MakeUp in Paris 2013 in red and blue

As part of a prefiguration of the special animations taking place at the MakeUp in Paris 2013 show, a qualitative opinion survey was conducted with a public of professionals mobilised by this event via the website. To collect the personal views on the emblematic colours of the 2013 edition, red and blue, a psychology questionnaire was devised according to a series of symmetric inputs (each question concerning alternately one of the two colours). A study of the salient data has highlighted constants and trends in terms of aesthetic sensibility to colours, which could be used as a basis for reflection for companies attending the show and developing innovation programs. The analysis of results was the subject of two separate conferences.

For the two colours, answers obviously highlighted archetypes, even stereotypes, these social concepts based on ancient principles, shared by a vast majority of our contemporaries, “BLOOD”, “LOVE”, “PASSION”, for the first one, “SKY”, “SEA” for the other, corresponding to expected answers. But beyond their presence at the top of statistics, what they invite us to explore are the subliminal dimensions, hidden, discreet, these symbolic dimensions that convey a meaning, these secret meanings resonating with our unconscious thoughts.

But once these archetypal answers have been expressed, the ones following appear particularly relevant and highly inspiring. Because, although the panel of participants – mostly women – is part of the cosmetic industry, their reactions are consistent with answers made by a non-professional public interviewed in other circumstances. This is how we observed a remarkable concordance between cognitive associations that will introduce in the fourth instance for red, and in third position for blue, the same body support: the lips and eyes! Aren’t these poetic writings adorning some particularly inspiring anatomical features?

To introduce the analysis of our relationship to “RED” obviously “BLOOD” is psychologically and automatically summoned. Immemorial and universal archetype, the evocation of the liquid vehicle of vitality is firmly asserted: beyond spatial boundaries, beyond time limits, “RED” and “BLOOD” are inseparable and reciprocal. With strong connotations of dynamic, positive values and of purity and in spite of the recently discovered paradox that blood could also lead to death, with HIV among others, “RED” seeks to express (in the sense of “exit from”) concepts of power, of strong emotions (“LOVE”, “PASSION”, “ANGER”), but also major identity aspirations. Let’s consider two recent, highly revealing epiphenomena of mental projections that focus on this shade: the first concerns the ban ordered on the stewardesses of a Turkish Airline to wear lipstick in bright saturated shades. And the claim, for what may look to Western or Asian women like an ordinary, banal gesture, devoid of no other meaning than the one of a personal pleasure or of an attribute of seduction, and to other women, like an act of emancipation, the conquest of a much desired sense of freedom! The protest expressed against this political decision, has led, after public pressure, to a lifting of the ban.

The second example, also magnificently meaningful, is about a private person, but in a cinematographic vein this time, which is sure to receive the support of a number of female spectators. It concerns more specifically a beautiful scene of the remarkable film of Atiq Rahimi, Patience Stone, based on his novel, which was awarded the Prix Goncourt in 2008. The main actress, Golshifteh Farahani, in a role where her personal identity is never recognized (she is never called otherwise than by the name of the “woman”), interprets a subdued character, confined in the shadows, “taking the back seat”. Until the scene (absent from the novel, and imagined from scratch for the film) where there again, through the use of some red past applied on her lips, will appear, in the background, to herself and then to others, the outcome of her existence, and her full emancipation, long secretly hoped, recognized. When we know that the young actress of Iranian origin, was banned from her homeland, for having dared to exist and brave the dogmatic power by appearing – among other things – on the red carpet, the symbol of western film glories, it is easy to understand what may represent this shade for this woman, privately, and for these women, collectively, who recognize themselves in her! No, “RED” is not innocent!

When each of the female interlocutors making up our future panel, places “LIPSTICK” in first position with regards to answers in connection with an object associated to “RED”, is it to echo the social experiences previously stated? Probably not directly. But the aspiration of our group of business women to develop tonal shades with a remarkable subtlety in the ranges of grapes, reflects the necessary response of make-up companies to offer their customers the most refined correspondences in order to address very sophisticated demands. And very intimately personalized. At this stage, “RED” Must take the plural form, and expand its limits well beyond its linguistic epicentre. The lexical question proposed in the survey, highlighted this terminological plurality that we had also noted, and which is consistent with a U.S. study on the origin of lipstick names. Nearly a quarter of some 1,700 names analysed come from the food industry register, foodstuff, fruits, vegetables, and of their natural, authentic origins. There, once again, when analysing these behaviours, we cannot ignore the extremely sensual relationship unconsciously expressed by these choices of identification, between an idea, an object, and an effect: a “Ruby” lipstick will be worn with discrete intentions, different from those of a “Red currant” or a “Smoked Hibiscus” lipstick. Behind these qualifiers, a whole personal imagery, a whole collective mythology vibrate in unison, or escape from a too strict categorization.

What remarkable expression of this timeless collective thought, an index testimony of this spirit of globalization appearing through the incarnated image of Krishna, this Hindu deity wandering up and down the aisles of the show! In addition to the surreal dimension proposed to exhibitors and visitors by the Parade organized by young make-up artists, it is the recourse to the myth, to the meaning buried in our memories, which resurfaces and triggers our imagination again. For this figure, especially exotic to western crowds, although an integral part of the history of mankind, to be present in such a fleeting way in the bowels of the city of Paris, and confront us with the question of the standards of body aesthetics, on their philosophical origins, on the acceptability or resistance in the face of innovative models, participates in the spirit of openness necessary and essential to any creative action, this is what takes part, beyond the necessary operative business, in the emotional balance. And allows for a part of this “magical thinking”, of this irrational, this imaginal power, to express itself, which beyond our everyday lives, connects us to one another in a sublime dimension.

This is specifically the case with answers made around “BLUE” as an item prompting reflections. We suddenly find ourselves in an immeasurable world, with no limits, at the frontiers of transcendence, or even of ontology: Through celestial, marine, ocean, air, water evocations, we come close to the unspeakable. We are at the boundary of a separation between the material and its counterpart that some would call spiritual. Obviously, one can observe strictly descriptive evocations, and be content with it. But, honestly, we cannot rule out the truthfulness of responses given individually and which, once compiled to one another into a coherent whole, produce a highly meaningful global answer of the collective unconscious. Is there, in the background of these stereotypes, some immemorial imprints of a sublimated magical thinking? We answer this question in the affirmative. By comparing the answers from our panel to recent advertising campaigns, highlighting values of purity, staging perfumes in particular, originating from basic elements, such as notably, water or air, by undertaking the semiotic analysis of these visuals, we will be able to easily decrypt the links with the “supernatural” via angelic figures (expressed virtually or metaphorically by a dove, the animal version of the angelos), brightness, transparency, blueness. And undoubtedly while our public is the emitter, the originator, the designer of these icons, he is also the recipient and the receiver. And at least, he is sensitive to it, and “stores” most of it in his mind. This is what constitutes the roots of this social sensitivity to colour that occurs without our knowledge, except when he is invited to express himself, as was the case with this questionnaire proposed by MakeUp in Paris.