Former mining rep, Rhys Williams, recently launched Gilded Cage, a makeup brand celebrating diversity and individuality.
With a smorgasbord of colours that look good enough to eat and textures built for hydration, his collection is fast becoming a smash hit with makeup artists.
He speaks with SPA+CLINIC about his dramatic transition from working underground in the mining industry, to aesthetics:
Can you tell me a bit about your professional background and what inspired you to start a makeup range?
My professional background started on the shovel as a labourer at the Illawarra Steelworks before moving to London to live and study for eight years – I was working in print and exhibition agencies.
When I arrived in Australia again, the mining industry was booming. Like many others, I saw an opportunity to build a stable life.
I reached the top of my game when I moved overseas for work and was selling equipment underground in a coal mine in the Czech Republic. I’d been underground in coal mines before, but not like this.
For the first time I thought, “if something goes wrong, I’m done” – when you’re 1km under the ground it’s pitch black.
In the darkness, I realised mining had taken me away from everything creative that I enjoyed and loved. And it had taken me away from my friends and family back home in Australia.
How did you make the transition from mining into creating makeup?
Beauty appealed to me because it would allow me to be creative as well as give me an opportunity to build something on my own terms. I could have an opinion and travel the world with purpose and drive.
Funnily enough, my industrial and manufacturing background allowed me to make the leap with ease. My whole life has been about hard work and surviving. Both are essential qualities in the beauty industry – I’ve never looked back.
My goal is to bring more common sense into beauty. For beauty to be aspirational but more importantly, honest and transparent. This is why I’ve launched luxury cosmetic textures at an affordable price point.
Can you elaborate on this ‘honest beauty’ brand philosophy?
Gilded Cage is focused on curating individual identity and self-determined beauty. There’s so many ways to be beautiful, so why focus on one?
I’ll never forget one specific moment when I was 18. I was walking through a department store and looked at the women in product advertising.
All I saw was seduction, desire and a one dimensional view on what’s considered beautiful.
I thought about all the women I knew, valued and loved and found myself deeply annoyed. Not everyone buys into these ideals, or see them as something to strive towards. This is incredibly exciting.
Beauty to me is about people celebrating what makes someone unique. People are most beautiful when they are true to themselves.
Does this mean you’re standing against the retouching or photoshopping of models in the media?
Not really. Filters and image manipulation is part of every day life. Technology today means anyone can be a re-toucher.
My philosophy, rather, encourages people to realise that not every makeup look needs to be flawless or transform your features into someone unrecognisable. That takes away what makes your “look” unique.
It is boring, predictable and lacking in personality which are all an essential part of actually being beautiful. They’re what light you up from within.
How does this mindset translate into your makeup products?
Through our ingredient choices and unique textures. For example, the Unleashed lipsticks aren’t just pretty washes of colour. They’re functional lip conditioners.
They contain a blend of six key ingredients that soften the lips and promote moisture retention.
These include wild mango butter and nymphaea flower extract. They also have a beautiful, balmy texture that’s incredible comfortable to wear. The key ingredient in our Charisma lip glosses is Aleurites moluccana seed oil. This promotes softening.
Our Revelation eyeshadows work to enhance the wearers’ natural beauty – they are completely buildable in terms of pigment. So you can easily create a bold look or blend it out for a sheer wash of colour.
They contain ingredients like fatty acid and safflower seed oil which combat dryness and a species of kelp which is very soothing. It goes without saying that these won’t dry your eyelids. They leave a smooth, three dimensional finish.
Single vial packaging really appealed to me. Everyone is busy and as a result, makeup routines are often regulated to how much time you have before running out of the door and getting on with life.
What inspired your eyeshadow colour choices?
Overall our inspiration comes from European runways, but then applying those colours to everyday situations – rather than for seduction.
We looked at every day colours with broad appeal, like mahogany, rose gold, silver, aubergine and taupe.
We specifically cater for certain hair and eye colour combinations. The Sage shade works perfectly on red-heads with green or blue eyes, while our Vander pink looks incredible on mid-toned Asian skin.
Some colours work as highlighters, such as Platinum and Rose Gold which can be applied under the arch of the brow or the corner of the eye.
What’s next for the brand?
I really love the idea of textures that do away with three or four products in a single hit. Thus, we are currently developing a range of multi-tasking skin care textures that work like colour cosmetics.
We see opportunity to carve out a space between natural as can be and performance. That’s our focus for now and why my eye has turned to Switzerland and South Korea for these textures.