Naples, Italy, is a crush of crumbling baroque churches, daredevil motorcyclists, yellow- rock cliffs plunging into a turquoise sea, and multihued houses, resplendent beneath the watchful eye of romantic—but menacing—Mount Vesuvius, the still-active volcano that swallowed nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D. It’s also Chanel global creative makeup and color designer Lucia Pica’s hometown, and the inspiration behind the brand’s vibrant spring collection, Neapolis (taken from the metropolis’s original Greek name, meaning “new city”). “I wanted to translate the grandeur of Naples, as well as all of its oppositions—ancient and contemporary, mysterious and energetic—into color and texture,” Pica says from her perch in a picturesque hillside villa, waving a hand toward the city below, which still bears the distinct architectural imprints of the Roman, Byzantine, French, and Spanish cultures that have held sway over the centuries.
“So much about makeup is the attitude with which you wear it.”
The color of the collection’s mascara, for example (described by Pica as “a gunmetal black with flecks of light”), matches the door of the fifteenth-century Gesù Nuovo church; the hues of the eye shadow palette mimic the rich burnished golds, browns, and greens of a showstopping cathedral ceiling; and a peachy blush captures the color of misty clouds hovering over Vesuvius at sunset. Pica’s favorite creation, a lip-powder-and-balm duo, was inspired by the soft reds of Pompeian frescoes, which were originally painted onto wet plaster. “I was thinking about how the colors of these 2,000-year-old frescoes are still so rich, but they also look powdery,” she says, “and it made me think of something I do all the time on photo shoots—which is pat a glaze of powder on top of lipstick to make it more matte. For me, it was a natural bridge: to take these abstract references and translate them into something that can actually go on a woman’s face to enhance her beauty.”
What are some of the best ways to use the Poudre à Lèvres lip powder?
It sounds intimidating, but it’s easy and very comfortable to wear. You can use a brush to apply the powder over a red lipstick to change the finish and help it stay on longer. It can look very romantic if you apply the powder only in the middle and then blend it out into the other color; that gives it a faded, kissed effect. Or you can just put on a bit of balm, then tap the powder on top. That gives a really soft, tinted look and adds volume to the lips.
What’s the secret to making ultrabright eyeliner and shadow look sophisticated?
Even if a color is very intense, it can still look like it’s part of your skin and part of your personality. I like to layer a cream eye shadow underneath a powder, for example. The combination makes any color appear more velvety and a bit more alive. When you’re using, say, a blue shadow on the lid, you can use a dark liner through the lash line to create a subtle feline shape and then put mascara on—so that you have the impact of the color, but your eyes still have definition. I think a bright eyeliner, like a bold green, also works best next to a darker color, so you definitely want a lot of black mascara for a bit of chiaroscuro. This will create intensity and depth—and make the eyes look so inviting.
Clockwise from top left: Naples, with Vesuvius in the distance; a fresco at Herculaneum; Majolica tiles in the cloister of Santa Chiara
You’re not someone who steers away from the bold-eye/bold-lip combo, either.
So much about makeup is the attitude with which you wear it, and the juxtaposition of textures. It’s superimportant to keep your skin very fresh and natural-looking when you’re wearing powerful colors on your lips and eyes. This helps to create balance and keeps it modern. I also sometimes put balm on the lid to break up bold eye shadow a little bit, so that it feels lived-in. I think that makes it more wearable and less dated—it wouldn’t make you think of the ’80s.
You assisted Charlotte Tilbury for three years. What did you learn from her?
She’s the most vibrant, energetic, and focused person I’ve ever met. Her stamina is so inspiring, and she was always very supportive. She made me believe that I could do it, and that was so important. I’ve been lucky to have many women come into my life and help me get to the next level, and that’s what Charlotte taught me more than anything else: confidence.
The new Chanel collection was inspired by Naples, but you live in London and work a lot in Paris. How have those cities informed your notions of beauty?
I’ve been in London for 19 years. It’s formed my adult personality, I think. I love the way that people express themselves with such a strong individualism and freedom there. That’s very different from Italian beauty, which is all about being radiant and glamorous. Your hair is done. Your face is done. There’s a lot of color coordination. And then Paris has the glamour, but I think French women also like to have something a little more relaxed, whether it’s their hair or something else, and they don’t like to look like they’re wearing a lot of makeup. I like things that are not entirely perfect—I find that very interesting. Finding beauty in reality.
Clockwise from top left: Gesù Nuovo; paint colors that inspired Chanel nail polishes; detail of the door to Gesù Nuovo
What’s most important to you when developing products?
I always think about how things are going to feel. I often touch a product with my eyes closed to see if I like the texture. And then I test it on myself. As a woman, I know how I like to feel with makeup on. It should be comfortable and something that anyone—not just a makeup artist—can use in her everyday life.
Going for Baroque
“Make sure your lips aren’t dry before you put on the powder,” Pica says of ChanelPoudre à Lèvres, shown in Rosso Pompeiano (4), “or the result won’t be as beautiful.” She ensures a flake-free pout by prepping lips with SimpleExfoliating Facial Wipes (1). The ChanelRouge Coco Gloss in Aphrodite (3) was inspired by the Mediterranean Sea. “Don’t be scared of it!” Pica says. “It’s actually quite see-through. When you put it on top of any lipstick, it will freshen up the color.” Pica uses Lucas Papaw Ointment (2) to highlight cheekbones and add gloss to lids. ChanelLe Vernis polish in Giallo Napoli (5) “took forever” to perfect, she says. “The color had to be strong, but also elegant.”
1. Simple Exfoliating Wipes, $10; amazon.com SHOP
2. Lucas Papaw Ointment, $9; amazon.com SHOP
3. Chanel Rouge Coco Gloss, $30; nordstrom.com SHOP
4. Chanel Poudre à Lèvres, $37; chanel.com SHOP
5. Chanel Le Vernis Longwear Nail Colour, $28; nordstrom.com SHOP
This article originally appears in the January 2018 issue of ELLE.