If the phrase “I am woman, hear me roar” were a colour, your dollar would best be placed on red. From street walkers and wiccans to old Hollywood sirens and women in power, no other colour cosmetic has quite the same impact as the red lip when it comes to making a statement and challenging the status quo. “Red lipstick is, in fact, about female strength,” said author Madeleine Marsh in an interview with Public Radio International. “The first and most famous manifestation of red lipstick was in New York, when the suffragettes took to the streets, banded together, and as part of their defiance and fight for the vote, they all wore bright red lipstick.”
The US celebrates its 100th year of women’s right to vote in 2020, while during Trump’s State of the Union address in February, newly elected Congress member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, along with a majority of women lawmakers from the Democratic party, dressed in a “suffragette white” cape, as a message of solidarity against the Trump administration. Paired with gold hoop earrings and what’s fast becoming her signature red lip, Ocasio-Cortez’s look signalled a spirit of change. A reflection of the current times, the red wave, as seen on Spring/Summer ’19 runways, came as no surprise as the present climate of equality reaches a crescendo, one that has gone beyond the initial cacophony of pink pussyhats post-Harvey Weinstein, and is now finding its voice and taking calculated strides to making real change.
Elsewhere, a youthful revolt for an update on this classic hue worked especially well on darker skin tones, as seen at Poiret and Cushnie et Ochs, with reds blended with hues of orange and hot pinks. Or take cue from Chanel’s sophisticates on spring break. “Karl Lagerfeld’s girls always look strong and beautiful at the same time,” said Lucia Pica, global creative make-up and colour designer at Chanel. “For the lips, I wanted a strong poppy fresh colour with a matte finish to give it a feeling of blurriness.”
The trick to achieving that much-desired velvet matte effect is multilayering. After applying Chanel’s Rouge Allure Velvet in Infrarose directly from the bullet, Pica intensified the matte effect by applying a powder on top, followed by another layer of lipstick. Skin glowed from within, with just a touch of shimmer on the eyes. “They are beach girls but they are still Chanel girls,” explained Pica. “They are strong but also fresh and joyful. Dewy, glowy, and sexy but still perfectly sophisticated.” Whether it’s channelling Rive Gauche insouciance in pure Lou Doillon fashion at Escada or irreverent glamour with Dorothy-like ruby sparkles at Valentino, the message is clear: lipstick feminism is at the forefront, with strength in numbers, and a thousand more stories to be told. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.