She made her name with eye-popping avant-garde makeup (think intense jewel-toned eyeshadow painted heavily over a thick cat eye). The Business of Fashion has her down as a power player to watch, citing the Italian makeup artist’s modern and ingenious use of colour. Her debut collection for Chanel was a sumptuous red affair, with lush scarlet lipsticks and a cherry eyeliner that kick-started a major trend. There’s no doubt: Lucia Pica loves colour. The brighter, the better.
It’s a passion that dates back to her teenage years. Recounting a field trip to Solfatara, a sulphur-spewing volcanic crater near her home city of Naples, she says: “It was a vast space with a mythical feel to it. And I remember being really fascinated by the colour around the rocks created by all the gas coming out.” She adds wryly: “Of course, back then I couldn’t transform that colour into anything.”
Twenty-odd years later, Pica is now turning her vision into tangible creations as Chanel’s global creative makeup and colour designer. She professes to “seeing colours for makeup everywhere”. So when she decided to come up with a new collection of vivid, eye-catching shades, she returned to a place she knew to be a source of endless inspiration. “I can close my eyes and feel the energy and see the colours of Naples. I knew I could make a really strong and bright collection if I went there,” she says.
Steeped in history, myth and the influence of artists like Caravaggio and Solimena, Naples for Pica is a city with palpable intensity and energy. “It’s also a city of contrasts, between the antique and baroque, the mysterious darkness and the clear Mediterranean sky, the volcanic rock and crystalline water. All these energies are very much present in the city and its art, architecture, in the air, in the attitude of the people. And this is what I wanted to translate using my vocabulary of colours, textures and makeup application,” explains the effortlessly chic 40-year-old.
The resulting collection is named Neapolis (meaning “new city”) to represent the idea of combining the old with the new. Using seemingly random yet scenic images of Naples shot by two photographer friends, Pica sets about transposing the city’s vibrant – at times fleeting – colours into lipsticks, eyeshadows and more. “I try everything on and try to find the right undertone that will work best on every skin type,” she says. “My hope is that women will be open and spontaneous with the colours. They are ‘buildable’, so you can wear a subtle wash or create a more intense effect.”
Five Standout Colours
Les 9 Ombres Palette Edition No. 1 Affresco, $139
With nine colours of varying brightness and textures, it’s the most number of shades contained in a Chanel eyeshadow palette. This limited edition item has all the elements of Naples, says Pica. “It has a little bit of every colour you need to create looks. If you don’t want to wear the bright eyeshadows as a bold wash, for instance, you can mix the blue with the black for a toned-down shade.”
Poudre A Levres, in three shades, $53 each
This artistic tinted lip powder is based on the tempera painting technique used on Pompeian frescoes, where pigments are affixed to a dry wall with egg or glue. To use: Apply the clear balm, then dab on the powder pigment with the brush or sponge applicator for a romantic, blurry-soft effect. “It’s something very new, inspired by something very old,” says Pica.
Rouge Coco Gloss in #792 Aphrodite, $48
This striking azure colour gloss can be worn alone for a cool, fresh sheen, or layered on top of a bright lipstick to tone it down.
Les Vernis in #592 Giallo Napoli, $39
Based on the yellow wall paint often used in Naples, it’s that rare nail colour that’s fun without looking tacky. Says Pica: “It was quite challenging to make because I wanted it to have that deep character of a Chanel colour. It took some time to get the exact shade of yellow that I think has elegance, depth and personality.”
Stylo Yeux Waterproof in #938 Mare-Chiaro, $38
A glamorous jade green that pops against dark-coloured eyes. Pica adds: “The idea of green in the eyeliner is to give the smoky-eye look.”
This story first appeared in Female’s January 2018 issue.