Beauty guru Terry de Gunzburg talks taste
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My personal style signifier is a timeless uniform of black flared pants, a white shirt and a pair of fancy shoes. I favour long-term style over fashion trends. I worked with Yves Saint Laurent for 15 years, so I have plenty of vintage YSL clothes, which I mix with sneakers and things like that. And I’ve been a Manolo Blahnik addict from the beginning.
The last thing I bought and loved was a white plaster chandelier by a friend of mine called Vincent Darré. I don’t know where to put it, but it’s absolutely amazing: a huge, crazy thing – 3m in diameter – that you light with candles. I got it at Piasa, an auction house in Paris. I couldn’t resist.
The place that means a lot to me is my house in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, where I’ve been going for 30 years. It’s the place where I feel most myself: I’m not wearing make-up and I’m not wearing sophisticated clothes. I go for “me time” but also for a retreat with my husband. When my children and grandchildren come, it’s so joyful. There’s a vegetable garden, olive trees and I make confiture from apricots and berries.
And the best souvenirs I’ve brought home are from Rajasthan in northern India. I went a few years ago and it impressed me so much – the palaces filled with precious and vibrant things, the elegant saris… and all that colour! So I’ve bought home visual souvenirs, but also silk fabrics and pigments from the market. I try to replicate them in palettes and cosmetic colours but you never get quite the same luminosity.
The best book I’ve read in the past year is The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig, which feels contemporary but was written in the ’40s. It’s about someone who is arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in a hotel. They take everything from him – he doesn’t know whether it’s day or night – so he plays chess with himself in his head. It’s a tale of resilience and motivation.
The best gifts I’ve given recently are the ceramics I’ve been making with a French artist called Stéphanie Larène. I started off buying her work in galleries, and now I spend time with her in her studio, making my own pigments and pieces. It’s all about beauty. I love literature and reading, so I’ve taken sentences from books related to beauty and printed them on plates, cups and bowls.
In my fridge you’ll always find fresh, organic eggs – which are very important as I don’t eat meat – almond milk, green vegetables and red berries. And champagne, but never before five o’clock.
And the best gifts I’ve received are from Stéphanie Larène, who recently gave me a tiny table and a mirror featuring blue ceramic birds, each with a tiny poem on it. I have a similar vase by her that’s covered in lines from Shakespearean sonnets.
The last music I downloaded was “Sky Queen”, the new single by Rose Rose. It’s my son’s band; he’s a musician and artist. Otherwise, I’m an opera junkie. When I’m home alone, I play it super-loud as if I’m at the Royal Opera House. I love Verdi, Mozart’s The Magic Flute and Puccini’s Tosca, which always makes me cry because the ending is so devastating. I know them by heart.
My favourite room in my house is the kitchen. It’s big – almost professional – and as we used to entertain here a lot, it’s separate from the family and dining rooms. I like to cook everything except for pastries and sweets; I’ve never succeeded in baking a cake. I always think I’m cleverer than the recipe, add something last minute and it all collapses. But as someone who doesn’t eat meat, I’m very creative with vegetables. One of my favourite things to make is a vinaigrette with peanut butter and rice vinegar, which I add to lentils, chickpea salads and raw fish.
I have a collection of shoes – maybe more than 2,000 pairs. I have shoes by Manolo Blahnik from the day he opened his first store, and I have shoes by Christian Louboutin, who has a store in the same gallery where I have my store in Paris; we’re friends. My favourites are the Swarovski-crystal Manolos I have in red, green, black and gold – they’re like Dorothy’s shoes in The Wizard of Oz. I wear them when I feel desperate, even if I’m going to the office. I also collect jewellery by artists such as Dalí, and pieces made from coral.
I’ve recently rediscovered a Galliano for Dior gown that I first wore to a wedding almost 20 years ago. The fabric is handpainted, it’s embroidered with beautiful beads and coral, and it still fits! I’ve decided that I’m not buying anything new, so I’m rediscovering my older pieces – and they still work.
My style icon is Marlene Dietrich, who had a European mindset long before the days of the EU. While working in America, she renounced her German citizenship when the second world war started; she opposed what was happening and always fought for human rights. She also totally reinvented herself – her make-up, her eyebrows, her lips. Timelessness is important, but you don’t have to stay stuck in your style. You can evolve a little bit.
The thing I couldn’t do without is my Oral-B electric toothbrush. I’m obsessed with brushing my teeth and always buy the most advanced toothbrush I can find. I also couldn’t live without my Baume de Rose lip balm. I wear it day and night. By Terry Baume de Rose Lip Balm, £40
My favourite location is the Eiffel Tower because it was supposed to be temporary, an exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution. But it’s stayed forever, and everyone knows it. When I was a kid, my parents took me to the top, which is impossible now. It was magical; I thought I was really in the sky.
I don’t have a beauty guru as I do almost everything myself – I cut my hair and I do my own colour. I have no time or patience! But in London, I’ll go for a manicure at Chloe Nail Spa in Chelsea. I always get a neutral shade, Mademoiselle by Essie: same for my toes. It used to be a deep red, but now I’m a Mademoiselle lady.
My favourite app is Cafeyn, which has all of the press on one website – international press, magazines, daily news. I also have that app that counts your steps; I need to do at least 10,000 a day. That’s my gym.
In another life, I would have been a scientist. My dream was to be Marie Curie, but I abandoned my medical studies.
An indulgence I would never forgo is Lindt 90 per cent dark chocolate. It’s wonderfully bitter. I eat it before bed, in the middle of the night and during the day when I feel like I want to kill someone and need a hit of magnesium to stay calm. It’s better than Prozac!
When I need to feel inspired, I go to a museum. I never really stop being inspired, but that’s where I go when I feel anxious or insecure. I’m also inspired by cooking – by the colours, the textures, the mixing of things. It gives me inspiration for formulas.
The best bit of advice I ever received was from my mother, who always told me to wear red lipstick and high heels when I was feeling down. Red lipstick makes you smile, and that way nobody has to share your bad mood. Some say love is the answer; my mother says it’s a smile.