Stepping into the world of Lisa Eldridge means feeling passion and dedication: everything she does, she does it with intention. The love for make-up (which ranges from pure aesthetic research to the development of beauty products) has accompanied her since she was a young girl. We were at the dawn of a digital world where Instagram was only a place to post unflattering and fun pics (now it’s still the digital place-to-be where everything happens and who knows what awaits us) when Lisa opened her Youtube channel born from a urge for storytelling and sharing. We met her over time as make-up artist, global creative director for mainstream brands, business woman with her line of jewelry and lipsticks now enriched by the new entries 'Lip Kits' and 'Create your own collections' that just came out.
Let's start from the beginnings: what brought you on the path of make-up?
I first started to play with makeup when I was about 6 years old. I lived in New Zealand but came to England and found a box of my mum’s old makeup at my grandmother’s house. Mary Quant crayons, Coty lipsticks, Elizabeth Arden eyeshadows - it was so glamorous. I was initially captivated by the colours, textures and the objects themselves - I wasn’t really interested in putting them on my own face. But when I was 13, I got a book about theatrical makeup for my birthday. I thought, ‘Wow, you can do this as a career!’ I actually told my careers teacher at school that I didn’t need to study maths because I was going to become a makeup artist. Now it’s a known career, but back then it was an unusual thing to want to do. Ever since, makeup from the past, present and future has been my life!
Speaking of your personal brand: what creative process do you go through when you imagine colors, textures and products?
I honestly find inspiration everywhere. I always see colour as palettes - I stack my rings in duos and trios, and on my morning walks I’m constantly inspired by the colours of what I see. Nature can bring together colour combinations you would never dream up yourself. I’m also a huge art-lover and have spent countless afternoons strolling around galleries and museums. I vividly remember visiting the Pompidou Centre in the mid-90s to see a major retrospective of Brâncuși’s work and, although I'd seen photographs of his sculptures before it was only when I saw them in the 'flesh' that I really understood. I remember thinking 'This is it!' and feeling quite euphoric. It was a real lightbulb moment for me. When I was creating my first lipsticks, the idea of the velvet texture came to me because red and velvet are so intertwined in my imagination.I did an editorial shoot where I actually stuck real red velvet onto a model’s lips to create real velvet lipstick - I remember thinking I’d love to create something like this for real. But most of all I love faces. When I’m out and about, I’m looking at people all the time and see so much detail. To me, every face is gorgeous, I don’t see the negatives. I think, ‘What about these amazing eyes or this beautiful bone structure?’ I still feel excited about that now, all these years later.
Can you tell us about the news you are launching?
When I launched my first True Velvet lipstick collection in 2018 it was a Global success and sold out in 24 hours. Subsequently I was inundated with people asking me to make them again, but the production process is really difficult, and I told myself from the start that, no matter how popular I know they are, I’m only ever going to make them once a year! This October the Velvets are back and there are four new shades. Velvet Affair, a sticky-toffee caramel shade with neutral/warm golden undertones; Velvet Carnival, a pop art electric pink with blue undertones; Velvet Blush, a deep pink berry with muted cool undertones; and Velvet Dragon, a warm red inspired by cinnabar pigment, a substance that’s been used to create jewellery and ornaments for thousands of years. I’m also launching six Gloss Embrace lip glosses, based on six of my favourite True Velvet lipstick shades. They’re a high-pigment gloss-meets-indulgent treatment, with moisturising oils and butters that leave lips smooth and plump. The moisturising and healing properties of these glosses is long-term, they keep hydrating even after the colour wears off. I always have at least two in my handbag at any time! I’m really excited about the return of my Velvet Lip Collections (5 curated True Velvet lipsticks collections in a luxury velvet makeup bag), and Fantasy Florals Lip Kits - each kit contains a True Velvet Lipstick, Gloss Embrace lip gloss and Enhance and Define Lip Pencil, so everything you need in your favourite shade. The velvet makeup bag was designed in collaboration with multimedia artist Jon Jacobsen, I can’t wait for everyone to get their hands on it. Finally, potentially most excitingly, after being inundated with requests I’m launching Create Your Own Collections - so you can create your own lip wardrobe trio across all of my lipsticks and glosses, in a makeup bag of your choosing.
Of all the work that is shown, only a small part emerges: what is the phase that always stimulates you and that spurs you to redefine the limits?
It’s true that people tend to only see the finished result, but there are hours of research and testing that go on before I even get to the makeup chair. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a huge geek when it comes to art, culture, science and history, especially the history of makeup (I wrote a whole book about it!), and so the research phase, finding inspiration and brainstorming ways to make sure ideas are fresh and modern is one of my favourite parts of my job. My goal as a makeup artist is always to inspire people through makeup - whether that’s creating fresh, gorgeous skin for a red carpet makeup look, adding an unexpected pop of yellow eyeshadow like I did for Dua Lipa’s album artwork, or creating a beauty editorial cover shoot from home during lockdown. I like pushing the boundaries and people sometimes think my ideas are mad, but I never want to do something that’s been done before! It was a similar process when I was creating my lipsticks - no one had ever created a true velvet lipstick before, we created a brand new mould using groundbreaking technology. People didn’t see the days upon days of testing, tweaking and reformulating to get every shade and every texture just right, but one of the most satisfying parts was seeing the look on people’s faces when they first saw the product. They always said ‘wow!’ and then ‘how?’ I knew I had made something pretty special. I love seeing people’s comments on my work - that always spurs me to keep creating and innovating.
Your audience is made up of professionals, followers and people who love make-up: how much do they influence you with their considerations and suggestions?
I was an early adopter of the digital world, one of the first makeup artists with a dot com and the first professional to regularly upload tutorials to YouTube. I was nervous about starting it - I had a lot of celebrity clients and at the time people thought that YouTube was a bit naff, but I really believed in it. I wanted to teach regular women how they could translate the professional techniques and trends I’d mastered to their own faces. The makeup community I’ve built since then is truly one of my proudest achievements and I always make time to read and respond to comments as much as I physically can. A lot of the ideas for my videos come from the questions and messages I get. Every time I post a red carpet or celebrity look people want to know how I did it. I’ll often use a model with a slightly different look, or recreate it using only drugstore makeup - it’s about making sure my channel feels accessible and is a place where all kinds of people can come to feel inspired and learn something new. As a professional makeup artist, people also want to learn techniques - pinpoint concealing is still one of my most popular tutorials, and I did a video about making dark lipstick wearable when I noticed that my fans were nervous about wearing some of the more intense lip shades in my True Velvet collections. Some of the combinations I show in the video are completely inspired by seeing the ways my followers have worn the shades - combinations I hadn’t even thought of myself! Seeing and hearing from my makeup audience also really helps to guide me when it comes to creating content during this crazy time. I’ve done a mix of chats, classic a la Eldridge looks and colourful, escapist makeup tutorials and the response from my audience has been incredible - I’m very lucky to have such a great gang of makeup lovers.
What does the word beauty mean for you today in 2020?
What really excites me about modern makeup is that it’s so individual. Look in your friend, sister or colleague’s makeup bag and I guarantee that while you might have the same product types (mascara, lipstick, liner), the colours, formulas and finishes will be completely different. Today, we can be inspired by the makeup looks of women all over the globe. You might want to copy the eyeliner flick you saw on a model in Dubai, and team it with the glowy skin of a fashion editor in Australia, then switch to matte skin and electric pink lips the next day. There are no rules. Some women wear a lot of makeup, some women wear none and some women (like me) change it up every day. That freedom to choose – and having the products at our fingertips to allow us to do so – is, for me, the most exciting thing about beauty today.
How much has your approach to the beauty world changed through the experience of the pandemic?
We’re living in unbelievable times, and I wasn’t sure how much I should be talking about makeup, but getting out my skin care and makeup bag each morning is a routine that’s helped bring a bit of normality. Applying and talking about makeup is essential for my soul. It’s meditative and helps me to feel relaxed, but there’s also an element of warpaint to it - having makeup on makes me feel better, even if I’m just at home. Never underestimate the power of makeup to boost your face - and your mood! My routine hasn’t changed a lot over lockdown, although it’s been nice to have more time, especially for skin care. Anyone who knows me knows I’m really into at-home facials and facial massage, and I’ve loved delving into my epic travel toiletry bag (as it's not getting any use right now), and have been making the most being at home to start new routines like using a lash and brow serum daily. But overall I’ve been reaching for the products that just feel good right now - luxe cleansing balms, cream blushers, mascara, highlighter and my much-loved magnesium bath salts. Also concealer - pinpoint concealing feels like some normality in a crazy world!
Tell us about your historic make-up collection: have you found new goodies and inspirations to share?
Ever since I first stumbled upon that box of my mum’s makeup I’ve been fascinated with the stories that makeup can tell. When I put makeup onto someone’s face, I understand that there’s a long, intricate history for every single item I use. I first started collecting vintage items like powder boxes and antique pots of blush in the early 1990s. I’ll never forget the rush of excitement discovering my first vintage makeup finds at a stall in the Portobello Road Market in London. Now, I’ve got a collection that ranges from the Northern Song Dynasty in China over a thousand years ago to modern day classics, like a lipstick in the exact shade that Jackie O wore. I still get a thrill when I add new rarities to my collection. A few years ago I bought at auction a gold lipstick holder made by Cartier for Audrey Hepburn - it’s so iconic I made a whole video just about this one piece.
If we consider the beauty language, how can we change it to make it more and more inclusive?
This is obviously a very important question, but it’s also a huge one and difficult to answer in a few lines. Overall, I agree that beauty plays an important and tangible role in creating a more inclusive world. In my book, I delve into the role that makeup has played in women’s history - it really reflects the social, cultural, economic and political movements of the time. Today, there’s finally a true sense of people questioning and challenging stereotypical notions of beauty. It’s so much easier to find a wider spectrum of genders, ethnicities, religions, sizes and ages represented than it was, say, 5 years ago - but there’s still a long way to go. This isn’t just a trend or short-term effect. We also need to think beyond visual representation. Having launched my own brand, there’s no way I would ever have created a product that wasn’t fully inclusive - I have always shot my lipstick collection on a range of beautiful models as it’s crucial to see how they come to life in different ways depending on how the undertone of the lipstick works with each individual skin tone . The shades are for everyone and that really is the bare minimum of what the beauty industry as a whole should be doing today. Customers are finally calling out brands that don’t consult and represent properly.
Having a voice in the world today is essential: who are the women who opened the way for all of us and who instil the courage to express themselves with work, activism, ideas, those ones you look at as an example?
There are too many incredible women to list! Audrey Hepburn comes to mind straight away, she’s a great example of a woman who experienced unbelievable success, and truly used her platform for good. When we think of her, we think of her beauty, style and iconic film roles, but also all the years she dedicated to her role as ambassador to UNICEF helping to spread the word through benefits, fundraisers and interviews, often giving as many as 15 interviews a day to promote UNICEF’s work. Josephine Baker is another amazing woman who was an iconic entertainer of the Jazz Age, but also a vocal supporter of racial equality. She became a correspondent for the French Resistance in World War II, using her celebrity to gain access to high ranking Axis officials - she wrote down intelligence on her hands and arms, and pinned notes inside her underwear knowing she would never face a strip search (she was right!). In the 1950s, she returned to her home country of the United States and was an avid supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. She was famously refused reservations at 36 hotels because of racial discrimination, and in 1963 gave a powerful speech at the March on Washington at the side of Martin Luther King Jr., where she notably said that, “I have walked into the palaces of kings and queens and into the houses of presidents. But I could not walk into a hotel in America and get a cup of coffee, and that made me mad.” Not only did both of these women do incredible things, they’re also iconic Makeup Muses in my book - I also own makeup items that were connected to both of them in my vintage makeup collection.
Ph.: Lisa Eldridge Press Office