Terry de gunzberg interview
Terry de gunzberg interview

Terry de Gunzburg On Her Latest Beauty Innovation

06 Nov 2018 | Updated on: 27 Sep 2022 |By Annabel Harrison

The former international creative director for YSL Beauté, credited with creating the cult Touche Éclat click concealer, reveals her latest cutting-edge creation 

I’m wearing a lab coat as I use a long-handled, spatula-like spoon to scoop up 2.5g of shimmering, pale gold pigment before pressing and packaging it. I feel as though I’m back at school, but I definitely didn’t leave any science lessons with my own bespoke eyeshadow palette. Just five minutes ago, I used an iPad to choose my colours – one can make powders, blushers, bronzers, highlighters or eyeshadows and there are more than 5,000 possible combinations – before the ‘recipe’ was printed and a beauty consultant guided me through the pigment pressing process.

It’s beauty for the 21st century: bespoke beauty, inspired by “the young people” and her own fascination with technology, By Terry founder Terry de Gunzburg tells me on the day Palette Factory launches in Selfridges. “I wanted to make it very scientific, but not boring” – which, she says, means a huge amount of work. “I wanted to reinvent what I started from scratch 20 years ago and make each customer feel she is her own beauty designer. We’ve worked on the Palette Factory for five years.” ‘We’ is de Gunzburg and her daughter Marion Assuied, who is the CEO of By Terry. Why Selfridges? “It’s modern luxury,” replies de Gunzburg. “It is super-British and also extremely international. The customers are very open-minded – they are ready to discover something different and new.”

Turning ‘something different and new’ into a cult favourite is what de Gunzburg does best. Touche Éclat launched 26 years ago, but half a dozen of these genius click-pen concealers still sell every minute worldwide. Although branded with the name Yves Saint Laurent, this now iconic product was de Gunzburg’s creation, as make-up designer of YSL Beauté for 15 years. After all this time, Monsieur Saint Laurent continues to inspire her. He once told de Gunzburg: “When you think it’s done, push beyond your own limits and you will discover a new energy in your creative process.” De Gunzburg recalls: “He gave me this confidence to open my mind. The sky is the limit. Why not?”

Why not indeed? De Gunzburg’s enthusiasm for knowledge, fired by innate curiosity, a scientist husband and four children, is undimmed by decades in the industry. “I have to learn one new thing every day. And I check Instagram first thing when I wake up.” She apologises for her “bad English” but her turns of phrase are charming and she’s only an eyeliner flick away from fluent (while my French is passable, at best). She has a strong creative streak and “loves science” – resulting in make-up that women actually want to wear. “Technology teaches me to reinterpret all my knowledge. I am not a fashion-show girl – I prefer to be in the lab with ‘geek’ people and to learn from them. I want my customers to feel good in their skin, and happy in themselves, so I have to deliver results through my products.”

And this approach is clearly working. Her business has seen double-digit growth every year for 10 years – “we’re in London, Paris, New York, and opening next year in Asia” – and I’d bet this is because de Gunzburg is her own customer. “She is inspired by luxury – modern luxury. She knows what she wants. She has style, freedom, a hint of exuberance. She likes to discover things. She wants to be her own guru, but to be taught by someone she trusts. She’s taking care of her skin but she’s doesn’t want to wear 10 layers or look fake, or pretend to be 20 if she’s 60.”

De Gunzburg’s own essentials are her new Baume de Rose lip balm, her Lash-Expert mascara – “all-in-one, elongating, volumising” – and her Light Expert click-brush foundation. She explains that if she surprises herself with a product, she will also surprise her customers and make them happy. “That is what I am very proud of. I don’t want them to be me, or the influencer – I want them to be themselves.” Brands cannot dismiss the fact that millennials pore over social media as they once used to scrutinise fashion magazines, snapping up their idols’ must-have products in a matter of clicks. De Gunzburg says she is “part in, part out. We can’t ignore it. When I started, top models were the face of brands and dictated the colours that everyone wanted. And everyone wanted to look the same.” Next, she says, came “the trend for being yourself, and social media is open-minded – anyone can become the new face of the world. It’s influenced sales, the market, creativity, new business, a new way to think, create, learn.”

It all comes back to learning and inventing. It’s the Palette Factory now, but I’m interested to see what de Gunzburg will dream up next year. Endearingly, her husband calls her Ingu – at first I think this is a term of affection in another language, but no. It stands for I Never Give Up. She doesn’t – and she believes in delivering true luxury in the process. She aims, she says, at “something creative, done with authenticity, integrity and quality. Luxury is not just the stamp of a brand on a box. It has to be based on savoir faire, deep feeling and it has to come from the soul. Integrity will be the new luxury.”

Our time is nearly up, so I ask de Gunzburg – who splits her time between London, Paris and New York – what appeals to her about our capital city. “I love everything about it!” she exclaims. “The British people are so civilised and polite. My treat, my luxury, is to have my walk in Hyde Park – the office is 10 minutes from my home near the Natural History Museum – near Kensington Palace and the Diana memorial. I stop to buy my tea and the staff are so nice and happy to see me. People are not complaining. London has all the good energy of New York, with a European sensitivity and an international open mind.” And we welcome Terry de Gunzburg, with her own energy and open mind – here’s to another 20 years in business.

Palette Factory By Terry is priced from £40, exclusive to Selfridges, selfridges.com