Introducing Dior’s Couture Lipstick

Introducing Dior’s Couture Lipstick

Nearly 215 miles from the Grand Prix bakers of Paris making their award-winning baguettes, there is a 3,000-degree kiln in Limoges, France, cooking Dior Beauty’s latest creation: the first-ever haute couture lipstick. Blame the “haute” dental cleaning I once had, but I’m naturally skeptical of yet another “haute” item. But then I swivel up the lipstick (so smooth!), see the bullet (how does it look like velvet ribbon?), and feel the weightiness in my hand of Rouge Premier. This is the kind of piece they’ll display in a museum one day.

The case gleams like it’s already under Metropolitan Museum of Art lighting, and is made of a porcelain-like ceramic—an unconventional choice for a lipstick vessel. Porcelain is often associated with perfection and delicacy (in skin, dolls, even lives, as in Emily Dickinson) because it’s so fine. But this ceramic, like porcelain, is also scratch-proof, durable, and extremely white, ensuring that the decoration really glows—and making it an immediate material choice for Peter Philips, Dior Beauty’s creative and image director. “I wanted to make an object so precious that it could be handed down from parent to child—like a couture dress, like a precious jewel,” he tells me.

Rouge Premier’s case was designed to be ultra slim—just 0.8 mm in depth, not much wider than a tooth veneer. Artisans hand-apply a decal that features the curving branches of toile de Jouy (Christian Dior’s pattern for his 30 Avenue Montaigne boutique) onto the case. The pattern seamlessly matches up even when the case is closed. A new production line and mold was created for Rouge Premier, and each lipstick takes 15 steps and three weeks to create. Only a few thousand are available worldwide. For Philips, the project epitomizes luxury—not in the sense of expense and extravagance, but in the care that has been taken. “True luxury is the service of your client,” he says. “You give them the best you can. You can count on the products, and they don’t lie.” He spent five years working closely with the storied French porcelain house Bernardaud, known for creating Marie Antoinette’s Versailles china and some of Jeff Koons’ artworks.


Rouge Premier’s lipstick formula is also entirely different from the best-selling Rouge Dior, delivering an increased pigment load and 12 new, more vibrant shades. Red hibiscus adds a “caring element” to lips, Philips says. When I swatch it, it barely touches my hand before exploding into a burst of color. It took close to 200 tries before Philips found a formula that was silky, moisturizing, strikingly intense, and long-lasting (up to eight hours). Rouge Premier 8 (Christian Dior’s lucky number) is a standout red that’s different from the brand’s signature 999 tomato red—deeper and more vibrant, almost scarlet. The lipstick bullet is oval, rather than round, inspired by the medallions that decorated the Dior boutique—but also so that your new haute couture lipstick never rolls off the desk and shatters (Philips demonstrates, and it’s true: the lipstick does a delicate wobbly dance, but retains its balance and is untumble-able). A strong magnet hidden in the base ensures that you can never close the case incorrectly: it swivels back if you try, and the case has the same satisfying click you hear when closing the compartments in a luxury car. The lipstick is also refillable, and the refill’s base is shaped like a star, a classic Dior motif. When you bring the lipstick up to your nose, you get a subtle whiff of black tea and citrus, instead of wax and oil.

The bullet itself is also uniquely shaped: an “upside-down teardrop, which follows the lip line perfectly,” Philips tells me. I ask if there’s a future when lipstick is molded to our specific lip shape, much in the way that a couture gown is fit to a client’s precise measurements, and his eyes twinkle. “This is just the first haute couture beauty project,” he says. “There are some really exciting projects in the pipeline, and really extreme. I can’t say anything yet.” [Editor’s Note: Rouge Premier is currently available only in France at Dior’s 30 Avenue Montaigne global flagship.]

A version of this story appears in the May 2023 issue of ELLE.


Headshot of Kathleen Hou

ELLE Beauty Director

Kathleen Hou is ELLE”s Beauty Director. Previously, she held the same title at New York Magazine’s The Cut. She’s appeared in publications such as New York, The New York Times Magazine, Vogue India, Forbes, and Allure. She was also a co-founder of Donate Beauty, a grassroots beauty donation project started during the COVID-19 crisis, which donated over 500,000 products to over 30,000 healthcare workers across 500+ hospitals. 

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