Makeup artist, innovator, entrepreneur, and esteemed beauty expert Terry de Gunzburg is a go-to beauty guru for those in the know. Makeup artists and enthusiasts look to Madame de Gunzburg for her honesty and integrity, and regard the products in her eponymous line BY TERRY as some of the most sought-after makeup in this industry.
French born and educated in beauty business at Paris’s famed salon, Carita, Madame de Gunzburg gained notoriety and experience as the Creative Director for YSL Beauté before launching her own brand. With on-set artistry experience at publications like Vogue, Mme. de Gunzburg took her understanding and developed a brand that is luxurious while still being effective for womens’ everyday makeup needs.
I remember when BY TERRY launched I was working behind the counter at Saks Fifth Avenue and it took us all by storm. To have BY TERRY in your kit meant that you were an artist with taste and insight. In this interview, I had an opportunity to speak to Mme. de Gunzburg and learn more about the lady behind the legend.
Beautylish: When you were a young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Terry de Gunzburg: I knew from the beginning I wanted to work in aesthetics, but at the same time I was also very intrigued by the scientific aspect of nature and botanics. We used to live on the shores of Egypt when I was a child, and I remember staring at the most beautiful plants and admiring their beauty and at the same time wondering about the scientific creation behind them. I always wanted to deconstruct flowers and plants to understand how they were made.
You studied both art and medicine before finding a place in beauty. Do you find yourself using that background or skill set often in your makeup line? And how important is education for today’s up-and-coming artists?
Absolutely my medical studies gave me the understanding of how things are made. Experimenting for new cosmetics is extremely scientific, especially if the brand is like BY TERRY—forward looking and aiming to research the newest groundbreaking technologies to be incorporated in the product. Because I have the understanding of scientific raw materials, I like to investigate all the possibilities to give an extra “trust” in the formulas.
Studies are absolutely essential for today’s artists, not necessarily specific studies but definitely a well-rounded knowledge of arts, science, aesthetics and history.
You are often referred to as a guru. Guru is defined as an influential teacher or popular expert. Is the term “guru” something you would use to describe yourself?
It's quite strange to define myself as a guru. The journalists and professionals named me a guru (as well as the Steve Jobs of the cosmetic industry!). Maybe I would describe myself as an addict of color, endlessly curious of innovation and high tech ingredients and pigments. I pride myself on teaching women worldwide the importance of light and color in cosmetics to get the right glow. I have living proof in my BY TERRY products.
Who were the people you looked to for mentorship or education?
Working with Yves Saint Laurent was a great privilege, especially in those days when the fashion and beauty industry were less dictated by rules and was more carefree. He was definitely an influence, but I am also a firm believer that beauty is freedom to learn for yourself as well and cultivate your own style. Therefore, I have definitely evolved and broadened since working with YSL, especially with my own brand that allows me to be more free with my creativity. I am still learning every day, but in my new collection (especially the upcoming products) there is a little something from my days of working near Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Bergé and Loulou de la Falaise -- a true privilege for me to be inspired by the iconic masters of color!
What was your first memorable work as an artist?
The moment that baptized me as a makeup artist was the first haute couture shoot I worked on when I was doing an internship for the Carita Sisters!
How did you know that the makeup artist industry was where you wanted to be?
Although I always knew I had a creative flair, being a makeup artist happened by chance, really. I was doing an internship on aesthetics with the Carita Sisters over the summer period in the transition between my medical studies and my art studies. One day they were missing a makeup artist for a huge photo-shoot with the Haute Couture edition of Vogue so they decided to send me. At first I was so nervous, but once there I felt so relieved to be able to express my creativity. I didn’t really know the rules or what had to be done so I just followed my instincts and personal aesthetics: luminous even complexion, full separated lashes, contoured lips. The result was admired, and from there on I was booked for more and more jobs!
As a makeup artist you worked with famous photographers like David Bailey. What are some of your most memorable moments on set?
It would be when I collaborated on Sir Cecil Beaton’s final collaboration with Vogue; it was a buzzing moment full of creative inspiration for everyone who was involved!
What are the things about your work that make it the most interesting to you?
Spending time in my LAB in Paris where the creations are being tested and experimented over and over again until the perfect formula is achieved.
In 1985 you began a career with Yves St. Laurent to develop their first beauty brand. Tell us a bit about that experience.
It was incredibly challenging but rewarding at the same time. Yves had a certain signature style in fashion and he wanted to translate that into his beauty line and I collaborated with him for 15 years making sure his vision was translated into the cosmetics. The industry was so different at the time and it was hard to get approval of certain concepts and ideas as both him and I were very forward thinking. It was a wonderful partnership.
In 1992, you developed Touche Eclat. The brush on highlighter and concealer changed the industry and is a staple in every woman’s makeup bag and every artist’s kit. What was your inspiration in developing the product and what was your goal in developing it?
I'd been creating what would become Touche Eclat long before I was at YSL. When I was a makeup artist in my twenties, I was often booked on photo shoots because I created glowing faces. I did this by refreshing the models makeup in between the shoots with a mixture of ivory foundation, a creamy moisturizer, and a liquid toner. I would mix it all together and apply with a flat brush.
In those days most artists were using powder for touch ups, which made the girls’ faces look matte and crackly, so my technique was an innovation at the time and unusual. Then, when I joined YSL, I suggested using this technique and making a product out of it by putting it in click pen, [making it] easy to use and practical to carry around for touch ups. At the beginning it was hard to get the message through and to get approval on this, but once created it sold like hot potatoes and it still does! Now I have perfected this product with the BY TERRY Touch-Expert Advanced.
How would you describe your signature style?
An impeccable mouth, full separated lashes and an invisible luminous complexion.
What should someone who is looking to develop a career in makeup know before getting into the business?
That the makeup industry is not how it used to be. The competition is so high at the moment and the fashion trends dictate everything. When I started only the most exclusive models and actresses had makeup artists, but now the range of makeup artists is so wide, there’s ones that do it for TV, soap operas, cinema, fashion, parties and weddings and so on.
There are so many new ways to get the messages out there such as blogs and online tutorials. My suggestion would be to keep up-to-date with the current movements and how the industry is evolving but at the same time to always have individual flair and not to completely give your artistic talent to the trend.
What led you to develop your own brand?
I always wanted to have the freedom to be able to experiment the most unusual ideas and to be able to give them a chance, working for someone else never allows you this freedom and now I have it!
What separates BY TERRY from other beauty brands?
Quality, rarity, luxury and the use of only the purest and most natural ingredients. Not following the marketing trends and always creating beauty through contrasts like using the most ancient natural properties and combining them with the most groundbreaking science to create exceptional products. BY TERRY also like to simplify women’s needs and is creating all-in-one products, like the Densiliss foundation that acts as a skin care and as a coverage at the same time!
BY TERRY has a luxurious quality to it. There is a sense of glamour when applying the makeup. How do you keep that feeling in place in an age of throwaway fashion?
Absolutely, luxury is one of my number one identities for the brand. I want women to feel like they are treating their skin with something exclusive and luxurious and special. Luxury needs to be felt by both the senses of touch and scent, that is why my cosmetics have the most heavenly scent when you apply them.
How do you continue to grow as an artist and brand and how do you keep yourself inspired?
My curiosity holds my creativity! I always push my research and development beyond the boundaries. Botanics, flowers, roses, Contemporary Art, opera, precious stones, jewels, fabrics, raw- material are all part of my inspiration. I am inspired with the everyday life—with my own beauty needs and those of the women around me.
I have four children, and they are my toughest critics! Their advice and appreciation mean so much to me and are very helpful in the elaboration of new products.
Do you have a project that you’ve done that you are especially proud of?
I am extremely proud of my recently launched Densiliss line, last year we launched the foundation but now we have a full range including additional shades of foundation, concealer, compact blusher, compact powder and a primer. This for me is the exact proof of BY TERRY being an “avant garde” brand that uses the latest scientific research to create the most sublime and effective makeup combined with skin care.
What project was the most challenging?
It would have to be in 2000 when I started creating my own brand. It was a huge daunting step to leave YSL and to start my own business. Although I had a clear vision of what I wanted many years before, the whole set-up was extremely challenging.
Whose work do you admire?
In art I admire the work of Francis Bacon, he is an absolute inspiration for my work. The colors in his paintings are just so unique and strong I try to recreate them in my cosmetics.
BY TERRY as a brand is beloved by professional makeup artists and consumers as well. How do you manage to meet the demands of a pro as well as the needs of the everyday makeup wearer?
Through years of experience I have figured that efficiency, practicality and luxury is something all women want, whether it’s a makeup artist or an everyday customer!
What should we expect to see for the next few seasons?
All very secret still, but I can tell you we have a fantastic new skin care range and a lot of nude colors!! As well as Indian spice inspired, glamourized eye shadows palette! And all my love of brightness and light and color translated in fashionista palettes.
What’s coming next in makeup?
The scientific research is the way makeup is going, exploring the rarest natural product and scientific research...at least for BY TERRY!
What is next for Terry de Gunzburg?
My daughter Marion Assuied has recently been appointed CEO of BY TERRY, which gives me the chance to take a step back and to enjoy seeing my grandchildren grow up. Although Terry de Gunzburg’s creative input is still very much present!
With BY TERRY, there’s much more to come: skin care, fragrance, make-up!