Chanel’s Rouge Noir has quite rightly become the most iconic shade of all time. Debuted at Paris Fashion Week in the mid-90s as a striking Le Vernis nail enamel, the hue is still one of the most coveted—and questionably duped—color in both fashion and beauty history.
But while the legendary status of Rouge Noir is unwavering, the origin of the red-black is surrounded by urban myth. How did this popular shade come into fruition? Scroll down for everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the cult classic color.
It’s true that the Le Vernis Rouge Noir was first debuted at the A/W 94 Chanel show, but the relationship between the hue and the label dates even further back. In an article titled "Seeing the Mode in Color" , which appeared in the May 1926 issue of U.S Vogue, Mademoiselle Chanel’s preference for the shade is duly noted. Describing the color before it was given its iconic name, the article reads: “Black and white are joined by red, a garnet shade, like the heart of a black cherry, which Chanel uses frequently and which is often called ‘red-black.’” Little did anyone know, this red-black hue was going to change the history of our nails, past and present.
It’s the shade that’s sparked a thousand imitations ( and we truly mean it), it was surprising to learn that the color was actually born out of a pre Chanel show accident. Ahead of the A/W 94 collection debut in Paris, makeup artist Heidi Morawetz realized that she had no polish for the models' nails. She then mixed together black and red pigments on her kitchen table in a panic, before giving a rudimentary version of what came to be the coveted Le Vernis Rouge Noir, to the manicurist backstage. Journalists saw the striking new color and needless to say, the crowd went wild.
Following the raging success of the newly formulated nail polish at the runway show, the shade was in immediate demand overnight. Laboratories in America were the first to produce high-quality batches of the nail enamel and rapidly launched it under the name "Vamp"—even though the now-iconic Rouge Noir had already been given a name by the House of Chanel in Paris.
In America, people lined the pavements outside Barney’s the day “Vamp” was due to hit counters, and the polish even made the news on CNN. In the UK, it sold out on the same day it first became available, sparking waiting lists of 6–12 months. It's still the best-selling Chanel product today, raking in over $1 million in its first year alone.
Some memorable moments with the iconic color are Uma Thurman wearing it in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Then, it made a notable appearance in Madonna's "Take a Bow" music video.
Get your hands on the coveted nail polish hue below