Color as Emotion

A hunger for creativity, and longing for perfection, that’s what drives Lloyd Simmonds, YSL’s creative director of makeup.

“Research is very important, in fact it’s all about that, unless you’re a genius and can get directly to the answer. I have to think hard about what is going to make a color really pop. If I have an idea for a certain color, I start by making pigments; I put them in pots and take them to the lab where they try to make my idea work. I never give them paper swatches from Pantone charts. What I want is life, a texture: shine or shimmer. The size of pigments is important, big or extremely fine? I like layers: a color layer, a texture layer. And then there is a shine, and different ways to make it metallic. I’ve been Creative Director at Yves Saint Laurent Beauty since 2010, so the lab sort of knows how I work. Sometimes they give me a new formula and ask me what I can build into in. Then I ask myself: “should it be transparent or something more opaque or matte? It’s important to take all the stuff and digest it, so that it can become something else.”

“I prefer photography to painting. Look, this is fabulous (Simmonds grabs his iPhone). This summer I saw a photo exhibition (Paris Photoquai 2015), with giant pictures shown on the banks of the Seine. It was fabulous, and refreshing. I saw the touching pictures of Mexican photographer Luis Arturo Aguirre. His series of portraits of young transvestites with colorful makeup was impressive. About contemporary art: I never thought I was a fan of Jeff Koons, but when I saw his retrospective in Paris, I connected with the pop elements. Koons is about extremely bright colors, about feeling. This is also why I always loved the French Fauves. What I prefer about this art movement is that the artists used color as emotion. With a group of colors they tried to add story and emotion. That’s why someone like Kees van Dongen is so inspiring.”

“My drive is the eternal search for perfection. The day after, something is not perfect anymore. It has to be done again.” Can perfection also be a problem? “Totally, it can be a trap. If you think you’ve got it right, then it’s usually wrong, because things change. All the time, I am continuously questioning things. What I have always loved about fashion is its imagery. I still haven’t made all the images I want to make. I’ve worked with a lot of great photographers like Richard Avedon, but now I’m ready for a new generation of talent. The reason for a current lack of talent could be that the world is saturated with images. It’s really hard for young people to be original because they have seen so many things already, a billion times. Before, people grew up in a vacuum, and didn’t know what was happening outside of their world, so they had to make it up. Now it’s hard to have a fresh point of view. That said, maybe people have too much information, so they get lazy. What makes this business so interesting is that it’s in a constant state of renewal. There are new people coming, and that’s what I’m waiting for. Furthermore, I’m not done yet. I want to keep on creating, I’m still very hungry, and that’s what drives me.”

Interview by Georgette Koning