Chanel Beauty’s Sylvie Legastelois on creating its most luxurious lipstick yet

As Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick launches, Sylvie Legastelois tells us about her 40 years of design for the brand in this exclusive interview

Chanel Beauty’s Sylvie Legastelois and Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick
Left, Sylvie Legastelois, head of Packing and Design Creation for Chanel Beauty, with a model of the new Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick and, right, the finished product
(Image credit: © Chanel)

Sylvie Legastelois, the head of Packing and Design Creation for Chanel Beauty, designed some of the most iconic products of recent times, with her creations appearing in movies and TV advertisements, department stores and billboards the world over and, of course, on bathroom shelves and in the handbags of countless women.

And yet, few people know her name. Since joining Chanel in 1984, Legastelois has kept a low profile, offering only a few interviews in the course of almost 40 years. On the rare occasions she does speak publicly, the lessons, as I learned during a recent call with her, are intriguing. Here is a woman who has developed the aesthetic codes for one of the most iconic brands in the world – so how has she done it?

Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick design

Sketches for Chanel 31 Le Rouge

(Image credit: © Chanel)

When I ask this over a video call, she holds up a sheet of paper for me to view on the screen. It shows a yin yang diagram, one side representing ‘consistency’ – the roots, heritage, codes and, as Legastelois puts it, ‘the temple’ of the brand – and on the other side representing ‘creativity’ – encompassing innovation, inspiration and daring.

 For Legastelois, this chart illustrates the challenge behind every Chanel product: to create an object that is both modern and timeless. ‘I have a mission to respect the past,’ she tells me, ‘and, at the same time, to reinvent new codes, to go further the same way Gabrielle [Chanel, the company’s founder] did. So she left us this mission: to balance between the past and future.’

Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick design sketches

(Image credit: © Chanel)

That balancing act tends to be a slow and gradual process, with incremental changes tested out on products over the course of years, before they are officially adopted as a new code. The result is an aesthetic treasure hunt for the Chanel aficionado, with a look at Chanel Beauty launches past revealing subtle clues of what’s to come in the next. Take the brand’s latest, and one of its biggest, launches: the 31 Le Rouge lipstick.

Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick

Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipsticks

Chanel 31 Le Rouge

(Image credit: © Chanel)

It is Chanel’s most luxurious lipstick ever, with a glass and metal case that took four years to develop. It looks distinctly different from the rest of the brand’s packaging, but Legastelois had actually been planting similar details in other products for years prior. A precursor to the gold band around the middle can be seen in the Rouge Coco lipstick, and a hint of the glass packaging appears in the transparent lid of the Rouge Coco Bloom lip tint.

That said, 31 Le Rouge stands out from its forebears. The glass case is designed to be ultra-light while still durable enough to last a lifetime. A master glassmaker from Japan was called in to carve its perfect, sleek lines that together recall the signature staircase of the rue Cambon store in Paris. Meanwhile, the metallic bands at the centre link together with a satisfying click that recalls the closing of a luxury car door. The lipstick bullet itself comes in a recyclable aluminum case with a shiny finish enhanced by its glass casing. It makes 31 Le Rouge both the most sustainable and striking Chanel Beauty launch yet.

Chanel 31 Le Rouge lipstick design sketch

(Image credit: © Chanel)

A big launch like this always marks a meaningful time for Legastelois to look back at her long, illustrious career. Thinking about her nearly 40-year tenure with Chanel, she asserts that the most meaningful lesson she learned over the course of it all was to ‘never give up.’ 

‘If I believe in something, even if it's not possible to do it now, I continue to work [on it]. I believe when I have an idea and it’s too early, it could one day be the right timing. Sometimes, I have to reinvent and just keep thinking of the future. So never giving up is part of my DNA. And even if you fail, continue, because maybe next time will be better.’

Writer and Wallpaper* Contributing Editor

Mary Cleary is a writer based in London and New York. Previously beauty & grooming editor at Wallpaper*, she is now a contributing editor, alongside writing for various publications on all aspects of culture.