Lucia Pica on why one can never go wrong with the colour red in beauty

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“Red is intense, vulnerable, sexual and eternal. There is strength and emotion, warmth and disruption in red. It is a colour that has both a sense of the real and the radical,” says Lucia Pica, global creative makeup and colour designer of Chanel.

The Naples native, who took on her position at the maison in 2015, is a fitting authority on the historical role of the colour in cosmetics. She admits to having a long personal affinity with it and – not unlike Coco Chanel herself – considers red lipstick as part of her signature look. So obsessed is she with it that her debut makeup collection for the brand in 2016, Le Rouge Collection No. 1, centred on its various shades and their symbolism.

Red, of course, has always been an integral part of Chanel. The label’s first lipstick – a crimson bullet introduced in 1924 – was said to be a revolution then for being intense yet comfortable enough for everyday wear. This in turn reportedly helped to establish the colour as part of the modern, go-getting woman’s makeup routine.

“Gabrielle Chanel said ‘mettez du rouge et attaquez’ (French for ‘put on lipstick and attack’),” says Pica. “For me, those ideas are fundamental to red cosmetics. They mean protection, playfulness and strength.” Here, an exclusive featuring her take on why one can never go wrong with the colour.


“Putting red on the eyelids brightens the eyes and the complexion. It doesn’t make you look sick or tired,” points out Pica. To champion the idea, she created the Les 4 Ombres Candeur et Experience eyeshadow palette as part of her debut collection for Chanel in 2016. Said to complement all eye colours and create an effect that’s dramatic yet feminine, it features a deep brick red hue alongside three shades of brown all with the same reddish undertone and soft matte finish. Come Fall, it inspires two spin-offs – the pink-based Les 4 Ombres Candeur et Provocation and raspberry-centric Les 4 Ombres Candeur et Seduction – with the above look the result of combining all three.

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After all, it’s the colour of flushed skin or, as Coco Chanel herself famously put it, “it’s the colour of life, of blood”. Cue the blusher, one of the earliest forms of makeup dating back to ancient Egypt when fat was mixed with specifically grounded red ochre to liven up the cheeks. It explains Pica’s approach to the product: Joues Contraste Rouge Profond is a pressed powder in a versatile and sophisticated brick red hue. With a breathable, silky texture and a finish that’s a cross between a matte and shine, it’s meant to be easily buildable so that one can create a healthy, rosy glow or amp it up for a more stylised look. 

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Lipstick and nail varnish in classic crimson are the beauty equivalents of the plain white tee and LBD in fashion: staples. However wide and experimental beauty companies (Chanel included) have become with their range of colours, both products are most famously and historically associated with red. (Fun fact: Red nail enamel, which dates back to 3000 BC, was seen as the preserve of the upper class in ancient Egypt.) In Le Rouge Collection No. 1, Pica pays tribute to such heritage by playing with shades and textures all while making sure that the resulting hue is versatile and timeless. The lippie above – Rouge Allure Velvet in Rouge Charnel – for example, is a fiery, flamboyant red with a modern, luminous matte finish while the varnish, Le Vernis Rouge Puissant, is equally striking yet works on all skin tones and for all occasions.

Text & Coordination Noelle Loh Photos Courtesy of Chanel