"Not every woman suits red lipstick's strength of purpose", says the founder and creative director of cosmetic company Nars. He talks about make-up's strongest statement ...
When is red lipstick not a red lipstick?
When it has any pink in it. Red lipsticks are usually too pink all the time, they always turn pink or purple or fuschia on the lips and make the skin--particularly skin with any yellow tone to it--look weird. The most beautiful reds are very pure, very corporeal, very bright: like the colour of blood when it first comes out.
So you don't like pink?
No. It is too middle-of-the-way, neither one thing or the other. I like the pure reds of old Hollywood or Japan, of off-duty movie stars with no make-up other than their red lips, whose lipsticks were created with pigments that were mostly banned after the second world war. When I started Nars in 1994, my whole line was just 12 lipsticks: the perfect red, the perfect burgundy...but no pink in them. It was the nicest thing, making shades that I was really happy with, not having to mix together four or five lipsticks from other people's ranges to get the effect I wanted.
Matte or glossy?
If you're kind of afraid of red, then a sheer textured lipstick is the easiest to wear--you almost don't need a mirror to put it on, you can throw it on in the car, anywhere. It can give the lips a very sexy effect, a transparency on the lips almost like a fruit stain, like you've been eating strawberries. That's very modern. But so is the powdery finish of a real matte-red lipstick. It has a deep, velvety quality that is intense and elegant; it's very cool, very sophisticated. Buy it as a lip pencil, though--otherwise you need a lip brush, an accurate hand and some artistic ability to put it on well.
What goes with red lipstick?
Nothing. By which I mean that--in real life, anyway--if you wear a red lipstick, it needs to be the focus of your face, to be the only thing there. Perhaps you could wear a little powder with it, but then sometimes red lipstick can look great with a shiny face too.
Can anybody wear it?
If it is a very pure red--no pink!--then it will work on every skin. But not every woman suits red lipstick's strength of purpose. Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis, Amy Winehouse--they look great with red lips, but these are not shy women. Their look is like in a photograph by Helmut Newton (also a red lipstick-lover): loaded with a strong sexual effect. You cannot be a wallflower and wear red lipstick. No, you have to put yourself out there.