Why is Chanel Le Rouge Collection No.1 a big deal?

Chanel Le Rouge Collection No1 by Lucia Pica

Tomorrow is a big day for Chanel. Not that you’d guess it, but if you’re a beauty follower, you’ll know that Chanel’s new autumn collection ‘Chanel Le Rouge Collection No.1’ drops in store (in the UK). (UPDATE: It’s landed! Buy it here.)

And you might also be aware that it’s the first full collection by Lucia Pica, aka Chanel’s Global Make-up and Colour Designer. Why is this a big deal? I’ll tell you in a minute. It’s a beautiful collection – warm, sophisticated and a little bit edgy – based around Pica’s obsession with the colour red and our emotional response to it. And for a red-based line, it’s surprisingly wearable.
2 Chanel Le rouge Collection no1

Of course there are lots of red lipsticks – that’s a given. There are two Rouge Allure shades (with a satin finish) and four Rouge Allure Velvets (the matte ones), including the deep, almost-maroon Rouge Audace (59), the delicious orange-tinged Rouge Feu (57) and an elegant true red, Rouge Tentation (169). Plus two red lip liners and a powder blush.

Below L-R: Rouge Allure Velvet in Rouge Feu; Rouge Allure Velvet in Rouge Charnel; Rouge Allure Velvet in Rouge Audace; Rouge Allure in Rouge Tentation
Chanel Le Rouge Collection no1 lipsticks

Things get interesting when it comes to eyes. As Pica emphasises, red is the colour of blood (and of life if you want to get poetic about it) and it underscores all our skin tones. The Les 4 Ombres Candeur Et Experience quad (268) is a completely matte palette of highly pigmented and wearable tones that Kristen Stewart wears in the campaign (below). Usually these popular quads have a couple of iridescent shades in them, but this time it’s about an absolute matte finish. Three of the shades are actually brownish tones, but one is a deep brick red that gives an intense sultry effect without scaring the horses.
Chanel le Rouge Kristen Stewart

I’ve never met a Rouge D’Ombre eye shadow I didn’t like. For this collection Pica has gone for a coppery red (Rouge Brûlé) in one and a sooty dark plum (Rouge Contraste – again, completely shimmer-free, above) for the other. This is the kind of shade I love for a smoky eye. The eye pencils also come with a reddish undertone plus a hint of metallic; Agapé is a deep aubergine and Eros is a red-purple shade (pictured below with the Seduction lip liner) and both can be worn either along the lashes or in the waterline.

12 Chanel Le rouge Collection no1

There’s also a limited edition black-with-a-hint-of-aubergine mascara (Subversif) to tie it all together, although to the naked eye, it’s more black than anything else. But the idea of wearing a red-tinted mascara is what’s desirable, right?

And then there are the two red nail colours; a classic poppy red ‘Rouge Puissant’ (below left) and the transparent red gloss, ‘Rouge Radical’ (below right). This is an unusual ultra high shine lacquer inspired by… jelly! It’s designed to be layered for a lovely luminous effect and I think it will sell out instantly. The only thing I think is missing is a red lip gloss or two. Texture is a big thing in this collection and it veers towards matte, so I’m thinking it’s a deliberate omission rather than an oversight.
5 Chanel Le rouge Collection no1 sheer nail gloss in Radical

So aside from a few unexpected textures, finishes and colour combinations that are a departure for Chanel, what feels so different about this is the approach. As part of the inspiration and creative process, Pica worked with photographer Max Farago on an exclusive mood board and film. Keen to avoid using the types of images we’ve all seen before – and already pinned to death – the result is a special book full of abstract but evocative imagery around the colour red. It’s personal and intriguing and much more arty than we expect from Chanel. And in a marketing masterstroke, the mood-book and accompanying materials become an event in themselves. The products, packaging and extensive press materials also lend themselves to being ‘unboxed’ on Snapchat. Maybe I’m overthinking but it feels like a multi-layered approach, allowing blogger interaction to become a bigger part of the storytelling.

4 Chanel Le rouge Collection no1. Nail lacquer in Rouge Puissant left Rouge Radical right
Chanel Le rouge Collection no1
Chanel Le rouge Collection no1 lipsticks
Chanel Le Rouge Collection no1 Les 4 Ombres Candeur Et Experience eye quad
Chanel Le Rouge Collection Le Vernis Nail Gloss in Rouge Radical no1

What’s also interesting about the collection and campaign is that Chanel has let Pica own it and put herself front and centre. Most often, all roads lead back to Coco Chanel, and the storytelling reverts back to the house codes. This time, we’re assured of the colour red as a house code, but that aside, the story is very much Pica’s. Although she has been with Chanel for over a year, this is her first full collection, so Chanel hosted a lavish event at Somerset House and put Pica at the heart of it. She is also a prominent feature of its video series of beauty conversations with Chanel’s ambassadors.

Overall, this feels like a cooler, more dynamic direction for Chanel, to appeal to a younger market but keeping the creativity at its heart. I really enjoyed shooting my images for this post because there was much more to play with. The supporting imagery definitely adds more context. It’s still very much Chanel – polished, commercial and beautiful – but it has an edge that wasn’t there before.


WORDS: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl, Kristen Stewart by Chanel
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