Laura Mercier

the beauty expert who became a mega-brand

Jolie, Pitt, Depp, and Paradis may be the boldfaced names that have come to represent Provence in southeastern France, but Laura Mercier is its native daughter. The bucolic region's lush fields of lavender, legendary vineyards, mountainous coastline, and seaside villages—the very ones that inspired Cezanne and van Gogh—compelled a young Arles-born Mercier to pick up a paintbrush. But transitioning from oils and acrylics to powders and pigments would ultimately be her claim to fame.

Almost 30 years after she began painting faces, Mercier is now a global brand. Her cosmetics empire spans 26 countries and is known for an exquisite lineup of lipsticks, palettes, bodycare, and fragrance that compelled longtime client and friend Sarah Jessica Parker to declare herself "Laura-dependent." She's not the only one. Julia, Gwyneth, Madonna, and a host of other famous faces have all preached the gospel of Mercier, stockpiling products as inventively formulated as they are cleverly named. Secret Camouflage, for starters—"it's the product I'm most proud to have created," she admits of the mother of all concealers.

Her new Art Deco-inspired Fall collection could give it a run for its money. "I wasn't the artist you hired to make models look freaky, nor are my makeup counters the ones you visit for blue lipstick and fuchsia eye shadow," Mercier says, alluding to her preference not only for the "happy brown" tones that color her latest line but also her general beauty mantra. It's one that takes cues from time-honored techniques and the simple lure of art, rather than shock value. You could call her "the Rembrandt of makeup artists." Madonna once did.

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—S.S. Fair

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