EXCLUSIVE: Gucci’s Frida Giannini Talks Beauty, Botox, and Going Goth
Backstage at Gucci, you can always expect a look—the iconic brand isn’t one to embrace the bare-face beauty that often runs rampant through New York fashion week. Makeup maestro Pat McGrath made that notion clear during the Spring 2013 season, stating, “This is Milan. We’re not going to bore you with no makeup anymore.” And it’s true, editors and onlookers alike are never bored. For Fall 2014 there were spectacular rows of ’60s-inspired false lashes, and last Spring McGrath smudged copper around catwalkers’ eyes for a “sporty” effect (or at least Gucci’s glamorous iteration of sporty). And come October—just in time to refresh your makeup bag for the cooler weather and holiday merriment ahead—is a 200-piece cosmetic collection developed by McGrath and the woman currently at the helm of the iconic Italian powerhouse, Frida Giannini. Here, the creative director divulges all the deets on designing makeup, her beauty must-haves, and the reason she’ll never get Botox. —Amber Kallor
Let’s start from the beginning. At what age did you start wearing makeup?
I started when I was a teenager, so 14 or 15. It was in the ’80s, so I had this passion for music and all the stars in this moment. I would always try to replicate Boy George’s makeup or Madonna’s with a long wing. There were a lot of disasters, but I had a lot of fun…I remember I had a moment where everything was black: I had black hair and black lipstick. Nice? No!
What is your makeup routine like now?
It’s much easier than it was in the ’80s! I have a very simple routine. I put on some cream because I have very sensitive skin, so I need to pay a lot of attention to it. And then I put on a base, like a foundation, and just some mascara. And then concealer, of course, because it helps a lot—especially when you’re tired, it opens up your eyes a bit. So this is [key]. If I have a special event or a dinner or something, I put more on. And if I have something very special, like an event where I have to take a lot of pictures, I call a makeup artist. I can do black liner, mascara, and moisturizer, but I can’t do more than that because I end up doing weird things!
How does makeup complete the Gucci woman?
I’m so enthusiastic about this project because to me it was something that was really missing in the Gucci aesthetic and the Gucci collection. Makeup is something that defines the look of a woman and defines a look of a catwalk, so to me it was really important to add this piece. It’s very important for [Gucci's] history. And when we were talking about the focus of this project and the campaign, we started with the eyes. [The face of the range], Charlotte [Casiraghi], has beautiful eyes. To me, the eyes are always the most important because with your eyes you can really interact with people. They’re very magnetic, so that’s why I love the eyes maybe more than anything else.
And judging by what I’ve seen backstage at your shows, sexy eye makeup is usually on the agenda. Why is that typically your focal point as opposed to a strong lip?
I think that from your eyes you can really exude confidence and sensuality. You can be very provocative, you can be very feminine, you can be very sweet, you can be very tough—[attitude] is always [conveyed] with your eyes.
Are you yourself a fan of a strong eye?
Yes, especially because I don’t have big lips. Every time I try to put a lipstick on my mouth, I’m always like, “Oh, my God!” It runs all over my face. So I always prefer to focus on eyes.
Is there a particular product in the collection that you love?
Well, the mascara is great because we have a new brush. It’s something we just trademarked—it’s new technology, so I’m very proud of it. [The formula] really gives [lashes] volume and intensity. So I think that mascara is one of my favorite things.
What else do you always keep in your bag?
Well, the mascara for sure, and powder.
That’s one of my favorites in the collection, too. I love the texture.
Powder is another difficult thing because I never found a very good product [before we made our own]. Everything is so heavy and it covers too much, so my skin doesn’t breathe and feels irritated when I remove it. This one is really light, and that’s what I love about it.
Do you have any tips you’ve picked up backstage for applying your own makeup?
I’ve worked with Pat [McGrath] for many years, so I’ve stolen [a few tricks] from her! For example, she taught me not just to apply mascara [horizontally], but to also go one by one vertically. And I learned to apply foundation with my fingers, not with a brush. But of course it depends because I don’t have “Pat’s touch”—sometimes I feel like I’m doing dots all over my face, so I prefer to go with the brushes. Brushes were very important to me to develop for this collection. I’m obsessed with brushes, especially with the quality of the hair, so I pushed a lot to have the best natural hair so you can keep it clean, and for a pouch, because I never like to put a brush in my beauty bag without a beautiful pouch. I put a lot of my own needs and [the answers to my own] complaints into this collection.
Now that you’ve created the solutions to your beauty problems, do you think makeup is all a woman needs? What are your feelings on plastic surgery and Botox?
I’m never in the position of judging anyone, so I always say that if you do it in the right and proper way and you feel better, why not? I’m really open to this and would probably do it on myself. The problem is that I hate injections and I have very delicate skin, so if you touch me I have black dots for two weeks. I cannot do it because I’m always working and always meeting people, so it’s quite tough for me! But honestly, if there is a woman who doesn’t accept herself because of her age and wrinkles and she can do something to feel better, then maybe. The important thing is never to do too much. I’ve seen some monsters—both men and women.
Yes, I think we’ve all encountered a few plastic surgery monsters who made us think twice. Do you think you might go deeper into skincare after this?
I think so, yes.
What is your go-to face moisturizer at the moment?
I use creams that come from the dermatologist because I have a lot of allergies, so I need to be very careful…I suffer from dermatitis because of stress and sometimes because my skin is very sensitive. I inherited this from my mom, but fortunately my daughter seems to have stronger skin.
Speaking of that, how has your beauty routine changed since becoming a mother?
Honestly, it didn’t change a lot. Of course I have less time and I don’t want to spend an hour in the toilet doing my makeup because I prefer to play with [my daughter] before leaving for the office. Honestly, though, I wore the same makeup before [she was born]. She changed my life in other [ways], but not with makeup!
Have you discovered any baby products that you love using on yourself?
Yes. There is a body cream I use on her that has the smell of baby powder that I really love—it’s really hydrating. Sometimes I put it on myself as well. It’s a very niche, Italian brand: Fiocci di Riso …I think it’s from a small factory, and I’ve only found it one place in Rome. When I’m traveling, I try to keep it with me because [the scent] reminds me of [my daughter].
Fragrance is also an important part of the makeup collection, which is interesting. The lipsticks smell like “blue chocolate,” while the foundation is more floral, like a lily. Why did you decide on those scents in particular?
First of all, the deal I gave to the team—so to Pat [McGrath] and Procter & Gamble—was that I didn’t want the makeup to have a strong scent because it’s something I hate personally. So I really wanted something soft. But they explained to me that you can’t have something that smells like a pharmaceutical product, so we decided to have these little touches of flavors. We tried many different essences—it’s like when you do a fragrance. Of course, the idea of the chocolate I loved a lot, because if you can put something on your lips that reminds you of chocolate, it’s like a dream. Especially if you don’t eat chocolate!
And from what I understand, there was a lot of thought put into the colors in the collection—some were even pulled from the Gucci archives.
Yes, there were some colors that were coming from the Gucci archive or the colors from the collection, so we just needed to edit. In the beginning, I put together walls full of color palettes and things from the archive. The ottanio color was frequently done in the ’60s and ’70s—there were a lot of pieces in calf fur and leather. And then, of course, the bronze and the gold, which are colors that were used in the past, but again are very Gucci colors. I insisted on finding the right formula to have the shimmery gold that was very contemporary and very modern, so not the gold from the ’70s. Also, the rusty, brick colors. Those are very iconic [shades] that we brought back from the past but I still [use] very frequently in the collection. There are some colors—like the reds and blues—that are always going in every single collection.
Is there a color a woman should never wear past a certain age?
I don’t think so. For example, my mom has beautiful blue eyes, and when she puts blue on, her eyes [look like they did] in the ’70s. I think she’s still very beautiful. I would never wear the blue because every time I try it on myself, I say, “Oh, my God, I don’t recognize myself.”
Is there one makeup move that a Gucci woman would never make?
No, a Gucci woman always takes a risk.
Gucci Cosmetics are available in October at Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Gucci Boutiques. Prices range from $29 to $79.