REEK INTERVIEW: JULIAN KYNASTON

Julian Kynaston is a legend in the beauty business. As Marketing Director he led hair beauty brand, ghd, to become the UK’s fastest growing private company in 2005. Following its management buy-out in 2006, Julian left ghd to establish Illamasqua, a global cosmetics brand, which is already breaking industry sales records. He sat down with us to talk perfume, beauty and gender politics.
An image of Damn Rebel Bitch Julian Kynaston, founder of Illamasqua, to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'
An image from the Illamasqua campaign to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'
An image from the Illamasqua campaign to accompany an interview for REEK Perfume's platform 'Bitches Unite.'

Which women have inspired you most in your life?

It’s got to be Kate Bush. I love her voice, her attitude, her spirit, and her sheer stage presence. She’s one of the most influential singers of all time, and to cap it off she was so incredibly young when she started out.

Do you think female success differs from male success and, if so, how?

I do, yes. The word equality gets thrown around so much these days, but realistically, for a woman to be considered anywhere close to being equal with a man, she’s going to have had to work ten times harder than him to get close – and she probably still won’t get recognised for it.

What smells do you consider feminine?

I particularly like Habanita de Molinard, the fragrance created by Richard Burton for Liz Taylor, and the original Fendi perfume from 1985.

How do you feel about beauty industry advertising? What would you like to see change?

Quite honestly, I think it’s stereotypical, condescending and damaging to society. It feels like we’re seeing an accountant’s tunnel-vision of what he thinks advertising should be – it’s unachievable and unfulfilling. But I’m trying to change this with Illamasqua. We were one of the first brands to use men in makeup adverts and celebrate models with skin imperfections, all to try and break down these barriers and social norms we’ve become accustomed to.

What are the challenges of being a male feminist?

The biggest challenge I’ve had to deal with is society’s preconceptions. I’m really proud to be a feminist and to break the traditional stereotype. I’ve got tonnes of really ‘laddie’ mates who I go to the football with and as a group, they’ll say loads of stupid things – but when we’re alone, or I’m with one or two of them, they take pride in telling me how much they love what I do.

You were involved from the beginning with Sophie Lancaster Foundation. Tell us about your work there.

I can remember the exact moment – I was drafting my mission statement for Illamasqua. I’d written the words “I want women to wear their makeup bolder and prouder, and I want to help men rediscover makeup,” and Sophie’s story broke on the news. As you know, Sophie was killed by a group of feral youths simply for looking different (part of this difference being the edgy way that she wore her makeup). And this was the very thing I was fighting for – self-expression and acceptance. In that split second, I knew I was prepared to do everything I could to stop this from happening again.

Is there too much pressure in the beauty industry to conform to a single ideal of female beauty?

There are so many different kinds of beauty. I think it’s disgusting that the industry has tried to shoehorn one particular kind of beauty into the mass market. But, that said, I think it’s finally starting to change quite rapidly. We have this saying at Illamasqua, “no amount of makeup can make a person beautiful on the inside.”

What does beauty look like?

Like I’ve already said, beauty looks like many different things to many different people. At Illamasqua, we use an analogy of a snail; some people will look at one and think, “Urgh, that’s disgusting.” Other people, like myself, will see the beauty of it, and think, ‘Wow. That’s totally and utterly incredible,’ and we’ll admire everything about it, from its shell to the way its trail glistens.