French couturier Lucien Lelong first began creating perfumes under the name Parfums Lucien Lelong in 1926 with the introduction of the ABC perfume trio, followed in 1927 with J (for Jasmine) and N (for Natalie Paley, Lelong's wife.) Lelong clearly understood the potential benefits of diversifying into perfume, as he established a Chicago branch of his perfume company almost immediately. This company produced Lelong's perfumes for the North American market, along with other Lelong-branded cosmetics. The couturier took a very personal interest in the appearance of his perfume and cosmetics, often designing the packaging himself.
While Lucien Lelong's perfume and cosmetic presentations often demonstrate an interest in classicism, as did many of his clothing designs, this silver mink covered lipstick seems a clear homage to Surrealism. More specifically, it reminded us of the fur covered teacup, saucer and spoon created by Meret Oppenheim in 1936. You can see an image of this object here.
Surrealism and fashion were tightly linked during the 1930s and 1940s. Though Schiaparelli is most often credited with promoting Surrealism in fashion, Surrealist ideals were also manifested in fashion magazines, advertising and window display throughout this period. Fashion offered Surrealists the perfect canvas on which to explore one of the central tenets of Surrealism: displacement. By placing a familiar object in a new context, "knowledge is placed in jeopardy as the unconscious offers interpretations for objects seen."1 These new juxtapositions were intended to startle the viewer into reevaluating the potential meaning or symbolism of all objects.
Though the soft and fluffy appearance of the silver mink conveys a playful feeling, this fur covered lipstick is undeniably odd. The luxurious fur coat elevates it from a relatively utilitarian object to something more luxurious and appealing. Applying lipstick becomes more than a daily, oft-repeated habit; it becomes a ritual in itself.
The fur covering also invites comparisons between woman and animal. Does a woman achieve more animal appeal by wearing Lucien Lelong lipstick? Given that the lipstick tube housed a color of red called Robin Hood, she very well might. Does this displacement force a particular reevaluation of makeup? Or women?
Part of a large donation of Parfums Lucien Lelong ephemera received by the FIDM Musuem, this lipstick was donated along with numerous sketches, perfume/cosmetic presentations and related advertisements. Though we have been able to document many of the objects, others might be design prototypes that never went into production. We have yet to find out if this fanciful lipstick presentation was ever available for purchase. Readers, have you ever seen a similar lipstick presentation from Parfums Lucien Lelong?
1 Martin, Richard. Fashion and Surrealism Rizzoli: New York. 1987: 107.