August 20 2014

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Backstage At Chanel, “Browdazzling” Goes Big


Peter Philips is a makeup artist who likes to think outside the box—which is presumably how he scored his coveted role as Chanel’s creative director of makeup four years ago. The Belgian-born face painter became something of a household name after debuting a few off-kilter, on-trend shades of nail lacquer for the French house, but his body of work also includes its fair share of inventive application techniques, including the reoccurrence of 3-D, textural makeup. Philips incorporated this unique skill into handwoven eyelashes for Karl Lagerfeld’s Fall 2009 show; six seasons later, it’s all about the brow.

“The theme [of the show] is minerals—there are minerals coming out of the set!—so Karl made a sketch and he wanted minerals on the eye,” Philips explained, presenting a series of stone-encrusted rectangular mesh panels that he glued over models’ natural arches using a prosthetic adhesive. “We had to find a way to make it contemporary so it wasn’t like a cabaret thing,” he explained of the accessories, which led him to Lesage, the Paris-based embroidery atelier that helped turn Lagerfeld’s illustration into a reality. Creating a full-coverage base with Chanel Mat Lumière Fluid Foundation, Philips shaded lids and cheekbones with Notorious, a new eye shadow/blush hybrid from his forthcoming Les Essentiels de Chanel Fall collection, before pressing on the “brows” that came in variations of gray, green, pink, and purple. Why the elaborate embellished detail? “It’s a show, it’s a catwalk,” Philips responded, explaining that there should be room for some drama. “It also gives a uniformity,” he added, “an almost military effect, which makes it easier when you have so many girls because you have one line to do: shading and contouring and the eyebrows.” Philips’ soldiers also received two coats of his new Le Vernis de Chanel nail polish in Frenzy, a pale lilac-tinged greige, which will hit shelves in September along with Vertigo, the range’s darker hue.

“I want an army of Chanel girls,” Sam McKnight proclaimed of the uniformity he was also seeking with the hair, which manifest itself into a series of sleek ponytails. Citing a wealth of collars, McKnight wanted the hair to be up, but found that a chignon was “too madam.” Adding a severity to the style with a coat of shine-enhancing gel, he paraded around the backstage tent that had been erected at the Grand Palais to ensure that his team was gathering strands straight back into the elastic, rather than in an up or down direction. “I hate to use the word equestrian, but it’s got the strictness of a rider,” McKnight said of the precise execution, before doing himself one better and calling the aerodynamic look “the ponytail version of the Nike Swoosh.” He’d better get a copyright on that, stat.

Photo: Luca Cannonieri /

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