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A Couture Makeup Bag Exists—and It’s Worth Adding to Your Wish List

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Alexandre Vauthier sent multiple slinky gowns down his recent Couture runway—some with details so elaborate (like a jewel-encrusted dress dripping with ruby-colored stones) that they required 1,850 hours of work. Naturally, these exceptional pieces come at quite the expense (typically in the six-figure price range), so the fact that you can snap up one of this designer’s accessories for $1,500 is, in comparison, a bargain.

The fashion protégé, who once worked in the studios of Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier, was given carte blanche by beauty giant Lancôme (along with two other Paris-based designers, Yiqing Yin and Jacquemus) to create a luxury cosmetics case to house three staple products—L’Absolu Rouge Lipcolor, Hypnôse Star Mascara, and a Hypnôse Eye Palette—as part of a collaboration dubbed Nouvelle Vague. Vauthier’s sleek, black envelope bag that doubles as a clutch beats out the plastic Ziploc we’re currently using to hold our makeup (by a long shot). And with a designated spot for each item, it’s a whole lot more organized, too. Here, Vauthier explains how you can tell a lot about a woman from the inside of her purse.

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I see that you incorporated your signature gold bar across the front, but what inspired the unique foldout design of this clutch?
I wanted to have something that opened up like this, very technical. I’m very crazy and obsessed by horlogerie [the practice of clock-making], as well as the precision of haute joaillerie [fine jewelry], like when you cut a diamond. I want to have something that represents this kind of work. I wanted to have something really cool and original.

Who is the woman you had in mind when you created this bag—perhaps Beyoncé, Rihanna, or another member of your celebrity fan club?
I dress a lot of celebrities, but I’m very happy to see the diversity of my clients. Of course, they can do a red carpet, with beautiful gowns. But I take a lot of pleasure in tailoring, day dresses, all of these kinds of things. My client doesn’t live only in the evening—she’s got morning, lunch, she works. I’m really attentive to a woman’s desire. I listen to them say what they want, so I don’t really have one [inspiration].

So what do your clients tell you that they want? Sex appeal? Edginess?
It depends on the person I dress, in fact. It could be a 22- or 25-year-old single American, or it could be a French actress. But they always want to be at their avantage [best].

Naturally. Beyoncé or not, I think all women want to feel that way. But if you had to pick one person, who would you say is your beauty icon?
Daria [Werbowy]. No, really, I was a huge fan of Daria because I love the girl. She’s been with Lancôme since the beginning, and she’s like an icon for me. I love her beauty, but I also love her allure. She can be sophisticated, she can be natural—she has the ability to [take on] different [personas]. I love [her as a] person, really. It’s not only a question of beauty, it’s a question of attitude.

What was your introduction to beauty?
I remember when I was young, à la maison [at the house], there were a lot of fashion magazines, and I was crazy about the advertising for makeup. There were beautiful photos for Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel, and Christian Dior [cosmetics]. And this kind of femininity was very chic, very sophisticated, and I loved the colors. You don’t always see it in my collections, but I love color. I love lipstick. You know what? I love these objects [holds up a tube of lipstick]—I think there is something feminine in putting them on. The geste and attitude [associated with applying beauty products] is so feminine. I was always completely fascinated by that. And the smell [of the lipstick], it’s a little vanilla, but not too [strong]. I’m obsessed by fragrance, and Lancôme was my first contact with cosmetics. It was the night cream my mama wore when she kissed me. And the first perfume I remember from my father was Sagamore from Lancôme.

Do you remember what your mother would pack in her evening bag?
It is very interesting that you say that because there was a smell inside her bag—there was the smell of maroquinerie [leather goods], but there was also [the scent] of lipstick, perfume, and paper money…You can read a woman by the fragrance of her handbag.

Alexandre Vauthier for Lancôme, $1,500, available July 28 on net-a-porter.com.

Prefer a sculptural accessory (like Yiqing Yin’s basket-like bag) or ergonomic pouch (like Jacquemus’ bubblegum fanny pack)? Check out the designer trio’s interpretations below.

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