iconic makeup artist peter philips on dior's new look
Creative and Image Director for Dior makeup Peter Philips talks youth, beauty and Raf Simons – and shows off his first collection for the house in an editorial shot by Jamie Hawkesworth.
Katarina wears body Arabesque Dancewear. Earring and brooch Contemporary Wardrobe. Palette 5 couleurs - 866 Eclectic. Dior blush - 746 Beige Nude. Dior Addict Lipstick - 881 Fashion Night.
Closed eyelids, drawn over with trompe l'oeil eyes; a face plastered with white paint, hairline cracks visible; a face riddled with hand drawn curlicues, whorls and doodles, resembling the Maori's Ta moko tattoos — this is just a glimpse at the work of Peter Philips, creator of fantastical, conceptual and often crepuscular makeup for the likes of Jil Sander, McQueen and Dries Van Noten.
Philips came to the fashion industry relatively late. Now 48, he's the Creative and Image Director for Dior makeup (after five years as Creative Director of Chanel makeup), but he didn't find his vocation until he was 27, when he picked up a cosmetic brush for the very first time. "On my journey, that was the perfect time to start," says Philips, who, like Dior stablemate Raf Simons, originally hails from Belgium. "But I think it's good to start young as a makeup artist." He worries for young talent, musing upon how the industry has changed and become so celebrity-obsessed. "These days the motivation for doing makeup is not always the same as it was in my day. When I started, I loved fashion and I loved makeup. These days the motivation seems to be just to become famous." For Philips, overreaching ambition and the hunger for fame are questionable motivations: "I think this is a shame because makeup is a skill that you develop. Quite often with young kids, their ambition is larger than their talent and they can get burned. My advice is take your time because it's a skill, it develops, don't let your ambition kill your talent."
Philips says that the process of creating gives him something of a "natural high." He continues, "Coming up with a concept, that's what drives me." And that's what he hopes to pass on to younger generations of makeup artists. "Going on the internet and finding an image and doing exactly the same thing… It's like eating fast food, it's quick satisfaction, but if you want to have long-term satisfaction, real pleasure, you've got to enjoy the process of concepts and have original ideas."
Born and brought up in Antwerp, Philips studied fashion and he graduated from the Royal Academy in 1993. He knew he had come of age in his career, around the age of 30, when he was able to make a living out of doing what he loved. Another high point came in 2005, when he worked with Irving Penn for American Vogue. "Every image I do has a story," he says, "One that I'm really proud of is when I made a lace Mickey Mouse mask." The mask was shot by Penn, held over the face of the model Lisa Cant, who was wearing a translucent Yves Saint Laurent blouse, with her hair sprayed white. "The lace was very haute couture, and with the pop art shape of Mickey Mouse, it's like something from the 40s. That's what makes that image really interesting and I loved it for the experience of shooting."
Following the American Vogue shoot, Philips was spotted by Karl Lagerfeld and hired as Creative Director of Chanel makeup in 2008. During his tenure at Chanel, he created various cult products including 2009's Jade Le Vernis nail polish, which sold out and later appeared on eBay for $100 a bottle.
Proof, if needed, of Philips' versatile nature: not content only creating catwalk and editorial makeup that pushes the boundaries of creativity, he is also capable of dreaming up best-selling makeup counter candy that women want to buy. His love and respect for women of all ages is palpable in the wide range of women he makes up, from the young models on the catwalk to older women in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. Does he think the beauty industry is predominantly youth-orientated? "The young part of the industry makes the most noise, but I think beauty generally is ageless," he says. "Everyone wants to be beautiful. As you get older, beauty becomes about much more than your appearance."
Philips is aware of the politics of ageing and thinks it should be a graceful process rather than a desperate attempt to cling to youth. "When a woman ages and her goal is to be young, that's not very graceful. It doesn't mean you can't do anything - I think you should use any little tool, any little help you can to enhance your beauty. A little injection sometimes might help, but you have to know when to stop," he says, addressing the temptation to indulge in cosmetic surgery and procedures. "If your only goal is to cover up your age, you become a victim of your obsession. Just don't become a slave to being youthful!"
Philips foresees that women of all ages ("including a 16-year-old in Tokyo and a 35-year-old career woman in New York") will be able to buy into and enjoy his debut makeup collection for Christian Dior entitled Cosmopolite. "There are many faces of the Dior woman," he says. "I liked that idea of multi-faceting. I always try and make it multi-faceted so that any woman, whatever her culture or her expectations of beauty, can combine two or three products from our collection and create her own Dior beauty look. In general the Dior woman is a hyper-feminine woman; she has many faces." The star product in the range, concocted with the help of the scientists in the cosmetics lab, is the six Dior Addict Fluid shadows that lend eyelids a lucent mirror shine in an intelligently edited palette of shades - from future-perfect silver to subtle mink brown - all long lasting.
The smart fashion houses, like Dior, are beginning to engineer a synergy between their makeup collections and the fashion on their catwalks: Philips used Cosmopolite to make up the models for Raf Simons' fall/winter 15 Dior catwalk show. "We go back a long [way]," he says of fellow Belgian creative Simons. "I've known Raf since before he started his collections, he kinda grew up in fashion. I know him but I've also been an observer. He's got a very unique point of view, a very conceptual point of view." Philips tells me about the nail art for the show where they painted models' left and right hands with different shades, from charcoal black to petrol blue and khaki green. This is one conceptualist with a decidedly populist touch; he seems to know exactly what women want, whatever their age.
Photography Jamie Hawkesworth
Make-up Peter Philips
Styling Max Pearmain
Text Bethan Cole
Hair Duffy at Streeters Session and Editorial Ambassador for Vidal Sassoon
Photography assistance Tex Bishop
Styling assistance Laura Vartiainen
Make-up assistance Aminata Gueye, Kathinka Gernant
Production Kathryn Scahill at MAP
Models Katarina Sarap, Eliann Tulve, Sonya Tomson at MJ Models. Imogen Rochester at Storm.
Makeup used throughout Diorskin Star - Studio Makeup, Spectacular Brightening - Weightless Perfection. Diorskin Star Concealer. Skinflash Radiance Booster Pen. Diorskin Nude Air Loose Powder - Healthy Glow Invisible Loose Powder. Diorshow Maximizer Lash Plumping Serum. Diorshow Iconic Overcurl Mascara - 090 Over Black.