Scarlet Dream

Since its inception in 1953, Rouge 999—Dior’s luscious take on red—has allowed women to put their best face forward.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The iconic Rouge Dior

Monsieur Christian Dior celebrated femininity by dressing women in the most breathtaking creations across the realms of fashion, jewellery and of course, beauty. Rouge 999, a rich and enigmatic shade of red lipstick that adds boldness and confidence to the visage, is the result of his quest to give women all the tools they could ever want or need to step out into the world in style.

It all began at Dior’s first couture showing inside the hallowed halls of 30 Avenue Montaigne, where he introduced a legendary silhouette that would change fashion forever. Dubbed the “New Look” by the press, Dior traced the female form with lines that accentuated every curve. It was a masterstroke that not only cemented his status as one of the most revered designers of his time, it also encouraged women to embrace the power of their femininity once more. Buoyed by the clout of his immense talent, Dior’s creativity flourished in the ensuing years. Season after season, Dior conjured exquisite designs from the depths of his imagination, finessed to fruition under the skilful hands of the petite mains in his atelier. Showered with praise and adulation, he said: “The lipstick all over my cheeks is the surest proof of the success of my collection.” 

But Dior’s vision of beauty extended beyond the garments he created. Sparked by his desire to inject more beauty into the world, Dior soon found another undertaking: To “dress the smiles of women” with a lipstick in the perfect shade of red. And with that, marked the start of the Rouge Revolution. 

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The Dior 999 makeup collection.

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Dior spring/summer 2018 couture. 

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Cara Delevingne in new Cara by Cara Dior fall/ winter 2019 campaign.

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The man himself, Christian Dior, savouring coffee and quiet time in his luxurious scarlet home.

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The first-ever Rouge Dior lipstick that started it all.

Regarded as a symbol of love and seduction, red was a natural choice for Dior. “It is the colour of life. I love red. In my opinion, it is suitable for almost all complexions. It can also be worn at any time,” Dior mused in the Little Dictionary of Fashion, a tome he wrote that quickly became the authority on style. This led him to create two shades of red lipsticks—a first for an haute couture house to enter the cosmetics industry. Duly christened as 9 and 99 after Dior’s lucky number, these debuted in 1953 alongside three crimson dresses that announced his ambitions in the most brilliant manner. From that moment on, the realms of fashion and beauty shared a symbiotic relationship within his universe, what with Dior’s couture confections and their refined tones inspiring the flirty pinks and statement oranges that turned up on the colour palettes. 

Through it all, red continues to be an integral part of Dior’s legacy even in the years after his demise. Thanks to the stewardship of his successors such as Gianfranco Ferré and Maria Grazia Chiuri, the striking hue continues to be an emblem of romance, strength and power on the catwalks. Chiuri, the first female Creative Director at the helm of the House, has utilised the striking hue as an audacious accent in her interpretation of feminism at Dior. 

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Rouge Dior Ultra Care with the white "CD" core of 100 percent cameline oil to deeply nourish and plump lips. 

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The New Dior Rouge Ultra Care Liquid in 999 

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From left: Dior Rouge Ultra Rouge. Dior fall/winter 2019 ready-to-wear. 

Ditto Dior’s famous lipsticks—now adapted to become Rouge 999 and a contemporary interpretation of Dior’s ode to femininity.“Red is more than a colour. Red is a passion. Red is a heartbeat,” said Peter Philips, the brand’s Creative and Image Director. Under his astute supervision, the Rouge 999 shade has become the subject of constant innovation, always evolving to suit the ever-changing needs of the modern woman. More than 1,500 shades have been created since 1953—a testament to the unparalleled prowess and influence of Rouge 999, the classic translation of Dior’s legendary red.

Its latest reiteration? The Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge and Rouge Dior Ultra Care collections—the latter being the first flower oil-infused lipstick formula, cushioning pouts in deeply nourishing, long-wearing, luminous matte colour. From lipsticks boasting a slick finish for a jolt of high-octane glamour, to classic red nails and a powder palette that recreates a lover's bashful blush, this iconic red has transcended age and time altogether—just like how Dior would've intended it to be. 

“Red is more than a colour. Red is a passion. Red is a heartbeat.” – PETER PHILIPS 

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From top: Dior Vernis; Rouge Dior Ultra Care Liquid; Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge; Dior Rouge Ultra Care; Rouge Dior Matte; and Rouge Dior, all in 999