"Makeup Is the Strongest Feminist Weapon There Is," Says Dior's Peter Philips

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The creative genius behind Dior Beauty talks “snobby” Bel-Air beige lipstick, his L.A. must-visits and feminism as the house launches Dior Addict Lacquer Stick.

The launch of a new lipstick may not sound like the time for a conversation about feminism, but it was actually a natural segue for Dior Beauty creative and image director Peter Philips to talk about his experience working with Dior creative director Maria Grazia Chiuri.

“It’s a great conversation I always have with her,” he starts out, chatting at the penthouse of the Chateau Marmont in L.A. on Thursday. “It’s interesting to hear her talk about makeup, because it’s from a woman’s point of view. When we’re doing fittings, the way she approaches clothes — she’s really worried about how to wear it: How does it feel? Is it comfortable? Can you move? The ateliers told me, ‘You know, with Raf [Simons] we never had to worry if it was comfortable. It just had to look great.’ With Maria it’s a different approach, and the same with makeup.”

Philips, who arrived at Dior in 2014 after a successful six-year run at rival luxury beauty giant Chanel, clearly appreciates the input: “I’m talking to somebody who wants to wear it.”

Despite the recent trend of mass cosmetics companies hiring men to be ambassadors for their brands (James Charles at Cover Girl, Manny Gutierez at Maybelline), women are still most often the ones using cosmetics. So how does he think the current political climate and rejuvenated focus on feminism play within the beauty world in 2017? “Now there are literally slogans on the T-shirts, but I think it’s always been there. Makeup has always been a weapon for women, you just have to know how to use it.”

To Philips, it’s not something to hide behind, but a tool that enhances women’s feminine power. “A lipstick, an eyeliner is something a woman can use, and should use, to really put forward her strengths,” continues Philips. “She can totally control how she wants the world to see her — and she can also cover up her weaknesses if she wants to. For me if you use it well, it’s the strongest feminist weapon there is.”

The occasion for Philips' L.A. visit is the launch of the Dior Addict Lacquer Stick range of 21 gloss-lipstick hybrid shades ($35 each), which was feted with a splashy soiree at Delilah in West Hollywood. The formula (super silky, lightweight and shiny thanks to five refined oils) is the result of two years of R&D, while the inspiration for the hues came straight from L.A.

“I don’t work so much with mood boards, but I knew Jennifer [Lawrence] was going to be the face, and when I was doing the colors almost automatically L.A. came into the picture,” says the Belgian-bred makeup artist, recalling his first-ever trip to the City of Angels for a W shoot with Kate Moss. “It was on the Hollywood sign — so that was a great introduction to the city, you know, sitting on the O. It was before selfies. And the next day we were shooting on the Walk of Fame stars, and at a vintage-style diner. I got all these impressions of L.A. and those impressions actually guided me to make the collection.”


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There are four groupings: pastels, which have an injection of white for a “milkshake-y feeling”; neons, which are more pigmented and flashy; classics, which are his “classic Hollywood red carpet” sophisticated shades like red and beige; and finally wild ones, which are “dark, a bit more daring. They represent a little bit of the wild side of Los Angeles,” says Philips.  

The deep chocolate-brown Sauvage feels very Rihanna, while Lawrence wears the juicy raspberry-red Turn Me Dior in the ads. A grouping of four extreme shades includes Blue Wave, which Philips likes using on the inside of the mouth atop another color—“it gives you this kind of weirdness, almost like a luminosity” — and Bel Air, which he describes as “a very sophisticated beige that is not for every skin type, but if it fits you it’s really amazing because it’s bizarre and sophisticated at the same time. It’s like when you look at a pretty lady and she goes shopping — that kind of snobbish beige that represents Bel Air for me.”


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As for his top application tip: Use a liner for a strong look, or apply it more on the inside of the lips for a stain, and tap with the finger. And no blotting “because you lose your shine.”

Although he’s never been on an L.A. holiday, Philips relishes each work trip he takes here — the most recent being earlier this winter for a shoot. “I discovered Violet Grey, which I really loved. Down the road at Sweet Lady Jane I got a sugar rush, which was fun — a big piece of cherry pie. And I love to go to the LACMA museum.”

Unsurprisingly, he’s fascinated with L.A.’s retro side, too. Chateau Marmont is his favorite hotel haunt, “because you have the ghosts and stories and I feel like I’m in I Love Lucy when I walk into my room.” And he even visited the Max Factor museum. “You feel the Old Hollywood that I love. There are still elements of the city where you can almost smell and taste that nostalgic era; that’s what’s great about it.”