What Is Beauty? Dior Makeup's Peter Philips Helps Us Answer the Age-Old Question
We chat with the legendary makeup artist in an exclusive interview.
Let’s talk about makeup. It is a rate of passage to some. For others, it’s something that you grow into over time. For others still, it serves as a form of self-expression that is just as much a part of one’s identity as a personality trait. To countless women (and men) alike, cosmetics are elements in a daily routine that have become equal in import as putting on clothes. On the surface, beauty products may seem like superficial indulgences or vapid luxuries but boy, would that be an inaccurate conclusion if there was ever an inaccurate conclusion to be made.
The purpose of makeup is far more complex than any surface-level assumption can even begin to graze. Makeup is about beauty. It is about providing a means of self-confidence, no matter what embracing it may look or feel like. It is about creativity and making the most out of one’s greatest canvas: your skin. It is about showing the world who you are, through the application of as much or as little makeup you want to represent yourself with. Makeup is about inner beauty manifesting in a tangible way that makes you feel great about yourself and who you have become.
When it comes to talking about beauty and makeup, it may sometimes prove difficult to fully grasp certain sentiments. You’re not alone when it becomes perplexing to justify how important makeup is to who you are as a person – why does this blush make you feel young? Why does this eyeshadow make you feel sexy? An easy task it is not but there are a handful of people in our culture today who can eloquently formulate these thoughts into words for us. Among these select few of truly visionary trailblazers is Peter Philips.
He is currently the creative and image director of Dior Makeup, a position that he was appointed to in 2014. Before this role, he was of course the creative director of Chanel Beauty and was largely credited with breathing new life into the fashion house’s beauty category. An icon in his own right, Philips now brings his remarkable vision to Dior Makeup, where he introduced the immensely applauded Backstage line last year.
When asked what his beauty principles are, he passionately explains: “I always kept the same philosophy about makeup: first of all, but when I create products, it’s not for me – it’s for women to wear. It’s very simple and basic philosophy but it’s all about respect for the women that you create for. And that’s what it’s all about for me.” The artist continues to discuss the relationship between beauty and makeup: “Beauty does not necessarily have anything to do with wearing makeup. Makeup can help but it’s all about being confident in who you are and how you want the world to see you…It’s about wearing your beauty with confidence and my philosophy is about creating tools that will help to express yourself and to be that confident girl or woman.”
We recently got a chance to speak with Peter Philips and learned more about his unique insight into the expansive world of beauty and how he has successfully carved a space for himself amongst some of our generation’s greatest creative minds. From what inspired his forthcoming Spring 2019 “Lolli’glow” collection, to how he collaborates with Kim Jones of Dior Men’s, we dive into the mind of a legend. Read on to discover our captivating conversation with Peter Philips.
What is the key to creating the perfect base for springtime makeup?
Make sure it’s luminous and glowy – that’s for sure. The products you need to use depend on your skin and the climate and light that you’re in. So if you want a natural beautifying product or makeup effect, something lightweight like the Backstage foundation. If you need a bit more coverage, there is always Forever or Prestige. If you want a cushion with more luminosity, there’s Dreamskin. There are plenty of possibilities. But for spring, I believe it’s about glow. Just embrace it – first skin, and then make sure the inner light is switched on and be radiant.
Youth is always a central focus in your makeup collections. How do you plan on incorporating that into your new products for spring and beyond?
Spring is all about glow – well, it’s called “Candy Glow” [laughs]. It’s a beautiful range of cute pastels which gives you the opportunity to go from very lightweight cute pastel makeup to a bit more mature makeup, because there are darker shades and a bit more pigmented shades in the lipsticks and eyeshadows. When I think youth, it’s not about being cute. When a woman applies a lip shade or blush, it is to reenact a blushing feeling when you’re 16 or 17 – which kind of disappears over the years [laughs] sadly enough. So you try to recreate those elements when you were young and that’s what I mean.
It’s not necessarily about the young look. Nothing to do with wrinkles or saggy skin. It’s about that glow. You can be a mature woman but as long as you get that glow on your skin, you have that young energy that you reflect. When I do my collections, I like to have a base that’s approachable for everyone and do a few shades or elements that push it a bit further. If you want to.
What are some updated contour and highlight techniques to know for 2019?
I think after a few years of going through social media and going through all the phases of what you can do with contour and highlights, from very subtle to very extreme, women try to find the right balance. Depending on what you expect to get from your makeup, you can slightly contour or slightly highlight. For me, the highlights are literally to be able to control your contouring and your highlight in an easy way with easy-to-apply products. Not every woman has the time to do a full makeup tutorial every morning. And what I think is a trend is to wear your makeup or your look with ease and confidence like it’s effortless but also to be be able to apply it with ease and have it effortless.
Do you ever feel the pressure to keep pursuing makeup and beauty innovation, and what is your secret to doing that?
I always kept the same philosophy about makeup: first of all, but when I create products, it’s not for me – it’s for women to wear. I come from a fashion background but I also know that not everyone wants to be fashionable – but everyone wants to be beautiful. So my main focus is on beauty and on all women. I like to tease and to challenge. Whenever I launch a collection, I make sure that there is a beautiful range of shades that are not intimidating, but I like to add a bit of spice.
Whenever you feel like it, without feeling any pressure, you can go, “Oh yeah, maybe I’ll try that. I’ll have fun with it.” So makeup doesn’t just become a tool, but it also has a fun factor. And that, for me, is something that I use in all of my lines and seasonal collections. I make sure that it’s about the women. You’ve been asking me about the trends for next year, but I honestly don’t know. Because I don’t make trends. It’s the women who wear the products that make the trends. And when I create products and collections that are appealing and are not intimidating, that respect women, then they will buy the products and that will become the trend. It’s very simple and basic philosophy but it’s all about respect for the women that you create for. And that’s what it’s all about for me.
That’s where the Backstage line comes from. It’s an answer to all the questions I’ve been asked over the years. “How do I do a 5-minute makeup?” “How do I do my foundation?” “ How do I do a quick lip?” “How do I combine colors?” All those answers are in this beautifying Backstage line collection. We used our Dior laboratory expertise – people quite often forget that because yes, we’re a couture house but we also have over 50 years of laboratory experience because we have manufactured these products ourselves for so long. In my makeup kit, I don’t have more than 10 shades of foundation because I know how to mix and match. I don’t need much. But I can’t expect a woman in the morning to be mixing and matching. That’s where our expertise comes in. We’ve mixed everything for you. We’ve built around the pillars of neutrals and next we do the sidelines. We use our expertise to be at the service of women. Makeup at the end of the day is a luxury and if you’re able to express yourself through fashion and style, makeup is one of those tools that can help you express yourself.
You just wrapped up the Dior menswear show with Kim Jones, which was heavily inspired by Tron. What are some of the challenges in creating a cohesive beauty identity between Dior men and women?
When I do a look for a show, I’m there to make sure that the designer’s vision is put on the catwalk. I’m a tool in the hands of the fashion designer. I’ve known Kim for many years. I worked for Kim when he was just starting out on Dazed and Confused. Talk about almost 20 years ago. I know him very well. It’s easy to communicate with him, so at the first meeting at this show, he showed me the set with Yoon and she then showed me the logo designed by [Hajime] Saroyama. For me, the logo was very inspiring. I love graphics, I used to do graphic design so I love logos. When they showed me the logo and robotic aspect, I said, “I can do something with that.”
So I started playing with the logo and deforming it with the people who do our merchandising. I remembered this material like silicone from one of our Dior counters. I think it was J’adior. It was flexible but you could make it look like metallics. And so they made it in silver and rainbow metallics and I could cut them up and place them on the face and make it seem like humans became robots. That is actually what Kim told me about his set. So I showed Kim what i was able to do and straight away he was like, “Fantastic.” So it’s all about communication and trust. Kim has known me for so long so he knows I won’t do anything that won’t make his show look good and it’s not about me, it’s about his decisions.
Anything to add about your makeup philosophy?
My makeup philosophy is all about respect for the women you design for. Beauty does not necessarily have anything to do with wearing makeup. Makeup can help but it’s all about being confident in who you are and how you want the world to see you. Someone women are confident without wearing makeup and some girls are confident by really going full-on. And not one or the other is more or less beautiful. It’s about wearing your beauty with confidence and my philosophy is about creating tools that will help to express yourself and to be that confident girl or woman.