As cult French fashion brand Rouje launches its first line of lipsticks, Vogue sat down with founder Jeanne Damas to discuss personal style, social media and the perfect Parisian red pout.
If you spend any time on Instagram (iPhone’s new Screen Time update will delightfully shame you each week) chances are you’re familiar with French fashion favorite Jeanne Damas. A perfect pouty mix between Jane Birkin, Lou Doillon, and Caroline de Maigret, 26-year-old Damas is the epitome of effortless Parisian style and nonchalant natural beauty with the kind of enviable pared-back wardrobe fashion editors have spent decades referring to as “French girl cool”.
Much to the delight of her hordes of loyal followers (now standing at a healthy one million, and counting), two-and-a-half years ago Damas launched her own brand, Rouje, offering style staples, such as wrap dresses, pretty blouses, elegant tailoring, Insta-approved jeans, sweaters and T-shirts, all priced under €200 (AED 830). Now this week, Damas who is known for her penchant for red lips as much as she is adored for her flawless style, has branched out from clothing into cosmetics.
Launching with five lipstick bullets and a four-shade palette, Damas has created the perfect combination of creamy textures, matte finishes and colors that can enhance a woman’s natural beauty. “When I was younger, around 12, I was a skater so I was more into black eyes,” she tells Vogue at a preview of the range. “I remember the first time I applied red lipstick, I was quite shocked, but afterwards I continued and now I never get tired of it. When you’re used to it, it’s like a natural blush. It’s like protection for me. But it’s not always red, I have a lot of nude, brown and natural colors I love too.”
Red lipstick is a signature for many chic French women but who specifically has influenced Jeanne’s look and subsequently her foray into a beauty line? “It’s funny,” she says. “All of the Rouje icons from our favorite ’60s movies, like [Jean-Luc] Godard, never wore lipstick. It was always nude lips with big eyeliner. I don’t know, I think it’s more the women in my life and the women in Paris, because a lot of women there only wear lipstick. It’s really classic. You don’t wear too much foundation, you don’t do a big eye look. A lot of girls I know leave their dark circles. So [I’m inspired by] the girls in my entourage.”
The line of lipsticks is not just the whim of one of France’s biggest influencers, but something Damas has spent months and months refining and perfecting: “It takes a long time to do cosmetics because you have to test for allergies, for texture, for color. We began a year ago with the lipsticks. All the girls in the office tried them for four months. It’s not like clothing because when you apply the lipsticks, it’s not always the same color.”
The months of honing the product have certainly paid off. Not only are the lipsticks beautifully pigmented, with a hue for any occasion or woman, but the pretty gold packaging is a sure-fire Insta hit. “The packaging is really me. My friends used to call me “Mamie Jeanne” [Granny Jeanne]. Jeanne is like an old name in France and I have my cat, I don’t go out a lot and I love anything that’s vintage! I love dried flowers… all these kind of things. So for the cosmetics I wanted packaging that reminded me of my grandma’s lipstick. I love gold in general and for things to look beautiful in my bathroom.”
On the subject of bathrooms, how long does it take Jeanne to get ready each morning? “I’m quicker than my boyfriend!” she laughs. “Even with clothes, I have a uniform – a sweater and jeans every day. I don’t like to wait so I do my makeup in five minutes. I curl my lashes and put gel on my eyebrows and just a little bit of concealer on my circles or if I have a pimple. Then I put some red lipstick on with my fingers and then after onto my cheeks. Sometimes at night, I do a little brown eyeliner but never mascara because I’m too lazy to take it off.” (As if we needed more reasons to love her.)
There wouldn’t be any point in sitting down with a burgeoning Parisian style and beauty icon without asking her about the French pharmacy products she uses and her skincare secrets. “At night I take time to take off my make-up with Joelle Ciocco products,” Damas reveals. “It’s a milk and I use it once with water and then re-do it. It takes 15 minutes, but it’s really important to take this time. Afterwards, I put on some oil and do a massage. My mother was crazy about us going in the sun when we were young. Hats, T-shirts, sun screen. We weren’t allowed in the sun between 12 and 4pm so I’ve always kept that in my mind. She’s now 60 and looks 40!”
As someone who’s career began and, for the most part, exists on Instagram, does Damas ever tire of social media? “It’s funny, I was talking about this with Camille Charrière, yesterday. It’s your job so you have to do it, but sometimes you dream about quitting. One day if Rouje is really big, maybe then I can put my own account a little to the side. It’s not my real life on Instagram. It’s just inspiration, it’s just my cat or my sofa. My real life, my friends who I’ve had since I was born, my boyfriend or my family… I never show that. I have my private life.” Damas may keep her personal life protected but that’s not stopping her sharing her wardrobe and beauty bag with the world. Form an orderly queue.
This article first appeared on Vogue.co.uk