As the sun lowered on the stunning French Riviera and the biggest celebrities casually graced the boulevards of Cannes, the stage was set for Savoir Flair’s chat with Nicolas Degennes, Artistic Director for Makeup and Color at fashion powerhouse Givenchy.
In his role, Degennes has worked with Hollywood A-listers like Liv Tyler and Bond girl Monica Bellucci. Naturally, we took the opportunity to pick his brains on the industry’s latest trends, some top tips on how to improve your makeup routine, and what exactly makes his job as a makeup artist so thrilling – can you guess?
So, you’ve been with Givenchy Beauty forever…
[Laughs] 20 years! Forever is a long, long time – you’re too young to say that!
I wish I was! But if you hadn’t become a makeup artist, what would you be?
A priest. No, a monk! Being a monk means you’re able to listen to others, which is important. It’s a way to help others.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Everything. Every single minute of it. The research, being able to talk to the chemistry guys, the new products I’m creating… it’s my life. Also, I make my mother proud, which is really important to me. Every minute is amazing, and I’m lucky that the team around me really helps me through the hardest moments. Of course, nothing is easy all the time, but they really understand me and how I feel.
Time goes too fast, and that’s the worst thing ever.
Being creative and working for women is something that has always been a dream for me, so I love that. I love that I can help women around the world discover freedom – their freedom – as well as their image, how they can change it, and how to be curious about themselves. That means a lot.
And the worst?
Time. I just don’t have any time. Time goes too fast, and that’s the worst thing ever. I’m telling you, it’s scary. Right now, I’m working on the 2021 collection, so that means 2019 is done, 2020 is off, and my team is doing my schedule until the end of this year. We’re beginning to talk about 2020. Wow, that’s scary! Time goes too fast.
Who is your biggest beauty icon?
That’s too easy – I have to say my mother! Of course, she is.
Did you learn a lot from her?
I learned so much from her. She taught me so much – my way to be with others, respect, listening, humility, not being too proud. Also, that I could be my worst enemy. That’s a lot!
What about any makeup tricks?
Oh yes, lots! The first time I got to use makeup was when I painted her nails at the age of five. She loved that.
What really inspires you when you’re creating new products?
It’s funny because that inspiration is always moving. It used to be Morocco. I had an atelier in Marrakech for 15 years because I really needed to be close to Paris by plane and in a country where I didn’t understand all the codes, but really wanted to. Then I moved my ideas to Japan, where I learned a lot of things – fidelity, and humility again. I found some incredible artists who, in their traditional way of being and doing, drove me to something quite amazing. I discovered a lot of things there.
I go to New York a lot because I love the energy and the pureness of its air, I think that’s so different. A lot of places have inspired me, but if I had to pick one right now? It wouldn’t just be Japan, it would be Kyoto. I love the spirituality there, and I spend a lot of time in temples. I’ve been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with monks there, and it really changed my life. I also discovered that the light around the world isn’t the same. The way the eyes see things is not the same. When you look into a color here and when you look into it in Japan, it’s not the same color at all. I love learning about things like that.
What’s your favorite makeup trend at the moment?
Mascara, mascara, mascara! I love mascara, it just really opens up the eyes. I really believe that eyes say so much more than the mouth. The mouth should be closed more, and eyes open more! I’m also totally in love with skin, it’s so important. I love luminosity of the skin. It gives you such confidence.
Speaking of mascara, we’re also here celebrating the launch of Givenchy’s new one! Tell us more about that.
At Givenchy, beauty and uniqueness have always gone hand in hand. It can be unsettling sometimes. ‘Volume Disturbia’, our new mascara, embodies this pure freedom. We created it to enhance all kinds of beauty, all genders, all styles.
Its glide-on texture leaves lashes with a breathtaking curl and increases volume with just one sweep, and it offers 24-hour hold. It’s also intensely pigmented and comes in two shades: intense black and provocative red. In both cases, the lashes flaunt such extreme volume that it can be rather disconcerting.
Any top tips for perfect mascara application?
For controlled application, remove any excess product from the brush to create volume and lash by lash definition from the very first sweep. Then, load the lashes with as much product as you want for extreme volume.
Givenchy ‘Volume Disturbia’ Mascara
You’ve also just launched the ‘Teint Couture Everwear Foundation’. Why was that such a big moment for you?
We really wanted to have something that was buildable and gives better texture and, with ‘Teint Couture Everwear’, you can build it up and layer it to have the coverage you really want. What I really love about it is that it’s also about correction – correcting those little spots you don’t want to see. It fits your skin, which is really important. It also lasts for 24 hours, but I’d say 12 is more than enough – you don’t need to wear foundation for longer than that!
It’s very long-lasting, it’s water-resistant – even when it’s really hot outside and wet – and it’s not too matte nor too shiny – it’s in between, which I love. Plus, you don’t need to apply powder over it. At the end of the day, it’s the right mix to make skin comfortable. I’m very afraid of inelastic skin. Skin should be elastic. When foundation is too heavy, the skin is pulled down, which doesn’t feel comfortable at all. What I love about the foundation is that, even if you put a little bit too much on, it’s light. Skin still looks like skin.
I’m either a child or a monkey – I love my fingers! They are my best tools.
What’s the best way to apply foundation?
It really depends on the end result you want. Sometimes I use a sponge to apply it, mainly under the eyes, but I find a sponge can absorb too much of the texture and it doesn’t give back enough. I always say, I’m either a child or a monkey – I love my fingers! They are my best tools. To blend something and cover in a more natural way, they do the job. So, I’d say always finish with your fingers. A lot of women say, “Oh, but then you need to wash your hands.” So what? The best thing about using your fingers is that your foundation will last much longer.
Does skin prep really affect how foundation goes on?
Being really honest, you can’t apply foundation without cream underneath – but be careful. You have to use the right cream for your age. If you’re in your 20s and buying a thick anti-aging cream for women in their 40s or 60s, it’s not going to help you. It’s going to be too rich for your skin. I love the Givenchy ‘Hydra Sparkling’. I just use a little under foundation, and it gives me the perfect result. I think that’s so important.
What’s the worst thing you see women doing with their makeup?
Contouring! When it’s done well – soft and controlled – it’s nice. But when it’s done for Instagram and everything like that, it doesn’t talk to me. It’s clown-like to me. I don’t want to be someone else, and that’s something that scares me a little bit. I’m sure that in the future, if we really help educate, people will do this in a different way.
What do you think will be big in the next year in the makeup world?
Eyes. For sure. Eyes will be back.
What three products you could you not live without?
Concealer would be number one just because, if I don’t have any foundation, I can do everything with a concealer. Mascara because it really opens the eyes, and a pH reactor on the lips because it really gives back something. I love when lips and skin are full of water, when you feel fresh. Freshness is really important.
Complete the sentence: To me, beauty is…
[laughs] Me! By that I mean heart. “Me” sounds too ego, and I don’t have that ego. So let me put it this way: beauty is heart.