When Tom Met Derek
Derek Lam’s aesthetic is much like his approach to the culinary arts: “He doesn’t like to mix too many things,” said backstage fixture and creative makeup director of Estée Lauder, Tom Pecheux—the face painter with whom the designer has worked with since his very first show in 2004. “The flavors are very simple—he always starts with the quality of the ingredient,” he added. So when it came to creating a collection of cosmetics (out in January) with the storied beauty brand, it was only natural that Lam wouldn’t be launching an extensive line of products. “He’s not the kind of person that travels with three suitcases—Derek travels with a carry-on bag. My makeup bag is one bag. I believe that I can make anything you want with what I have,” quipped Pecheux. Taking that same approach, they packaged the five essentials the modern woman needs to complete her makeup “wardrobe” from day to night—a navy kajal crayon, gold cream shadow, black mascara, tawny liquid lipstick, and shimmery champagne gloss—into a blue satin minaudière. This same set of cosmetic tools was used to create the trio of buildable looks seen on the designer’s Spring 2014 runway. “We could have developed [an entire range], but that’s not Derek and that’s not me. I’d prefer to have the right product, than a lot,” he said. This dynamic duo seems to share the same brain, with one exception: “He likes to follow a recipe, and then afterwards, twist it. I never look at a recipe. I go to the market and see what there is. That’s why I never ask him what he’s working on, so I don’t have too many things floating around [in my head]. The makeup is always the cherry on the cake,” Pecheux explained. Here, I interviewed both designer and maquillage master separately—only to find that they were almost always on the exact same page:
What was your first reaction to Tom’s interpretation of “minimal” for your Spring show?
DL: My first reaction was “Terrific!” because I know that when I work with Tom, even when I say something simple, or if I say, “I just want it to be a no-makeup face,” he knows what I’m talking about. So when he came to me with the idea for the three looks, it was amazing because that’s exactly how I considered the evolution of the collection and how it was going to be shown on the runway. He picked up on one of the [prints], which in this case, was the check, and he reinterpreted it for the eye. Seeing one element, and kind of evolving it is also really what I do.
Do you also ascribe to his theory on blue? He’s said so many times that navy is so much less severe than black.
Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s again one of those things that we both share. I love navy for evening clothes. I just think it’s so flattering and welcoming. It’s also very understated, and in that way, [navy is] a little bit subversive. It’s got an unexpected quality.
If you had to choose, what is your favorite product in the collection?
DL: I love the eyeliner in Near Night…It’s the closest to my heart in terms of if you only had to have one product a beautifully outlined eye is always the thing to do.
TP: I do love the creamy eyeshadow in gold. It’s almost like a chic, luxurious nude color. It’s not too brown and works on every skin tone. The navy blue pencil is going to be your best friend, or your worst enemy, because it’s so stable it can be tough to take off!
What was your inspiration behind the clutch?
TP: I like a coffret. I used to be a smoker, but I quit. I thought the cigarette holder was really chic. Derek was very excited about it—but cigarettes are not necessarily good things to promote—so he thought about doing a clutch [instead].
DL: I always think [about] adding an element of glamour. She could have [this] little clutch in her tote or in her bag during the day…then [take it out] for the evening. I think that shows the romantic quality and how we view the collection [being incorporated] into a woman’s life. Doing it in a striped quilting is a play on something that’s [traditionally tied to] sportswear, but also translatable to evening.
Is there a beauty trend the Derek Lam woman would never try?
DL: I think that it’s anything that’s obvious. For the runway, we do add hair extensions, but we don’t do false eyelashes—it all stems from the idea of natural beauty.
TP: We’ve never used anything fake…fakeness is not part of our vocabulary.
Can you give me a sneak peek of what you have in mind for the beauty look for Fall?
TP: We never talk about his fashion. As much as we are friends and really adore working together, we rarely talk about business. Whatever he’s doing in February, I have no clue.
DL: Oh, it’s so soon, and now we’re in the midst of it! But I think that colors are so important. Last Fall, I did a very muted collection, and even Spring was relatively muted—with only the hit of bright yellow. I hope that when Tom sees the board we’ll get inspired and we can do something really exciting or unusual for the face.
I can’t wait to see what you both cook up come February.
Estée Lauder Derek Lam Collection, available January 2014 at esteelauder.com.—Amber Kallor
Photos: Courtesy of Estée Lauder