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Makeup artist Lucia Pieroni is much more than her title suggests. She doesn’t just apply makeup to some of the world’s most beautiful women. Pieroni creates characters.
Take the recent Vera Wang fall-winter 2007 runway show, for which Pieroni was the lead makeup artist. The theme of the show was “Russia just before the revolution,” which Pieroni embraced by dividing the models into two groups: Bolsheviks and tsarinas. “We were working out on the day of the show who was a Bolshevik and who was a tsarina,” Pieroni laughingly remembers. “As soon as the girls walked in, we gave them a piece of paper with who they were supposed to be.” The look of the young Bolshevik girls was based around a strong brow and dark shadows, while the tsarinas sported “twinkly eyes, dark red lipstick and pale faces as if they had been standing in the frozen air outside.”
Pieroni’s unique approach to her craft comes naturally: One of four sisters, creativity runs in her family. One sister is a photographer, another an accessories designer and the third a theatrical costumer. The British-born Pieroni wasn’t to the makeup brush born, though. “I wasn’t one of those girls who was always raiding my mum’s makeup bag,” she says, describing her personal style as a bit of a hippie. Instead, she discovered her métier after a makeup artist failed to show during one of her sister’s shoots and Pieroni stepped in to pinch-hit. Since then, she’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business, rising to the top of the editorial stratosphere. “I love editorial shoots,” Pieroni says, “especially the collaboration between the photographer, the stylist, the hairdresser and myself. You may go in with all of these different references, but where you end up is always so different from where you start. It’s an amazing process and enables you to create some really fantastic things.”
Pieroni works frequently with photographers such as Craig McDean, Mert & Marcus, David Sims and Paolo Roversi. In addition to magazines such as W, Vogue (U.S., French and Italian) and Another Magazine, she’s also been tapped by designers such as Dior, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Vera Wang and Calvin Klein to create the looks for their ad campaigns. She’s a Tinseltown favorite, too—Kate Winslet, Drew Barrymore, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Connelly have all had their turn in her chair.
“I love having the balance between fashion and celebrity,” says Pieroni. “You can’t do something weird and wacky on a celebrity, because they’re representing themselves as a person. Whereas with a model on a shoot, it’s editorial and you’ve got a concept and that’s how they’re going to look.”
That real-world celebrity experience has come in handy for Pieroni’s latest role—that as color creator for Clé de Peau Beauté, Shiseido’s superluxe brand. Since coming on board about a year ago, Pieroni has created a new lineup of lipsticks and lip glosses, revamped the eye shadow selection, including a new collection of quads, and updated the packaging. “The quality of the brand is amazing,” says Pieroni. “It just needed a revamp and an injection of modernity to bring in a younger customer.”
Most challenging for Pieroni in her new role has been in creating a global palette, one which is as popular in Japan as it is in New York. “Japanese women like lots of pale pinks, whites and shiny products,” says Pieroni. “In the West, women like pale and shiny, but they also want darker colors and darker lipsticks. The difficulty is in getting the balance, doing a quad, for example, that has all of the attributes for both countries.”
Although she spends much of her time creating editorial fantasies, it’s the reality of moving the merchandise that really drives Pieroni in her Clé de Peau work. “You want to be innovative and interesting, but you also want people to buy the products,” she says. “That’s a huge consideration. Otherwise, what’s the point of doing it? Yes, it’s a luxury brand, but I don’t want it to be elitist. We’re creating beautiful colors for real women.”
In fact, it’s real women who most inspire Pieroni. “Women who have great style inspire me. French women inspire me, because they’re so chic and they do wear makeup,” she says, admitting she’s a self-confessed organic skin and body care junkie but doesn’t wear a lot of makeup personally. “But I find my inspiration from all over. The other day, I was at the Eden Project in Cornwall [England] and came across these tiny mushrooms. Their color and tone were absolutely incredible and I just looked at them and thought how perfect they would be for an eye palette.”