Few gestures are more chic-erotic than applying lipstick, straight from the bullet, in full view of a crowded restaurant. The success of this über-feminine public display of intimacy relies on two key elements: the sophistication of said lipstick packaging and the accuracy of the end result. Consummate slickers will perform the act without the aid of mirrors, pressing their lips together in a satisfied “mwa” before the clutch is clicked shut, signalling the show is at an end.
It’s a timeless, glossy little ritual that, wherever performed, somehow seems as Parisienne as a scarlet lip print on the rim of a white coffee cup or (whisper it) Gitane filter tip. This, at least, was the presiding spirit of Lancôme’s high-potency Rouge in Love lip collection, which made its debut a year ago to great acclaim.
One ardent fan is Parisian bag designer and lipstick lover Olympia Le-Tan, whose minaudières are frequently spotted in the grasp of fashionistas and red carpeteers. Inspired by vintage book covers and the pin-up graphics of the 1940s and 1950s, these hand-embroidered clutch bags ooze a whimsical retro-charm. So it seems fitting that, to celebrate Rouge in Love’s first birthday (not to mention Valentine’s Day), Le-Tan has designed a collectors’ worldwide run of 100 numbered Minaudière Very Lancôme clutches (£995), which are available in the UK exclusively at Harvey Nichols from Friday February 1.
Each has taken 18 hours of work to handcraft and contains six perfectly judged lip and nail shades. Classic Rouge in Love and cherry Rouge Valentine are reds that head the line-up. Coral-toned Miss Coquelicot is unashamedly vintage; fuchsia Rose Boudoir, crimson-tinged Midnight Rose and pretty petal Rose des Soupirants are essential pinks. In addition, the nail varnishes Vernis in Love, Coral in Love and candied Rose Plumetis complete a highly polished act.
“I wanted to design the cover of an imaginary novel called Rouge in Love,” Le-Tan says. “My idea was to create a mise en abyme, a book within a book. It is held by two hands with painted nails and surrounded by little red and violet lips that seem to dance around.” The side and clasp are both mirror-evoking silver, “perfect to look into during the evening if you want to touch up your make-up”, suggests Le-Tan. Or not, depending how slick you are with that bullet and how far you subscribe to the theory that insouciance wins the utmost admiration. On second thoughts, might as well flaunt it.