Curator's Corner, 1/10/2016
New year, new basics (that are actually old)

True luxe: Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

As soon as I saw these new lipstick cases at Chic Profile I knew I had to have one, no matter the cost.  There were only 600 Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto leather cases produced and I was determined to snag one for the Museum.  Givenchy's Artistic Director for Makeup, Nicolas Degennes, worked with master gold and silver leaf artist Hiroto Rakusho to create these beauties.  They are all hand-painted with 22 carat gold, so supposedly no two are alike.  I wanted to see for myself so I ended up splurging on two cases from Harrod's (which customs held hostage for over a week) and I am pleased to say that they are truly unique. 

The cases are packaged in a fancy black woven box with a mirrored label.

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

I have to say I'm a little disappointed that these aren't numbered.  There were 1,450 Dior Bastet palettes made and those had the number etched on the back.  Less than half that amount was made by Givenchy, and for something they're touting as this rare and collectible (and given the hefty price tag) each one should be numbered. 

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Some detailed shots.

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Here's the other case.

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

I tried my darndest to find comprehensive information on the collaboration between Degennes and Rakusho, but what I was able to translate didn't make a lot of sense.  From what I could gather, Degennes and Rakusho met through a mutual friend/translator and began the design process in late 2014.  Rakusho was enthusiastic to work with Degennes due to his understanding of the traditional colors of Japan, along with the fact that Degennes gave him free reign to create whatever patterns he wanted - he trusted him completely.  The duo considered the possibility of making the cases from from kimono fabric or washi paper, which are the traditional mediums for Japanese metallic leaf art, but ultimately settled on leather.  This decision maintains Givenchy's signature lipstick packaging and also allows for a more durable product, as leather is hardier than fabric or paper.  Even though I can't imagine anyone carelessly tossing one of these cases into their makeup bag, it's still a smart move to make the case as sturdy as possible.  I also think purely from an aesthetic standpoint, the leaf looks really cool against the texture of the leather - it toughens it up a bit without losing the delicacy of the leaf.

Additionally, this site had a brief explanation as to why Degennes was in Japan in the first place, as well as his original inspiration behind Le Rouge Kyoto:  "Givenchy’s artistic director for make-up, Nicolas Degennes, has spent the past 15 years taking research trips to Japan to inform his own collections...in homage to the hand-painted screens of Kyoto’s ancient temples, Degennes teamed up with Hiroto Rakusho – a master of gold and silver leaf – to create unique pieces of art to wrap around 590 hand-made limited-edition lipsticks...they provide a fitting reminder of the two halves that seem to permeate everything in Japan: a rich cultural history, hiding just beneath the surface, which dances happily alongside a hunger for the bright, the shiny and the new. 'I’ve learnt a lot about [Japanese women’s] approach to beauty...how to play with textures and play with your look. What’s fantastic is how the women here can transform themselves, but in subtle ways.'"

Now a little bit about the artist himself.  Hiroto Rakusho was born and raised in Kyoto.  He learned the craft of gold and silver leaf application from his father, who was also a prominent artist trained in this area.  In 1997 Rakusho was awarded certification as a master of traditional handicrafts from Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.  He is a pioneer in the technique of digitally reproducing historic masterpieces housed in museums and temples, such as these folding screens. 

Hiroto Rakusho, Wind and Thunder Gods

Hiroto Rakusho, Bugaku Dancers

Hiroto Rakusho, Kabuki Drama

Hiroto Rakusho, Crest of Wave(images from gold-leaf-kyoto.com)

However, more recently Rakusho expanded his oeuvre to include his own personal art as well as collaborations with other artists and designers. In 2002 he registered his name as an independent brand, and ever since he has been exhibiting in galleries across Europe and the U.S.

Hiroto Rakusho, Gold

Hiroto Rakusho, Red

Hiroto Rakusho Infinity(images from hiroto-rakusho.com)

Givenchy's Le Rouge Kyoto may have been Rakusho's first foray into beauty, but he is no stranger to the world of Western fashion: in 2010 he teamed up with the Chado Ralph Rucci label on several collections.  Launched by designer Ralph Rucci in 1994, the Chado line's namesake refers to a Japanese tea ceremony and is inspired by Rucci's love of Japanese cultural traditions.  Obviously a partnership with a master of metallic leaf art, which holds extraordinary cultural significance in Japan, was a match made in heaven.  Some pieces and the original artwork:

Hiroto Rakusho/Ralph Rucci

Hiroto Rakusho

Hiroto Rakusho/Ralph Rucci

Hiroto Rakusho/Ralph Rucci

Hiroto Rakusho/Ralph Rucci(images from hiroto-rakusho.com)

Getting back to the Givenchy collection, I must admit that I have only the vaguest grasp of the actual application of the metallic leaf. The basic process is that gold and silver is hammered out into thin sheets, then the leaf is either glued to washi paper with a certain kind of lacquer or cut into extremely thin threads and woven into fabric, usually silk. 

Hiroto Rakusho at work

I guess what I'm not certain of is how the leaf is painted to make the colors on the lipstick cases.  It's hard to tell from photos and I couldn't find any video of the technique.  In the picture below I can see how he's attaching the gold leaf but I don't understand how the painting works...does he put the leaf on top of the paint?  How is it sticking to the leather?  What kind of paint is it, anyway?  I couldn't tell even looking at the cases in person!

Hiroto Rakusho at work

Anyway, while I'm still a little fuzzy on the details, here are some prototypes in their yet-to-be-wrapped form.  Neat!

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

Givenchy Le Rouge Kyoto

I love seeing that there were actual discussions about the collection, and Degennes and Rakusho seem pleased to be working with one another.

Nicolas Degennes and Hiroto Rakusho

Hiroto Rakusho and Nicolas Degennes
(images from tw.mobi.yahoo.com)

To conclude, naturally I loved this collaboration.  Givenchy's timeless style combined with incredibly luxurious materials handcrafted by a world-class artisan is an absolute win.  Not only are these cases unique, but beautiful to look at.  Plain metallic leaf would have been gorgeous, but the addition of abstract, subtly colorful patterns makes them even more exquisite and lends a modern touch.  Once again though, I must express my displeasure that these were not numbered editions.  Also, for the price it may not have killed Givenchy to include a lipstick refill.  But overall I am happy as these are collectors' pieces and so very perfect for the Museum. 

What do you think?

 

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