dimanche 16 janvier 2011

In Praise of Lutensian Makeup... a short break from perfume before reviewing 2011 launches



Samples of the next État Libre d’Orange (Archives 69), By Kilian (Incense Oud), Cartier (Cartier de Lune) and Frapin (1697) are sitting on my desk, the last almost entirely depleted since its launch was delayed. Serge Lutens’ upcoming Jeux de Peau will soon be making its way to me. All will get reviewed in due course but for the time being, it’s become more of an effort to blog as I move forward with the book – the intellectual and emotional muscles required for a marathon are not those I use for sprinting through a blog post, and I’m not always in the mood to shift gears. 

Stepping back from blogging has given me a rare opportunity to enjoy at leisure things I’ve already reviewed (in the milder Parisian weather, La Traversée du Bosphore and L’Heure Fougueuse have succeeded my Canadian incense binge). But I’ve found myself going commando more and more often: in fact, I seldom wear perfume when I stay at home to write, though I do burn candles on occasion (Iunx Gomme Arabique alternates with Avignon and Encens Flamboyant), also a rare luxury since I never scent the house when I’m testing something. It is, perhaps, a way of blocking out the chatter at a time when I’ve drastically reduced my online life – even emails will go unanswered for days – as I make time for books or simply staring into emptiness as phrases make their meandering way from my brain to my fingers…

But I do sheathe myself fragrance when I go out, as I must quite often since the advance on royalties is obviously insufficient to keep body and soul together: I have to work. Not wearing perfume when I expose myself to the world is as unthinkable to me as not wearing makeup: applying them gives a stylized form to the inchoate mess of my features and mind as I emerge from dreamland.  It is, in a way, a courtesy extended to those who will meet me not to present them with the rawness of my unadorned self. A narcissistic gesture, of course, but also a ritual bordering on the sacred. As far as cosmetics and perfume go, I have always been resolutely Baudelairian in the bid to transcend Nature, and “In Praise of Cosmetics” has been bedside reading since the time I earned enough pocket money to beg my aunt to bring back from Paris a Le Multiple compact by Dior that served as eyeshadow, blusher and lip tint…

"Who would dare to assign to art the sterile function of imitating Nature? Makeup has no need to hide itself or to shrink from being suspected; on the contrary, let it display itself, at least if it does so with frankness and honesty. (…) I content myself with appealing to true artists as well as to those women themselves who, having received at birth a spark of that sacred flame, would tend it so that their whole beings were on fire with it."

The man who designed Le Multiple was of course Serge Lutens, and though he has stated he’s bored to death with the endless recycling of Baudelaire’s stance by makeup artists and marketers, there’s no denying his own makeup range barely strays from the French poet’s definition of cosmetics – powder to give the skin the grain of a marble statue, black to frame the eye, red to ignite the face with a supernatural fire. 

Present post apart, I’ve no intention of expanding this blog to include makeup, especially since I’ve been using his Beauty Essentials exclusively since a very sweet friend (entirely non-affiliated to the brand) offered me the eyeshadow palette, khol and mascara as a gift: since then, I’ve added the Teint Si Fin compact foundation and one of the lipsticks to the range and put everything else I owned away (I was a makeup fanatic for years, and have got the stash to prove it). 

The range is extravagantly costly, granted: but apart from the fact that the eyeshadow applicators are unexplainably cheap, and that the red lipsticks all veer towards to blue, it truly lives up to its designation. 
The Teint Si Fin, though probably not suitable for dry skin, is fine-milled, velvety and does a fabulous job of covering up any slight blotches or broken capillaries. The Eye Khol Liner, though you need to get the hang of it (I give a blast of blow-dryer to make it more supple), barely budges all day save in the inner rim of the lid. 
The eye shadow, a palette of black, aubergine, brown (with a subliminal blue tinge to it) and vanilla is very densely pigmented and fine-milled: again, you need a bit of technique and good brushes to apply it well. I use the Mac 214 Short Shader brush to line along the lashes (I also do the lower lid, skipping the central part, for a true Lutensian smoky eye) rather than the slender sponge applicator included with the palette; the rest I do with Shu Uemura N°10. 
The Eye for Eye mascara is remarkably supple for a waterproof, and has been known to survive a (short) night’s sleep with very minimal smudging and no flaking whatsoever: in fact, only the Lutens eye makeup remover will make it budge. 
Finally, the lipstick has the very best texture I’ve ever tried, densely pigmented but practically impalpable. Beige Compliment is the first nude tint I’ve ever bought – I tried it out from the sample palette one day because I wanted to balance out the very smoky eye with pale, all-my-lipstick’s-been-kissed-off lips – and I realised why after trying to find a less costly equivalent: it’s got the very slightest shade of copper to it, and more importantly, no discernible white pigment, which is what give me that washed-out, dingy look with most beige lipsticks…
Now my only question in the bathroom, most every morning, is whether to apply black, brown or aubergine eyeshadow: the rest has been wonderfully simplified. Which helps when you’ve got dozens of perfumes to choose from. 



Illustration: ad from the Dior Le Multiple campaign, 1974, conceived and photographed by Serge Lutens, and found on Okadi (hence the watermarks).

39 commentaires:

  1. Wait a minute...
    #1 Pluto is no longer a planet,
    #2 I'm supposed to be Sagittarius now instead of a Capricorn, and
    #3 Serge Lutens is the true inventor of the Multiple? So that makes him the Nikola Tesla and François Nars the Marconi?!

    Good grief, like doesn't make sense anymore.

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    Réponses
    1. More like Francois Nars the Thomas Edison.}

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  2. Patuxxa, I don't even want to consider the ramifications of becoming a Pisces instead of an Aries, but, yes, definitely, Lutens was there first in 1974. And I'm not sure he'll take kindly to becoming a Capricorn.

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  3. tsSerge Lutens makeup line is #1 at Barney's in the US!! His line is not just another expensive high end makeup line like Clef de Peau and many others, it's truly revolutionary in terms of quality, innovation and artistic concept. The elite of educated american women feel uncomfortable with vulgar ad campaigns of mainstream makeup brands, they don't want to look slutty like Beyonce or trashy like the "rich with no class" Real Housewives of Beverly Hills LOL

    I bought almost everything from the SL line but if I had to narrow it down I'd pick the Makeup Base and the Concealer Pencil. These two are phenomenal when it comes to longevity, result and quality. The makeup base which is a white primer evens out my complexion perfectly - I'm on hormonal injections, twice a month for a couple of days I get the pregnancy mask with a yellow discoloration of the face and dark blue circles around the eyes, the Lutens makeup base gives me a lasting healthy complexion looking natural and flawless. I have tried other expensive primers, some made my skin broke out, others wouldn't last more than an hour by a hot humid summer day or would magnify my skin pores a 1000 times! The concealer is the most lasting and natural-looking on the market.
    I also love the Teint si fin, it works like an invisible veil however I understand the concerns about dry skin. I suggest using an excellent moisturizer beforehand, my favorite is the Primrose cream by Aesop, the result is amazing but if you're using the makeup base it is also hydrating. If I feel my skin is dry during the day I apply a couple of drops of Toleriane Fluide emulsion by La Roche Posay and then dab on Teint si Fin only on the T-zone area.

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  4. Uella, I haven't tried the base yet, I'd have to go into the shop without makeup so I could apply some to try it out -- they give samples of the Teint si fin which is why I got it in the end. But you've just given it a glowing endorsement!

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  5. Denyse, the world of makeup is a bit of a mystery to me, but nevertheless, I find myself lingering by the Serge Lutens lipsticks, wondering if I could possibly dream up an excuse to buy one.

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  6. Jarvis, it's just this perfect object, right?

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  7. All I can say is :
    sssht...be quiet. When I hear (sorry read) that you have to get in a different state of mind to start blogging instead of working on your book. Does'nt take a lot of emphathy to imagine that this shifting gears must be annoying sometimes.

    About the make-up thing ; I noticed that the older I get the less I need. The crazy colours and glitzy pigments just don't work anymore. At 18 to 28 those were charming, now I might end up looking like an ageing street-walker.
    Also, when I hit my mid thirthies I became allergic to perfumed cosmetics so I buy the same products over and over again praying the don't get discontinued. I spend a minimal amount of money on cosmetics now.
    All the more left for the better fumes:))

    Now, more important, when can we see, get, buy the book?
    Once it's out I'll have to send one straight back to you I'm afraid..

    ..For an autograph!

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  8. Illdone, it's more of an effort than an annoyance. The season's launches will probably be, if not an inspiration, then at least an incitation...
    Re: makeup, I've come down with quite a few allergies myself and when I switched over to the SL line I'd whittled down my makeup routine to about five products already for a few months, reintroducing new (or already purchased) things one at a time. Fortunately this line seems to cause no rashes... And as you say, the simpler, more subdued palette is definitely a better option as years go by!
    The book won't be out for a while yet -- this is Harper Collins, and a big publishing machine stands behind me, no hatchet jobs here! Watch this space for more info...

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  9. Does anyone want to take a stab at what the backstory of Archives 69 is going to be from État Libre d'Orange???

    I could only imagine... ;-)

    Normand

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  10. Normand, let's just say there is gender reversibility involved. No insider info here, the scent is already on display at the Etat Libre d'Orange flagship store in Le Marais...

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  11. I loved every sentence of your third paragraph. Nars' the Multiple in Mauritius was a staple of mine as blush and then they discontinued it and no other color works. Maybe I'll ditch Nars for Lutens. I don't think you mentioned blush though...

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  12. The "Sécretions Magnifiques" bottle at my drugstore is kept behind the counter so as not to upset shoppers and their children. I wonder what the visual for this one will be...

    (I realize I'm WAY off topic... feel free not to approve).

    Normand

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  13. Carla, I'm not surprised that you're a fellow Baudelarian...
    Ok, blusher: not Mr. Lutens' strong suit. The product is on the apricot side and that's the one I passed on: at the Palais-Royal, they told me it was more of a contour than an actual blusher.
    Le Multiple was a mid-70s Dior product, quite trailblazing at the time. It had long disappeared when François Nars came up with his own version.

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  14. Normand, I wouldn't expect you to comment on makeup, of all things! I saw the visual on Archives 69 and it's not as graphic as the one for Sécrétions Magnifiques. At least it didn't strike me that way!

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  15. I have SL make up base and finishing powder. Both are great. I am using them every day even though I never have time for these things in the morning. These two are just great. I enjoy them so much. Thanks for your review.

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  16. Oh dear, another glowing endorsement for the base... Definitely have to go and try it!

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  17. "It is, in a way, a courtesy extended to those who will meet me not to present them with the rawness of my unadorned self". What a great statement! Mind if i borrow it? i do sometimes get commented on my makeup (as in: why are you wearing it) and this is an amazingly sophisticated retort..Cheers, Wendy

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  18. Well, my unadorned self never sets foot out of the house either. Especially my unadorned eyes. So what better purchase could I have made than the Eye Khol Liner? It's my only Lutens makeup purchase so far, but I do adore it. The perfect black. And what could be better than that?

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  19. Melissa, I agree, it's pretty amazing stuff once you get the hang of it. The only place I ever need to reapply later in the day, and even so, not always, is the inner rim of the lower lid.

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  20. It's funny, but having been in the theater when I was young (heavy pancake makeup, fake lashes, etc.), I don't wear anything but lipgloss and a little powder now, except for special occasions, when I add a tad of eyeshadow. Still, for those occasions, it would be nice to have a Lutensian set, wouldn't it? I've got an idea for a birthday present now...thanks!
    -Marla

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  21. Marla, I suppose I think of the outside world as a theatre... a place to show one's stylised self, a set of signs. "Natural" is one such sign, just not one I've ever identified with.
    The Lutens would make a lovely gift -- there are two lip tints I've never tried that are less densely pigmented than the lipsticks and just a beautifully presented.

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  22. carmencanada, are you talking about Lutens lipsticks #5 (Rose des Glaces) and #6 (Mauve de Swann)? I wore #5 today, it's a casual yet beautiful "frosty" pink/beige nude. The mauve #6 is also a lovely casual tint with blue undertones.

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  23. Uella, you mean in my response to Marla just above your comment? The "Natural" I was referring to isn't a lipstick shade, it's the natural, "no makeup" look, which in the Western world is as much of a sign, or a signal you give about yourself, than the various styles of makeup.

    As the Lutens lipsticks, the nude shade that best suits me is Beige Compliment, but I tried Mauve de Swann a couple of days ago from the sample card and though it's really not the type of colour I usually pick (I'm afraid it'll make me look cadaverous) it seems to suit me and is very subtle.

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  24. Well, you started a very interesting family discussion, since we're all home sick today. I started wondering if I didn't wear much makeup as a "signifier", I think maybe that's true, I mean, hey, I wear Birkenstocks almost exclusively, I'm a organic fiend and trail runner, etc.. But I asked my DH and he said, "Well, basically, you're a fair-skinned redhead so you look TERRIBLE in makeup, but cute without!". My teenager's comment was that I don't wear makeup because I don't buy makeup because I don' like shopping! But going to the Purple Cave isn't shopping, that's just a treat, isn't it!
    -Marla

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  25. Marla, I've known many a fair-skinned redhead who could carry off makeup divinely! It *is*, obviously, a matter of how you see yourself and chose to present yourself to the world (a partner/husband's preferences would also come into play). An almost bare face plus Birkenstocks plus organic is as much of a paradigm as Louboutins plus smoky eyes plus an all black wardrobe... What's interesting about perfume is that it seems to attract people who identify with very different paradigms... Possibly because it is predicated on neither age (at least outside the obviously "pink" products) nor on body types. To paraphrase one of my favorite Lagerfeld aphorisms, with perfume, we're all model-sized (he said it about handbags, and in French, it even rhymed!).

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  26. I agree with your comments. Makeup for my coloring is not so easy to find as that for medium-toned brunettes, but it's out there, and if I'd wanted it at some point, I could have found it. But of course, obvious makeup doesn't go with an organic/natural look and lifestyle, does it? What would people say about me at the Buddhist temple if I showed up made up to the nines or with dyed hair, right? Ha! Though your area is perfume/journalism, you'd make a great cultural anthropologist.
    -Marla

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  27. Marla, I've always approached the various milieus I've dipped into, whether contemporary art, couture or traditional Moroccan storytellers, with the eye of a cultural anthropologist. And more to the point, I've been carrying out discussions for over a year now with an anthropologist, who has since become a friend, who will be conducting a study on the world of perfume - among other thing, she's been monitoring the blogs quite closely and reflecting on their various stances, the relationships between readers who comment, etc. And lately I've been exchanging emails with a French scientist who conducted extensive studies on altered states of consciousness, including meditation, and who also happens to be a perfume fiend. So it all comes toghether somehow...

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  28. Why does this not surprise me?? And I'm so very glad you're finally writing books about all this! Now I must return to discussing the forensics of medieval warfare with my "sick" boys....Tomorrow they should be back at school.
    -M

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  29. Marla, and I'll be getting back to the book!

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  30. I would like to emphatically state that I will NEVER be a Pisces!

    I love cosmetics too - had to cut down due to lack of space in my cabinets and too many choices. I love colors so the Serge Lutens palette is not particularly to my taste, but the quality is very fine.

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  31. Tara, I've seen some of the "overflow"... Nice, though! I've pared it down to one shelf (one never knows) plus the Lutens essentials. Simplifies my mornings no end.

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  32. carmencanada, I was refering to the Lutens nude/lighter shades of lipsticks. In Paris the no makeup look is certainly a statement but here in the US, women either wear makeup (too much of ) or none at all. Average ordinary american women are intimidated by wearing makeup because fashion and cosmetics are marketed to younger women around that sexist idea that it's all about looking fresh and young and sexy but obviously not everybody can do that. The challenge for middle-aged/older women is to be able to express themselves wearing makeup in a tasteful manner without looking like a clown or looking like older women trying to pass themselves off as young girls. The hardest makeup to do is the natural that doesn't look like makeup - the Serge Lutens makeup base and foundations are great for that, however sometimes I like to do a strong look with either my eyes or my lips but never both at the same time (I don't want to look like those overdone and overblown bimbos with the siliconed lips, the gold jewelry, the fake hair, the nail art that looks tacky and ghetto...!) LOL

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  33. Uella, I usually opt for something that really *looks* like makeup, but it's a subtle dosage of signs... It can never be the full face. And it can't look too perfectly applied on the eye. In Paris a full face has class connotations, especially if a lot of different colours are involved. That's why I tone the palette down: I'm more made-up than Parisian women of my own cultural/social clas, but still in a way that says Paris. The slight messiness is what does it...

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  34. Creating your own personal style, this is what Lutens is all about. I love women who express their own identity using perfume and makeup, I see it as a liberation and a statement against the "smell good" and the looking young, hot, fresh sexist mentality...we can do so much better!

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  35. Uella: and it's so much more interesting than the cookie-cutter style. God, even as a teen I never wanted to have the same stuff as everyone else...

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  36. Wow so Dior with Serge Lutens's help was the company that invented the 'multiple' and not Nars any other company? : )

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    Réponses
    1. I don't know if Lutens is the very first, but he certainly did it before François Nars!

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