To find inspiration for the Chanel autumn/winter collection of make-up this year, the Chanel global creative make-up and colour designer, Lucia Pica, took a road trip through California. Pica’s purpose was to experience afresh the light and colours of the world outside, and find a completely new starting point for her creative process. From misty dawns in the hills to high noon on the sun-dappled coast to the city lights piercing the gritty noir of downtown Los Angeles, Pica’s journey through Californian time and space stirred her creative imagination at every stage.
“I wanted to make my own mood board,” Pica says, ”to be inspired by what is happening in the moment.” She captured images of fleeting, photogenic moments to record fresh nuances of colour and visual texture that could inform the collection. In that way, the collection is about memories, emotions and connections that colour can evoke, broadening horizons in every sense. “We always respect the fact that Chanel is a brand that tells its own, very important story of the woman that went out there to search for things,” says Pica. “And she spent her time with artists and with a collection of people who were inspiring to her.” Pica went on the road with friends, who included photographer Max Farago. The idea was to create something by putting themselves in unfamiliar situations.
Pica was unsure at the start what colours the palette for the latest collection might turn out to contain. “I wasn’t just searching for colours, but finding new colours, as nature was giving unexpected compositions of colours, both cold and warm, and new colours, living together harmoniously. So that inspired me in many ways,” she says. It made her think about the way people apply make-up and the way brands put colours together in a palette.
“I’m always trying to find the opposition,” Pica says. “I think it’s something that is very Chanel.” For eyes, the palette has a darkness and intensity as enigmatic as the ocean that laps Californian shores. For lips, it has the brightest pop colours to express irreverence and energy.
The smoky shades in the palette for Les 4 Ombres eye shadow are oxygenated by their outdoorsy inspiration, tones evoking deep water harmonising with hues evoking cool air. Two other Chanel eye shadows, Urban and Memory, are a deep blue of petrol – the essence of a road trip.
Pica chose to explore the colours of Los Angeles and the vicinity rather than those of Naples or London, where she feels equally at home. “When you think of a road trip, you think of the US,” she says. “But it’s also because I’ve been going there for a long time. I like the life there, spent time there. I know, understand, the feeling of freedom.”
The make-up designer was unsurprised to find colours that she was familiar with in nature, but was struck by how they change as the day wears on. Pica even used the headlights of her car to bathe nature’s colours in artificial light after night fell. “At one point we had photographed so much nature – the trip lasted four days – that I said to Max, ‘We need something more gritty. We can’t have everything too perfect. It needs to be something poetic, but with reality at the same time.’ ”
Putting together the latest collection was a chance for Pica to influence and stamp her authority on the collective aesthetic culture of Chanel. “This project is a nice way of showing how I work,” she says. “This is very important for Chanel, because it’s about craftsmanship, it’s about balance – knowing why these products are so special – not just about my make-up routine. It’s about taking you into my world, the world that inspires me to create colours for the collection. And we go to a big extent to discover new colours, new textures and how we put them together. It’s also a nice way to inspire people.”
American actress Kristen Stewart, an ambassador for Chanel, describes Pica, when working as a make-up artist, as a “genius, and completely in the zone”. Pica’s collection includes red eye shadow for Stewart. “Kristen was in the moment where she had really blonde hair,” Pica says. “I felt, like, OK, the colours will pop out. I felt, like, if I use anything too muted it wouldn’t respect her bleached blonde, rebellious look. Because of the natural light, it feels very balanced. It doesn’t feel too fake, even though it’s bold.”
Stewart’s conversation is invariably stimulating, the make-up designer finds. “She can read you very fast,” Pica says. “She really gets people, and sees the parts they try to hide. She’s super-intelligent and inspiring. You know how certain people can give you a feel-good factor? She does. She has a buzz. She has a vibe.”
Millennials overdo cosmetics, in Pica’s opinion. “I think they wear way too much make-up. But I was insecure about the way I looked when I was young, so I used make-up to protect me.” You can use make-up to express your character, Pica believes. She says you cannot always change your look with designer clothes or interesting things. “But you can with your face,” she says. You should use make-up in the most personal way, Pica says. “It’s about trying to look like everybody else, but in your own way – not the way your idol looks,” she says. “That’s what I like best.”
Pica works for others besides Chanel, and will continue to do so to fuel her creativity. “There is that freedom and I think it’s important to be out there and exchanging yourself with different types of people. You can’t be too excluded from others. You also need to be reactive.”
The make-up designer has some knowledge of the market for cosmetics in East Asia. “I’ve been to Seoul, Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong,” Pica says. “Korea, or Seoul, is interesting. Girls use super-bright orange lips, dark in the middle and pink around. It’s a very strong colour aesthetic. They believe so passionately in strong colour. They are very proud and bold in that way. It’s what I call a real-people attitude.
The spirit of the now legendary founder, the late Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, moves all that work for Chanel. Pica regards the founder as an extraordinary woman. “Not only did she take women out of corsets and give them comfort, she created sun-tanning lotion when it was unacceptable for women to be tanned,” Pica says. “She did so many groundbreaking things which now appear natural, but weren’t then. There was a lot of empowerment. She did eye shadow in the 1930s. Always forward-thinking, she used to say: ‘Wear red lipstick and attack’ She never stopped going for it.”
The Chanel make-up designer and the Chanel founder, would have seen eye to eye and appreciated each other’s eyeliner.