Is this the most exquisite lipstick you will ever find
Herms is launching into beauty. Who would have imagined that five little words could be so exciting? But this is Herms, people. It crafts the world’s most re sellable bags, not that you’d ever want to be parted after you’d waited months, maybe years, to get your hands on one.
The same Herms that makes saddles for the world’s most indulged equestrians, came up with double tour watch straps, and has, for aeons, been synonymous with silk scarves that even women who never wear silk scarves want, because they are Herms. Herms is Herms, as The Queen is The Queen. (Not for nothing does the maison’s artistic director, Pierre Alexis Dumas, describe it as ‘the most English of French brands’.)
What it isn’t is a cosmetics house. Except that now it is launching its first collection. And not just any make up, but lipstick the quintessence of all beauty products. Lipstick is that little piece of witchery that we have on good evidence, but don’t ask me what dates back 5,000 years to the clever Sumerians.
Lipstick: the mark of a prostitute if you were a narrow minded bigot living any time between, say, Ancient Greece and 1920. Lipstick: the product that thousands of women throughout history were so keen to get their mitts on, they ignored the bigots and put up with the lead poisoning and crushed beetles. And you thought a dehydrating lippy was an inconvenience.
But let’s remember, too, that in the early 1920s lipstick became a mark of female emancipation, or that during the Second World War a bunch of mainly upper class British male politicians took the grave decision not to ration it for fear of destroying the public’s morale altogether. I note, too, since we’re on the subject, that in the midst of Megxit, Her Majesty appeared in public in a strong coral red.
On the train to Paris for a sneak preview, I tried to imagine what an Herms lipstick would look like. Nude, as befits its outdoorsy heritage? A touch of brown perhaps? Wrong, wrong, wrong. “This house has an archive of 75,000 silk colours,”Dumas tells me.
I’m led to an inner sanctum wherein are gathered Jrme Touron, head of Herms Beaut; Pierre Hardy, shoe maestro and the mastermind behind Beaut packaging; and Bali Barret, creative director of women’s universe (surely contender for the best job title ever?). Hardy, who looks like a fashion world version of Le Corbusier, twirls towards a bank of lipsticks in black and white lacquered and brushed metal cases. There are 24 shades in the collection named RougeHerms and the house is releasing a limited edition Toteme collection as well, comprising three lipstick shades.
The casings are like nothing else. Assembled by hand in the Herms factory in France, they are durable, refillable, designed to be used for years. There are also hermes tote bag replica
lip shines and balms, lip brushes, lip pencils, leather protector pouches and mirrors that slide in and out of leather discs, all demanding to be displayed. Expect to see a return of dressing tables.
The formulae researched in Normandy, produced in Italy, packed with plant derived antioxidants, and highly innovative are just as thrilling. The team worked their way through more than 60 versions before arriving at a collection of sheers that deliver an amazing hit of colour, and mattes that are both powdery and soft. All of them glide on, and stay on but not for 12 hours, like those extreme lipsticks, Touron says, with the thinnest veil of Gallic disdain. “That would dry the lips, and dry does not look good. These last six to eight hours.”
Does that mean not eating at all, like all those fabled French fashion editors? Or is nibbling permitted provided it’s on dry croissant? I like this French distinction. I like, too, that when the three of them get going on the subject they sound like existentialists. “What is the point of a lipstick?”asks Hardy. “For me, the smallness was a wonderful constraint: where luxury and practicality meet fantasy.”
They didn’t conduct market research; that is not the Herms way. But they did consult all their lipstick wearing friends. “Some said, ‘Oh, it should be totally natural looking,'”says Touron. “Others said, ‘Bold, audacious, vibrant.’I tried to figure out how to reconcile those two opposites. For me, if it suits your personality then it can seem natural in the broad sense. I have a friend who always wears bright, strong make up, and if I see her without it, it doesn’t look natural.”
The fabulously stylish Barret is a case in point. Today, her lips are slicked with Rouge Casaque, a deep pink that, on her, looks orange matching the trim of the Herms silkcarrknotted round her neck. It suits her so well, it’s hard to imagine she wasn’t born this way. “Tomorrow I could be in beige,”she says, shrugging. “Playing with image is the fun.”
The four of us ooh and aah over some more of the colours, including an orange that, we agree, would look incredible either on a woman of colour or a Hitchcock blonde. “The key is that it challenges but also flatters, and it must always be comfortable,”says Touron, pausing to reflect, somewhat ruefully. “There are really only two things I envy women for: high heels and lipstick.”.