Interview: Peter Philips On Dior Backstage Beauty's Middle East Launch

BY Louise Nichol / Jun 3 2018 / 19:13 PM

Whether you’re a YouTube pro or prefer to rely on products to do the work for you, it’s time to get acquainted with the latest in professional performance make-up

With the second largest YouTube community in the world, the Middle East is home to a plethora of beauty bloggers, vloggers and influencers; chances are you’ve posted #highlightonfleek on your own social media platforms. And if we’re not making beauty tutorials, we’re following them; in our millions. It’s no wonder, then, that Dior Beauty chose the Middle East for the global launch of its new cosmetics collection inspired by professional make-up artists.

Dior Backstage is a distilled offering of all the tools, textures and tones that Dior’s pro-team of make-up artists, led by Peter Philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup, use on fashion photography shoots and for catwalk shows.

“With YouTube and tutorials women have become experts and the fear of make-up has gone,” Peter explains, speaking to Bazaar on the launch. “I remember when most questions were about giving a solution fora problem: ‘How do I apply my foundation? How do I do a perfect lip, a smoky eye?’ Now, it’s like, ‘Where can I get the product?’ They know the solutions, the fear of it has gone. That’s due to tutorials and seeing other people doing make-up. ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’ Make-up has become such an accessible and not scary thing,” he smiles.

Conversely, by answering the needs of those of us who live to capture our contour, Dior is also making pro-make-up accessible to women whose highlighting experience is limited to a Stabilo Boss in fluorescent yellow. “These are efficient products that provide a professional result but are simple to apply,” surmises Peter. “I don’t expect you to be a make-up artist. The tools will do the work for you. She can become her own professional make-up artist because there are no mistakes possible, everything matches and blends.”

He is keen to point out that Dior is not looking to compete with the professional make-up artist-led brands already on the market, but to amplify Dior’s 50-plus years of experience creating make-up looks for its own fashion shows. “We are not a professional brand. We are a luxury house who has their own backstage, and that’s the point of view,” he asserts.

With its dual appeal – for both the new generation of make-up pros who have learned everything they know from YouTube, as well as women who lack confidence in their own ability and want to feel like they have a pocket-sized make-up artist in their cosmetics bag – Dior Backstage cleverly flips between two customer bases.

And beyond the inherent ease of application it promises, the collection also flexes its finishes with buildable textures from barely-there to fully-filtered. “The young generation now like full-on make-up,” Peter observes of the trending look seen through a social-media sphere, “They expect to look photo-perfect, even though it’s a combination of filters. Quite often, if you see them in real life,it’s heavy handed.”

For those of us over a certain age, however, heavy foundation and powdered finishes are the ultimate ageing culprit. “Not everyone wants cake,” Peter agrees, “The Face and Body foundation is natural, and the shades make it simple for women who want easy-to-apply make-up. It’s so easy to wear that the formulas are also adjustable for the mature woman.”

Peter’s talking about the star product within the Dior Backstage collection, Face and Body Foundation, Dhs184, which is designed to survive in the harsh and hot lighting of catwalk shows and fashion shoots, making it the perfect foil for the heat and humidity of the Gulf. Dior consulted its global markets in order to ensure that all of its customers’ skin tones are represented, resulting in plenty of olive-based shades for the Middle East, and culminating in a total of 40 shades, blending 16 levels of intensity with six different undertones.

The foundation is designed to offer a made-to-measure finish depending on the application method, which will determine the level of coverage. Use your fingertips for light coverage; the flat brush creates medium coverage; while a round foundation buffing brush will blend to a full coverage finish. The brushes, from Dhs150 to Dhs375, are as much a part of the kit as the colour products, and are based on the shape of Peter’s own brushes which, after years of use, have been moulded into precision feature-contouring shapes. “The shape of the brush actually has an impact on your make-up,” he says.

To complement the foundation, there’s a contour palette which even the most Kardashian-averse will want to try, with four shades from lightest tan to fortnight-in-the-Maldives bronze. “I have been contouring since day one. But we did it very subtly and then it grew and grew and grew and became really extreme,” says Peter of the face-shading technique that polarises devotees of the cut cheek and those terrified of ‘visible’ make-up.

He has already noticed a tempering of the more extreme interpretations of the technique, which have taken over social media. “It’s a bit like the shoulder pads in the ’80s; it starts off small but then suddenly it’s too much. It doesn’t mean that the shoulder pads disappear, they just became more reasonable,” he says. “I think that extreme contouring is fading out but we keep the best of it. A bit of contouring with blush, highlighting; not the drag queen-inspired contouring any more. We went through that phase of extreme and now we’re back to basics.” And while it is possible to create a Kardashian contour with the palette, should you so desire, the shades are blendable to allow for what Peter describes as “almost invisible contouring.”

Perhaps even more essential than a contour to Dior’s army of millennial followers, ably led by Bella Hadid, is the light-catching gleam of a highlighted cheekbone. Step forward Dior Backstage’s Glow palette, which can be used for an icy finish or a warmer glow to fake sunset hour. “It gives that visual sensation,” Peter promises, adding, “A few years ago ‘natural’ was all about glow and shine. Now it’s going less in that direction. It’s luminosity, but less shine now.”

Designed with the convenience of modern life in mind, the nine-shade lip palette “can do almost anything”, Peter promises. From natural, glossy finishes through to matte satin, it’s a truly customisable way of applying lip colour. “Any way you combine them, they match together. It’s a no-brainer,” he smiles. Likewise the two eye palettes, in easy-to-navigate warm or cool, are, according to Peter, “Eye-palettes where you don’t have to be an expert. There are no mistakes.” So even if you’ve never seen a YouTube tutorial in your life, you’ll be able to make like a make-up pro. All the palettes, which include a brow kit with setting wax and two shades of powder, come packaged in transparent compacts so you can see the products at a glance – a neat trick that is as essential for women-on-the-run as it is for professional make-up artists.

For now, Dior Backstage is comprised of essentials. The foundations of your make-up maison if you will. However, plans are afoot to expand it to encompass the more outré side of editorial beauty – glitter and “things that are too extreme for the [main] Dior line,” Peter says. However, at its core, Dior Backstage celebrates Peter’s manifesto to, “Share my expertise and my experience to facilitate easy make-up.” This is real make-up, applied realistically, for real women. “My make-up is real and I think that shows people that it’s possible,” he says. “If you love make-up and playing with make-up, the possibilities are endless.”

From the June issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia