“I love an Arab woman,” exclaims Bella Hadid, herself half Palestinian. The face of Dior make-up, and younger sister of model Gigi, was born in 1996 to real estate developer Mohamed Hadid and his second wife, the Dutch former model Yolanda. “Ever since I was a kid I had my Arabic side of the family. I’ve always seen the women and how they put their make-up on,” she says from her hotel in Dubai, leafing through the pages of Bazaar’s 10th anniversary issue and alighting on images of the Arab models Shanina Shaik, Hind Sahli and Hanna Ben Abdesslem, their eyes accented with dramatic kohl liner. “It’s so similar! I’m smiling because I feel like it’s coming back to me from then and it makes me really happy to think about my dad’s side of the family,” she adds.
Peter Philips, creative and image director of Dior make-up, is equally enamoured with the Middle Eastern embrace of beauty. “The advantage here is that they have great eyes – a lot of space to do make-up on – beautifully drawn eyebrows. They’re a great canvas to play with. You can go really far without looking fake,” he says of women in the region, adding, “There’s been a huge evolution. I believe there’s been a growth in the perception of beauty and it’s less about the mask. They used to be into trying to transform their appearance and now it’s moved to enhancing their appearance.” Indeed, as women increasingly become more visible in the Arab world, make-up plays an ever-more important role in the cultural conversation. “Make-up is so empowering, especially here,” Bella says. “The great thing here,” Peter adds, “make-up is not used to hide behind but to show yourself.”
“It really is a celebration of being a woman,” agrees Bella. “It’s all about enhancing the beautiful big lips, the smoky eye, the brows, enhancing every part of the face in a beautiful way.” The region’s signature of what Peter lists as “lashes, contouring, lipstick, foundation” is visibly influencing global beauty trends too. “I think there’s a lot of people who also have their make-up subconsciously inspired by Middle Eastern women. You see it a lot of the time,” Bella observes. “The European approach is more conceptual and fashion-driven. It’s an intellectual approach which gives great images but is not necessarily what every woman wants,” Peter explains. “What a woman wants at the end of the day is great cheekbones, beautiful eye make-up, a gorgeous lip and glowy skin. That’s something which is really in the roots of the aesthetic here and it’s spreading out through social media.”
Both agree that social media is an incredible platform for beauty expression, with Bella confessing to watching YouTube tutorials whenever she is jetlagged. “I found this new trick, something called baking. You put your face in water and the powder is set. I have no idea how!” While not an advocate of baking per se, Peter appreciates the phenomenal impact social media has had on the beauty world. “It’s a huge source of information and entertainment. Not all of them are accurate,” he warns, “but it shows a lot about the fun of make-up and discovery. There’s a lot of strange videos and tutorials but there are also lots of ones that can show you tricks and trends that you wouldn’t dare on your own.” This approach, he says, is in sync with Dior’s own beauty roots, ever since the house released its first lipstick in 1953. “One of the early slogans is ‘Dare with Dior’,” he points out. “There were some really extreme ads in the ’60s and ’70s that would be perfect for tutorials today.” Yet while the reach of the internet’s beauty-pros is seemingly endless, the scope of their role is very different to Peter’s 9-to-5. “When you see a tutorial it’s about one person who shares his or her experience with make-up in their little world. They play with contouring and colours and putting your head in a bowl of water,” he smiles. “What I do, with the heritage of the house, is create collections for women worldwide with different cultures, different expectations, different climates, skin tones, ethnicities.” So, social media: friend or foe? “It’s good that it’s there, it’s opened a lot of doors. Now it’s about using your own intelligence and your own instincts to filter out what is good for you and what is not good for you,” Peter counsels. “You can’t forget that there’s a real world with real lights and no filters and real people,” he says of selfie-designed make-up.
Bella admits that her own experience with cosmetics only began in earnest when she started modelling two years ago, spending her formative years focused on skincare, as advised by her mother, and only occasionally sneaking in some eyeliner. “My mum was iffy about the make-up situation. She always said, no make-up until you can buy your own and know exactly how you want to be portrayed, ” she smiles. “Now, you turn 12 and you’ve got your lip liner popping,” she laughs of today’s cosmetically clued-up teens. “Girls genuinely at 13 years old love to wear make-up. It’s revolutionary.” Bella has joined the beauty playground with gusto. “Now, I love it. I love putting on make-up and doing my friends’ make-up. It’s such a bonding tool. We’ll be going to dinner and someone’s trying to do her eyeliner and my girlfriend will come and fix the wing, or I’ll say, ‘OMG this lipstick looks perfect on you.’”
As a man, Peter enjoys a different perspective from his side of the make-up chair. “Some girls prefer to be made up by a man because it eliminates the competition,” he confides. “Sometimes, when a woman does make-up on another woman there’s a thing like, ‘Okay maybe she doesn’t want to make me too sexy.’ I think it’s good to have a man’s input.”
The male and female dynamic is especially strong at Dior following the appointment of artistic director Maria Grazia Chiuri, the first female creative head in the storied house’s 70-year history. “It’s very empowering for me to watch her go to Dior,” says Bella, who is the same age as Maria Grazia’s daughter Rachele, “It’s incredible that she can come into a huge house like Dior and set it on fire.” Turning her debut collection for spring/summer 2017 into a political moment with Dior’s ‘We should all be feminists’ slogan tees, Maria Grazia has given her fashion proposition a social conscience. “We should all be feminists,” Bella cries. “It’s beautiful that she was able to make a statement about something we are going through in the real world.” As Peter adds, “Men can’t do without women and women can’t do without men. It’s about that equality and finding the right balance.” Dior, and women around the world, are fortunate to have the power pairing of Peter Philips and Maria Grazia Chiuri united for feminism and female liberation far beyond one T-shirt. “Trends come and go but it’s important that this stays,” he says. With switched-on cheerleaders such as Bella Hadid in their camp, Dior’s future looks powerful.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia.