From Suite 461 at Hôtel Plaza Athénée, there is picture perfect view of the Eiffel Tower. Peter Philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup, is on the couch, the suite a Dior Maison universe of toile de Jouy: cushions, throws, candles, and even a life-size tiger with the signature motif. Dior and Plaza Athénée, with its iconic red-awning-trimmed façade, have an enduring relationship. When Christian Dior opened his couture atelier across the street at 30 Rue Montaigne, he showed his first collection at the hotel in 1947 (the designer continued to host fashion shows at Plaza Athénée for years) and it was the location of the first Dior spa. It’s fitting that Philips is here, in his of-the-moment aviator eyeglasses, set to talk about yet another first: Rouge Premier, a Dior haute couture lipstick.
“What was missing in our range of lipsticks is a niche line, something linked to an experience that you find when you go haute couture shopping,” he states. “An experience that goes beyond just a lipstick application.” Enter Rouge Premier, an haute couture lipstick dressed in a ceramic toile de Jouy Gris Dior case.
Haute couture is the highest of high fashion. It’s a term that is thrown about, accompanied by price tags that to the uninitiated seem excessive. But an haute couture article of clothing is more than simply a dress or a jacket—it is a work of art. For Rouge Premier, Dior collaborated with Maison Bernardaud, masters of the art of French porcelain. The family-owned company founded in Limoges dates back to the 19th century. Bernardaud invested five years of research and innovation to arrive at the 0.8-millimetre ceramic cylinder that houses Rouge Premier, the toile de Jouy motif applied by hand, a 15-day process for each lipstick case.
“In my first mood board, I put golden ceramics for packaging,” Philips says of his initial concept. “I’ve always loved porcelain and ceramics.” And while ceramic is a material that goes back centuries, “it is also futuristic. It’s used in spacecraft, in all kinds of machinery. It can be very fragile, but it’s also a very solid material,” he says. To the touch, Rouge Premier is an object that invites caressing.
The Rouge Premier range is available in a dozen shades, from nude to bright red via pink, coral, burgundy, and reddish-brown, each designated by a number, one through 12. Of the palette Philips says, “Just 12 essential shades in which every woman whatever skin colour or cultural background or beauty expectations can find her shade.” From pale to dark, the colour range will suit every mood.
Dior launched its first lipstick, Rouge Dior, in 1953. At the time, Monsieur Dior stated the red shade was the final touch to his collection of crimson couture gowns. Since then, Dior has produced over 3,000 hues of red. And while it’s difficult for Philips to pick a colour favourite amongst the 12 Rouge Premier shades, he says, “I do have a weak spot for number eight, which is the red one. We have so many great reds already at Dior, but this one stands out without being intimidating.” Each of the lipsticks is strongly pigmented; even the nude is strongly coloured, with a beautiful luminous matte finish when applied.
Rouge Premier is a long-lasting lipstick, giving eight hours of wear, and in the spirit of haute couture, there is additional decadence: 24-karat gold. Combined with the red hibiscus, jojoba oil, and shea butter in the formula, is the extra ingredient of gold microparticles. “It is folie, like we say in French,” Philips admits. “It’s just for the simple fact that you can say, ‘I have gold on my lips.’” For an added extra, a hand mirror and lip pencil, both in ceramic with the toile de Jouy Gris Dior finish, with accompanying protective pochette.
With this project, Maison Bernardaud has demonstrated that its savoir-faire goes beyond plates and cups. Rouge Premier is refillable, and the mechanism in the ceramic cylinder was no small feat—the lipstick bullets can be easily popped in and out of the case as desired. Philips hints at what may come. “This is the first launch in the concept, and we now have the possibility to reinvent the dress.” Philips will not divulge on what future plans he has for the ceramic case but one can only guess personalization is in the lipstick pipeline.
Rouge Premier is limited to 5,000 pieces, and for Philips this “object is so precious that it can be handed over from parent to child, like a couture dress or precious jewel. In a way, it’s a bit like a sisterhood, an emotional bond that you have with your lipstick.”