Olivier Echaudemaison – Guerlain’s artistic director - is one of those utter originals. Albeit a legend in the makeup world – his first fashion shoot was with Suzy Parker and Richard Avedon, which was followed by working with other greats like Horst, Norman Parkinson and Guy Bourdin – he is not resting on his laurels. No sir or rather non, Monsieur! True, Echaudemaison – nicknamed ‘hothouse’ by ‘Parks’ (Parkinson) – is a terrific raconteur as illustrated by his recently launched autobiography ‘Les Couleurs de Ma Vie’ (The Colours of My Life) that’s available in all the Guerlain boutiques. His story of persuading Princess Anne to wear Zandra Rhodes – pushed by ‘Parks’ – defines a must, as do his details of Jean Shrimpton cutting her false eyelashes in half while her peers were doubling theirs, as well as assisting in Yves Saint Laurent’s fabled St Tropez boutique.
"His story of persuading Princess Anne to wear Zandra Rhodes...defines a must, as do his details of Jean Shrimpton cutting her false eyelashes in half while her peers were doubling theirs..."
And then there are Echaudemaison’s former employeurs – Estée Lauder and Hubert de Givenchy – and the beauties whose skin he has blushed – the gamut runs from Pat Cleveland to Romy Schneider to Audrey Hepburn to Natalia Vodianova, Guerlain’s present muse. Nevertheless, Echaudemaison has the energy and excitement of an ingénue. The word blasé does not exist in his vocabulary. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, he manages to be open-minded yet voice his opinions. “Parisians need to dare more with their hair styles,” he offers. “This business of sticking to long hair past a certain age, it’s sad and lengthens the face.” During the day, he’s a big advocate of mascara, light eye pencil on the lids and lipstick – “all three are indispensable,” he says – whereas at night, he recommends applying colour on the lids, cheeks and strengthening the shade of lipstick. And should a woman refuse to follow his advice? “She should stay at home!” he teases.
Text by Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni
Natasha Fraser-Cavassoni is a Paris-based British writer who covers fashion and lifestyle as well as being the author of Sam Spiegel – The Biography of A Hollywood Legend, Understanding Chic, an essay from the Paris Was Ours anthology, the soon-to-be released Tino Zervudachi – A Portfolio – as well as the Chanel book, for Assouline's fashion series.
Robert Beck is former New Yorker currently based in Paris. Also known as C.J. Rabbitt, he is the author and illustrator of several children's books, including The Tale of Rabbitt in Paradise, Un Lapin à Paris and the soon-to-be-published A Bunny in the Ballet.