Chanel's Latest Beauty Collection Was Inspired by a California Road Trip

Chanel Beauty 5 - Staff - Embed 2017
THR Staff

Global makeup and color designer Lucia Pica talks us through her California dream.

Dior. Hermes. Louis Vuitton

It seems like all the European fashion houses are doing it: descending upon California — Southern California, particularly — to show their collections in some form or another and reflect their own interpretation of the California lifestyle to Los Angeles' A-list residents.

Lucia Pica, global creative makeup and color designer of Chanel as of 2015, is the latest to take to the West Coast in search of inspiration. The result? The 21-piece Travel Diary makeup collection, available next month. 

Pica's California, however, is not the Santa Monica Mountains, nor the succulent saturated Palm Desert, or even the damp, urban shores of San Francisco that have been cited by both European designers and California natives alike as of late. The Italian makeup artist, who launched her career in London and primarily resides there, save for when she's working in Chanel's Parisian studio, drew her inspiration from the state's Central Coast during a road trip from Los Angeles to Big Sur in October 2015.

There was a Florence Welch-like warmth about Pica, who flitted about the room on the rooftop level of Chanel's Rodeo Drive store in Beverly Hills on Tuesday morning, enthusiastically recalling the colors of the road trip and explaining to the small group of gathered press how it was nature's own juxtaposition of the cool neutrals of the sand and the foamy ocean with the sharp, poppy-colored sunsets and red berries strewn across the brush that was the true inspiration. 

"It was not just the discovery of new colors but discovering new ways of putting them together in the palette," she said, echoing the same sentiment when it came to conflicting textures, like the urban concrete of DTLA and the still waters up the coast. "I need to have this opposition within the collection, a little bit of contrast and tension."

And while a coral-y orange and velvety navy may not seem like wearable colors, especially when paired together, the beauty veteran assured, "I know how to transform that inspiration into colors that can live on women's faces." Indeed, Pica's various Chanel projects all emphasize ease of application and enhancing the face rather than covering it. "This is not your contour and highlight kind of world," she said. "It's the answer to that."

The road trip, which Pica embarked on with just photographer Max Farago and videographer Clara Cullen as company, was as spontaneous as any corporate-sponsored travel could be, with the trio stopping wherever they pleased, taking in nature and going wherever their curiosity took them. Farago's photos were developed in the studio, where Pica worked to translate the images into physical product. In some cases, that translation was extremely literal: A nail varnish titled "Horizon Line" is the exact same seafoam-gray shade as the horizon line on a photograph of a foggy shore.

"We were being really organic," Pica reminisced. "We wanted to be so pure about this. We took off in a big car and we had some snacks and some pocket money that they gave us. I wanted it to be like a real personal experience, not like a big Chanel production." 

"I need to touch things," she continued. "I need to personally be involved. I think that's why I'm so close this project."

The trip was the first of its kind that Pica has taken for the brand, but certainly not the last. She added that since the Big Sur excursion over a year ago, there have been similar trips — though she can't disclose where or for what quite yet — on which she was able to "dig deeper" and really search for a complete story to tell consumers. This thoroughly researched storytelling, she added, is what sets the luxury beauty tier apart from others.

Of course, it only made sense to celebrate the final collection with an intimate event in Los Angeles — the only stop on Pica's promotional tour for the Travel Diary collection. "I love coming here, I really do," she said. "I like the quality of life, I like the nature. I like the relaxed attitude that people have ... It makes me feel happy."