Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Lip Service

I am being wooed by an unlikely suitor.
In a black lacquered case that opens with a delicate grosgrain ribbon, my Givenchy Rouge Interdit lipstick calls out from my handbag, persuading me to bring it out for display and reapply my raspberry red colour in full view of everyone.
Let me state something for the record: Proudly preening with a lipstick has never been my style, especially at a crowded restaurant. I’m a dedicated “glosser,” set in my quick, one-slick applicator ways. Call me lazy, but the ease and simplicity of gloss, not to mention my love of the pale neutral lip, has kept me hooked. Until now.
This is an object far too gorgeous to keep hidden away. It actually makes one of my girlfriends gasp when I pull the ribbon tag to reveal the silver metal tube embossed with Givenchy’s quadruple set of Gs.
Designers Lucy Nunn and Tobie Snowdowne, two former Central Saint Martins students, wanted to create a bullet that would be seen as an exclusive haute couture accessory. “A luxury object is something that makes you feel unique when you use it,” said Nunn in a prepared release. “We designed Rouge Interdit in this spirit while thinking of the precise gestures of a woman who takes pleasure in opening her lipstick each time she uses it.”
Pleasure indeed. And that’s before you even get to the colour.
Givenchy is just one of the many beauty brands leading the way with full-scale lipstick overhauls. Boasting opulent designs and full-bodied colour, these lipsticks would be more at home in an art gallery than a cosmetics counter. Take Yves Saint Laurent’s Lip Twins ($38, at Holt Renfrew) as an example. A shiny gold cylinder, it looks like an oversized trinket from a charm bracelet. The case pivots to reveal two hidden lip colours, topped with a monogrammed lid that doubles as a lip brush. This is as close to being a Bond girl as I will ever get.
Chanel branded its name in block capitals onto the bullet of Rouge Allure Luminous Satin Lipstick ($35, at department stores), which was inspired by the design of Mies van der Rohe skyscrapers. The particular appeal of this packaging porn is the delight of opening it: A spring-loaded ballpoint mechanism with a lovely soft-click touch glides the lipstick applicator out.
Beauty’s rekindled love affair with lipstick comes from the place where most bona fide trends are born: the catwalk. Reds saturated with pigment were everywhere in the Fall 2007 shows: Gucci’s perfectly lined ruby red lips were an homage to starlet Veronica Lake, and Valentino also riffed on the glamour of a ’40s femme fatale with a flawless brick red. There were four-alarm scarlet mouths at Roberto Cavalli and Peter Som, and at Proenza Schouler, models received a triple layer of crimson coating.
“Red is the perfect classic shade for lips right now,” says Melissa Gibson, a senior artist at M.A.C who loves the colour movement for lips this season, which she sees as a strong and confident statement to make. “But there has also been a real resurgence of bold, fluorescent colours in fashion, which are now playing out on the lips in bright pinks and oranges.”
The electric pink lipstick that Diane von Furstenberg’s models wore was breathtaking, and I love the idea of a strong, daring and iconic red on the runway—but in the real world, I’m not entirely sold on my ability to wear a tangerine mouth anywhere. This trend is pigment overdrive, no compromise.
Going this bold makes lips the star of the show, and it will take some getting used to.
“Beauty was all about the eyes for a really long time, but a strong mouth is sensual. It’s sexy,” says Diana Carreiro, a Toronto makeup artist. I’m the long-standing queen of the smoky eye and pale lip, and the idea of starting my makeup look with lips is a completely new one. But Carreiro is firm: “The main beauty message now is about the mouth.”
I change my routine and begin doing my cheeks and lips first—after a base of foundation, but before any eye makeup. This seems to me the equivalent of eating dessert before dinner, or putting heels on before I get dressed. It’s not only sexier but also a smarter way to do your face—you’re much less likely to overdo your eye makeup when you’ve got a vibrant, polished mouth already.
Unlike the effortless application of gloss, it takes a whole world of time and precision to get a perfect red pout. A lip brush is essential (mine had to be dug out of a dusty corner of my makeup bag) because you need a delicate, patient hand to apply. I put my lippy on first, then follow with liner to lock in the line and curve of my mouth.
The lipstick revival is high on the hip list for celebrities, too. In fact, channelling the look of the ’40s has largely created the images of red lipstick divas like Gwen Stefani, Dita Von Teese and Scarlett Johansson. Christina Aguilera’s recent adoption of the retro style, complete with soft, wavy hair and kitten eyes, has done wonders for her reputation—she went from trashy to classy in one fell swoop of a lipstick.
Even the celebs known for a more natural, earthy look are wearing strong colours both on and off the red carpet. Celebrity gossip guru Elaine Lui of and eTalk weighs in. “Drew Barrymore looks amazing with crimson lips,” she writes in an e-mail from the Cannes Film Festival. “Lately, her best friend Cameron Diaz has been rockin’ the deep plum. And surprisingly, Penélope Cruz can totally take it dramatic when she paints it red.”
“We’ve come full circle,” says Gibson. “Not just with colour and the influence of the 1940s, but with the application of lipstick, too. We’re moving away from how easy gloss is to use and going back to the days when women used to pull their compacts out and apply their makeup in public.”
Considering that most women—myself included—are so busy that they have schedules for their schedules, slowing down long enough to create a made-up mouth is not exactly an easy sell, but Gibson says it’s worth it. “If you spend the time to go all out with the full process of moisturizing your lips and applying lipstick, liner and a dab of gloss, it will last much, much longer than gloss on its own. And spending that time will make you feel fantastic.”
This is far and away the best reason to return to this iconic beauty staple: the way lipstick makes you feel. Not to get all daytime telly or anything, but I’m amazed at how easily transformed I feel when I put on a bold red. With the sweep of a lip brush, I become a more confident, powerful and—look out, world—sexier version of myself.
Compared to the stickier, heavy sensation of gloss, a well-applied layer of lippy feels featherlight—ironic, considering the effort it takes to apply. And therein lies the magnificence of this revival: the heightened sensuality. I am constantly aware of my mouth. The rich, velvet texture, the non-stop touch-ups, the reaction of those around me—all are responsible for my new love affair with lipstick.
It’s official. I have joined the dark (red) side.
Lipstick, the iconic pigmented bullet, is back. Can you handle giving up your gloss for the season’s deep, dark red?
By Vanessa Craft
Photography by Ronit Novak

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