You don’t need to know a lot about beauty to know that the audible click of a Chanel lipstick lid whispers luxury. But the new Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick goes one step further.
It’s not just about whipping out a poppy slick of colour embossed with interlocked C’s. Rather, it speaks to the old-school psychology of luxury – its timelessness, its exclusivity and the sentimentality around the product. All of which, goes some way to explaining the very luxury price tag.
In 2019, just before the pandemic hit, I was lucky enough to visit Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel’s apartment on Paris’ iconic 31 Rue Cambon, a space furnished with glittering camellia chandeliers as well as superstitious iconography including animal statues (all in pairs) and crystals. Another of Coco Chanel’s good luck charms was a crimson ribbon, which she wore around her ankles for good luck every time a new fashion collection launched.
Among the wardrobe of shades – 12 in total, ranging from delicate beige to deep plum – Chanel’s 31 Le Rouge lipstick captures this specific shade of ribbon (Rouge Fetiche) as well as the tanned rosewood bindings of Coco Chanel’s favourite books and the maroon lining of the original flap bag.
But it’s the packaging that makes this lipstick an instant icon. The thing I remember most about Coco Chanel’s apartment (and the spot where I took about a million selfies!!) was the mirrored spiral staircase. This provided the inspiration for the Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick case – the first ever to feature glass packaging.
Luxury beauty can sometimes feel soulless so, personally, I love the storytelling aspect of the Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick. In an age of disposable beauty packaging, what I also really like is that this lipstick is aligned with slow beauty (made only from glass and metal, each component is recyclable, too). Chanel 31 Le Rouge is meant to be the type of beautiful object you cherish, choose to reuse and perhaps even hand down to another generation.
Shade-wise, I chose Rouge Beige as I’m more of a nude than a red lipstick kind of girl. First impression: it’s magically spot on for a nude – not too warm but not so cool that my lips look like the life has been sucked out them. Followed by: “Ooh my lips also feel plump and hydrated.” The latter comes down to the satin finish with just a hint of sheen and a boost of moisture courtesy of maracuja oil and camellia esters.
So did I feel expensive wearing a £205 lipstick? The easy answer is yes. Chanel 31 Le Rouge is weighty to the touch, smells of money (well, gardenia, but you know what I mean) and looks like the type of product your cool graphic designer boyfriend would appreciate.
But is it worth it? That’s harder to answer. Remove the rose-tinted glasses and £140 is slightly obscene for just a lipstick case, no matter how beautifully crafted, especially in the cost of living crisis. I also have to admit that the refills (£65 each) are unnecessarily costly, given they are twice as expensive as that of a regular Chanel lipstick refill.
That said, however, there’s no denying that the psychology of luxury will make Chanel 31 Le Rouge catnip for die-hard beauty and fashion fans. The fact that each shade captures a moment in Coco Chanel’s life means it could even be considered a purse-friendly second best to the iconic tweed jacket, where every stitch speaks to the heritage of the House.
But maybe there’s also something more meaningful at play here. At the launch, a fellow beauty editor took a long time swatching each shade until she’d found the perfect one. When I asked her about it, she explained that this lipstick is so special, she’s going to save it for her wedding day and then hand it down to her future daughter or daughter-in-law on her special day.
Perhaps this is a more practical way to look at the Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipsticks – as a purchase to mark a milestone or a special occasion rather than something that’s going to loll around on the bottom of your everyday makeup bag.
I remember when my great aunt died she left me her beautiful powder and rouge compacts. All were in pristine condition, the metal intricately embossed with art deco designs, and refillable in an age when soothing your eco conscience wasn’t even a consideration. With magpie keenness, I was desperate to play with them as a child and remember the care she would take pulling the compact out of her handbag for a delicate midday top up.
Maybe Chanel 31 Le Rouge is the chic, modern-day equivalent of those compacts – an heirloom beauty product that stands the test of time.
For more from Fiona Embleton, GLAMOUR’s Acting Associate Beauty Director, follow her on @fiembleton.
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