The worlds of fashion and beauty are inextricably linked – the ever-expanding cosmetics concerns of Chanel, Dior, YSL, Givenchy, Burberry, Giorgio Armani and Tom Ford are proof of that, while Gucci is the latest label to join the beauty-hall set with the launch of its inaugural make-up line in September.
Traditional cosmetics brands are keen to cash in on the cachet of fashion associations and collaborate with designers in new and interesting ways. A shining example over the past few years has been Lancôme – the French cosmetics giant has partnered in varying ways with established names, such as Alber Elbaz, of Lanvin, and society favourite Jenny Packham, and with those considered to be more emerging, such as Jason Wu and the bag designer Olympia Le-Tan.
Later this month, the newest instalment of this collaboration will go on sale, dubbed Nouvelle Vague in honour of the new wave in French cinema of the late Fifties and Sixties. Fittingly, the focus is on three Paris-based designers – Simon Porte Jacquemus, Alexandre Vauthier and Yiqing Yin – each of whom was commissioned to create a make-up bag, with the only stipulation being that the designs incorporated Lancôme's rose logo.
What's in the bag
"In their own unique way, these three designers each embody the new movement in French fashion," says Françoise Lehmann, the general manager of Lancôme. "We asked them to imagine a limited-edition luxury accessory related to make-up. These stars of today and tomorrow will each daringly present their own individual vision of luxury and femininity."
Only 50 of each of the designs are to be produced. Prices start from £300 and points of sale such as Harvey Nichols' Knightsbridge store reflect the prestige of the designers responsible, and the value of such collaborations to the beauty industry.
Simon Porte Jacquemus' self-titled line may have been going for nine seasons, but it was only last November that he felt established enough to give up his part-time sales job at Comme des Garçons in Paris. Jacquemus' success is a great example of how the internet has changed the traditional fashion business for the better: in 2008, he moved to Paris to study at the Esmod fashion school, but quit after two months as he felt ready to make a go of it. "I bought fabric at the Marché Saint-Pierre store, and I went to see a local alteration tailor and asked her to produce my clothing sketches… I then put them up for sale on my site and on Facebook."
Now available from about 60 locations, Jacquemus was one of 12 finalists for the inaugural LVMH Prize – further proof that his "naive, ultra-simple and raw" designs are making the industry take notice. "The world of beauty is completely foreign to me," Jacquemus says of how he initially felt when Lancôme approached him, which has led to his first bag design, a pink waterproof bumbag. "I wanted to do something different, that people weren't expecting; something funny, too."
A graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, Beijing-born Yin spent her teenage years between China, France and Australia. "Each time, I arrived in an unknown place without any bearings, and so my clothes were the only expression of my identity, my only familiar refuge." The significance of fashion dawned on Yin only when she was completing her studies: "When we began to study textiles it was love at first sight. For me, clothes start there with the choice of the fabric, which dictates the rest. Like a moving sculpture."
Yin was awarded the First Collections Prize from Andam and the Grand Prix de la Création de la Ville de Paris, which she capitalised on by founding her own couture line in 2011. Since then, she has added ready-to-wear to her own business, and was this year appointed creative director of the French brand Leonard. "For me, couture is a platform for experimentation," she says, "that looks towards the future, the chosen field where you can break conventions, and draw on know-how and tradition all the better to reinterpret, recompose and reinvent them."
Brought up in Bordeaux, Vauthier knew from the age of 10 that fashion was important to him. "My mother used to take me shopping, and I had fun being her fashion adviser," he says, which led his parents to forget their hopes that he would study law. Instead he studied at Esmod, undertaking a third-year internship with Thierry Mugler, before landing his first job at the fashion house. "It was a dream," he says. "Thierry Mugler embodied the hippest music trends, the world of the night, especially New York. He pushed back the boundaries of fashion and [his work] was bursting with energy. Over and above that, he taught me tailoring, discipline and precision."
Vauthier went on to work on couture collections for Jean Paul Gaultier, before creating his own couture label in 2009, later adding ready-to-wear and bags. "At a certain point, you need to see if you can be completely yourself, if you can do it all on your own," Vauthier says of that decision. Vauthier's designs have been worn by Beyoncé, Rihanna and Lady Gaga, but star power doesn't mean that much to him. "When I'm in a fitting, regardless of the woman, I like that moment when she is no longer listening to me, she is looking at herself in the mirror, her gaze far off, and then we've done it, I know that she feels beautiful."