logo Remix campaign to feel very current?
“I think the new Logo Remix campaign is sort of reflective or indicative of what is going on in society, so there wasn’t one look for everyone. There isn’t a cookie cutter approach to the beauty – I wanted to personalise each woman’s journey through the campaign. Naomi Watanabe has a navy denim eyeliner, I like to call it ‘denim liner’, and I feel like it’s almost a ‘Gap blue’, and everyone else was various stages of themselves. SZA had some very cool architectural contour and the other girls were all about blush or lashes – it wasn’t so much of a ‘make-up look’ as just a feeling of just fresh, glowy happiness. I just feel like everyone looked quintessentially themselves.”
What message of beauty do you feel this campaign puts out?
“Gap, in my opinion (and I’m an 80s baby), has always been inclusive. It’s not clamouring right now in this social media generation to feel involved – I feel like they’ve always had that verse and representation in their campaigns, [with] people from varied walks of life. And that’s really refreshing to grow up and see. What I think that comes across in this Gap campaign is that it belongs to every woman, it belongs to every guy. I think everyone can see a piece of themselves, not just in the beauty but in the casting as well which is very modern and fresh, and I feel like this is the most progressive way forward.”
In this digital-era of beauty, people want instant glamour gratification, how do you see the industry evolving to accommodate this?
“We live in a space right now where everyone wants a hack, everyone wants a ‘do-and-go’ so I think products need to have a convertible nature nowadays. We look for things that have multiple uses. I have so many girlfriends who have multiple kids or twins, and the time they have in the morning is not the same time they had when they were 22. So, having products that do multiple things, like a cream blush that you can use as a lip colour, or a lip colour like a matte liquid lipstick that can also be used as an eyeshadow. It feels very modern.
“On the other side, I’m such an advocate of slowing things down. I do appreciate women who have vanities. Look at Dita Von Teese, or a throwback to Elizabeth Taylor, when women didn’t leave their house until their eyebrows were meticulously drawn on or lashes were separated. That’s the modern woman of Dubai if you think about it. If you look at a Middle Eastern woman, and you look at the silent screen stars of the 1930s and 40s there is a parallel there. We’re in a space right now where there is so much happening that even if you just put on a swipe of mascara and go that works. As long as you’re in the game. You don’t have to run at top speed and be the first to the finishing line, as long as you’re going along and making some movement, it should be applauded.”
What are your personal thoughts on the term ‘anti-aging’ in the beauty industry?
“Honestly, I think the term anti-ageing is counter-productive. You know, no one should be against ageing. We should embrace becoming more mature. Women in that bracket, mature women, are the ones who are really leading the charge – they’re the ones who have pockets, they have the funds to spend on great skincare, or a chemical service, or a refining facial peel. I think we need to address that consumer and not take them out of the conversation as she continues to evolve as we all will. So anti-ageing as a term, or terminology, in this day and time has become sort of obsolete.”
What’s the way to get a red carpet-worthy glow without make-up (or a procedure!)?
“If you look at everyone’s diet now, it’s cleaner than it was in previous years because we’re so afraid of pesticides, hormones, and even our food, that we pay a lot more attention as a society to our diet – in turn it helps with our skin. Everyone has better skin than they did in the 90s, and what you should look for is beta carotenes; things that are orange, like is in squash or pumpkin or carrots, because they give you glow. If I have a client who is going to hit the red carpet in two days, I’ll tell them to increase your beta carotene intake, drink more carrot juice. It will immediately give you such a flush and a glow to your skin, and you use less make-up. Also stay away from salt – the sodium in salt is going to make your face puffy, your eyes retain more water. If you want to have a beautiful complexion, for 48 hours avoid salt, up your beta carotene, and juice kale.”
How can we achieve that A-list ‘airbrushed’-looking complexion with our foundation?
“I just moved to west Hollywood from New York, I was in New York for 17 years, and I used to ride the subway for years before I got a car, and I loved watching women put on make-up every morning! I learnt so much, it was almost like I was going undercover. But what I realised is, when you put your foundation on when your skin is dry, it performs completely differently, and in an opposite direction, than it does when your skin is wet. Whenever I prep a client I always put the foundation or concealer on wet skin – their skin has to be damp from their moisturiser. When your moisturiser dries, your foundation adheres to the skin in really nice way and doesn’t settle in any lines – it’s almost like it is airbrushed on.”
What are your beauty must-dos when travelling?
“You need to switch your skincare when you travel through different time zones. I was in Iceland for a long weekend, two weeks later I was in Rio de Janeiro – you need to make sure you bring more comforting moisturiser or something more emollient in cooler climates, like Europe at the moment or New York, and if you go to LA or South America or the Caribbean–anywhere warm–break into your serums. You don’t want to use the same moisturisers in the warmer climate that you do in cooler ones.
“Another thing I do in terms of beauty when travelling is juicing. Juiced kale has vitamin K so it increases cell turnover and gets rid of dark circles. So if I’m ever in an airport for too long, or didn’t get much sleep, or am going straight to a job from a red-eye flight, I know that juicing will at least make me look awake for a job.
“Product wise, a bronzer helps, I love Tom Ford’s bronzer Gold Dust, I also love L’Oreal’s new Luminizers, they have these things called Lumi’s which are really light reflecting, you can use them all over the face and the body, and favourite mascara is Lash Paradise by L’Oreal.”
The Gap ‘Archive Reissue: Logo Remix’ collection will be available online from 29 January 2018 and in store from 5 February 2018.
From: Harper’s BAZAAR UK