Look like a '50s film star with the Olympia Le-Tan x Lancôme collection

Look like a '50s film star with the Olympia Le-Tan x Lancôme collection

Pretty in pink

Text: Clara Tan

The Parisian bag designer talks her love for makeup, her favourite artists and the inspirations for her makeup with Lancôme

Olympia Le-Tan's always been our go-to girl for everything quirky, fun and cute. She's feminine with a twist, loud but not boisterous, and absolutely one of a kind. So what does one do upon hearing that the doe-eyed fashion darling collaborated with cosmetic giant Lancôme? Lap up everything, of course. Borrowing Hollywood's classic starlet look (à la red lips) and Le-Tan's favourite colour (pink, pink, and.. more pink), the collection —aptly titled Olympia's Wonderland— is a delightful playground of brightly coloured hues.

Now, we've seen plenty of lustworthy makeup palettes, but the French designer's one comes up tops, with it perfectly mirroring her signature minaudière clutch-books. Inside, everything you need to achieve the look of a va va voom '50s film star. For eyes, plum metallic glints, a slightly irisdescent taupe and muted white combine to create the perfect prima donna smoky eye. They're as retro as it gets, but with an up-to-date long lasting formula. Glowing baby-doll cheeks are achieved with a hot pink blusher, and lastly, lip powders ranging from violet, vintage rose to flamboyant red seals the collection with a kiss. Nostalgia? It never dies.

Below, Le-Tan talks her views on femininity, Olympia's Wanderland's muse, and her love for makeup.

You’ve always enjoyed teaming up with others for collaborations. What was it about these projects that appealed to you?
I really like the idea of doing things with people who specialise in a particular field. It’s always interesting to step outside of what I usually do and work on something different with a specialist. As it happens, I don’t do make-up – yet!

So you’re quite curious by nature?
Yes, and by working with other brands I'm also enriching my own world in lots of different ways, adding new chapters to my story. I’ve already worked on candles and chocolates, among other things.

How would you describe your world?
Very colourful! There’s an association with childhood, but at the same time it’s quite cheeky – they’re opposites, but they weave together rather well in a weird way to blend into something original.

You always use pink, in all your collections and collaborations. Were you this crazy about pink even as a little girl?
It must be my favourite colour! Yes, I did like pink even when I was little. I like lots of other colours, too, but there’s always pink in everything I do.

Would you say your vision of a woman ties in with mainstream standards?
Not current standards, no. It’s all about what era you’re living in. My vision of femininity is a bit retro. A get that vibe from Lancôme as well, it’s a brand that feels quite retro to me – but in the modern sense. Lancôme does glamour in the Hollywood vein.

Did you draw on all those classic Hollywood images for your take on femininity?
Yes, I love that look. The red lipstick and the waved hair... that Fifties aesthetic that veers towards the pin-up. But I also really like the whole erotic mood of the Fifties and Sixties that you see in John Willie’s drawings and then later, in Allen Jones’s work. And the 1980s also really appeal to me because, again, they were channelling that Fifties thing, but with a sexier undertone.

What women appealed to you when you were little?
I really liked Veronica Lake, Bettie Page, Marilyn Monroe, and Lauren Bacall. These women I came across in films and books. I think I grew up in a household where there was this sense of nostalgia...

Do you think being a woman designing for women makes any difference? Are your feet more firmly on the ground than a male designer?
Maybe. Men don’t always understand what you can and can't wear. They don’t realise that corsets aren’t very comfortable...

You often use women who aren’t models in your shows. Is that an activist gesture?
Yes, in the sense that I prefer to have ‘real women’ with personality and character, rather than conventional models. But I'm not making a point about body shape or size. It’s just that the women who capture my interest have bodies that suit who they are, that’s all.

You wanted to build afresh on the Lancôme heritage when you designed this collection...
Yes, because there are always interesting things in the archives of any Maison. And since the Lancôme brand has such a long history, I couldn’t resist delving into it. The idea behind my brand is – among other things – to reinterpret the design styles of the past and add my own personal touch. I like to build on something rather than start from nothing. That gives me more layers of storytelling to work with. In this case, there was this little cherub that I wanted to reinterpret – by making it more feminine, for a start.

Would you say you’ve turned it into a little angelic version of yourself?
A little! I had to give her some pink, give her glasses to show that she knows how to read – but pin-up glasses, a bit sexy... This is a cherub who’s a bit naughty, who plays with make-up – an angel who’s far from angelic.

Did you come across any other nice surprises when you were looking into the Lancôme archives?
I was pleased to find a lipstick called Olympia! There was also a gorgeous powder compact from the 1950s, with a ribbon, which inspired the design of the blusher that’s in the palette.

Have you always enjoyed make-up?
My love affair with lipstick started when I was fourteen. But never in beige shades – it has to really stand out!

Do you remember the first item of make-up you ever owned?
Of course, it was a lipstick that I went to buy myself. I’d saved up especially!

What make-up do you wear every day?
Apart from very red lipstick, I put on a bit of mascara and blusher. Although sometimes I go without the blusher, because I redden really easily.

One of the things you have in common with Lancôme is your work on colour. How do you approach that?
when I choose a theme, I straightaway start thinking about what colours would fit with that and it doesn’t take me long to put together a palette. In fact when I worked with Gilles Dufour, I was the one in charge of colours. I have zillions of coloured sheets of felt in my office. I cut bits off the all the ones that make me think of the theme. Then I put them together, I see which combinations work and which don’t... For this collection I did the same thing, I brought together bits of felt in colours I liked and wanted to see translated into make-up.

What are you proudest of in this collection?
Of how beautifully the make-up palette is made. I didn't think we’d manage to create such a pretty piece made of embroidered fabric... In all the collaborations I’ve done so far, this is the first time we’ve managed to produce an embroidery. It really does look just like one of my minaudières. And I’m happy to be able to use everything that’s inside.

What’s your favourite product?
The L’Absolu Rouge Le Bisou Olympia 1980 lipstick, of course! I love the little lips at the top of the lipstick...

Would you say there’s a hint of nostalgia about you?
I think so, yes. A melancholy for bygone eras I never knew. We always think things were better before...

The collection is called Olympia’s Wonderland. Would you like to have the chance, like Alice, to go through the looking glass?
I’d be happy to step into Alice’s world, why not. But if you asked me to go back to the Forties or Fifties, I wouldn’t want to. It’s so much easier being a woman today.

The collection launches in September 2017.