The first time I met a geisha was at dusk. The sun was setting, and she seemed to materialize out of thin air—a sight that literally took my breath away. Her makeup looked translucent in the fading light, creating a perfect backdrop for her iconic red lips. As she spoke and laughed, I was entranced by the vermillion rosebud of her lips. They were the perfect shade of crimson, not too red, not too bright, but demure and defined enough to be truly elegant. In a world filled with red lip color, hers seemed distinctive in a timeless way, and I never forgot the stunning effect.

Years later, when a makeup artist asked whether I’d help create a special lipstick shade for an actress’ upcoming red carpet appearance, I thought instantly of the vivid geisha I met that evening in Kyoto.  

The next six months were spent experimenting with textures, tones and pigments to find the perfect combination—when we opened one of the most recent boxes from our lab in Japan, we knew in an instant that we had found the magical match.

Its undertones were traditional, rooted in a shade known as shu-iro: a distinctive vermillion that is one of the most symbolic colors in Japan, often used to paint shrines, gates and other landmarks because of the belief that it brings happiness, good luck and protection.

The formula, however, is thoroughly modern—a universally flattering, long-lasting matte finish that brings out the radiance of every skin tone while keeping lips hydrated and soft at the same time. Its unique combination of pigments makes it a "neutral" red that instantly illuminates the complexion of everyone who wears it.

The actress—whose red lips are part of her signature look—loved the shade as much as we did. So many others asked if they could purchase it that we knew we wanted to make it available to women everywhere. We decided that the lipstick itself should be chiseled to look like a gem because it is such a treasure to us.

Now, at long last, the shipment of our limited-edition Kyoto Red Silk Lipsticks is on its way to us, marking an exciting new chapter for us too, as it is our first color cosmetic. We hope you love it as much as we do!

Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published March 2015

Beauty Secrets, Geisha
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Photo 1: Our muse Kyoka-San, applying her red lip. Photo by Thor Swift.

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