I Asked Chanel's Chief Makeup Artist to Turn Me Into a French Model
Lucia Pica and I have barely exchanged pleasantries before I decide that I would blindly take any advice she had to offer me. It's not just because she's a renowned makeup artist or Chanel's global creative makeup and color designer, for that matter; I've been devouring her Instagram feed and flawless beauty campaigns for years, after all. CV aside, in person, the Italy-born Pica is both infectiously warm and impossibly chic—and I basically want to have whatever she's having.
The good news is that for the next hour, I'll be totally immersed in her world. Pica is in Los Angeles to promote Chanel's upcoming Travel Diary makeup collection—which just so happens to be inspired by a recent road trip Pica took from L.A. to Big Sur, photographer and friend Max Farago in tow. The room where we chat is essentially set up as a giant mood board: Sumptuously colored snapshots of orange-tinged sunsets, tree bark, and an uncharacteristically beautiful Los Angeles River line the walls and tables, and products from the collection are strewn about the images that inspired them.
"I wanted to take myself outside in the world and see—to be inspired by what’s happening in the moment," Pica says of the idea to take this trip up the California coast. "The idea of creating my own content for my collection was interesting because it was a way of getting deeper into things but also sharing that personal experience. That’s exactly what luxury should be right now."
But while the journey was pre-meditated, the resulting collection was totally organic. "It was very authentic and very spontaneous," she tells me. "We embarked on this road trip not really knowing much about where we were going to go or what we were going to find. But that’s what's also interesting about doing it—pushing yourself into new places and environments. For yourself, not just for what you're going to see."
And every item in the Travel Diary collection is an undeniable echo of what Pica saw: A stormy-colored nail lacquer harkens the gray sky above crashing waves; an eye shadow palette of deep aquas and pink-tinged neutrals offers a deconstructed view of the L.A. River. And as we continue to talk about each product, Pica delivers gem after gem of must-know beauty advice—from the key to flawless-looking skin to establishing a makeup uniform. Best of all, she offers to demonstrate the new collection on me.
Keep reading for Pica's best makeup pointers—and to see the look she created on me.
1. Look for color in everything.
Think about it: Pica and her team essentially have to come up with an entire collection of new makeup shades each season. "I never knew I could make so many reds!" she half-jokes. "I definitely think about colors in a much more intense way than I used to." At a certain point, she explains, different hues start taking on different personalities—not to mention that the self-described daydreamer sees them virtually everywhere.
Consider the story behind one of the brand's new Rouge Allure Velvet lipstick shades, a magnetic orange-red called First Light. "There was a moment where we were traveling throughout the day, and I was getting a little bit scared I wasn’t actually going to get many colors because everything looked so beige and brown and very blue from the sea," Pica says. "I'm like, 'Oh god—I don't know if I can make a collection out of this.' And then the light started to change, and we saw all these colors in the sea; in the brightening sky. And then we turned the car's headlights on, and that made the orange go even brighter, and I was sure that was going to become the lipstick."
Even for those of us who aren't formulating luxury makeup products for the masses, it's a lesson in inspiration: If you take the time to observe your surroundings and see a shade that speaks to you, why shouldn't you adopt that as your own?
2. Borrow inspiration from the runway, too.
As part of her demonstration of the new collection, Pica walks me over to two models wearing highly editorial looks: The first wears blue jewel-toned eye shadow with deep red lipstick while the other has a shock of that orange-red lipstick paired with a sultry bronze smoky eye. Both looks are absolutely stunning—the kind of artistry you'd see on an haute couture runway—but I can't imagine any occasion when I'd wear something like that IRL. So I voice my thoughts to Pica: "Is there a way to channel that high fashion aesthetic without feeling like I'm playing dress-up?"
The secret, she explains, is to borrow certain elements instead of piling it all on. "The fact that this is a [heavier] blue palette it doesn't mean that you have to do your makeup like that," she says. "You can use it as a little bit of an eyeliner around the lashes, and you can choose to use one color from the palette—you don't have to use them all." Using a lighter hand is also an option—those pigments don't have to be quite so saturated.
At this point I (rather enthusiastically) offer myself up as her guinea pig, and she applies a muted version of one of the model's looks: a pop of that First Light lipstick, paired with a smudge of the brand's Ombre Première Longwear Cream Eyeshadow ($36) in a dark bronze hue. It's both understated and incredibly chic, and suddenly I feel the urge to adopt tangerine lipstick as my uniform.
In the end, Pica says, "It's all about expressing personality—it doesn't have to alienate anyone."
3. Make your skin look "translucent."
There's another trick to making even avant-garde makeup look relatively effortless and, well, French: a translucent-looking complexion. "You want to still see the woman behind [the makeup]," Pica explains. "You're enhancing certain areas of your face … [but] you're still able to see the texture of the skin."
That means taking a lighter hand with foundation, and only applying a sheer layer of your go-to formula to areas of the face that truly need it—better yet, just brush on a touch of concealer wherever necessary and call it a day. (And it goes without saying, but a solid skincare routine makes all the difference.)
4. Interchange your lip and cheek colors for an ultra-flattering glow.
It's a trick that makeup artists—Pica included—swear by for a lit-from-within flush. "It's a way to sculpt the face but leave it quite fresh and natural," she says.
"It's all about expressing personality—it doesn't have to alienate anyone."
5. Find your version of "natural."
In other words, if something works for you, go ahead and adopt it as your uniform. "I like to wear lipstick all the time—this is my way of looking 'natural,'" Pica explains. "This one shade is perfect for me."
She points to another Chanel colleague with a similar red lip and a luminescent complexion as another example. "She's wearing the strong lips, and she's got almost nothing else," she says. "She's only got mascara and this porcelain skin. So that's another look that is not too strong, but it's strong at the same time because it’s having made that choice. It's a statement, and I think that's courageous."
And with that, we say our goodbyes, and I leave this little corner of Pica's world clutching my new orange lipstick.
Chanel's Travel Diary collection will be available next month.