To get to the 2017 Dior cruise show, VIPs took a very decadent train to Blenheim Palace. Likely, Peter Philips, the creative and image director of Christian Dior Makeup, did not travel in such relaxed luxury, since he was there early overseeing creating the graphic mink-brown eyelids on 55 models (including the brand’s newest face, Bella Hadid). But he does pride himself with being a very capable traveler and even more efficient packer. Here, he reveals how he fits everything he needs for the show into two carry-ons, how he got into makeup, and why his mother took forever to let him do hers.
What was your first cologne?
Geoffrey Beene Grey Flannel. I must have been about 15 or so. I loved the packaging and I loved the smell. It came in a gray flannel pouch; I thought it was so luxurious. I went to Catholic school in a uniform, and my trousers were flannel, so I thought, “Ok. This makes sense.”
Did you buy it with your own money?
Did you have a job?
Yeah, my parents had a catering business so I worked on the weekends.
How did you get into makeup?
I always had an artistic direction. My father is a painter, so I guess that’s where I got it. I was always drawing. I went to art school, and I also wanted to do fashion, but there were precedents. My parents wanted me to first get a degree, in graphic design for advertising. It was all manual because this was the 80's; there were no computers. During my last two years at Antwerp Academy, I went to the Belgium designers' shows to help dress the models, and that’s when I discovered that whole world of backstage—the hair and makeup, all of it. I thought, “Ohhh, this seems much more exciting.” I had already done makeup on friends; also, when my fellow students and I got hold of i-D or The Face, I realized that I was looking at the faces, not the clothes! I thought, "That’s not a good sign if I want to go in fashion!"
What about makeup inspired you?
The force and power of transformation. Seeing the girls come in the way they are, and then being transformed into an Ann Demeulemeester girl or a Martin Margiela girl, and it had nothing to do with their personality. That was magical for me. It kind of completed the vision of the design. And I had a ball the whole time backstage. There was music; it was fun. So I got my degree, but I went in another direction, which was makeup.
Did you go to cosmetology school?
I never really did the schooling. I learned some techniques for video, but when you have an art background, you’ve already learned a lot. I’d already learned how to paint, and I did photography when I did graphic design. So instead of spending money on schooling, I spent it on products. And because I went to art school, I knew a lot of photographers just starting out. So we did tests and tests.
I went to an agency with five photographs in my portfolio. I said, “I’ll do anything.” So, for the first few years, I did tons and tons of makeovers for magazines in Belgium. That was the best schooling, because you got everybody and everything—except no perfect models. Once in a while, you made some mistakes, although they usually looked better with the mistake than without any makeup!
Do you remember the first product that you really relied on when you started?
I took one course, and we had to buy a basic kit. I really relied on stick foundations and Kryolan professional makeup. The actual first products I got were from an editor. She was also on the jury of the academy and she was very excited about me getting into makeup, so she’d give me tons of products. And the first was a Givenchy eyeshadow palette, which I loved because it was so luxurious. And some Dior palettes and Dior lipstick, too, back when they were still in that blue and gold packaging.
I remember those.
Suddenly I had these precious, super expensive gems that I didn’t dare touch! I still have one of my first palettes and it’s not because I’m with Dior now. I took them out of the compacts and I glued them all together and made one big palette out of them. But they were all beiges and natural shades. This was in the 90's, which was all-natural makeup.
What’s always in your dopp kit?
Not much. Rene Furterer Catharme shampoo and their 2-phase liquid oil for scalp, deodorant, moisturizer, beard trimmer, and a throwaway Bic razor. I always have Chapstick, and I always have Dior’s cuticle oil in the tube. It’s genius.
What scent do you wear now?
There’s one fragrance I love, which I combine with other fragrances: Comme des Garcons No. 53. I think it’s a bit bizarre on its own, but it goes so well with other perfumes. I combine it with Dior’s Bois d’Argent. I do that in the summer, then I switch over to Comme’s Luxe Patchouli, combining it with Bois d’Argent. In the last year and a half, that’s all I’ve worn.
Is your mother into makeup?
She always wears makeup and I was obsessed by watching her do her own when I was younger. Actually, it took a long time before she let me do her makeup. Even after I was in magazines, she wouldn’t let me do it.
Does she let you do it now?
I did it once and she got so many compliments, so now she does.
Oh, that’s hysterical. Why do you think she wouldn’t let you?
Maybe she was like, “Oh, you’re always making up the young girls.” Or maybe she’d worry that I’d say, “Oh, it’s better to do it like that or like this,” and it would become a debate.
If you had five minutes to do a makeup look, what would you do?
Oh, I can do a lot in five minutes. A quick base, curl lashes with mascara, enhance the roots of the lashes and a little bit of color on the lips, and use the same lip color on the cheeks.
What products are always in your kit?
I travel very compactly. I’ve got two hand luggage size suitcases and I fit everything in them, which includes a whole range of foundations. One sheer formula, then Kevyn Aucoin full coverage if I need to go dramatic. And all my Dior eyeshadows are together.
If there was one Dior product you had to pick—if they said they’re taking everything away, and you could have one thing—what would it be?
Nice try. That’s cheating.