Hermes’ first ever lipstick caused a bunfight at the beauty counters last week – but: Is a posh pout REALLY worth £58?
- Hermes debuted a 24 shades lipstick collection at Harrods in London, last week
- Each of the £58 shades have been designed to match items in Hermes archive
- Hanna Woodside gave her verdict on if the lipsticks are good value for money
Would you spend £58 on just one lipstick? If the bunfight I witnessed at the Hermès counter in Harrods’ gleaming beauty hall is anything to go by, quite a lot of women are more than happy to.
Within hours of the debut Hermès lipstick collection launching at the West London department store last week, there was a buzzing swarm, eager to get their hands on one of the 24 shades.
Or more than one, actually: I saw two well-dressed friends in their 30s each choose six of the gorgeous lip colours. As the sales assistant rang up their purchases, there was a dramatic gasp.
No, not at the £348 price: the women had just spied another shade — the Poppy Lip Shine, a shimmery, translucent orange, one of three limited-edition shades housed in a special colour-blocking tube, designed by Pierre Hardy, the creative director of jewellery and shoes at Hermès.
Hanna Woodside gave her verdict on the new collection of Hermes lipsticks (pictured), after a swarm of customers brought the cosmetics from Harrods last week
Two tubes were swiftly added to their haul, just in the nick of time.
By lunchtime, the counter had already sold out of number 85 in the matte formulation. This colour, called ‘Rouge H’, is a very elegant dark red, verging on burgundy. Each lipstick shade, you see, has been carefully chosen to match one of the 900 leathers and 75,000 silk swatches in the Hermès archive.
Lo and behold, the following day, the sold-out Rouge H appears on eBay—hiked up to £89.95 — listed alongside other shades that have already sold out on the official Hermès site, including Rouge Bleu (a magenta-tinted red), and the limited-edition Corail Fou (originally £62, now selling on eBay for £110).
Even before the re-sale inflation, almost £60 for a lipstick, however gorgeous, is a lot for most of us. But when you consider that prices for the iconic Hermès Birkin bag start at £7,000, the £58 lipstick allows you to buy into the luxury French label for a fraction of the cost — which would, perhaps, explain the hysteria at Harrods.
I ummed and ahhed over two colours: fuchsia-infused Rose Zinzolin and the dusky-pink Rose Boisé in a velvety-matte finish (if you usually swerve matte finishes for being too drying, this is miraculously hydrating), but eventually plumped for Rose Encens, a cool-toned everyday pink, in a satin finish.
Undeniably luxurious: the texture of Rose Encens feels expensive, the colour is sophisticated, it’s moisturising but has hours of staying power.The tube is beautiful — a classy white, black and gold combination with an embossed Hermès crest on the top of the lid, which shuts with a satisfyingly heavy magnetic click.
It’s refillable, too, which makes the price feel (slightly) more justifiable. Refills go on sale later this summer, and will cost around the £38 mark, I’m told.
This is Hermès’ first foray into cosmetics, no doubt inspired by the success other fashion houses had with lipstick collections. Last year, Gucci Beauty sold more than a million of its lipsticks (at £34 a pop) in the first month alone.
The global lipstick industry is expected to be worth £13 billion by 2024. Pictured: Hermes store on New Bond Street, London
And in the past decade, several other designers have got in on the lipstick action too — a market traditionally dominated by the likes of Chanel, YSL and Dior (1,500 Rouge Dior lipsticks are sold in the UK each day). They range from Marc Jacobs’ Le Marc Lip Crème (£27, harveynichols.com) and Burberry’s Lip Velvet (£27, net-a-porter.com), to Tom Ford Beauty’s best-selling, award-winning Lip Colour (£40, johnlewis.com), up to Christian Louboutin’s stiletto-shaped objet d’art Velvet Matt Lip Colour (£70, selfridges.com).
These ultra high-end lipstick collections often echo a brand’s aesthetic: Burberry’s lipstick tubes, for example, are etched with its iconic check, and one of the Hermès shades is Orange Boîte, the colour of the house’s signature packaging since 1942.
UK women spend between £51 and £100 a year on lipstick
As a brand extension, lipstick makes commercial sense for designer fashion brands. Not only is the global lipstick industry booming, expected to be worth £13 billion by 2024, lipstick collections open up a customer base usually excluded from the brand owing to price. A lipstick — even at £50-plus — is a far more accessible entry point for the squeezed middle.
This is the so-called ‘lipstick effect’ in real-time action, where financial pressure means we opt for smaller luxury treats over big ticket items.
‘In tougher economic times, customers have a tendency to reduce their spending, but not the level of indulgence they wish to experience from their purchases,’ explains retail expert and consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale, founder of Style Psychology Ltd. ‘Lipsticks are a perfect substitute for larger status symbols — such as diamond jewellery, watches or leather accessories — but still deliver on indulgence and self-expression.’
Retail expert and consumer psychologist Kate Nightingale, claims customers are encouraged to purchase larger items at a later date, when they buy lower-priced goods. Pictured: Hermes lipstick collection
Even if we’re choosing a lipstick rather than a handbag, ultimately, designers benefit from us buying into the brand, even at a micro level. ‘Lipsticks, like clothing and accessories, are used to create our “ideal self” ’ adds Kate. ‘And luxury brands have historically targeted this ideal self in their customers, especially those who are less affluent.
‘A comparatively lower-priced lipstick allows customers to come closer to achieving this ideal self, which often encourages them to want to purchase larger items at a later date. It’s a form of raising your own customers.’
As designer investments go, lipstick is a sure-fire winner: it fits everyone, doesn’t require any special tools or particular skill to apply, and it’s perfectly acceptable to wear the same one every single day.
It’s also a product you can apply in public with ease — even the Queen has topped up her lippy while out and about — so it makes the perfect luxury status symbol, being more visible than, say, an expensive nail polish.
Yes, the formulations are exquisitely made, they’re long-lasting, delightful to apply, the colours on-trend and richly-pigmented —undoubtedly you are getting a top-notch, quality product.
Hanna said a designer lipstick can add a dash of luxury to a dreary day. Pictured: Hermes new £58 lipstick
But it’s not just about that — as it is very possible to buy a brilliant lipstick for less than £20.
The indulgence is kind of the point. The experience of going to the counter and being fussed over. The layers of pretty packaging. (The Hermès lipstick comes sheathed in its own little canvas sleeve, inside a dinky orange box.) The thrilling samples they tuck into the rope-handled bag. Designer brands know this — and they play into it.
So can a lipstick be worth £58? Compared to the viscose Zara dress you might buy for the same price on your lunch break instead, you might argue the designer lipstick gives you more pleasure for your buck. Because, even if you’re on the bus on a dreary day, with nowhere more glamorous to go to than Sainsbury’s, digging out your fancy lipstick and swiping it on feels like a mini escape, a dash of luxury and frivolity. A much-needed shot of joy.
There are not many things in life that can do that — and also fit in your handbag.
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