On a cool, breezy evening in Los Angeles, I am on the patio of the famed Chateau Marmont eating a Caesar’s Salad.
On a cool, breezy evening in Los Angeles, I am on the patio of the famed Chateau Marmont eating a Caesar’s Salad. “Go light on the dressing and no croutons,” I declare to the over-dressed waitress with way too much bronzer and cleavage on show. I mean, even though it’s dinner time, no one actually eats in Hollywood, right? Plus, there’s a Dior party later at the chic Delilah’s to celebrate the launch of Dior Addict Lacquer Stick—God help me if I talk to the beauty cognoscenti (or worse, Peter Philips!) with anchovy breath and bits of chicken in my teeth. So, I play with my food before I am called up to meet Philips. He is holding court to a bevy of journalists from Asia, leaving me time to survey the penthouse suite, decked out in neon signs spelling out “Dior Beauty” and kitsch Dali-esque lip sofas.
I walk out to the patio to see the view of L.A. beneath me, making out the twinkling lights of houses as the desert sun sets behind the famous Hollywood sign. There’s something magical about La La Land— a cool blend of old and new, of glitzy Tinseltown and gritty Downtown L.A.
Finally, it is my turn to speak to Philips. He is dressed in his usual black uniform of sweater and pants.
Despite his role as Creative and Image director of Dior Makeup, he is unassuming, warm and charming.
His handshake is firm, but his sparkling eyes are rimmed pink with fatigue from non-stop rounds of interviews and photographs. Since joining Dior in 2014, he has sought to experiment and reinvent; this time, creating his latest baby, Dior Addict Lacquer Stick. Philips pats the chair beside him, gesturing me to sit, and so begins my chat with the makeup maestro.
What was it about L.A. that inspired you to create this new line of lipsticks?
One thing I knew for sure was that Jennifer [Lawrence] was going to be the face of this line. We usually do the shoots with Jennifer here, so for me, she is L.A.—she’s Hollywood, she’s a movie star. So even though we never really planned it in the beginning, there were elements of L.A. that kept coming back because of this Jennifer link. That’s why I thought: Why don’t we make L.A. the theme? When I start a collection, I always try to make it easy for women to find their way around it, because when there’s a new lipstick launch, it can be intimidating when you see all these shades. Normally, we divide them into groups, like reds, nudes, peaches. This time, I said, let’s do it differently. I kept going back to the idea of the impressions that I had of L.A., so we came up with keywords.
And this became how you classified the different shades in the collection?
Yes. For example, to me, the “pastels” stand for the vanilla shakes that you get at ’50s-style diners. And then we’ve got the “neons,” which represent movie theatres, because when you walk outside one, you see those neon lights.
The “classics” this time around are classic Hollywood: Red carpets, movie stars, that kind of stuff . Finally, the “wild” shades are the dark and wild side of L.A., with more pigmented and daring colours. And each of the shades are also named in a very fun and playful manner.
Are these your impressions of how things are in L.A. or things you’ve personally experienced?
These impressions are all my experiences in L.A. The first time I came to L.A. many years ago, it was for a shoot. On the first day, we were shooting at the Hollywood sign—I remember sitting on the “O”, thinking to myself: “Wow, it’s my first time here,” and I felt like I was part of a movie.
That afternoon, we shot at the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
All those things you know from movies and postcards, they’re my real and very lasting impressions. In fact, there was a shoot with Kate Moss and one of the shots was in a ’50s-style diner. So for me, I associate L.A. with all these kinds of stuff . It’s a bit of a cliché but they’re very L.A. as well, so why not play with them?
When you came up with this lacquer stick, did you feel there was something missing in the market that you could create to fill the gap?
Absolutely. I might be mistaken but as far as I know, I’ve never touched a product like this, which combines all the best parts of a lip gloss with all the best of a lipstick. Right now women want to wear matte, but women change their minds. Sooner or later, they will get tired of matte and go back to shine, so it’s good to show an alternative, a new version of shine. In my ideal world, Dior will have everything in its range, from the perfect mattes, to the perfect shines and the perfect satins. I believe that makeup should include the possibility to play around, and it will not be guided by certain trends each season anymore. So I decided to come up with this challenge, to try to find the new way to apply shine. I want to get a lip gloss in a stick, without being too sticky, with high-pigment payoff and with high-shine payoff . So yes, this [Dior Addict Lacquer Stick] is an amazing formula. It’s actually the formula that supports everything, including all the colours that I was able to create. For example, to make a lipstick, we take an opaque, solid base and add pigments to it. This opaqueness tends to make the pigments look less bold. On the other hand, a lip gloss usually has a liquid formula, which is either semi-transparent or clear. For this [Dior Addict Lacquer Stick], our labs came out with a formula that is solid but crystal clear, so we can add pigments to it and not worry about the opaqueness. At the same time, we get the shine of a lip gloss but in a solid form.
There’s this amazing intensity.
You see the pigments but you don’t feel it. Also, there is a combination of five oils that give a really comfortable nourishing effect. It comes in a very thin stick so it’s very easy to apply. You have a guaranteed payoff of pigments and shine. All those elements are things that I think will appeal to women who love to play with makeup and express themselves. I selected one from each group; the shade that fits the most skin tones so that whenever a woman is choosing her lipstick, she has something to take into consideration.
So these are shades that any woman can wear?
The colour of your skin, your natural lips, your teeth—all those have an impact on the lipstick shade you are wearing, so these are the ones from each group that I think fit most women. For example, for the wild ones I have Sauvage, and for the classic ones I have the one Jennifer is wearing. It’s called Turn Me Dior, a luminous raspberry red. In the neons, we have this shocking pink called Diabolo, and then in the pastels we have Tease, a pinkish beige that’s effortlessly chic. In a way, it makes it easy for women to find their pick. We’ve got the basics, which are easy to wear, or if you would like to push a bit further, we’ve got the extreme colours.
When it comes to pushing boundaries, are photoshoots still the best avenue for you to try out different things?
I still do a lot of shoots, and for me it’s a way to actually test myself, to put things into different contexts. I started out as a makeup artist for shoots so it’s still something that fits me and inspires me.
And it’s also where I play with makeup in a different way from how I play with them when I’m in the labs.
And what do you think about Maria Grazia Chiuri’s appointment at Dior?
I think it’s great; I was very surprised. I mean, for me it was strange because I’d never met her and she’d never met me, so we were kind of put together on this ship.We got to know each other after a few launches and it’s going well. She has her makeup opinion from a woman’s point of view; from a woman who wears makeup, not always but quite often, and it’s very interesting. I reassured her that when I work with her as a makeup artist for a show, my team is there for her vision and she appreciates that.