September/October has been a busy time in the lipstick world. Despite most of our mouths being hidden behind masks, a number of brands have gone ahead with new launches – and I ain’t mad about it. Think Victoria Beckham Beauty Posh lipsticks, Lisa Eldridge True Velvet lipsticks, and the trio on my agenda today, Hermès lipsticks.
As somewhat of an Hermès scarf collector, I was both excited and dubious when Hermès announced earlier this year that they were veering into beauty. I worried that my beloved Old Guard of the fashion houses was cashing in on the extreme consumerism of lower priced items I’d seen across other brands. Hermès had always seemed a step away from trend-based buying patterns as the choice for more timeless, investment pieces.
I needn’t have worried that Hermès would deliver anything other than beautiful, considered products. While I hear rumours that nail polish and blush might be coming in 2021, the Hermès lipsticks deserve their own little moment to shine. And if you’re still considering picking up one of the limited edition colours, I’d suggest you run. On this occasion, I’m completely happy being your enabler.
Pierre Hardy, who has designed jewellery and shoes for the brand for decades, has designed packaging worthy of centre place on your dressing table. The lineup of 24 permanent lipstick shades are presented in black and white lacquered and brushed gold tubes with a shining gold Hermès emblem pressed into the lids. They’re heavy, in the best possible way. When speaking with Wallpaper magazine Hardy said, “I will try to create the quintessence of an object that is feminine, pure, simple. One that is immediately desirable but will stand the test of time”. I instantly thought, nailed it. For a heritage brand the lipsticks feel extremely modern while also somehow classic, timeless and luxurious objects. They are the vintage Hermès scarf that you buy thinking the colour is so now, despite being designed in 1962. They even come in their own little canvas pouch. Cue applause.
Joining the permanent collection of Hermès lipsticks are three limited edition shades released every six months. This is where the magic happens. Colour blocked tubes bring life and personality to these lipsticks and make them hard to resist. Really hard to resist. While a high-end price tag is to be expected, I struggle to get over the line when these three lipsticks takes me almost halfway to a new 90 x 90 silk. The fact that all Hermès lipsticks are refillable, helps a little, meaning you can mix and match lip shades and keep the collectable tube functional forever. The colour combinations are unique, playful and gorgeous – the kind of lipstick you’d expect Emily in Paris to whip out of her handbag while meandering the streets of the Marais.
Packaging aside, let’s talk favourite shades of the collection so far. Rose Ensens is the closest to a natural lip colour for me, if a little browner than I had hoped. Rose is a touch brighter, but it’s the limited edition shades that have really caught my affections so far. The debut three released earlier this year sold out incredibly quickly, and various levels of industry shut-down made it a struggle for a lot of people to get hold of them. Thanks Covid-19. Corail Fou was a bright, punchy coral, Violet Intensé a deep, purple berry and my favourite – Rose Inouï, an almost neon pinky coral matte. This last shade is so unique and Lisa Eldridge-esque that I really hope it’s re-released at some point down the line. The yellow and brown tube however, wasn’t my fave.
The latest seasonal trio to launch are equally beautiful in their colour-blocked tubes, and are perhaps more wearable shades. A mini collection of three pinks; Rose Ombre is a brownie pink satin that gives a hint of 90s supermodel but definitely presents pinker on the lips than in the tube, Rose Pommette is punchier – a spring time vibrant pink satin, and Rose Nuit (the only matte) is a beautiful muted rose with plenty of depth. Think of this last shade as a not-so-distant cousin of Lisa Eldridge’s Velvet Beauty.
There’s nothing too divisive here, so if you’re buying for a loved one they’re all very giftable. Even if you’re not a brown lipstick fan, Rose Ombre is a very wearable pinky, rosewood brown, and Rose Pommette isn’t so bright that it’s a statement lip. The colour-block tubes, while not the reason to choose a lipstick, definitely lured me in. Rose Nuit’s pale pink and muted teal green is particularly beautiful, as is the sky blue and burgundy of Rose Ombre. The lime greenish-yellow and navy of Rose Pommette however, is not for me. Take into account the artists that supposedly inspired the colour choices (Charles Sheeler, John Register, Arduino Cantàfora and Jean Hélion), and you’ll take a step deeper into the level of detail behind Hermés lipsticks.
On the lips, the textures are incredibly soft and luscious to wear, with even the matte feeling creamy and non-drying. In fact, while matte lipsticks are never my preference, I confess my two favourites from these seasonal collections are Rose Inouï and Rose Nuit. The bright Rose Pommette and subdued Rose Ombre tie for runner up.
Hermès lipsticks are fairly heavily scented so if fragrance is a deal breaker for you, steer clear, but I find the floral yet sweet perfume – designed by the brand’s fragrance director Christine Nagel – beautiful and enticing.
Following recent media coverage about employers pressuring female employees to wear makeup during lockdown zoom calls, my mind has been turned to some broader ideas of makeup; who designs it, makes it, who prices it, how it’s marketed, who expects it – who demands it. I adore the stories of great women of history fighting for a place in this industry – the Elizabeth Ardens and Helena Rubinsteins. It’s inspiring to see (especially amongst skincare brands) so many Serious Boss Women currently at the helm. Georgie Cleeve (Oskia), Megan Larsen (Sodashi), Alexia Inge (Cult Beauty), Sharon McGlinchey (MV Skin Therapy) and Emily Weiss (I mean c’mon – Glossier). Within the lipstick world look at Lisa Eldridge who, without a corporate backing produces incredible lip products to such an adoring and loyal fanbase. I don’t underestimate the knowledge, skill and creativity of so many male figures in this industry, but can we just say yes to women choosing what goes on women’s faces, and yes to girls supporting girls.
Having never designed for beauty before, I liked how Hardy articulated to Wallpaper, “It is interesting to approach the question of femininity like a painter: what can we offer a woman so she can be an artist of her own beauty?” He was referencing the design of the lip brush resembling that of an artists brush, and I do appreciate the true intention behind his words for women to be designers of their own beauty. Part of me does want to retort: just as women have long called for a seat at the table, it is not what a man can offer us as tools but rather, the opportunity to build the paint ourselves that we desire.
In an industry highly governed by men yet used predominately by women, I can’t help but notice the landscape of the Hermès Beauty inner circle. Under the leadership of artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas sits (the legendary) Jérôme Touron as creative director of Hermès Beauty. Bali Barret, artistic director of Hermès Women’s was said to serve as a link to the brand’s fashion and silk, but has since announced her resignation. She will leave the house this season following more than fifteen years of revolutionary service leaving a gaping hole across a number of lines, including beauty. As someone who was able to take silk scarves from traditional to fashionable – think graffiti artists and double-sided printing – her replacement will have large (leather) shoes to fill. Within a diverse and inclusive house like Hermès, and with three males already in top jobs building our lipsticks, I would really hope those shoes are filled by a woman’s feet.