Dior Celebrates Three Makeup Visionaries with 'The Art of Color'

Dior Celebrates Three Makeup Visionaries with 'The Art of Color'

With the release of Dior's new beauty tome, three of the brand's visionaries past and present—Serge Lutens, Tyen, and Peter Philips—share their inspirations.

With the release of Dior's new beauty tome, three of the brand's visionaries past and present—Serge Lutens, Tyen, and Peter Philips—share their inspirations.

Text: Joseph Akel

Painted in 1872, Claude Monet’s Impression, Sunrise is considered by many to have given rise to the French artistic movement proclaimed in the work’s title. Know for an aesthetic that favored an emphasis upon movement, informality, and the use of color to evince tonality, Impressionism eschewed the conventions of the day and sought to portray the world—and the beauty therein—through a radical reinterpretation of light and form. Writing in 1888, Monet observed “Color makes its impact from contrasts rather than from its inherent qualities.”

For Christian Dior, Monet’s innovative play with color—along with his fellow Impressionists, including Paul Cézanne and Auguste Renoir—would leave a lasting mark upon the young designer. Immersed in the world of French bohemian artists, in 1928, the twenty-three year old Dior opened an art gallery in partnership with Jacques Bonejan in the Rue le Boétie. Exhibiting the likes of Giorgio de Chirico, Pablo Picasso, and Fernand Léger, Dior demonstrated early on his sharp aesthetic sensibility and his embrace of the dynamic interplay between new forms of color and composition. By the time Dior launched his celebrated Rouge Dior lipstick in 1953 some twenty five years later, followed by a range of eight lipsticks in shades that ranged from bright red to pure orange, the importance of color had firmly established itself as central to the designer’s vision for what he had come to define as the “New Look” in women’s fashion. “Christian Dior made color his ally,” notes Jerôme Pulis, the International Communications Vice President for Dior Parfums. “He used [color], Pulis continues, “to convey radiant and triumphant femininity.”

In the case of Serge Lutens, who joined Dior in 1968, the inspiration for beauty comes from a unique place. “I didn’t need an approach because, like Yves Saint Laurent, I have a woman within me,” Lutens notes, adding, “I never needed any external influences. I live this woman: she is part of who I am.” Indeed, for Lutens, it is that inner connection to his feminine side that he drew upon for inspiration—and continues to do so now: “It is my inner woman who gives me a gentle nip behind the ear. It’s always her! Inspiration is not something you look for. Those who look for it never find it.” When he joined Dior, Lutens notes that the atmosphere surrounding women’s beauty products was rather limited: “The beauty pages of magazines at the time set the rules and propounded a restricting, suffocating image of beauty.” “If you wanted to be “accepted” you had to conform,” he continues, pointing out that, at the time, “Everything was subject to scrutiny!” However, with the rise of the counter culture revolution, he acknowledges, “the 1960s literally shook up the established order.”

For Tyen, who began in 1981, “music is an endless source of inspiration for my imagination.” But, just as importantly, color is guiding principal in his creative pursuits and Tyen is perhaps most well known for his Dior campaigns which utilized vibrant hues for maximum impact. “The strong colors I created for Dior,” Tyen points out, “are extraordinarily pure and transparent because they transform on each individual skin to become unique.” But Tyen also takes his inspiration from another surprising source—birds. “When they take flight, “ he notes, “it looks almost harmonious, like a color symphony. And that makes me dream. The bird is a symbol of all that is solitary and unique.” Nature, he concludes, is a vital source of inspiration for all that he does. “I want the pomegranate’s color, or the flower’s color,” he muses rhapsodically, “I stole these colors from the rose, I stole those colors from the pomegranate, I stole these colors from the cherry, and I stole those colors from the grape.”

Inheriting a brand that has had such illustrious predecessors, Peter Phillips, who began in 2014, notes that Dior’s embrace of innovation and invention keep the brand continually at the forefront of women’s makeup. “The house is based on the principle of the “New Look,” notes Phillips, “which actually means you can reinvent over and over again what it means for something to be Dior.” “That’s something amazing about Dior,” he points out with reference to Lutens and Tyen, “is the ability to follow in the footsteps of these creative legends without necessarily wearing the same shoes.”

For Phillips, working with color is “about harmony, it’s about balance, it’s about contrast, but it’s also very in the moment.” “I don’t philosophize,” he continues, “I follow my gut, I follow my heart.” Such an intuitive approach to color has come to define Phillips’s tenure as the house’s current creative director of beauty. “There are so many approaches to makeup,” Phillips notes, and “it’s different for ever individual woman.” Today’s woman, Phillips points out, is very much in control of her appearance and makeup is a “tool for her to convey to the world who she his.” “My mission,” he goes on to say, “is to enhance beauty—wherever that is.” When asked if there is one essential item of makeup no women should be without, Phillips demurs, “That’s a question I get asked every time and every time is difficult. It’s kind of a question that goes against my philosophy. Every woman is individual.” “That being said,” he concludes, “It should be a Dior product!”

'Dior: The Art of Color' ($115) is available now from Rizzoli.

Serge Lutens for Christian Dior Parfums, Makeup Art, photograph by Serge Lutens, 1972.
Credits: All images courtesy of Dior and artist.

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