Hermès recently released an ad campaign for Hermès Beauty, featuring photographs and a series of short films with the tagline “Beauty is a Gesture”, plus an additional short film that tells the story of colour development at the iconic Maison. The launch coincidentally dropped just as COVID-19 impacted Europe and spread around the rest of the globe, and so the 24 luxury lipstick colours were introduced at the same time that facemasks began to be adopted by civilians to protect themselves from the virus. Subsequently, even though the ad campaign is well designed and the make-up collection thoughtfully conceived, there was speculation via Instagram that make-up (and specifically lipstick) sales would fall dramatically, as well as criticism that the campaign seemed frivolous within the context of a global pandemic. Admittedly, during the onset of a global pandemic, it is important to re-access both individual and collective priorities and values. For this reason, the marketing teams behind-the-scenes of luxury brands such as Hermès face the difficult task of re-assessing, and in some cases re-positioning, ad campaigns that were put into the queue prior to COVID-19… while simultaneously adjusting to virtual methods of working from home under quarantine. Regardless, public opinion about lipstick in reference to this new global context does not erase the quality of work that went into the Hermès Beauty collection and ad campaign. Therefore let’s take a moment to look at it without preconceived notions. Why? Because the Hermès Beauty collection is a unique case study for the development of a new product line that manifests the design sensibilities and artisan craftmanship of a historic house. Additionally, the ad campaign was communicated in a way that highlights the brand’s unparalleled expertise with colour and materiality.
The 3-minute short film that accompanied the Hermès Beauty launch is a hidden gem, telling a story of colour at the Maison going back decades and revealing the wizards behind the curtain. Artistic Director of Hermès Women’s Universe Bali Barret takes the viewer on a tour through the house’s silk archives, which contains over 75,000 colours dating back to 1937 and is updated with new colours every season. She explains that silk is the medium in which colour expresses the very best, and the science of colour theory support this statement due to the chemistry of biological chromatic elements, which have a vibrant intensity that cannot be replicated in print, paint, or film. She goes on to explain that the pinnacle of good make-up is to believe that a beautiful woman isn’t wearing any, except for lipstick “as a signature”. Indeed, elegant and sophisticated metropolitan woman often approach beauty in this way, and to translate this behaviour into a philosophy for the entire collection by “starting with the natural and then beautifying it” is a practical, pragmatic sort of genius.
The short film goes on to present detailed hand-drawn renderings of lipstick containers as objects by Pierre Hardy. After that, Creative Director of Hermès Beauty Jérôme Touron describes how the lipsticks’ matte finish is inspired by Doblis leather which is soft and powdery in appearance, and how the satin lipsticks were inspired by box leather which has a smooth, shiny finish. This is an intriguing insight because leather is made of animal skin, just as human lips are after all…and leather is one of the foundational materials upon which the brand has built its empire. Touron goes on to explain how the gesture of application relates to the shape of the lipstick; a pointed shape is used for the matte lipstick which requires precise and defined application, and a curved, rounded shape is used for the satin lipstick for more generous application. This provides insight into the other short films and their catch-phrase “Beauty is a Gesture”, while simultaneously drawing attention to the fact that every aspect of this beauty collection has been considered, down to the tiniest detail.
Consumers not familiar with the brand may baulk at the lipstick’s $67 price-point; however, this short film shows the wealth of thought, effort, craftsmanship, and attention to detail that went into conceiving and producing these products. What makes the product so luxurious is the time, talent, creativity, and expertise of myriad artisans that have been boiled down into a hand-held, functional object which Hardy describes as “pleasing with a kind of enjoyment in handling it, in an intrinsic classical French way”. Furthermore, the product and the ad campaign serve as a reminder that when something is brilliantly designed, as Touron eloquently states, “form always follows function”.
The only regret is that when the lipstick colour is all used up, the ornamental object is no longer useful, and so the carefully conceived container will likely be tossed away. Perhaps as luxury consumers become increasingly environmentally savvy, then a refillable delivery method will be developed to hold these rich and enticing lip colours. In the meantime, we can enjoy the products for what they are now: a culmination of creative efforts to create the very best lip colour money can buy.
Hermès Creative Director | Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski Film Director | Oliver Hadlee Pearch Creative Director | Fabien Moulliard Photographer | Jack Davison Artistic Director of Hermès Women’s Universe | Bali Barret Creative Director of Hermès Beauty | Jérôme Touron Creative Director of Hermès Shoe, Fine Jewelry, and Haute Bijourerie Collections + Designer of Hermès Beauty Objects | Pierre Hardy Models | Chu Wong, Janaye Furman, and Sarah Dahl