Chanel Proves That Mermaidcore Beauty Is Here to Stay

Chanel is on to the next wave. In a departure for the brand, which usually appoints one makeup artist as its creative director, the house has enlisted three—the newly formed Cometes Collective, who will be creating, designing, and collaborating on new products and collections.

First up for spring 2024 is a fanciful take on the time that Gabrielle Chanel used to spend by the seaside in Deauville, France. “I made a promise to the ocean,” declares Chinese makeup artist Valentina Li on set in Paris. Li, who designed the first collection, is known for her futuristic, manga-inspired and 3D designs (like using bulbous light fixtures to double as lashes for runway shows). She is also a nature enthusiast. “I love the ocean. I will not eat fish. I will be eaten by the fish,” she says with complete seriousness. Her hair, cut into a razor-sharp chin- length bob, is fittingly dyed the striking cobalt blue of sea glass.

“And then I will eat you, because I love fish!” chimes in Paris-based makeup artist Cécile Paravina, her bleached-blonde brows wiggling as she jokes while brandishing an eye shadow brush. UK-based makeup artist Ammy Drammeh shakes her head at their silliness, and giggles. So makes up the girl-band feel of the Cometes Collective, who’ve brought a playfully imaginative energy to their collaboration. Using The Spring 2024 Collection—corals, cool silvers, azure tones, and pearly shades and textures picked by Li to pay homage to the glimmer of seashells, waves, and pink sand—each member of the collective created a portfolio of beauty looks for ELLE. As seen on muses like Halston actress and model Rebecca Dayan, musician Ama Lou (whose debut album I Came Home Late is out now), and Letterkenny actress Clark Backo, big, fluttery lashes, ocean-blue eyeliner, pinky blush, and dewy skin are the new way to beach. Read on for an interview with the Cometes Collective about their thriving group chat, the whimsical narrative that inspired the Collection, and the creation of a bioluminescence-inspired highlighter.

ama lou for chanel

Courtesy of Chanel

Ama Lou. Makeup by Cécile Paravina.

clark backo for chanel

Courtesy of Chanel

Clark Backo. Makeup by Valentina Li.

What is your experience like in collaborating? Working with two makeup artists is already unusual, three is even rarer.

Valentina Li: I think three is better than-

Cécile Paravina: Three is better than two.

Ammy Drammeh: It’s like a good point of inflection.

CP: It’s unbreakable.

VL: Two, it’s easy to separate, like chopsticks. But a triangle stays still.

CP: It’s like a fortune cookie.

AD: The most surprising thing, I think it would surprise everyone is that we actually really get on. We’re not pretending. It’s not like a Sex and the City situation.

CP: It’s honestly nice because we work for a company. We try to do the best for the brand without pulling the blanket on our side too much. Because at the end of the day, it’s not your brand, it’s not my brand. It’s Chanel and we want to make it in the smartest and most productive way of [showcasing] ideas.

VL: We share a common goal, and that is what makes us an unbreakable group.

rebecca dayan

Courtesy of Chanel

Rebecca Dayan. Makeup by Ammy Drammeh.

What would you say is a unifying thread in your work?

CP: All three of us are super interested in texture. We are also kind of research based in a way, because we consume culture. We digest things, and infuse it in our work, even though it goes in very different directions.

VL: I do feel really surprised though, because we had very different childhoods. When Ammy was watching all the music videos, I was watching Sailor Moon.

CP: And I was unfortunately watching political videos with my dad…

VL: But somehow we can work together very smoothly.

CP: Also, all three of us are kind of a little bit outsider. None of our families worked in art. We all had to acquire a strong will to express our ideas and show elements of our backgrounds. We were not born in big towns. There’s a journey of coming from a small town and having to compensate. That’s why we relate to each other.

Do you bounce ideas off each other?

AD: All the time. Yes.

CP: You see, we talk a little too much during interviews. Imagine when there’s no mediator. It’s like an ongoing conversation about beauty. Even when we are doing individual projects, we tend to show each other the mood boards, the colors, and then once we start getting lab submissions, we share it with each other. You need to try some different skin tones to make sure you’re doing something that is a little bit universal. It’s important for us to have this communication, even on the individual projects.

So you guys must have a very thriving group chat, I imagine.

AD: Yes, we do. Collective Collectives.

CP: No, the real name is Cometes Gang.

ama lou

Courtesy of Chanel

Ama Lou. Makeup by Cécile Paravina.

Valentina, how did you start envisioning the story of this collection?

VL: I was very inspired by this, the [Chanel Exclusive Creation Illuminating Powder in Lumière de L’Océan]—it’s a highlighter with two different reflections of finish. It’s really a transparent base, and it reminded me of seeing droplets in water and bioluminescence. I told myself in the beginning, that the first collection either for Chanel or for myself, will be about the ocean.

I did a lot of research, but I already had a lot of images in the ocean deck because I personally go 2–3 times a year to the ocean if I can. I also wanted this collection to bring awareness to the protection of the ocean—we get so much inspiration from it.

I know you like to create a story for your collection. What was the story for this one?

VL: A girl, which is me, has a jellyfish leading her into the ocean. For this eyeshadow palette [Chanel Multi-effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Rivage], it’s like a girl was walking in the street, and went into a bookstore. She opened the book, maybe it’s called Ocean. And when she opened her eyes, she found herself at the beach.

The first color [in the palette] is the diamond effect that is on the surface of the ocean, when the sun hits it and is twinkling. The blue color is the color of the ocean. The beige color here is the pearl that she found at the beach, and the brown color is the sand that she’s walking on.

Then she jumps into the ocean, and finds the jellyfish, that is dancing in the water, that leads her in, and coral. Then this electric blue color [CHANEL Stylo Yeux Waterproof Eyeliner in Bleu Abysse] is inspired by the very mysterious, lost Atlantis city. And there are also colors inspired by either octopus or tiger fish, and all the other amazing creatures that I love in the ocean.

clark backo

Courtesy of Chanel

Clark Backo. Makeup by Valentina Li.

In creating this collection, what areas did you want to push on or go a little bit beyond what they maybe normally do?

VL: I wanted to push the playfulness of makeup. We see a lot of tutorials about how a product can only be used in a particular area. But there are so many different steps for creating a look. It sort of feels like we went to school for many years and have been listening to the teacher for a long time, but I want people to know that you can really enjoy the process of makeup.

Makeup is pure playfulness. If you don’t like it, you remove it. That’s also a process of how you find your own style and experiment. Makeup should be an experiment, and a conversation that you have with yourself, instead of watching endless tutorials where you try to make yourself like someone on the internet. I think that it’s important for people to find themselves through makeup, and to be unique, and be different. That’s the message I want us to send out on every collection, and what we all want.

Shop Chanel’s Spring Makeup Collection

For Dayan’s first makeup look, try Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in Eros, Lumière de L’Océan, Illuminating Powder in Blush Pearl, and Rouge Coco Baume Tinted Lip Balm Buildable Colour in Coraline. All, Chanel. For her second look, try Les 4 Ombres Multi-effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Rivage, Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in Noir, and Rouge Allure Laque Liquid Lip Colour in Sea Shell. All, Chanel.

For Lou’s first makeup look, try Exclusive Creation Blush Duo in Roses Coquillage, Exclusive Creation Illuminating Powder in Lumière de L’Océan, and Rouge Coco Baume in Anémone. All, Chanel. For her second look, try Les Beiges Healthy Glow Foundation, Poudre Libre Universelle Loose Powder, and Rouge Allure Laque Lip Colour in Sea Shell. All, Chanel.

For Backo’s first makeup look, try Stylo Yeux Waterproof Long-Lasting Eyeliner in Bleu Abysse, Les 4 Ombres Multi-effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Rivage, Roses Coqullage Powder Blush Duo in Warm Pink and Soft Coral. All, Chanel. For her second look, try Les 4 Ombres Multi-effect Quadra Eyeshadow in Coral Treasure, Rouge Coco Baume Tinted Lip Balm Buildable Colour in Anémone, and Baume Essentiel Multi-Use Glow Stick in Mermaid Glow. All, Chanel.

A version of this story appears in the March 2024 issue of ELLE.

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