About 13 years ago, I sat across from a PR for Tom Ford and wondered aloud whether anyone would really spend that much on a lipstick. With his lacquered-cased, embossed-bullet luxury lip colour, Ford had crashed through the £25 threshold and, fabulous though it was (and remains), the price tag was all anyone in the beauty world could talk about.
Fast forward to 2023 and any doubts I had about Ford now seem laughable. Super-expensive luxury lipsticks are a thriving category of their own. While the sharp increase in consumer interest in more sustainable packaging options has inspired several big brands to create top-tier lipsticks in eco-friendlier refillable cases.
Chanel’s new 31 Le Rouge is not so much a lipstick as an heirloom in a plastic-free, art deco-inspired case
La Bouche Rouge built a whole brand around its version. The small-batch lip colours (available in matte and satin in 22 shades) arrive in a tasteful, plastic-free bullet (£36), to be clicked into a beautiful, handmade case (£22) crafted from luxury leather offcuts from Tanneries du Puy, the French tannery used – and owned – by Hermès Paris. To make it even more personal, you can order a bespoke shade of La Bouche Rouge lipstick from a vast chart and have initials heat-stamped on to the case. The lipstick is refillable, interchangeable and among my most ecstatically received birthday and Christmas presents for girlfriends.
If the name Hermès has piqued your interest, you’re likely to love the brand’s exquisite refillable lipsticks (£62-£66). Hermès is known for its deliciously saturated leather shades, and so the ombré-lacquered refillable lipstick cases designed by Pierre Hardy look just the part.
The lipstick itself is perfect, and if you’re choosing a special gift and daren’t risk the wrong shade, the Lip Enhancer (a translucent matte balm in clear or very sheer shades of rose, pink and apricot) is an entirely safe bet for any fashion fan or luxury lover.
For someone even bolder, consider Dries Van Noten’s gloriously designed refillable lipsticks with mismatched lids and bases (£62 for both). I want them all. Most decadent of all is Chanel’s new 31 Le Rouge, coming in at £140 – and flying. Not so much a lipstick as an heirloom, the plastic-free, art deco-inspired case (£65) is made from faceted glass and metal and is infinitely refillable.
There are just 12 shades here (the Julie Christie-esque Rouge Beige is very Chanel and my favourite), but a tight edit seems appropriate and the formula – creamy, comfy and moisturising – is suitably sublime.
Photographer’s assistant: Declan Slattery. Lipsticks: Rouge Hermès, Shiny, Limited edition