There’s an obvious paradox in building a beauty brand that rejects the generally accepted feminine ideal – but if anyone is up to the task, it’s Lucia Pica.
Since taking the helm of Byredo’s burgeoning make-up line last year (following a lengthy tenure at Chanel) the make-up artist has been working on bringing her unique take on colour to a new audience, eschewing the easy-win neutral eyeshadows and pink lipsticks to instead explore a more sensitive interpretation of beauty.
While many brands vying for space in today’s modern make-up market have tied themselves in knots, marketing acceptance and inclusivity while shilling emotion-masking foundations and structure-shifting contour sticks, Byredo’s message is refreshingly clear: make-up is a mirror for emotions, not a tool for self-improvement. Here, carnal red colour palettes mimic the elation and heartbreak of falling in love, while multi-use colour sticks come in a spectrum that runs from coquettish pearly pink to armour-like silver.
‘I want people’s make-up to represent the way they feel,’ Pica tells ELLE. ‘With Byredo, it’s always about representing an emotion, whether it’s via a bright and sparkly moment or something more muted, or mysterious.’ But even in the sweetest of shades, there’s a rebellious undertone: that coveted cool-girl attitude that made the brand a cult fragrance hit is always present. ‘I'm always trying to combine classicism and subversion: that’s when you get something edgier,’ she adds.
Pica masterfully dodges the commercial make-up trap, avoiding products designed to correct or conceal, and instead offering colour to encourage creativity. ‘Of course, I do believe in using make-up to enhance features, but it is also a tool that you can use to express yourself, your creativity, your personality,’ she says.
For many of us, our everyday make-up routine – the rigid ritual of concealing, carving, exaggerating – may seem like it’s helping us to feel more ourselves, but are we simply abiding by the rules the industry has ingrained in us? ‘We’re all different: there isn’t just one standard of beauty,’ says Pica. “I don’t believe we all want to go around wearing the same look: we have different shaped faces, different lips, and that’s where the beauty is.’
Pica’s latest Byredo launch is a gateway into this unrestricted realm of make-up: if the brand’s red liners and glinting flamingo eyeshadows feel intimidating, Liquid Lipstick Matte is the place to start. A riff on the brand’s vinyl-shine formula, this velvety sibling is unlike most matte formulas, offering a creamy texture that doesn’t dry on lips or flake away during the day. The colours run from pale taupes to rich blood reds, with every shade tweaked to ensure it looks good on every skin tone, whether applied for an opaque stamped-on effect or blurred with a finger for a softer stain. ‘It’s really thin and moisturising, so it stays on but it doesn't dry your lips,’ says Pica.
It’s on first application that you really understand why Pica is considered such a master of colour. ‘I focus on the roundness of each shade, so I’m not just giving you the primary colour,’ she says. ‘So for example, the burgundy doesn’t veer into violet. I’m giving you something that has undertones that feel more wearable: there’s a warmth to each shade.’
Pica doesn’t see her job as one of influence – she isn’t here to churn out microtrends, then teach us how to achieve them, but simply to ‘provide the tools for everybody to use to express themselves, without the pressure of having to look one way every day.’ Away from the world of Tiktok tutorials, lightning-speed ‘cores’ and impossible beauty standards, there’s so much joy to be found in make-up.
‘We're all different and beautiful and harmonious within all these kinds of shapes that we have on our faces. Why not celebrate that?'
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