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ten minutes to read about lipstick

The little orange box of joy… I have fallen in love. This turn of events was inspired in part by months of Google Hangouts with women all over the world who took to the Rouge Hermès range of lipsticks with such passion, expressing a defiant joie de vivre in the face of this global pandemic. Put your face on.

In Freudian psychoanalysis, this is called the pleasure principle, which many have pursued and applied with such fearless dedication. My kind of women. Jér√¥me Touron, creative director of Herm√®s Beauty, knows all about this principle and explains on a phone call from Paris that ‚Äúlipstick reveals exactly what you want to reveal ‚Äì your whole personality, or something more subtle, a facet of your personality‚Äù.

I have chosen the Rouge Hermès 85, Rouge H – it is noir glamour, a bloodstain. It says, “If looks could kill.” I would kill; it could be murder on the dancefloor. “I think a secret is a secret – lipstick should not reveal your secrets,” says Touron. “If a lipstick is truly your companion, it has to be on your side, it has to reveal your best side – the side you like the most, the side you decide to reveal. It shouldn't betray you.” And you shall not be caught.

“Your choice of colour is key and usually you have to follow your instinct, because the choice of one colour over another expresses something true, almost a need for a specific colour,” he continues. “Also, it's interesting to know that some women buy colours that they keep for themselves, for their own pleasure, like a secret. Maybe it's a secret – the expression of a secret, a personal side they keep for themselves. It's really about the senses, the colour, the smell, the object. It's about sensuality.”

Undeniably, it is the total pleasure that comes with the application. And so, I sit before the vanity in the bathroom twilight and apply v e r y s l o w l y. ‚ÄúThe time you decide to give to yourself, to apply your lip perfectly is about wanting to take care of yourself,‚Äù he says. I want to take of myself. ‚ÄúYou know, it's like parties. Sometimes the best moment of a party is beforehand, when you're getting ready for it. It's calm, relaxing and exciting at the same time.‚Äù Who am I at this party? Wearing the Rouge Herm√®s 64 now, Rouge Casaque, I am of course the life and soul of the party. I am so terribly funny, wry, laughing and the last to leave, which isn't tragic, it's just because I've got that 64 energy. Year of the dragon. It's heavy petting, heavy disco. 

“The lipstick really reveals your personality, facets of your personalities in just one application,” says Touron. “It's quite magical, fascinating. I don't think it changes your personality, it doesn't transform you, but it instantly highlights.” He is a magician but he hasn't done it all alone, non, non. It has taken five years of research and development headed up by Agnès de Villers, CEO of Hermès perfume and beauty, to get the product right. The visionary “family” at Hermès HQ in Paris includes the charming and brilliant Pierre-Alexis Dumas, artistic director of Hermès; Pierre Hardy, creative director of the jewels and shoes; and Christine Nagel, the divine director of all olfactory creation, who gave the lipsticks their delicate fragrance. That's some stellar collective creativity.

These are the passionate minds who have helped launch this little miracle – a 7.2cm case of lipstick. For Touron, the concept of family, then, is more than just his immediate blood ties, although he is very close to his mother and brothers. “I think that your original family, and also your life family that is positively tied all round you, shape your style and your identity. Also, I like genealogy and that flow of emotion from so long ago that gives inspiration for life now that is so precious. I think you can have several families, friends of family and people you work with. I like the idea of creating your own family. That's exciting to make it evolve and grow. And creatively that's a good way to find inspiration.”

Hermès is of course all about family. It is what lies at the core of its success. “We are a family in terms of the way we talk, and we talk a lot and it's really lively and passionate. It can be emotional, too, especially when you talk about colour. Yes, it's lively!Sometimes people think that Hermès is calm, and there is something serene, but at the same time there is the passion. Hermès has so many different strong personalities, sensibilities and very different characters. It's like that but then there is the common ground, it's a balance. Something in the end makes it consistent and unique. We talk, share ideas and mix inspiration, sensitivities and taste. It's the emotion you can get and the choice of the people you have in your family that is key for creativity – and more important than finding inspiration in books. The plurality makes for singularity.”

To launch a beauty collection with a singular collection of lipsticks is quintessentially Herm√®s. A decision full of space, effortlessness, rightness and confidence. And the rest is yet to come, about which Touron is a tease. ‚ÄúI can't tell you. I can't reveal! What I can tell you is that the things I have told you are the route of what's coming next. It is quite a logical and quite a natural continuation, a glimpse of what is coming next.‚Äù And so, I speculate it could be an eye palette in the shape of an H, or an electric blue mascara! In my dreams‚Ķ which brings us back to the pleasurably hypnotic act of closing this gently magnetic lipstick case, over and over again. Oh, may this delicate force be with you. 

“I think that lipstick has been quite an interesting start, because it is almost an exercise in smallness, in a very small format, so it concentrates and encapsulates our full approach of the objects, the colour… It kind of concentrates what we want to express. I think that's why it is essential, in a way. Our approach to beauty is of course the colour, the material, the texture and the make-up result, but it is also the object. Because behind this beauty line, there is also the idea of a collection of objects. A miniseries of design pieces, like a collector. The pleasure that you have in collecting them all for your secret room.

“These [limited edition] colours are very different from the first edition – quiet, calm but intense at the same time. There is this idea of light and dark colour compressing. If you look at the outside, it is very calm, like a winter or fall landscape, a chiaroscuro. There is something super-soft and super-calm. I was thinking it was interesting to have inside colours that evoke the idea of life, of emotion, almost like a woman who is super-controlled, very calm outside but inside there is all this happening.” This release is a cacophony of satin and velvety rose pinks. Touron is inspired by artists: “It is always interesting to think of a family or group of women, instead of a single inspiration. When I joined Hermès I realised that I was inspired by some special female artists, women of all ages all around the world, such as Georgia O'Keeffe, Joan Mitchell, Toko Shinoda, Lygia Clark, Helena Almeida… Women who have a strong personality, their own idea of beauty.”

I don't want to wreck my maquillage and so the most important question of all is asked: how the devil does one eat a banana without ruining your Herm√®s lipstick? ‚ÄúI was thinking of that and I remembered my aunt. By using a knife and a fork. This is the perfect way to keep your lipstick in place!‚Äù Ah yes, the art of living. The Herm√®s woman is about that and, quite apart from her secret life, she is of course an intrepid traveller ‚Äì she can go anywhere in the world. 

“Hermès is the house of travel, but you can also travel anywhere in your head. A spiritual journey. It is about dreams. So, travelling 'inside' yourself and feeling good about yourself is also what beauty gives you – something that is more introspective, in a way. We want to discover the whole world and explore it all, but there is also this inner journey, and that is the journey for beauty.” And there is Touron's dear aunt.

by Alison Veness

Taken from Issue 16 of 10 Magazine Australia - out now.