Award-winning makeup artist and founder/CEO of VIOLETTE_FR, Violette, launched her cult brand exclusively at Mecca this month. But just minutes into meeting the French beauty, I realised it’s not just Violette’s line of balms, cream blushes and three-in-one cream sprays that will sell themselves, it’s the woman herself.
In Australia, we’re enamoured by the French girl beauty aesthetic: undone, unfussy, blasé. But as Violette explains, the French do care about the way they look—nothing is effortless, she says. They just simply spend more time taking care of their skin and hair at a cellular level, and have grown up armed with the attitude that if someone doesn’t like you, it doesn’t matter: They don’t sweat the small things. Nothing is a big deal. They don’t get caught up in the sh*t.
“We always have this attitude of, ‘This is it. Take it or leave it,’” Violette tells GRAZIA, her Petal Bouche Matte lip (in shade amour fou) velvety and dramatic. “Take care of what mother nature gave you. Healthy hair washed, but not done. No foundation, but good skincare—hydrated and moisturised. Eyebrows brushed, but not manicured.”
To Violette, one’s differences, when embraced, can indeed lead them to experience la joie de vivre (the joy of living). Ahead, we meet the woman behind VIOLETTE_FR and discuss her early years (she began her career at Dior and Estée Lauder), correct the French girl beauty ideal, and talk about the French mentality as the key to a life well-lived. Get ready to be inspired.
GRAZIA: When did you decide you wanted to start your own brand? And where did you begin in making this a reality?
Violette: It started 20 years ago. I was making my own product on sets. I would wonder, ‘Why don’t we have liquid eye shadows on the market?’ I focused first on building my career and my experiences—that was my priority—and along the line, the brand kind of built itself up in my head. And then, eight years ago, I was at the peak of my career in France, but I was going through something quite difficult in my personal life, and I needed to change everything somehow. I needed to do something I’d been dreaming of. I wanted to move to New York and push my brand.
“I wanted my company to be a French car with American gas.”
I knew I had to rebuild my career in the States before launching my brand. It took me four years until I was ready. Then, I decided what products I wanted to release and pitched it to labs to see if they could make the formula. I wanted it at an extremely accessible price point. I feel like luxury is too elitist.
GRAZIA: You moved to New York at 19. What was the best part about that period in your life?
Violette: It was like a book chapter, an older chapter. I have so much tenderness for the past because, you know, you do your things without knowing where it’s going to end up.
GRAZIA: I love that you have corrected the perception that your brand is about effortlessness. To you, it’s actually about irreverence. Can you explain this idea a little more? What is French irreverence?
Violette: In a way, I understand. If you want to look effortless, you have to be effortless. I did my makeup in the car this morning, and that’s how I think the French do it, nothing is a big deal. It’s for you to enjoy yourself. You can go out without any makeup on, it’s fine, it’s the way you look. But I think the French put lots of effort into taking care of ourselves: doing research into the best skincare, food is a big thing for us, lifestyle. I don’t think we can, therefore, be completely effortless.
To be happy, you have to love yourself. But how do you do that exactly? I have found that a helpful way to look at it is, “Well, this is the way that I am. If you don’t like it, you can just leave it and go somewhere else.” And that irreverence, or way of thinking, is good because it filters the right people for you.
“The French don’t go on dates. They meet people. We don’t seduce. We show up to dates in the most natural way possible. Just to be like, ‘This is the deal, take it or leave it.’”
GRAZIA: You speak about the concept of “waking up in the morning and just doing you”, being you, being yourself. What age were you when you felt really comfortable and content in the woman that you are?
Violette: I was 15 years old. My only focus at the time was to enjoy myself. [My friends and I] were sneaking out of the house, putting pillows under the blankets, and going out to gay disco clubs on a Monday night. I would steal my mum’s Jean Paul Gaultier outfit, the one that was transparent with the fake tattoos [editor’s note: this was from JPG’s Spring 1994 ready-to-wear collection], put on leather pants and heels. I would wear Ruby Roo [lipstick] from MAC. I really wasn’t giving a sh*t. I had the same clique of friends since forever and we felt fabulous.
GRAZIA: I love this!
Violette: We would save up money to get a bottle by doing babysitting. We were friends with the owners of the club so we’d get a nice table without spending too much. We were like, “We don’t need no man!” [Laughs] I remember, though, we all looked so different. One night, one of my friends said, “I don’t think you can ever rate us.” Each of us were so different, we connected, we clicked. At 15, it was such a good way of thinking about it. It wasn’t, “Who is the most beautiful?” We were equals. We all cheered ourselves on, and all we cared about was music, dancing and having fun.
Violette_FR Petal Bouche Matte, in shade amour fou, $45 SHOP NOW
GRAZIA: Tell me more about your concept of makeup as a mood lifter.
Violette: I’m sure you can relate. One day you wake up and it’s not your day. You think, “Gosh, I have this meeting where I cannot look or feel horrible. I need a support system.” For me, it’s my red lips. As soon as I put it on, I feel myself again. You have to find your superpower colour, you know? And then, what’s the outfit that makes you feel the best? Go find that. Let it get you. When I gave birth, my friends were like, “How was it?” I said, “You need to challenge your warrior.” I have so much respect for women—I always did—but now, it’s next level! It’s just you and your baby and you’re going to get through it. That’s why I think you have to connect back to this warrior mindset. If women can create human beings, they can get through this day.
GRAZIA: In Australia, a beauty ideal for us is French Girl Beauty. The French, to me, are less “done,” more cool, they seem really nonchalant. You have to tell me three French beauty secrets!
Violette: The nonchalance is actually irreverence, I think. Secrets? I would say it lies in how you feel. You cannot look like this if you do not feel it. We always have this attitude like, “This is it. Take it or leave it.” Another secret: take care of what mother nature gave you.
“Healthy hair washed, but not done. No foundation, but good skincare—hydrated and moisturised. Eyebrows brushed, but not manicured.”
Then you need to get dressed. What are you in the mood for and what’s your makeup statement? Don’t be scared of imperfections. For example, today as I was doing my makeup in the car, and I had black bits from my lashes on my eyelids. I took some highlighter and rubbed into my eye to create a smoky eye. From an accident, I made something—and that is super French. We like when the makeup looks super worn. You wear the makeup, the makeup doesn’t wear you.
Violette_FR Boum-Boum Milk, $69-168 SHOP NOW
GRAZIA: Do you have a favourite product from your range?
Violette: The Boum-Boum Milk. When people buy a toner, serum, and a moisturiser, none of them have been designed to work together, and it can be counterproductive. So, I said to my chemist, “Can we do a product that does everything, and is highly anti-inflammatory?” In 20 years of doing makeup, everyone has some sort of inflammation. I wanted something that will focus on your skin health overtime. What does your skin need to be at its best? After three days of usage, we’re seeing incredible results, and after four weeks of testing, the skin is thriving.
Violette_FR bisou blush, in shade Aissa, $56 SHOP NOW
GRAZIA: Do you have a pro tip for applying the matte crème blushes?
Violette: It comes will a little brush, so you just swipe onto the apple of your cheeks, and blend at the end. That’s it. Honestly, it’s so easy. You could also apply it on the nose for a sun-kissed look. We did the job so you don’t have to make it too complicated.
GRAZIA: When it comes to beauty perceptions, what hopes do you have for your young daughters? What lessons are you instilling in them as they grow?
Violette: My eldest daughter is very into Elsa from Frozen. My husband is Chinese so my kids are bi-racial and my eldest has long dark hair and dark eyes. For Halloween, she wants to be Elsa and I asked her why. She said, “Because she’s so beautiful”. She wants to be blonde with blue eyes. I try to teach her that the version she is is absolutely perfect. And she should embrace it. It’s definitely a challenge.
GRAZIA: Finally, can you share with us a life secret of the French?
Violette: What we care about is being happy. We cherish authenticity which helps you also cherish how you are. For example, if you said, “Hey, how are you?” a French person will never just be good, they will actually tell you how they are. Because if you’re asking them, you want to know. If you don’t want to know, don’t ask. And if you don’t ask, it’s OK! Sometimes, I find myself still in American-mode where I have to make the atmosphere happy and uplifted. The French don’t care, we don’t need that. And I think that effects how we experience life.