Back in the red: Poppy the Lipstick Queen

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Poppy King's brand Lipstick Queen has a cult following thanks to her wizardry with colour. Carola Long meets a woman with the secret to the perfect pout

Nothing compliments a tan – whether real or fake – better than red lipstick. However, when the summer fades, the look is still set to become one of autumn's strongest trends with Corvette red at YSL, crimson at Elie Saab, Lanvin and Lacroix, and vermilion at Gucci.

When it comes to attracting attention, red lips work better than killer heels, cleavage (so déclassé, even Posh has allegedly had her alleged implants removed) or "statement" jewellery. Scarlet is impossible to ignore, as Angelina Jolie was clearly aware when she appeared at Cannes sporting the most provocative inflated red pout imaginable, offset by minimal eye make up and a nude-coloured dress.

"Let the lipstick be the star of the show," agrees Poppy King, founder of cult independent brand Lipstick Queen, which, alongside a neat range of pinks and browns, boasts the most flattering, easy-to-wear reds around. King herself has a touch of the modern day Marilyn about her, with finger waved hair the colour of unsalted butter and a silk scarf tied round her Louis Vuitton bag, à la Joan in Mad Men, and of course, a pristine crimson pout. Despite these retro touches, however, she is by no means slavishly vintage. "People always say to me, 'oh you must love Dita Von Teese', but that's not my idea of how to wear lipstick now," she insists, "that's costume and burlesque." Instead of the painted perfection of a Fifties starlet, King complements her colour with a light base, blusher and eye make-up. In her view, the most contemporary way to do bright colour is with minimal make up and jewellery, and loose messy hair, just like

Chloë Sevigny, who wears lipstick with "strength and power, but not in a threatening Eighties way". According to Paul Herrington, head of artistry at Bobbi Brown, warm skin tones suit reds with orange undertones and cool skin tones suit blue undertones. However, for a clear red that flatters anyone try King's Red Sinner, which stays true thanks to its equal amounts of blue and yellow.

Bright lipstick can be daunting, but King's shades stand out amidst an array of mystifying plumpers, lacquers and next big thing ingredients, thanks to their simplicity. "There is a real craving for something uncomplicated," says King, whose brand is just that. The animated Australian, who beats numerous big brands to boast the best-selling lipstick in New York store Barneys (her sheer Medieval tint) and has waiting lists for her products at Space NK, started Lipstick Queen in 2007 with two products in a range of colours that she compares to "full fat and Diet Coke". Sinner is an opaque with 90 per cent pigment and Saint is a subtle sheer version with 10 per cent pigment for anyone who finds heavy colour too much.

They came out in 2007 when the lipstick revival first started after years of gloss, and Women's Wear Daily called it "the breakthrough product of the year", recalls the 37-year-old make-up fanatic who launched her first company, Poppy Industries, when she was just 18. "You wonder why a simple product would be a breakthrough but people wanted a return to lipstick in its most iconic form," she explains. Since then the range has expanded to include the Big Bang lipgloss, the name of which was inspired by King's theory that the right ratio of shimmer to shine will suggest Jolie-like lips more effectively than plumpers which sting them into looking bigger, and the new Chinatown gloss. Coming in pencil form, it was influenced by the kookiness of Chinatown in New York, and the Roman Polanski film.

King often glances at the past for inspiration, before giving it a modern twist. Medieval, which King describes as the "entry level of reds", was inspired by beautifying techniques from the Middle Ages when it wasn't respectable for women to paint their lips. Instead they would squeeze lemon juice onto their mouths to irritate the skin, causing the blood to rush to the surface. To recreate the just-bitten shade, King repeatedly squeezed lemon onto her own increasingly-tender moue, while a chemist faithfully copied it. The instant polish that Medieval gives has attracted a cult following. King has noticed her overall sales double in the last six months, but she sees the lipstick index – Leonard Lauder's theory that lipstick sales rise when the economy drops – less of a viable financial barometer than an insight into consumer psychology. "That idea is code for the fact that lipstick cheers women up, especially in a recession," she says, "and there is a renewed interest in wearing strong colour. It just has a feeling of hope."

Shades and textures vary with the seasons but the power of lipstick to enliven the complexion is unrivalled. "You can tell immediately if a lipstick suits you because it lights up your eyes, your hair, your skin," says King, "as if the sun has come out from behind a cloud." It was this property that led her to work with her favourite cosmetic. "I've always thought that it was the one thing that made me look so much better," she says, "it's like a Superman suit." King grew up in Melbourne and started her first line of matte lipsticks because she despaired of the "Debbie Gibson fuschia gloss" around in the Eighties. She worked on her Poppy brand for 12 years, during which time she was named Young Australian of the Year, then became became vice president of marketing at Prescriptives before launching Lipstick Queen in 2007.

Her favourite lipstick wearers, Louise Brooks and Eighties-era Madonna, used it to radically reinvent themselves. "Brooks' look was pure flapper," she explains, "her dark pout showed she wanted to be taken seriously, sexually and intellectually. Madonna's lipstick was sexually arousing but on her own terms." Her passion is also ignited by the fact she believes lipstick isn't about correcting a perceived fault – like concealer – or enhancing something – like mascara. It's an instrument of pure self-expression.

Lipstick Queen is available exclusively in the UK at Space NK

Poppy King's red lip essentials

For a bold, fresh look, wear red lipstick with minmnal make-up. Even out your skin with a base or luminiser to get it looking even but natural, then apply mascara, very little liner or eyeshadow, a smidgen of blush on the apples of the cheeks, not horrible stripes, for that country picnic look.

Straight from the tube is the best way to apply lipstick, then blot once and reapply. Dabbing a tiny bit on your cheek is a fabulous way to tie your whole look together, even if you use your usual blush. Look for a red that is as true as possible and doesn't go orange or pink. Lipliner is only necessary if you really feel like you want to define the edge, but it's not a must, and try and find one that matches as closely as possible. Apply it after you have put on your lipstick for a less heavy-handed look.

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Cumberbatch spectacularly photobombs U2 at the Oscars
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Will menus with calorie counts really deter junk-food addicts from eating junk?
Today's Liverpool Echo back page
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    2nd Line server support - Microsoft certified

    £25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our large organisa...

    Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, Adobe, ...

    Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

    £20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

    SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

    £350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?