Monday, August 10, 2009

Savoir Serge!

As long as I can remember I have always devoured magazines and clipped and pulled pages out of articles or advertisements that interested me. Now I have a filing cabinet bursting at the seams with all sorts of ephemera. I recall when I first came across Serge Lutens' work. There popping out of the pages from one of my sister’s magazines was an ad for Christian Dior makeup created by Serge Lutens and called “les fantastiques”. Of course I tore it out and couldn’t wait for the next collection to be released. I wasn’t disappointed and next month another add appeared for Dior called “les rythymiques” I thought these were two of the most beautiful things I had ever seen and still have them.

“les rythmiques’ was Lutens last work for Dior before he went to the Japanese giant Shiseido, and his work just got better! During the sixties he had been well known and creative; however, it wasn’t until 1980 that Lutens took his rightful place as a true innovator with Shiseido hiring him to develop their image internationally. His exquisite pioneering looks for Shiseido were breathtakingly beautiful and precise, and throughout the 1980s he shot numerous advertising campaigns and films and also designed makeup and packaging.

Shiseido’s campaigns under Lutens encompassed everything from copy, packaging and creative direction. If you bought a Shiseido product in the early 80’s it came in an exquisite shopping bag with a photo of the then current campaign. I still have several of these bags and treasure them dearly. His projects for Shiseido perfectly combine the aesthetics of Japanese design with French chic, creating memorable images.
In 1982, Shiseido commissioned him to create the fragrance "Nombre Noir". Both the fragrance and its packaging were considered ahead of their time. In 1990 he received "Le Grand Prix" at the International Art Film Festival, sponsored by UNESCO. Since his early days with Shiseido ha has gone onto to create the now famous "Les Salons du Palais Royal", a house of perfume. In 2000, he launched his own brand "Parfums-Beaute Serge Lutens".


  1. I very clearly remember those Shiseido ads. Great to hear the story behind them.

  2. I also greatly admire the genius and creativity of Serge Lutens. Like Christian Berard, Rene Gruau, Chris von Waggenheim,and Roger Vivier, he is one of the many brilliant people who worked under the Christian Dior label.

    Like you, I saved many of the ads. I think eventually Dior got rid of him because he was just too sophisticated and artsy to be commercial. Not many women in middle America would necessarily admire his Kabuki like aesthetic.

    I also think it is typical of the French, that an artist wouldn't have a problem working for a large commercial corporation. I cannot remotely imagine such an alliance with a company such as Estee lauder that has products of excellent quality, but one cannot say that they are promoted with savoir faire!
    Thanks for writing about this creative genius. More people should know about him.

  3. Square, I think as you say now most cosmetic companies play it very safe when presenting a new look, and nothing like Lutens' work filters down to the mainstream any more. Dior after Lutens' had a Vietnemese gentleman as an artistic director whose looks were slightly tamer.

    Love Berard,Gruau,Vivier and also Vertes who did a lot of work for Schiaparelli.

  4. Hiya, I've 'borrowed' one of your Shiseido images for my blog - hope you don't mind. I've linked back to you. Coincidentally in this same post I mention 'Charade' which I see is one of your fave films - and we're both Aussies. Thanks!

  5. Whoops! Forgot to provide a link to my blog for you to see:


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