To say that Rouge Hermes – Hermes’ 24-shade, $103-a-pop lipstick range launched last month to mark the introduction of the brand’s new metier Hermes Beauty – is an elevated take on the makeup essential would be an understatement. Pierre Hardy, the maison’s shoe and jewellery maestro known for his love of bold, clean lines, was behind the packaging: metal cases in a mix of brushed gold and lacquered white and black finishes so modern, they resemble objets d’art. The natural canvas pouch and orange cardboard box that each comes in only further serves to reinforce that point.
The brand’s nose Christine Nagel was roped in to develop a sandalwood, arnica and angelica scent so that each application comes with a whiff of botanica. The colours – from the pinky nude Beige Natural to the smoky purple Rose Zinzolin, all dreamt up by the artistic director of Hermes’ women’s universe Bali Barret – are inspired by the brand’s leathers and 75,000-shade- strong colour archive of its silk metier in Lyon.
Yet, to call Rouge Hermes “lippies made opulent” wouldn’t be quite accurate either. Practicality has always been as intrinsic a part of the brand’s vocabulary as has luxury. What was originally an equestrian company founded by Thierry Hermes in 1837 earned its repute through the durability of its hand-stitched saddles. Its famous orange boxes are only that colour because wartime shortages in the ’40s meant that there was no cream-coloured paper available. Even the Birkin – often considered the ultimate symbol of extravagance – was created with functionality in mind when Jane Birkin told Hermes’ then- CEO Jean-Louis Dumas that she couldn’t find a weekend bag to hold her essentials.
So the brief for Hermes Beauty was similarly pragmatic. “As artisans, we are dedicated to the beauty of useful objects,” says Hermes scion and artistic director Pierre-Alexis Dumas. “A beautiful object must not betray its primary function: It must do what it was designed to do.”
That’s why the brand brought in Jerome Touron, who had previously developed makeup for Chanel and Dior, as Hermes Beauty’s creative director. Under him, Rouge Hermes comes in two finishes: a matte one that reportedly offers concentrated colour in a single swipe thanks to micronised pigments and a “light-filled” satin one with luminosity not unlike the maison’s box calfskin. True to Hermes’ exacting eye for detail, the bullet of the former is pointed for precision while the latter’s is rounded for full, generous application.
Every one of the shades that Barret has come up with is meant to be timeless, not trendy, and in her words, “reveal a woman as naturally beautiful”. The lipstick’s light green scent is simply Hermes recognising the importance of the sensorial side of a beauty product: Formulated in a laboratory in Le Vaudreuil, Normandy, Rouge Hermes is said to also feel weightless and velvety smooth – like the brand’s leathers.
Think of it as lipsticks meant to make everyday living better, if you will – a concept that doesn’t seem so much indulgent as it is much appreciated, particularly during tough times. As it turns out, Rouge Hermes’ modernist-looking casing has been designed to be infinitely refillable both for environmental reasons and because the brand believes that objects should be made to last. (For the record, the small orange box that accompanies each tube is crafted from recycled cardboard.)
To accompany the lippies, there’s a moisturising lip balm, universal lip pencil, lacquered wooden lip brush and leather cases to store them all, along with one that conceals a detachable handbag mirror. Are they necessary? Some might argue not. But are they useful and relevant? No doubt. As Touron puts it: “I see this beauty ritual as essential: simple, meticulous, everyday and precious – one that is naturally in keeping with Hermes’ idea of beauty and the art of living.”
This article first appeared in the April 2020 Reality Edition of FEMALE.