Serge Lutens is one of those people, the more you learn about them, the more you think, damn why I am I only just discovering all this now?
I had heard of Serge Lutens and his incredibly expensive (and tiny) lipsticks. I knew his perfumes from many forays to the Liberty fragrance department but was only vaguely clued up on his past as Christian Dior’s beauty creative director in the late 60s and 70s.
Serge Lutens the man is an artist. At 75 years of age he has had an illustrious career as a make-up artist, photographer, filmmaker and creative director and now lives in Marrakech creating his beauty and fragrance line simply to please himself. He rarely gives interviews – he’s anti-fame and has no need to aggressively market his brand. Owned by Shiseido, with whom he started working post-Dior in 1980, the products speak for themselves.
London now has its own dedicated Serge Lutens fragrance and make-up destination at Harvey Nichols, situated a mascara wand’s wave from the Fenty Beauty counter. Where Fenty is about speedy trends and a very modern celebrity culture, Serge Lutens is about slow craft and artistry. The make-up is sublime and – unsurprisingly – beloved of makeup artists (at the launch breakfast, they audibly swooned over the foundations and the Une Bonne Correction concealer).
The Serge Lutens make-up range is rooted in extremes, from the brightest shades to the nudest, with colours that express Lutens’ image of a certain (imaginary) woman. It’s deliberately edited to highlight the multi-functional use of the products and encourage experimentation. Use them however you like – preferably with abandon.
I also love the packaging, which is all made in Japan. (If you’re a packaging nerd I urge you to read this interview with Lutens and his packaging design manager Hiroshi Wakui.) The make-up is certainly not cheap, with some of the manufacturing techniques exclusive to Lutens, especially the pressing of the powders. But lipsticks are refillable and I love the empty reservoir in the palettes for mixing your own shades. If you’ve never seen the lipsticks, they’re in minute hexagonal tubes with a faceted bullet for getting perfectly sharp lip tips. And they’re densely pigmented to last well.
Accompanying the arrival of the new counter are 2 new matte reds, a deep red (L’étoffe du Mat M3, £58) and a darker brick (L’étoffe du Mat M2, pictured). If you love the process of applying lipstick from a bullet, then these really do feel and look wonderful, like precious little objets d’art.
I’ve always liked the statuesque elegance of Serge Lutens perfume bottles. While the boozy-woody ‘Fémininité de Bois’ is my favourite and one of the classics, there are quite a few to discover (although a number have been – controversially – discontinued). They’re distinctive and complex, with signature scent potential. You know, the type of scent you pretend you can’t remember what it’s called so that no-one else can wear it…
Newest in the line is one of the more polarising ones. Dent de Lait (£150 for 100ml) is inspired by children’s milk teeth, alluding to the loss of innocence. Described as notes of almond milk, coconut and cashmere, it’s much more violet-y to me, while online reviews describe it as metallic and musky. (I don’t detect any metallic but it does have a nice musky dry down.)
You can buy the makeup and perfumes online (click below) but I think the best way to discover the collections is by experimenting at the counter and immersing yourself in the extraordinary world of Lutens’ artistry.
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WORDS AND IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl/Navaz Batliwalla
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