EXCLUSIVE: Violette Serrat to Create Makeup for Guerlain
PARIS — Violette Serrat will become the new creative director of makeup for Guerlain, WWD has learned.
The news confirms a WWD report on July 16.
On Aug. 1, Serrat, who goes by her first name professionally, will step into the position held for the past 21 years by Olivier Echaudemaison at the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton-owned house.
For Serrat, accepting the role at Guerlain was obvious.
“It’s like the history of our country,” she said, of the practically 200-year-old house, during an exclusive interview with WWD. “It’s really deep in the roots of my story. I grew up [in Paris] looking at this brand. The women around me — everybody had some products from Guerlain. So I thought: ‘When I grow up, I’ll use these products, too.’
“Today, being able to impact this historical brand is the biggest honor — it’s incredible,” she said.
Serrat lauded Echaudemaison’s creation of the house’s “library of products.”
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“It’s definitely very inspiring,” she continued.
Serrat — a self-taught makeup artist who studied fashion design and art before stints at Dior and the Estée Lauder Cos. — will toggle between Paris and New York, where she’s lived for six years and runs her cosmetics brand Violette_FR, which launched in April.
“For me, what is Guerlain? It is an haute couture house of beauty,” Serrat said. “My number-one priority right now is to revise the entire library, modernize the formula, maybe stop some products and launch new ones. We need to work on the essentials — the classic wardrobe of makeup needs to be impeccable. Then we are working on the image. Of course, my goal is to tell the story of this maison.”
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This will not happen overnight.
“I really want to put my nose in the archives for days and find out who is Guerlain at its core,” she continued. “That’s the heartbeat I am going to give in a creative way to the brand.”
Serrat views the role of makeup today as twofold. One is to transform a face and give someone confidence.
“And I see the other way, where it’s about celebrating, having fun and accepting who we are in a more natural way,” she explained. “That’s what I’m leaning toward. I don’t want makeup to be your support system. I want it to be your best friend, [like] somebody with whom you can have fun.”
In the U.S., Serrat is widely known through social media, whereas in her native France, that’s not the case. There, she made her name more at Dior and through editorial work.
In the U.S., she started a YouTube channel not to ride the wave of social media but due to her love of the windows it creates to the wide world.
“I’m a people person,” Serrat said. “This is what I enjoy so much.”
Her idea was to teach people how to apply makeup to celebrate themselves.
“It was a very therapeutic kind of tool I was trying to put in place, and that’s how I started building a community,” she said.
Serrat prefers to use social media as a way to connect. “But this is not the reality of a relationship,” she said. “Let’s meet up.”
Véronique Courtois, chief executive officer of Guerlain, said she chose Serrat in part because she and the brand are quintessential Parisians.
“Violette is for me the most Parisian makeup artist in the world,” Courtois said.
The executive had been watching Serrat’s career and knew her talent.
Along with bringing the Parisian spirit back to Guerlain, Serrat can inject it with youth, Courtois continued.
“She has the possibility and creativity to write this new chapter of Guerlain — in an extremely feminine way…and with a free spirit,” Courtois said. “Violette is the one who will be able to pass on this heritage to the new generations. She’s the translator of this.”
Courtois said Echaudemaison helped forge Guerlain’s heritage.
He was probably the first makeup artist in France to become a society-page fixture in his own right.
Since Echaudemaison’s apprenticeship to hair maestro Alexandre de Paris at the age of 16, he has primped — and befriended — women in the public eye, from the young Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Wallis Simpson to Marella Agnelli, Josephine Baker and various royals.
A WWD article published on Jan. 14, 1972, said Echaudemaison did Baroness Guy de Rothschild’s evening makeup for her family’s “Proust” ball.
In that same article, Echaudemaison said what he tries to do “is to teach [women] to be more daring. To keep their own personality, but to use makeup as the indispensable accessory.”
He worked on fashion shoots for Vogue’s Diana Vreeland in the company of legendary talents such as Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton and David Bailey.
That was before Echaudemaison landed at Givenchy, where he served as artistic director for makeup for 10 years, starting in 1988, after work at Harriet Hubbard Ayer and some other brands.
Echaudemaison created the first makeup line for Givenchy.
In a WWD article dating from Dec. 9, 1988, that makeup collection was described as including a tight selection of products: three foundations, two tinted moisturizers, nine lipsticks, two mascaras, five single eye shadows, two blushes, one pressed powder and a “powder prism.”
“The prism, the most unusual item in the line, is comprised of four raised pans of salmon, apricot, pink and mauve powder held in one unit,” the article said.
It was an innovative idea, which allowed people to mix their own color.
That prism is iconic today.
“I always think makeup is a lot like cooking,” Echaudemaison said at the time.
Also new was leaving it up to the consumer to decide whether Givenchy would alter its collection with new products, rather than sticking to the traditional two color stories a year.
Then in 2000, Echaudemaison boldly requested an audience with LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault.
“I asked him to give me sleeping beauty,” said Echaudemaison, referring to Guerlain, in an interview with WWD published on Nov. 29, 2004. “He wasn’t sure what I was talking about.”
But Echaudemaison walked out of the meeting as the house’s artistic director of makeup.
He subsequently introduced more modern colors and textures into Guerlain’s mix, such as expanding the Terracotta line of bronzing products and introducing “bubble blush,” applied with the fingers.
“It needed to be more fun,” he said during that interview. “Makeup is about fun and freedom — about reconnecting, if only for a few minutes, with the delight of a little girl playing with her mom’s makeup.”
Echaudemaison modernized Terracotta, Rouge Automatique and Météorites, and created top sellers for Guerlain — especially lipsticks — including Kiss Kiss, the long-lasting lipstick in modern, metallic packaging that came out in 2005.
In 2009, his brainchild Rouge G — a lipstick in metal packaging nodding to minaudière purses from the 1930s — was launched. Cracking the traditional codes of lipstick packaging, it lays on its side and flips open to reveal two mirrors.
Today, two Terracotta products remain the top two bestselling makeup products in France. Guerlain’s strongest geographic markets are Europe and Asia.
Echaudemaison published his life story, “Les Couleurs de Ma Vie” (or “The Colors of My Life”) in 2004. It traces his path from an unhappy childhood in the Périgord region of France to his triumph in Paris as style consultant to the most glamorous women in the 20th century.
Echaudemaison was promoted to the grade of Officer of Arts and Letters in France in March 2019.
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