Dior’s creative and image director Peter Philips is at the helm of a shift in the way we perceive makeup.
“I always want to do better than what has already been done,” muses Peter Philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup. He gazes down at the glossy tubes of lipsticks laid out before us. They encase a new formula, Ultra Rouge. “Red, for me as a makeup artist, is the most gorgeous color. When I started doing makeup, it was red lipstick that drew me into it.”
Originally printed in the October 2018 issue of Vogue Arabia
Growing up in Antwerp, Philips was fascinated by the beauty rituals of his mother and grandmother. “My mom did the same routine every day, which was simple, but beautiful.” His father, a painter, sparked his interest in art, leading him to study graphic design. “You learn about the different textures of paint and blending colors and mixing,” he explains. Changing paths, he became a fashion student at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He was mesmerized by the hair and makeup teams at Paris fashion week and upon graduating, chose to pursue a career in this discipline.
He developed his technical expertise while collaborating with aspiring photographers like Willy Vanderperre and stylists like Olivier Rizzo, who today work with him on Dior campaigns. His defining moment was his first Vogue cover: “Christy Turlington shot by Inez and Vinoodh for Vogue Paris’s August 2001 issue. Hair by Jimmy Paul, makeup by me.”
He was hired as creative director of Chanel Makeup in 2008 after being spotted by Karl Lagerfeld, before moving to Dior in 2014. “When I started creating products about 10 years ago, there was a fear of makeup,” he says. With social media, online makeup tutorials, and the ease at which information is shared, this has shifted. The concept of beauty has changed, with women of all backgrounds now free to play with their look. “It’s about expressing yourself, beautifying yourself, and embracing the fact that you are able to give time to yourself and show your feminine side,” Philips explains. Experimentation is key, he says, because, “you can take it off the next day and try something else.”
This notion is now surpassing the ideal of trends within the world of beauty, which is limiting – the biggest trend in makeup, Philips feels, is makeup itself. He also draws upon looks of the past, revolutionizing them in the process. “Everything from the 60s, 70s, and 80s can come back, it’s the context in which you wear it that makes it modern and contemporary,” he explains. Developing new trends also excites him – cue the spiked surrealist eyeliner he created for the Dior SS18 haute couture show, his favorite runway conception for Dior to date.
In a saturated market, what defines a makeup collection’s success today? Creativity and new technology, with Ultra Rouge being a prime example. “The idea behind Ultra Rouge is to try to integrate everything a woman wants in a lipstick,” Philips says – the three key characteristics being color, comfort, and staying power. The current crop of lipsticks and inks excelled in one area at the expense of another, so the research department at Dior decided to rise to the challenge. “We managed to identify a polymer which, when combined with a plant oil, offers both comfort and deep hydration, along with 12-hour wear,” explains Brigitte Noe, director of the Formulation Laboratories. Philips approached the 26 shades from a painter’s point of view – a process mastered since observing his father as a child. He encourages the wearer to see the collection in the same light. “Dress your lips like a painter would glorify a canvas,” he suggests.
Natalie Portman has returned for the campaign, after working with Philips for years. “It’s so great to have him on board reinventing classic Dior lipstick shades,” the Oscar-winner says. “He is a true artist and a wonderful person.”
For someone at the pinnacle of the beauty industry after only picking up a makeup brush at the age of 27, he remains gracious. “I was invited,” he says simply when asked about joining Dior. For those looking to follow in his footsteps, he offers, “Make sure that your ambition isn’t bigger than your talent. Keep in mind that in our craft, your talent can and needs to grow.” For now, we wait for Philips’ next development – another icon remastered, no doubt.
How to Make The Most of Your Lipstick, From Dior’s Peter Philips
Move your face when trying lipstick: “When you try out a lipstick, make faces in front of the mirror. Make sure that it fits your smile as well as your serious expression.”
Don’t be afraid on natural skin and a bold lip: “I’m a big fan of a woman with a nude face and a dark lip.”
Layer unexpected colors: “Two colors you may not expect in the collection are black and white. Layer with white to intensify colors, and make them darker by adding black.”
Embrace ombré: “Apply your red and add a little white on the inside. Or apply black first and go over it with a burgundy or deep red. This can create dimension.”
Look to liners: “Lip liners help to create a perfect outline. They are longlasting, since they stain. They are also sharp and easy to apply.”
Above all, experiment: “That’s the joy of what I do. It’s not only strict truths with makeup. You can bend the rules and play with them.”