Tag Archives: Karl Lagerfeld

An Audience With The Illusionist

Chanel’s Creative Director of Make-up Peter Philips is the Willy Wonka of the cosmetics world. On a hot summer’s day in Paris, journalists from across the globe descend on the upmarket suburb of Neuilly, just outside the French capital, to catch their first glimpse of the new autumn make-up collection, which goes on sale on Friday. It’s as if we’ve all won a golden ticket to the factory where our favourite cosmetic confections are produced.

In small groups, the beauty writers are shown into a long penthouse room which is gleaming, glossy white from ceiling to (white patent) floor. There is nothing in this room – down both sides of which are continuous windows offering stunning views across Paris – apart from a series of TV screens on a wall at the bottom. In front of these screens, is a curved white bar with high stools on which we are all invited to sit. And behind the bar is Philips himself, Wonka-like (more Gene Wilder than Johnny Depp, thankfully) in his enthusiasm and sense of theatricality – but with a touch of the Wizard of Oz about him as well.

Once everyone is comfortably perched on the stools, a squad of assistants – all clad in black and sporting a slash of red lipstick – materialise holding glossy white coffrets which they set down in front of the journalists and open with great aplomb. To gasps of delight from the press corps, the new season colours are revealed – and everyone reaches for the first nail polish or eye shadow to catch their eye. And there’s certainly plenty of choice…

The Autumn 2011 collection is entitled Illusions d’Ombres de Chanel and was inspired by the precious materials used by the “Artistic Creation Houses” , the legendary houses which specialise in the traditional crafts used in couture: embroidery, decorative feathers and flowers, beading and so on, and which Chanel supports and celebrates in its annual Metiers and Arts show.

At the heart of the autumn range is a new eyeshadow, Illusion d’Ombre (£22.50), a creamy, silicone-based, sparkling formula which glides onto the eyelid (use the applicator brush or  your fingers) and can be used as sheer as you like, or built up and blended with another shade for a more dramatic, intense look. There are six colours to choose from, and while the paler shades are pretty, the ones that grab the attention are Ebloui (a reddish-brown), Illusoire (a taupe-grey) and my favourite, Epatant (a greeny-grey, pictured right, which looks great with blue eyes – at least I thought so, when I first wore it out, in May).

Peter Philips is clearly thrilled with his new eyeshadows – and by the journalists’ response to them. “If you are generous with it,” he says, demonstrating how to work the black shade, “it’s fireworks! You can create new and avant-garde looks.” Which is just what he did for the Fall-Winter Ready-to-Wear shows.

Chatting with Peter, I ask him how these new colours had come about – had Chanel’s Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld told him which colours he’d be working with? “The thing is,” he says, “my make-up calendar is a totally different calendar to the fashion one because I work two years ahead. I communicate a lot with Karl but I do my thing, and sometimes it matches and sometimes it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, and I don’t have, for example, an autumn collection which links with Karl’s autumn collection, then I can find colours in my main Chanel range… I don’t have to have a launch collection which matches his – but  in this case it was  a very lucky strike!”

So, does he feel that he and Karl are in tune with one another? “I don’t think we’re of the same mind but a lot of communication goes on – and that helps. I wouldn’t say that I influenced him – it’s more the other way round. I see a lot, I hear a lot, I know the future projects. I’ll run things I’m working on by him to see if they can link in with what he’s doing – for example, the Byzance palette. I showed it to him and told him that it was in the pipeline but could be speeded up if he wanted it. He looked at it and said: ‘It’s fantastic, I’d love to have it linked to the show.’ That put the pressure on, and we produced the limited edition. It was a good synergy.

“Karl mentioned to me once that he would love to do something with tattoos or fake tattoos. When the Marie-Antoinette show in the barn came along, I knew there would be a lot of skin showing, a lot of places for tattoos, so I thought: ‘Okay, let’s do something rebellious like tattoos, but elegant like Marie-Antoinette.’ So I did the jewels like the pearls, and the swallows in tattoo form.”

This season, Peter is proudest of the afore-mentioned Illusions d’Ombre eyeshadows.Why? “Well, I’m very proud of the formula itself – the fact that we can stretch from really intense pigment, colour-wise, like the pitch black , to the more subtle shades. I’m stretching it all the way back to a natural, almost luminous make-up finish. And that, in the same formula, is unusual and something I’m very proud of – the laboratory did an amazing job.”

Of course, the other items pounced upon by the press pack are the new nail varnishes – Le Vernis in Peridot, Quartz and Graphite (£17.50). Quartz is a satiny taupe while Graphite is a glittery silver. The Peridot, I tell him, reminds me of the chartreuse dress worn by the subject of the iconic art deco painting The Girl in Green With Gloves, by Tamara De Lempicka. “I wasn’t thinking of that – more of peacock feathers,” he says, “but yeah-yeah-yeah, you’re absolutely right. I’m very proud of that shade – but it’s kind of obvious because it’s unique.

“My favourite, the one that I really love and which I know a lot of women will adore, is Quartz, the most subtle one. It’s very beautiful. The other two are kind of ‘wow'; this is a bit of a sleeper. You’re not attracted to it in the first moment, because the other two are so bling-bling almost, but Quartz is a slow-burner.”

So there you have it: ladies, form an orderly queue ….

* The Illusions d’Ombres de Chanel collection for Autumn 2011 goes on sale on Friday, August 19. For stockists call 020-7493 3836.

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Coco Mademoiselle

The most stylish film you’re likely to see this month is just 30 seconds long and has no dialogue. It was shot in Paris by a BAFTA award-winning director and stars a Hollywood A-lister in a surprisingly action-packed role. Oh, and it’s a sequel. You’ll see it on TV any number of times  – and it might just inspire you to go on a shopping trip.

It’s the new advert for Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle fragrance – and it stars British actress Keira Knightley, who has been the face of the perfume for the last three years. For 25-year-old Keira, reprising the role of the elegant starlet leading a glamorous Parisian life offered the chance to be reunited with Joe Wright, her director on two of her most successful films – Pride and Prejudice and Atonement – as well as the last Coco Mademoiselle ad, which has been running since 2008.

That advert famously opened with Keira, wearing a man’s shirt and bowler hat, nipping into an apartment through its open window and dressing herself in a 1930s-style scarlet evening gown which she wears to an event before fleeing into the moonlit streets of Paris.

The new advert also crams a great deal of story into its running time – and Keira is clearly still playing the same mysterious character: same hairdo, same penchant for grey nail varnish, same hurry to get to where she’s going (this time it’s to a photo shoot) – and the same desire to flee once she’s done her job. But this new advert required a bit more preparation from the actress
than the last one. Why?

Giggling, she replies: “Because of the motorbike! All Joe told me before we started work on the ad was that it would involve a motorbike. I must admit I was rather terrified of the idea. I think that Joe thought that I was the kind of girl who would already have been on one – which is flattering for me, because that means that he must see me as a very cool girl! But in reality, I’d never been on this kind of bike – so I took a few lessons.”

After her “crash” course, Keira felt sufficiently confident to shoot the ad – only to be told that the motorbike that would be used wouldn’t be any old motorbike. “They told me it would be a Ducati – and that was a completely different story. Especially since my instructor very calmly explained to me that if the motorbike fell, I would be unable to lift it up. Mind you, I had a lot of fun with my lessons – though I would have loved to have been as good as my biker companions who made revving up their bikes look so easy. I had to cheat a little, but this made me want to take more lessons so I could really make the bike go ‘vroom’!”

Of course, you can’t ride a motorbike in a Chanel evening gown. So Karl Lagerfeld promised to kit Keira out in appropriate gear. “All I knew before I saw it was that was a catsuit and that it would be beige,” laughs Keira. ” I didn’t have any details. I discovered it in his offices once it was done and immediately when I put it on, I felt like I was slipping into a second skin. I felt like a Chanel superwoman!”

The colour of the catsuit was obviously chosen to stand out alongside the black gear worn by the male bikers in the film, but that wasn’t the only reason: beige was Coco Chanel’s signature colour, and it’s one of the advert’s many little tributes to the legendary founder of the house of Chanel. Her famous mirrored staircase, which is to be found at her original boutique in Paris, is featured, as is her beloved Place Vendome, the magnificent square onto which her bedroom at the Ritz Hotel faced. Her love of pearls is reflected in the keyring which Keira carries her bike keys on, and even the actress’s loose bob seems to evoke the look of Coco Chanel in her heyday.

Was Coco Chanel an inspiration for the character Keira plays? She won’t say, but she does admit to being very impressed by what she’s learned about Chanel and her background. “I’m sure I would have found her intimidating in person. In my mind, she is incredibly mysterious but also strong, powerful and – above all – independent. Which is an essential quality to me.

“Actually, one of the things I love about Coco Mademoiselle – which was my fragrance even before I was first approached by Chanel – is that although it’s extremely feminine, it gives me this feeling of power. Before it, I only wore men’s fragrances. I didn’t want something light and flowery – I’m not that kind of girl. Coco Mademoiselle was the first perfume I tried and thought: ‘Yes, that fits.’ It’s the mixture of strength and subtlety. It doesn’t overpower but it makes you feel you can stand up straight – and that’s important to me.”

Keira was given her first bottle of Coco Mademoiselle by a friend who was fed up with her wearing men’s perfume and told her “it was time to grow up!”. If she hadn’t fallen in love with the fragrance almost on first sniff, Keira would undoubtedly have discovered Coco Mademoiselle for herself by visiting one of Chanel’s olfactive tables – one of which will be a key part of the company’s new beauty zone, an Espace Parfums with a Chanel Make-up Studio, opening in Frasers, Glasgow, later this month.

The Chanel olfactive table houses the 48 concentrates which make up the entire range of Chanel perfumery. From April 21, when the the Espace Parfums opens, fragrance experts will be on-hand to guide customers through the collection using a new ceramic blotter system which will allow them to sample every scent. There will also be a floating bar showcasing the entire Les Exclusifs mini collection of perfumes which, until recently, were only available in Chanel boutiques and Selfridges.

The Espace Parfums is the first that the company has opened in the UK outside the capital. The revamped beauty area, which will have a make-up play station and a giant screen showing the latest make-up collections, will put Scottish Chanel fans on an equal footing with Londoners as the “Fast Track” make-up collections, designed by Peter Philips, the creative director of Chanel Make-up and previously only sold in Selfridges and in Chanel boutiques, will be on sale here for the first time.

So, later this month, make like Keira and get on your bike – down to Frasers to check it out….
* View the Coco Mademoiselle adverts online at www.chanel.com, and the Chanel Espace Parfums and Chanel Make-up Studio open in Frasers, Glasgow, on April 21

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Unravelling the Fabric of Chanel

 

The inscrutable Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, 1936, (c) Lipnitzki/Roger-Viollet

 

Journalist and author Justine Picardie was in Edinburgh last week to launch Coco Chanel – The Legend and the Life (Harper Collins), and to discuss the iconic French designer’s secret love affair with Scotland. I caught up with her for a chat about her elegant expose of the first lady of fashion.

AK: Why did you feel the time was right for a new biography of Coco Chanel?

JP: Well, I suppose there hasn’t been a proper full-scale biography with new material since Edmonde Charles-Roux’s  and that was written in the early 1970s, pretty soon after Chanel died. At that point, a lot of archival material wasn’t even available .. I was given greater access to the Chanel archives than previous biographers, and certainly nobody had looked in the British archives for anything Chanel-related before.

AK: You must have been thrilled to turn up so much British material.

JP: It was amazing finding out stuff about her time in Britain – in London, Cheshire (where her lover, the Duke of Westminster’s mansion was), and in Sutherland in Scotland – where Westminster had an estate, Lochmore.  I knew that there would be a Scottish connection because of Chanel’s use of Scottish tweed. From the 1920s on you see Scottish wool and Scottish tweed in her collections but no-one had ever worked out where that began. I just had a hunch that if I started with the Duke of Westminster it might lead me to interesting places – and it certainly did! It was through her relationship with the Duke of Westminster that she came to Scotland in the first place.

I went to the place where she fished and to the fishing lodge where she stayed with the Duke and Winston Churchill, and when I found those fishing records which listed their names –  you see Mademoiselle Chanel, the Duke of Westminster and Winston Churchill all listed – that was one of the most exciting moments in the book, because it proved how much time she’d been spending in Scotland. And it confirmed the closeness of the relationship with the Duke and also with Winston Churchill.

AK: How well had her friendship with Churchill been known before you turned up these records?

JP: It wasn’t at all known – it was purely speculative. And by looking at those fishing records you could see that she was spending several months at a time in Scotland in the summer and that coincided with her introducing Scottish tweed and so on.

AK: The men in her life really did furnish her with what turned out to be significant sources of inspiration, didn’t they?

JP: They really did!  You can see from those old photographs which I’ve used in the book, and found in private archives here, that she’s using Scottish tweed – these are the Duke of Westminster’s jackets that she’s wearing to begin with.

AK: Boyfriend jackets, then?!

JP: Yes, literally boyfriend jackets. Then you start seeing tweed in her collection. And that, again,  that to me, was the most exciting discovery  – those pictures alone, among them a fantastic picture, which is one of my favourite pictures in the book,  of her with this big salmon that she’s caught …. You know, this was the summer of the little black dress, the Jazz Age, and the story told thus far is that Chanel was shimmying around Paris and the Riviera, which she undoubtedly did, but, as it turns out, she was also spending a lot of time in Scotland – with a fishing rod, playing cards with her boyfriend and his friend, Churchill. And then of course Churchill – that relationship was to prove so important during the Second World War …

 

Chanel & the Duke of Westminster on his yacht, 1928, (c) Chanel - Collection Denise Tual

 

AK: So, after doing all this research, do you like Chanel – I ask because I didn’t much like her as a woman, after seeing the recent films about her ..

JP: What I felt at the end of it was that I did like her and I felt there was a kind of heroism about her, that there was just something really, really brave and independent, and she just never gave up, she never stopped. I ended up feeling this emotional attachment – partly because I felt that she had somehow kept me going during a difficult time …

She was an icon to me before I started. I was fascinated, I was an admirer. What changed over the course of the book was that I began to feel much more sympathy for her. I went to the convent where she was abandoned by her father. To have endured that, to have escaped that and then to have made it in Paris where she would have had to be so strong to keep going against the ins and outs of fashion. You know, one minute you’re a success, and the next, you’re out of fashion. But she kept going.

AK: You almost have to check your sums when you work out what age she was when she launched some of her most famous creations, don’t you?

JP: I know! She was designing her last collection when she died. She was 87. That’s just extraordinary – and what’s even more extraordinary is the fact that she went into business in 1910, in a world where women were so dismissed, and had no autonomy.

AK: In terms of her personality, what did you find to empathise with?

JP: I spent time with two women who were really close to her – her great-niece, also called Gabrielle (who, as you’ll see in the book, is possibly her grand-daughter), and one of her friends, Claude Delay, who was reasonably young when she met Chanel in the 1960s. They were incredibly warm, instantly sympathetic  women and they spoke with such tenderness and warmth about her that I thought if they really loved her, then she must have had something that could form a very powerful connection.

 

Portrait of Mademoiselle Chanel by Horst, 1937, (c) Conde Nast/Corbis

 

AK: From the films Coco Avant Chanel and Coco & Igor, I got the impression that she was one of those women who gets on better with men than with other women – did you sense this?

JP: Yes, from the films you’d think she hated other women but that is not the impression that I had having talked to Gabrielle and Claude. I mean, yeah, you probably wouldn’t want Chanel to fall in love with your husband – as happened in Coco & Igor – but that’s such a tiny, specific chapter.

AK: Being able to write in Chanel’s own apartment and to spend the night in her room at the Ritz must have helped you to feel a connection ..

JP: Oh my God, yes. Sitting and writing at her desk, that desk with the leather top where you can see the score marks from her pen, was amazing. Her pen was so firm that it went through the paper into the leather. I was allowed to work there late at night when there was nobody there, just a security guard down on the street, that was it – the rest of the house of Chanel had emptied out. Working there definitely helped me feel a connection: her presence is so powerful in the house that it’s impossible not to feel it … you’d be made of wood if you didn’t feel a ghostly but also very potent and inspiring presence. And then when I spent the night in her room at the Ritz, the lights kept going on and off – which was a bit spooky!

AK: How long did it take you to research and write the book?

JP: You know, the first time I went to the apartment and interviewed Karl Lagerfeld was 1997, the end of 1997, and it was then that I thought:  “I wish I could write a book about Chanel”. So I started doing research then but it took quite a long time for me, as British writer, to feel that I had amassed enough new material to take to a publisher … All the previous biographies have been written by French writers. There have been picture books by American writers but they didn’t have new stuff. I’ve done archival research in the past for my previous book about Daphne du Maurier, and I started out as an investigative reporter for the Sunday Times, so I felt I had to know that I had amassed a body of new material.

AK: Some of the other books are really superficial, aren’t they?

JP: They do skim the surface… Also, the same pictures have been circulated over and over again so it was also imp0rtant to me that I find some new ones – which I did.

AK: And of course your book features some beautiful illustrations by Karl Lagerfeld ..

JP: Yes, they were done specially for the book.  that was interesting because Chanel have no editorial control over the book – I mean, I couldn’t have written it if they did have editorial control. I needed access to the archives but I said from the start – as did they – that without independence, the book wouldn’t stand as a serious work. As I went on I did uncover some fairly dark things, especially about the Second World War, but, actually, the truth is not as bad as the rumours.

AK: Did you think it might turn out to be worse?

JP: Well, I did think, having seen the stuff in the Churchill archives, that this isn’t as it’s been told before. But yes, I’m half-Jewish – I’ve got a Jewish father – and I wanted to know the truth and tell the truth. I certainly wasn’t going to give her any sort of leeway. In any case, some of the most interesting creative characters of the 20th Century had very bad wars, and I think that the two are not mutually exclusive: you can be a kind of creative genius and a pretty terrible person at the same time. But if she was a pretty terrible person I would have told that. She did make some serious errors of judgment. This plot she got involved in was always doomed but nevertheless it was to try to bring the war to an end.

AK: Has your Chanel research thrown up any other subjects whom you’d like to investigate?

JP: Well, there are  some fascinating characters. Misia Sert, Chanel’s closest female friend, was a fascinating character but I don’t think that her story would have such broad appeal .. And Hardy Amies I got really interested in – he was a special agent during the war as well. The other incredibly fascinating character of course is Karl Lagerfeld but that book will only be written after his death. The story of Chanel couldn’t be told while she was alive because she made up so many different stories.

AK: Do you have a theory about why she did that?

JP: I think she felt intense shame and humiliation about her childhood and her youth. She was born illegitimate so there was the stigma of illegitimacy, the stigma of poverty and then the stigma of being in this orphanage. And then ,of course, her being not only a seamstress but also a demi-mondaine was further stigma. Actually,  where the Audrey Tautou movie worked was in capturing that milieu, that terrible humiliation of being a kept woman and not knowing what your status was. Where that movie is historically inaccurate, I think,  is that Boy Capel [Chanel's lover] is presented as rather honourable – he’s already engaged to an English girl and if it wasn’t for that he would have married Chanel. In fact, he’d been with Chanel for eight years when he decided to consolidate his social standing within the British upper classes by marrying the daughter of a lord.

AK: So, what’s next now that you’ve finished this labour of love?

JP: I’ve got to clear up my house. It’s piled high with archival papers and photocopies.  I finished writing in February but then I did endless, endless corrections on final drafts.  I managed to see inside La Pausa, her house in the South of France, and I found more stuff in Scotland in May, so I had to go back to the publishers and say:  “I have to add these bits..”.

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Make-up by Moonlight

“Dare to be different” is the philosophy of the people behind the hottest new make-up on the beauty scene, Illamasqua. This innovative British company, the first cosmetics company to bill itself as being a “night-time brand”, has quickly established itself as a mecca for anyone who doesn’t want to blend in with the rest of the crowd – and is sick of being told that blonde, tanned and skinny is the best way to be. It has only been available for a year, but already Illamasqua can count Lily Allen, Sienna Miller and, especially, Courtney Love among its devoted fans.

Discussing the range in Glasgow, one of its creators, make-up artist extraordinaire Alex Box – a vision of out-there style in her tomato red jumpsuit, high heels, gold-tipped red nails and big, two-toned hair – explains how fed up she had become with bland cosmetics adverts which have no imagination and no story to tell. Illamasqua’s ads are dark, decadent and look like movie stills. Unusually, it’s the models’ dramatic looks that are to the fore, not the products.

Even more annoying to Alex, who works regularly with maverick fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, is the way that everybody is being pressurised to look the same, and continuously being told – by beauty companies and the media – which products will help them get the looks that will enable them to fit in. “At Illamasqua, we’re the opposite,” she says proudly. “We want people to find themselves within our vast range of colours and pigments.”

We’ve all come across hairdressers and make-up advisers who tell us which colours we should wear, based on whether our colouring is cool or warm – and not allowing for the fact that we may well love how we look with a contrasting colour or that we don’t actually believe in these old-fashioned rules. Well, that won’t happen at Illamasqua. Rather than forcing their tastes on customers, the Illamasqua make-up artists will help them achieve their desired look.

“There’s no formula to beauty and style,” explains Alex. “This is my pet hate. People are fed up with being told ‘what not to wear’. It’s a dumbing down of people’s personalities and self-expression. You might have lived in Mexico all your life and you might gravitate towards warmer colours in your clothes or accessories. That’s probably the first thing that people notice about you; it’s what makes you you. No-one should tell you that you can’t wear those colours. That’s what winds me up. And seeing that we could stand against that way of thinking was one of the main things that lit my fire about Illamasqua.”

Among the names that kept coming up in market research and focus groups into whose looks people liked and which celebrities they found inspirational were quirky model Agyness Deyn, burlesque queen Dita Von Teese, who has developed a distinctive 1940s look, and Beth Ditto, the plus-sized pop star who very much makes her own rules. “We got feedback from people not necessarily saying that they wanted to look like these women but that they envied their individuality. But what they also said was that they lacked the confidence when it comes to experimenting with make-up.”

A key part of the Illamasqua experience is having an at-counter lesson in how to apply this professional make-up, which was formulated by chemists who normally make theatrical make-up. While the customer is being taught how to create what Illamasqua calls his or her alter-ego, a tiny camera in the mirror films the lesson. So you can take home a DVD of how you were turned into a vampire, flapper, Twiggy-lookalike or whatever you want to be when you go out at night.

And you certainly have plenty of options. The range has no fewer than 650 different colours, including 100 powder eye shadows. So there is something for everybody – even those for whom experimentation is a scary prospect. As Alex says: “One person’s natural is another person’s outrageous – going crazy for one person might be just having a change of eye shadow. That said, we’re trying to do something different rather than trying to please everybody – we’re saying that you’re with us or you’re not with us.”

Nevertheless, there is something for everybody in the vast range which includes some fabulously long-wearing foundations, false eyelashes that would work on everyone from prom princess to drag queen, highly-pigmented eyeshadows and lipsticks, and unusual shades of nail varnish guaranteed to grab attention…

* Illamasqua is in Debenhams, Glasgow and Selfridges, London.

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