Chanel's chic city guide to Naples

Grazia joins Chanel global creative make-up and colour designer Lucia Pica on an emotional journey back to her birthplace where the story of her Neapolis collection begins…
Chanel's chic city guide to Naples

There’s something about watching Mount Vesuvius – as it sets the sky ablaze and turns the bright-blue waters of the Gulf of Naples to burnished gold – that touches your heart and stirs your soul. Imagine, then, growing up with this former Ancient Greek colony as your playground, in the shadow of the ruins of Pompeii, surrounded by rugged volcanic landscapes, classical mythology, and priceless frescoes painted in sun-baked shades. Global Creative Make-up and Colour Designer Lucia Pica’s childhood was spent doing just that, and these experiences, memories and emotions have inspired her third collection.

Les 9 Ombres Palette Edition Nº1 in Affresco Dhs350

“This is very, very special to me, as you can imagine,” Lucia tells Grazia, as the morning light dances in her sparkling blue eyes at Villa Lauro in Naples at the international launch of the collection. “The AW17 collection was inspired by a Californian road trip, so that was about going outside of what I knew, and searching for new colours and new experiences, but this is a very intimate journey so I wanted to come back to the place where I was born, the place I grew up, the place that really has shaped the way I feel, the way I see things, the way I react to things, and look at it with fresh eyes, but also experienced eyes with what I have been doing so far when creating colours with Chanel.”

The make-up maverick continues, “This is a journey back to my roots and my memories but also the roots and memories of Napoli itself. We went to certain sites like Pompeii, which has been there 2,000 years, and places in the city I went to as a little child, so it was very much about revisiting my experiences growing up, and looking at Napoli in order to paint this portrait of the city.” She muses, “In many ways this is very much a love letter to the city.”

While Lucia affectionately refers to her birthplace as Napoli in Italian, she’s called her collection for Chanel Neapolis, its name in Ancient Greek. “Neapolis means ‘the new city’, and is the name I chose for the collection because it means newness and I felt it was a good symbol of the attitude and the spirit of the city but also the contemporary feel of the collection.” Now for the history lesson.

From left: Rouge Coco Gloss in Aphrodite, Poppea, Sibylla, and Parthenope Dhs160 each

“Napoli is the result of 2,000 years of spiritual, cultural, artistic and architectural layers – literally and metaphorically,” she divulges of the city that legend had it was born from Parthenope, a siren who died of a broken heart and whose body was washed ashore. “Throughout the years, we had many influences, from the Greeks, the Romans and the Byzantines, the French and the Italian, to the Spanish in the 18th century, who really brought an artistic influence to the city. It attracted a lot of artists with radical views, and interesting attitudes, such as Caravaggio – you can still find his world here today – and it became one of Europe’s most important artistic cities at the time.”

Furthermore, it was the everyday juxtapositions found in her home city that came to the fore to inspire her to create this collection. “There are a lot of contrasts, which I thought was interesting for Chanel and for the ethos of the brand. There’s a contrast between the city underneath and the clear blue sky, the opposition between the clear water and the volcanic rock, the mysterious and peaceful and the vibrating and pulsating attitude of the city and all of this grandeur is still very present in the architecture, in air, and in the attitude of the people, and I wanted to translate it into my own language which is the language of colour and textures and make-up techniques.”

Revealing how these striking surroundings have informed her own creativity, she admits, “It’s something I do in my work every day on photo shoots, catwalks and campaigns. I always try to create contrasts in my textures: matte lips with perhaps a glossy eye or translucent skin.”

Poudre à Lèvres in Rosso Parthenope Dhs170

Distilling these fantasies into formulations of her own has resulted in a refined palette representing the rawness and romance of Naples. For example, you can spot the poetic pink of Joues Contrastes in Foschia Rosa as the sun sets over Pompeii. The imposing door to the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo has inspired the colour of the Dimensions de Chanel mascara in Nero Metallo. And Le Vernis in Giallo Napoli nail colour in vibrant yellow – Lucia’s personal favourite in her new collection that she pledges to be wearing all summer – was born from her fascination with the yellow sulphur bubbling up from the rocks. “It sounds a little bit abstract, but when you see the collection, it all balances, it all makes sense. My job is to transform all these abstract references into something to go on women’s faces and enhance their beauty. It’s a long journey but it’s an interesting one,” she observes.

My hope is that women will be open and spontaneous with the colours

Perhaps the most astonishing example of life imitating art is how the frescoes found in Naples have inspired Lucia to create a revolutionary new way to wear lipstick. “The fresco paintings have been there for thousands of years and the colours were so bright but at the same time they’re also powdery and muted so there were these interesting textures,” she reveals. “Poudre à Lèvres is a lip powder that is worn on top of a lip balm, which references the techniques used to create the frescoes. It’s a bridge from being inspired by something really old to create an idea that’s entirely new.”

Another game-changer is Rouge Coco Gloss in Aphrodite – a watery blue hue to be worn alone or over a brighter colour, but Lucia assures us, “You mustn’t be scared of it. It’s see-through and it makes your lips look really fresh.” She reflects, “My hope is that women will be open and spontaneous with the colours… they are buildable so you can wear a subtle wash of colour or create a more intense effect.”

From left: Rouge Allure in Incantevole and Vibrante Dhs175 each

Continuing her game of contrasts, she explains, “You have this really upbeat, contemporary feeling to it, but you also have some classic colours and some classic textures and by using them together you create this new vision of a woman who’s still very sophisticated and glamorous but with a modern twist.”

As our journey to Neapolis comes to an end, Lucia admits, “It was lovely for me to return to those places where I’d go on day trips with my dad when I was little. So as well as looking at photos and being taken back to where they were shot, I had the third element of my memories, which added another dimension to the collection. All this helps to create depth to the story. Putting a lot of soul, experience and time into a collection is an important element of luxury right now.” We wonder where Lucia will take us next?


When I close my eyes and think of Naples, these are the colours I see


Monasterio di Santa Chiara #Ihavethisthingwithtiles

This door was Lucia’s colour cue for Dimensions de Chanel mascara in Nuovo Metallo

The bubbling sulphur from the rocks in Naples sets the tone for Lucia’s SS18 collection

Lucia revisited her treasured childhood memories, including the ruins of Pompeii

Photos: Alamy and Getty Images