lucia pica: “what even is an imperfection?"
When did make-up become about rules and guidelines? Chanel’s Global Creative Make-up and Colour Designer Lucia Pica overthrows the old beauty regime to present a more liberating approach to face painting.
Janet wears top vintage from stylist’s archive. Belt (worn as choker), Bracelets, Pendant (attached to pin) Chanel. Earring and safety pin Georgia Kemball. Brooch Bunney. LES BEIGES Eau de Teint. PALETTE ESSENTIELLE. CRAYON SOURCILS ‘Brun Cendré’. LES 4 OMBRE ‘Blurry Mauve’. JOUES CONTRASTE ‘Pink Explosion’. DUO BRONZE ET LUMIERE ‘Clair’. ROUGE ALLURE VELVET ’Emotive’.
Some of Lucia Pica’s favourite childhood memories are centred around her mother’s lipstick — “She never left the house without it and in a way, I ended up the same” — but it was an innate passion for colour that fuelled her dream of becoming a make-up artist. Born in Naples, a city known for its saturated, exhilarating colour palette, Lucia grew up among rugged black volcanic landscapes, sun bleached multicoloured houses, painterly frescos and the deep ceruleans of the Mediterranean. How’s that for a playground?
At 22 Lucia moved to London, to first train in fashion make-up at the Greasepaint Makeup School, before she landed a job assisting the legendary Charlotte Tilbury. After three years honing her craft under Charlotte’s wing, Lucia went freelance. It didn’t take her long to rack up a list of dream credits, contributing to i-D alongside influential photographers like Alasdair McLellan and Walter Pfeiffer pretty much straight out the gate. There’s a reason why the fashion world loves her: Lucia is a true beauty renegade. She’s never afraid to go rogue with colour, or call out bullshit beauty rules, she’s the total antithesis of the paint-by-numbers approach to make-up that gets plastered all over Instagram right now.
“Make-up should be about enhancing,” she tells i-D over the phone as she recovers from a post-fashion month cold. “Some days you wake up feeling bad, and the bags under your eyes are more intense than usual. You can use concealer, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to use a kilo of it to make yourself presentable. What about doing red blusher high up on the cheek to emphasise that, rather than trying to hide the eye, or using a highlighting balm to create a healthy glow?” Her approach, in short, is to stop looking for problems and to just have fun with make-up.
Her primary skill is indeed practical — she has this crazy ability to make even the wildest colours look like a natural extension of the face — but Lucia is really a thinker. She has a way of tapping into the mood of the moment. Listen to her talk backstage, and you soon realise she approaches make-up with the rigour of a philosopher and the tenderness of a poet. She has well and truly earned her reputation as one of the most seminal image-makers of our time. The Business of Fashion has included Lucia in the BOF500, its list of the people shaping the fashion industry, every year since 2015. And that’s a pretty mega accolade.
Appointed Global Creative Make-up and Colour Designer of Chanel at the end of 2014, Lucia designs products that challenge and inspire modern make-up wearers, making it her mission to do for beauty what Coco did for clothes. “Mademoiselle Chanel revolutionised the way women dress and created practical, minimal looks that make their lives easier, so I think about practicality a lot,” Lucia explains. “I create products that work with you, not against you.” It’s kind of depressing how rare a proposition that actually is.
Lucia’s early love of colour has found its calling at Chanel, too. While London has her heart, (“In London everybody is thinking, creating and in movement, it has a vibrant energy,” she says) Lucia travels across the world to capture unorthodox shades from the strangest of places that she then turns into products worn, and (frustratingly) sold out, the world over. In 2017, she bottled the grey that appears on the horizon line of a foggy Californian shore line into nail polish, and the pink of a Big Sur sunset into lipstick. In 2018, a homecoming tour of Naples led her to a bright canary yellow inspired by the pigments used by local painters in the 1700s, which she funnelled into a nail polish shade that everybody wanted to wear.
But Lucia’s latest collection — Vision d’Asie: L’Art du Détail — has got to be her greatest yet. It translates her trips through Japan and South Korea into products spanning from a bronze eye shadow inspired by the glimmering fish scales of a Tokyo market, to a powder-finish lipstick reminiscent of the velvety petals of the red blossom tree. “There’s a real attention to detail in these cultures, so I wanted to see how that translates to make-up,” Lucia adds. “I’ve always been so fascinated by the subcultures you find in this part of the world.”
With this collection, Lucia is keen to remind us that make-up is a tool for differentiation not assimilation. “I believe in individualism, but I feel like there’s a bit of standardisation going on,” she says. Pointing towards social media, as well as the endless stream of tutorials available on the internet right now, she believes the beauty industry is guilty of projecting the idea that there’s one look that works for everyone, and Lucia is calling time on it. “It plays with people’s insecurities. We all have our own beauty accent, or something that makes us different and we should feel we can embrace that. Why does it have to be called a ‘flaw’?,” she asks. “What even is an ‘imperfection?’ Why do freckles have to be bad? I have a birthmark, so what? You want me to cover it the entire time? No, I like it. Everybody has a little thing that makes them unique.”
The way Lucia sees it, make-up is your own personal uniform. A way to present who you are to the world. “Just like you might use a piece of clothing or an accessory to say something about yourself, make-up is a tool to create your own expression. There’s a power to it.”
Considering it’s an industry that is all about asserting rules and guidelines designed to enforce certain beauty ideals and, as a result, encourage sales, Lucia’s push for a free and inclusive beauty future is pretty refreshing. “We shouldn’t feel like we have to make our nose thinner, or abuse contour and highlighter, there’s so much more to play with. If someone’s uniform is a bare face, then let that be, or if it’s a monochromatic look with three different shades of blue, that’s great too.” So whether for you that means neon pink cheeks, sculptural red eye shadow or even just a balm-coated lip. In Lucia’s world, anything goes.
Photography Oliver Hadlee Pearch
Make-up Lucia Pica
Styling Francesca Burns
Make-up Lucia Pica at Art Partner using CHANEL Spring/Summer 2019 Collection, Vision d’Asie : L’Art du Détail, CHANEL Cruise 2019 Collection, Vision d’Asie : Lumière et Contraste and CHANEL Fall/Winter 2019 Collection, Noir et Blanc de CHANEL. Hair Mustafa Yanaz at Art + Commerce using Kérastase. Nail Technician Julia Villanova at Artlist. Photography assistance Mitch Stafford, Mickael Stafford and Pablo Freda. Styling assistance Bianca Raggi, Winnie Rielly and Rudi Edwards. Hair assistance Nastya Milyaeva and Beth Shanefelter. Make-up assistance Kanako Yoshida and Anissa Renko. Nail technician assistance Sophia Anaïs cordevant. Production Emilie Dumas at Art Partner. Casting Director Julia Lange at Artistry. Models Kerolyn Soares, Janet Jumbo and Hyunji Shin at IMG Paris. Sofia Steinberg at Ford Models. Carolina Burgin at Elite Paris.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.