Becoming a household name in the world of high fashion and beauty is no small feat. For Peter Philips, the road to success began at home—in the creative hub of Antwerp, Belgium, which provided the backdrop to hone his unique artistic perspective. Whether he was observing the makeup routines of matriarchs in his childhood home, routinely watching Old Hollywood movies on Saturday afternoons, or immersing himself in the vibrant fashion culture of his native city, inspiration was abundant and profound.
Drawing on this insight, the visionary has imbued his role as creative and image director at Dior Makeup with the forward-thinking approach to beauty for which he has become known, developing coveted products and crafting whimsical runway looks that are as accessible as they are aspirational. “I always strive to create something new, something I’ve never seen before,” he says. “I always want to do better than what has already been done.”
Philips’s desire to work in beauty was sparked by his education at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. It was here that he rubbed shoulders with Belgium’s emerging talent in fashion, assisting backstage at the shows of contemporary designers and falling in love with the transformative power of makeup.
His time at the Academy also led Philips to forge long-term collaborative relationships with Belgian-born greats like designer Raf Simons and photographer Willy Vanderperre. During a photoshoot the trio worked on together in 1999 for issue zero of V magazine, Philips spontaneously sketched an eyeless Mickey Mouse onto model Robbie Snelder’s face in perfect scale. The resulting photograph, with its stark, serene peculiarity, became one of Vanderperre’s most acclaimed, and solidified Philips as one-of-a-kind in his field. “There is always a place for innovation,” he reflects.
Philips went on to work with other esteemed brands and photographers, creating conceptual beauty looks that propelled him to a collaboration with photographer Irving Penn for Vogue in 2005. The iconic image featured model Lisa Cant wearing a Mickey Mouse–shaped lace mask handcrafted by Philips, and is said to have landed him his role as creative director of Chanel Makeup, where he created show stopping runway looks and accompanying cult makeup products from 2008 to 2013.
Since assuming the helm of Dior Makeup, Philips has made an incredible impact on the brand and its legacy, paying homage to the house’s heritage through the reinvention of hero products such as Diorshow Mascara and Dior Addict Lipstick. Backstage, he is responsible for some of the most talked about and recreated beauty looks on the runway, including metallic strips applied to the upper lash line for Dior’s Fall 2014 Haute Couture show (dubbed “Mirror Eyes”), and the imperfect, ballet-inspired eyeliner that danced across models’ faces for Spring 2019 Ready-to-Wear.
Regarding his work in the laboratory, Philips’s latest stroke of brilliance is Rouge Dior Ultra Care—a hydrating, luminous lipstick that is a continuation of its predecessor, Rouge Dior Ultra Rouge. Infused with floral extracts that create a lightweight, barely-there texture, and featuring a rose petal–shaped applicator, the new lipstick is an ode to Christian Dior’s fascination with flowers. “The great thing about flowers is that they are super strong and a force of nature, but they are also very fragile,” explains Philips. “That contradiction is almost poetic.” The campaign, fronted by Dior muse Natalie Portman, echoes this sentiment, centring on “a strong woman showing a softer side of herself.”
Nowadays, Philips is pleased to see the fear of makeup he once sensed from the public has dissipated greatly, and his life’s work is commonly viewed as “something to enjoy.” He isn’t big on rules, either, and encourages Dior Makeup consumers to experiment in order to discover what makes them feel beautiful and empowered on an individual level. “You can do bold eyes. You can do bold lips. You can do both,” he assures. “At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you wear your makeup and your makeup does not wear you.”