#beauty: Dior Makeup gives signature Rouge Dior lipstick an update

Creative and image director Peter Philips talks to Zaneta Cheng about natural beauty, how he sees beauty trends in today’s democratised beauty world and his inspirations behind the refurbished icon

When peter philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup, was tasked to update the house’s iconic Rouge Dior lipstick, which happens to be the first make-up product created by Christian Dior, he knew it was a tall order. Reinventing one of the most beloved products in the brand’s range, Philips decided to focus the relaunch of the lipstick range on the more natural approach women adopted during the coronavirus pandemic. “We wanted to rethink in this time what women would want and what they expect from a lipstick, which is more natural with more caring ingredients,” he says.

Planning, I learn, began almost two years before the launch and both the emphasis on the concept of natural beauty in a time when human contact was scarce and conversations around diversity were at their peak resulted in a floral-centric formula recreated in 70 shades and two finishes for ease and for choice.

The new-and-improved formula has also doubled down on floral science. On top of the original use of
red peony extract, which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and helps to protect the skin barrier while revitalising the skin of the lips day after day, the formula now contains pomegranate flower and prickly pear flower extracts as well as hibiscus flower extract. Together the new formula has the added benefits of plumper and more supple lips, enhanced comfort and softness, and better hydration than its predecessor – a modern update of Mr Dior’s passion for florals. There’s also a slick update to the case and a crimson campaign that recalls Christian Dior’s famous “Coup de Trafalgar”, a set of red designs that were sent out in the middle of a runway show as an unexpected and bold surprise.

It’s a busy morning at the office when I dial in for a chat about his newest lipstick launch and it’s almost light years ago that Philips has worked on this lipstick given the production timeline of cosmetics, but the make-up artist still speaks with thoughtful and considered enthusiasm, holding up the new brick-red 777 lipstick and number 100 nude beige rosewood shade for contrast. Some colours are offered in either matte or velvet, but icons like the 999 and the 720 are offered in both to cater to the whims of any and all who want to put the colour on their lips.

What was the biggest challenge you faced when thinking about how to renew the Rouge Dior collection?

The biggest challenge is of course to not disappoint our customers because we already had a good formula so we had to make sure that our launch is a complete launch and that the innovations we introduce don’t disappoint. We want to draw the interest of and maybe intrigue and capture the attention of potential new consumers.

So the changes we made include a complete redesign of the packaging as well as a new formula and concept where the range of shades makes it new and innovative. We did 70 shades, which is a lot. It’s a huge range with a lot of research around the idea of naturality in beauty. We wanted to understand how women perceive a natural lip or natural make-up, which doesn’t necessarily mean a beige or colourless look. It can be colourful as well depending on cultures and region. We had cultural feedback that said a natural look is a full make-up look where the colour on the lips would even skew toward reds, whereas there were other regions where the idea of a naturally made-up face was more about nudes and almost no make-up and base tones.

Mostly, it’s how you project yourself to the world and how you wear the confidence of your look and how it translates. If you can make people believe the look that you wear, if you own it, that look can be considered a natural look. That was our challenge – in that context, to create a range of shades that could satisfy women worldwide that would fit their expectation of a make-up product, how they perceive make-up looks and be able to find something in the range.

With such a range of shades, what was behind the decision to narrow the range to two finishes?

We have the range and that’s also why we narrowed it down to two finishes. The velvet finish is a combination of our previous mattes and velvets. We put them together and we found that the velvet finish actually completes what people expect from a matte but without being too flat. Most women also like a lipstick that is luminous with a formula that is comfortable and that’s why we went for just the satin finish and the velvet finish. And for some of our most popular shades, we actually have the identical shade in both finishes so you can pick and choose whatever you want.

Were trends on your mind when you were working on this lipstick?

Did you think back then what the beauty trends for spring 2024 might be? I don’t think about trends that might come because while they do come, they go really quickly. I have to provide a range of shades with whatever I do, be it eyeshadow, lipsticks, blushes, whatever – because I need to create to please a worldwide audience and I need to make sure that they go in that direction.

The collection will probably have new shades added to it across three to four years. That’s why it’s very important to have a range of shades that are solid enough to last that long and give the opportunity to play and maybe add itself to a trend or become a new trend in itself. The thing is also, these days, there are so many trends every season. I mean there used to be a time when trends were very much dedicated but now…

There are so many micro-trends.

And seasons as well. There’s a red carpet season when people look at what celebrities are wearing on the red carpet. Almost simultaneously there might be a catwalk season where there might be a show and what’s happening at the shows become trends. Then, there might be a celebrity who launches a video clip that goes viral or something like that and becomes a trend. There are so many inputs that create trends. At the same time, they pass very quickly so it’s up to me and the labs to create products that can complete the trends that are coming and that’s why the overarching trend for this one is more an emotional trend.

We’re looking for quality. We want naturality. We want caring products. I wanted to reflect that in the shade range so it’s not an instant trend that’s a flash in the pan. We’re thinking more about what people are expecting, what they feel when they go to buy a shade, when they pass by a counter or the store and say, “Oh, this is not me but maybe I’ll find something more suited to me – but oh, this is cool.”

The focus is very much on natural make-up. Can you tell us more about what that means?

We did a lot of research about women and their approach to make-up, which used to be inspired by a colour or a flower – very classic inspiration sources. For Rouge Dior, I could feel, especially when I’m talking to journalists and what I read and see going on about beauty, on social media as well, there is a shift in how people are approaching make-up. It’s not only that everything is more accessible but how people look at make-up, the way make-up and skincare have become more synchronised.

We thought that instead of pulling inspiration from a colour or flower or dress – because there are people who can find that themselves, I go to the core of what that inspiration is and what women want so I can give them something to play with so they can create their own couture look for a face. Hence the formula, hence the range or shades. Natural beauty absolutely doesn’t have to be boring and pale. It can be colourful and exciting.

Can you give us one suggestion for a low-maintenance natural look and one a little bolder?

Well, if you’re low maintenance and you don’t spend too much time on make-up, it’s all about beautiful, glowy skin. Make sure you have a good skincare routine combined with a good foundation. I mean, I love Forever Foundation because it stays so well. It’s got a nice buildable texture. It’s very long-lasting. And then, in a natural look, it’s important to make sure that your features stand out, but not in a bold way, but just make sure the eyebrows are perfectly groomed so that you look finished. Also a bit of mascara, a soft, soft natural shade on the eyes just to give a dimension. Then take number 100 nude or 429 and just apply it quickly.

Don’t go to the edge – massage it in and stop, so we have some colour on your lip. What I always also do, which works for a quick fix especially when you have a glowy skin look, is to take a bit of the foundation, put a tiny bit on the tip of your finger with the residual lip colour and blend it into your cheeks as a blush. Then, the colour comes back and it creates a beautiful harmonious look. This way you don’t need too many products. Your lipstick will add the colour and that’s it.

For somebody who is a bit more daring and likes to be challenged, I would go for one of the more intense shades, probably 777 which is a brick colour – an orangey brown tone. Then, using the same principles as before, just do a more intense colour and maybe push the lip tone. Then you have a bit of a dressed look already. Of course, if you really go for full make-up, maybe do a perfect outline or change the contour lip with a lip line. There’s a matching lip liner to go with each colour. I’d also maybe go stronger on the eye. The lip shades are really easy. You don’t have to worry about whether or not they match with your eyeshadow because they really blend in with your skin tones and have a very natural feeling so it makes it less complicated to create a full look. We’re really looking to have a huge range of shades worldwide that can seduce all women and not just cater to a trendy crowd.

Also see: January beauty launches to know about

In this Story: #beauty