He might be jetlagged like he has never been jetlagged before, but legendary makeup artist and Creative Director of Dior Makeup, Peter Philips, is the picture of relaxed and poised grace. In the past ten days, he has flown over to Shanghai for the ‘Dior Addict’ party, made a pit stop in Los Angeles to shoot Natalie Portman for ‘Rouge Dior’, and landed in Dubai to introduce us to the exciting new ‘Dior Addict Stellar Shine’ range. Trips to Tokyo and Korea are up next. His schedule may be exhausting, but he is nothing but enthusiastic over the new lipstick range that brings him to our shores.
Not only does he oversee product development, but he also visualizes and executes Dior Makeup’s campaigns, like the latest installment that stars Cara Delevingne dancing along to Aerosmith’s “Pink” as her perfect glossy pout captures the eye. Although Philips is gentle in spirit and quick with a laugh, his formidable talent makes him a legend in his own time. Credited with some of fashion’s most iconic beauty moments, he is adept at dredging the social stream of consciousness for symbology that echoes the zeitgeist. Right now, it’s pink that has captured his fancy.
Why pink? That’s a good question. Some might take it as a somewhat banal hue, associated with all things girly, silly, or shallow, but Philips has seized on it in order to tell a very different story. In fraught political times, he has watched women rise up to peacefully demonstrate, he has seen them infiltrate long-held seats of patriarchal power, and he has witnessed their courage, grit, and determination. Suddenly, a sea of pink looks powerful – not frivolous.
For that reason, ‘Dior Addict Stellar Shine’ comes in every shade of pink imaginable. The intent behind this new lipstick collection is more evocative than provocative. Pink is armor, pink is protection, pink is a statement. In an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair, Philips outlines his pink manifesto, the challenges he faced in creating the collection, and his excitement over the rise of individuality in the makeup realm.
The ‘Dior Addict Stellar Shine’ collection is at the intersection of three things I look for in a lip color: shine, hydration, and long-lasting wear. What did it take to get its formula right?
A great team of people and labs [laughs]. I mean, that is something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time with lipstick. We asked ourselves if we could find a way to create a lipstick that is comfortable to wear and rich in pigment, and comes in different types of finishes. Basically, we wanted to combine all of the things you look for in a lipstick in one. It has been a year-long process with lots of attempts, but when this formula came along, we knew it was the one. It was so great. We had to make sure it keeps its promises, and it does.
What do you think sets this collection apart?
The formula. It’s amazing, it’s so great. So we have ‘Rouge Dior’, represented by Natalie Portman. It is incredibly classic, and has been living on a pedestal for so long because of that. ‘Dior Addict’, meanwhile, has always been the little sister to ‘Rouge Dior’. It’s a very dynamic range with great formulas. It’s playful, but also innovative.
I wanted to lift ‘Dior Addict’ to give it a bit more credibility, make it a bit more iconic. The pink aspect of ‘Dior Addict’ became my guideline, and that’s also what made it stand out. We’ve built ‘Dior Addict’ up over the years with beautiful shades, cool effects, and a bit of experimentation. And with this collection, it has matured.
Were there any challenges in creating something that is hydrating and long-lasting?
Oh yes, but I don’t take any credit for that. We have the best labs, and they found a way to do something that is durable, but has a wonderful nourishing effect. It took a lot of hard work. You can find all of that in one shade, but added pigments change the effect. You don’t realize how complicated it is until you are attempting it. We have 50 years of lab experience at Dior Makeup, and we put that directly into our innovation – and this is a very innovative formula.
The majority of the collection’s shades is pink. What does pink represent to you?
I wanted to pull pink out of the ‘pretty’ or ‘cute’ frame because, for me, pink is much more than. Of course, it can be pretty and cute, but it can also be shocking. It can be rebellious. It can be freeing. I always say, ‘There are as many emotions as there are shades of pink.’ There is a pink for everyone. When I knew we had Cara Delevingne [as the face of the collection], I knew we could work a strong concept around her.
The women’s marches really inspired me.
Another thing that really inspired me was what’s happening with women’s voices, with feminism and gender equality on the rise. The women’s marches really inspired me. It was amazing to see all kinds of women from all backgrounds and of all ages marching together in a sea of pink hats. It was a knitted little hat, which is cute, but when worn at a women’s march, it felt more like armor. It made such a strong statement and made such a strong impression, which helped get the message through. I thought it was a great starting point to talk about the lipstick, to address the idea of beauty as a way of getting your voice heard.
I love the idea of reclaiming pink – something that is ascribed to a very traditional idea of femininity – and giving it power. It’s really cool that you have Cara representing your collection. What was it like working with her?
It’s been amazing. I’ve known Cara for a long time, even before Instagram, back when she was a Twitter phenomenon. It’s amazing to see her grow into the woman that she is now. She’s clever, she’s funny, she’s confident. She is a beautiful person without compromise.
We managed to do the campaign’s shoot in one day. We knew the music would be Aerosmith’s “Pink”, but when she was standing there, we came up with the idea of her dancing. She danced and lip-synced, and did the whole thing. Then we asked her to sing and she said, ‘Sure, I can sing.’ And she just sang it. Oh my god, she did it all! We kind of took it for granted because there was nothing she couldn’t do. Obviously, not everyone can do all that and still look amazing and be optimistic. She’s actually a true pro.
What would you say to someone who thinks pink is just for a girly girl?
It means they have a dated and narrow view. Remember in the 1970s, when Vivienne Westwood ran Sex boutique? The letters were huge and pink, which made a big, shocking statement. It showed that pink can be tough and make a strong statement, you know? It can be in your face.
Why is pink becoming a stronger trend in the beauty world?
Pink is being drawn out of its niche because it can be more than just pretty. Women are, too – their voices are getting stronger. The two ideas go hand in hand.
Makeup is very personal – it’s literally on your skin and can totally transform you.
What are some other trends that you’re noticing right now?
Makeup has never been so big as it is now because of social media and the ability of brands, makeup artists, and makeup designers to communicate directly with women. It’s one big conversation.
There used to be a time when women thought makeup was only for special occasions. Social media has made it more acceptable to do a full face of makeup every day. Women are fascinated by this ability to transform or enhance themselves with makeup. Makeup itself is a rising trend. The barrier is gone – that’s why it’s so hard to talk about one trend versus another because everything can be a trend. You have to look at every woman individually. One woman can wear a shocking-pink lipstick like a second skin, another woman can do a high-gloss look, and neither will be outdated. For me, the biggest trend is makeup itself.
That concept is also happening in the fashion world, I’ve noticed.
Because the approach of fashion and makeup has totally shifted. People used to be dictated by magazines and designers, who decided what the trends of the season would be. There was a ritual to it, a system in place. Now, because of social media, the whole thing has shifted. We no longer dictate, we facilitate. We share our expertise and creative vision, we try to seduce with products that keep their promise and are created for women, but we don’t dictate. That’s the only way to be true to my craft: to not impose.
I really appreciate that Dior’s message for beauty and fashion is cohesive. You and Maria Grazia Chiuri both talk about how you don’t wish to impose a point of view, but engage in a dialogue with your clients instead.
That is something I’ve been trying to do since day one. I have never felt comfortable telling someone what she should wear because everyone is an individual. If you impose, she might be overtaken by the look, she might be miserable because it’s not her. Makeup is very personal – it’s literally on your skin and can totally transform you. My approach to makeup is to highlight the positive in someone, not cover up what they don’t like. That is a very Dior idea as well.