Cosmetics and clothing: highlights from makeup-outfit color coordination, 1920s-1960s
With gratitude: donations from 2021

A truly splendorous holiday garden from Clé de Peau

As lovely as Clé de Peau's vintage jewelry inspired compacts were, overall I prefer the artist collaborations they've been doing since about 2014 or so. Last year the company worked with Daria Petrilli for a second time on a Swan Lake themed collection. While it was a stunning lineup, there are a great many artists who would jump at the opportunity to create makeup packaging so I was relieved Clé de Peau sought out a different artist for this year's holiday collection. Like the 2018 release which was inspired by Alice in Wonderland, the 2021 collection was loosely based on Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1911 novel The Secret Garden. (Yet inexplicably the collection is entitled the Garden of Splendor. Go figure. I also wonder if the brand selected both The Secret Garden and Alice in Wonderland just to incorporate a key motif.) Clé de Peau enlisted the talent of Michaël Cailloux, a French artist whose illustrations provided the perfect backdrop for the collection.

A pattern of trailing ivy adorns the outer boxes, which open to reveal a menagerie of squirrels, lambs, foxes and birds frolicking in the garden. It's gorgeous but also thoughtful - the key is a nod to Clé de Peau's brand name, while the ivy and keyhole refer to the book's description of the garden walls covered in the plant and the unlocking of the garden door by the main character, Mary Lennox. As we'll see, Cailloux imbued all of the packaging with beautiful depictions of the central symbols used in the book.

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 mini lipstick set

The animals are a reference to the ones charmed by Dickon Sowerby, the "common moor boy" who helps Mary revive the garden.

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 mini lipstick set

The robin and roses are also important symbols in The Secret Garden: the bird leads Mary to find the garden and later represents her transformation from unhappy and unloved child to flourishing young girl. Roses, the deceased Mrs. Craven's favorite flower, illustrate the necessity of nurturing children.

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 eyeshadow

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 eyeshadow

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 eyeshadow

Later in the book Dickon cares for a motherless newborn lamb, further reinforcing the parallel between Mary and Colin and demonstrating that anyone can thrive when given love and support.

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 highlighter

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 highlighter

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 lipstick and blush

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 lipstick and blush

Other items in the collection included a face serum, cream and an exquisite cushion compact. Though lovely, the skincare items (at $295 and $550, respectively) were priced far above the Museum's budget. And sadly the cushion compact was not available in the U.S...but I am working on tracking it down!

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 face serum

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 face cream

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 face cream

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 cushion foundation
(images from and @cledepeaubeaute)

Born and bred Parisian Michaël Cailloux (b. 1975) has loved drawing since he was a child. While he did not come from an artistic family, his mother encouraged his passion for drawing and art in general, allowing him to draw on the walls of their home and regularly taking him to museums. The artist reflects, "I've always loved drawing. Since I was a kid, it was my favorite hobby, I always had pencils or brushes on me. I could spend days by myself drawing in a corner of my room...I grew up alone with my mother in Paris. She wasn’t an artist and had never studied art. Despite that, she was my biggest fan and was always encouraging me to draw and she was constantly complimenting me. It definitely built up my confidence and motivated me to pursue this path even though I still had my doubts and cared a lot about other people’s opinion on the matter. I remember I used to draw on the walls at home and she would let me do it. She would hang my drawings on the walls of our apartment, she would buy me all the material I needed to stay creative and she never opposed me specializing in art during my studies. A lot of parents stop their kids from pursuing an artistic path because they fear for their future. But my mother was really sensitive to art, she would bring me to museums and various exhibitions, she taught me what freedom of thought was and she wouldn’t care too much about what people thought of her." I'm always so happy to see parents who are supportive of their children's dreams!

Michael Cailloux, Les 4 Saisons

In 1998 Cailloux graduated from the École Duperré School of Design, writing his senior paper on the use of the fly motif (mouche) in 17th century still-life paintings and as beauty patches (!) in 18th century French culture. Cailloux's research led to what would be a lifelong interest in flies as an artistic symbol and the utilization of the fly as his signature. He explains: "The fly always fascinated me since I was a kid; it’s part of our everyday life, flying around us. Sometimes we chase it away, other times we simply let it be…depending on our mood. We don’t realize it but it’s there, present in our day to day life. My passion for this harmless, yet hated little insect led me to make it the subject of my graduation project, my memoire. I decided to always have it by my side so I made it my symbol and my logo. It’s almost like my lucky charm. If you look carefully, it appears pretty often in my artwork, sometimes visible, other times indistinguishable.  Just like in your own life, you either see it and try to make it leave, or it just flies by you unnoticed. I always see them flying around my studio and to me it’s positive sign as they’re essential to biodiversity. [Flies] intrigue me and I find them attractive insofar as they come always disturb the eye." I personally hate flies and most other insects, but Cailloux does manage to make them pretty.

Michael Cailloux

Michael Cailloux, image for a greeting card for The Art File

Around 2009 Cailloux began experimenting with cutting and engraving copper to make what he terms "wall jewelry". Inspired by René Lalique, Cailloux was intrigued by the idea of hanging jewelry on walls purely as decor. While they're not actual fashion accessories that could be worn as necklaces, bracelets, etc. - it seems "jewelry" here refers more to the materials used - the intricate shapes and sculptural lines, coupled with a metallic sheen, certainly appear jewelry-like.

Michael Cailloux, Aquarium, 2016

In addition to metalwork, Cailloux is both experienced and gifted at translating his illustrations to whatever surface catches his fancy. "At school we were taught to work on different material: wood, metal, paper, linoleum, etc… It definitely allows me to apply my drawing on any surface I want. Despite all that, when I was contacted by Lenôtre, a famous French pastry shop, to work on a Yule log and Epiphany cake, it quite challenging! Currently, I’m working on a porcelain dinnerware collection with Bernardaud and once again, I have to adapt my drawings to fit the material. It’s not unsettling at this point anymore; it’s just another challenge. As well as for my collection Lemon Insect for Les Émaux de Longwy, I had to draw directly on the vases and jewelry boxes. All my past experiences prepared me for this and enabled me to adapt so easily!" It's true: in addition to makeup packaging, Cailloux's work can be modified to suit everything from playing cards and puzzles to cakes and advent calendars.

Michael Cailloux, Dior playing cards, 2016

Michael Cailloux, Lenotre advent calendar, 2018

Michael Cailloux, Bernardaud dinnerware, 2019

Michael Cailloux, 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle for Djeco

How stunning is this cake? Also, the wrapping paper doubles as a coloring sheet. I would dearly love to see an entire line of coloring books from Cailloux, especially ones devoted to sea creatures. :)

Michael Cailloux, Epiphany cake for Lenotre, 2019(images from

Stylistically, Cailloux cites William Morris, 17th century still-life paintings and the Art Nouveau movement as inspiration. Take, for example, his strawberry and sun print next to Morris's famous Strawberry Thief print.

Michael Cailloux print / William Morris Strawberry Thief

Cailloux has not mentioned Ernst Haeckel, but I'd also argue that his work is a touch reminiscent of the 19th century zoologist and draughtsman. Compare Cailloux's ocean-themed print with those of Haeckel. It's definitely modernized and more whimsical rather than meticulously grounded in biological reality, but I think there's a similar vibe.

Michael Cailloux(image from

Ernst Haeckel
(images from and

More generally, Cailloux enjoys playing with color and looks to nature for his primary subject matter. "Colour and all the different possible combinations are one of my favourite things to play with. Colour is at the heart of my work. It continues to spark my creativity," he says, adding: "Nature is my main source of inspiration; I love observing and drawing everything about it. That’s why I travel so much and bring my sketchbooks and pens with me; it allows me to draw new things all the time. But then I have certain phases: sometimes I focus on insects that I adore, or on birds and fish I find extraordinary, or simply flowers that never cease to amaze me with their intricate details." Indeed, Cailloux captures the complexity and vibrant colors of various flora and fauna but his style is never overly busy or garish.

Michael Cailloux, Valentines Day design for Lenotre, 2019

And while Cailloux deftly applies his designs to a number of different mediums, drawing is his principal form, i.e. the starting point from which his work flows. "My artistic process always starts with hand-drawn illustrations with fine tip pens or India ink. I can’t see myself doing anything else but drawing...Drawing relaxes me; it clears my mind and helps me to focus my energy. I don’t think about it too much—I just draw everything I see around me...Everything starts from the observation of nature in general, and I also am inspired by old illustrations by redesigning my way. I have a sketchbook and I felt drawn to anything that inspires me: plants, insects, frogs and dragonfly. I can spend days drawing, and even nights."

Michael Cailloux, Paris Plage

I'm enjoying Cailloux's aesthetic, but there is something that gives me pause. When asked in an interview whether there's a contemporary equivalent to the 18th century mouche, the artist surprisingly says that makeup generally is not used to indicate one's mood. "In the 18th century, women used to wear an artificial beauty mark (also called une mouche meaning a fly in French) on their faces to show what mood they were in that day: coquette, discreet, generous, etc. This doesn’t really exist anymore today. Women can adapt their makeup for an event but there’s not much more meaning to it than that. However, I think social media is now where we show how we feel or share our daily thoughts. It’s kind of like the 'fly of the day'." I can only hope something got lost in translation. So many people, myself included, select makeup specifically based on the mood they're in on a given day - in fact, my mood, more so than any other factor (weather, plans for the day/night, outfit) is the key determiner in the makeup I choose. While it's not true for everyone, my makeup look is a direct expression of how I'm feeling that day. To say that makeup doesn't have much significance other than being conventionally appropriate for certain events is rather misguided.

Getting back to the Clé de Peau collection, it seems to lean more towards spring than fall or winter. The company specifically notes that Garden of Splendor "draws inspiration from nature’s ability to transform, heal and give a new perspective." Given the themes of rebirth, growth, healing, etc. expressed in the collection description and in The Secret Garden as well as Cailloux's colorful, cheerful illustrations, it would be more fitting for warmer weather (and I'm not the only one who thinks so). Plus, the makeup shades themselves - lots of pastels, delicate pinks and peaches - and the soft looks shown at the website are far better suited to spring.

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 makeup looksClé de Peau holiday 2021 makeup looks

Clé de Peau holiday 2021 makeup looks
(images from

I wish I knew who was in charge of this collection. It doesn't seem like Lucia Pieroni, the brand's former (?) global makeup artist is involved and hasn't been with the company for several years now, but I also saw no mention of Clé de Peau's current global color director, Benjamin Puckey, in connection with it either. Having said that, I do think the company made an excellent choice on all counts in selecting Cailloux for a Secret Garden inspired collection - his subject matter, mood and style align perfectly with the spirit and theme of the Clé de Peau collection. Even though it more appropriate for spring, the festive colors, feeling of hopefulness and renewal match what Clé de Peau was trying to do.  As Cailloux says, "Above all what I’m trying to communicate is a smile and joy. I really want to pass on positive energy." Those are things the world could definitely use more of these days, and the sentiment very clearly came through in this collection.

What do you think of the Garden of Splendor and Cailloux's work?

comments powered by Disqus