My Style: Poppy King

On the eve of introducing her new lipstick collection, the bona fide Australian lipstick queen tells Refinery29 about her very own bon-vivant-touched-with-retro style. By Christene Barberich
poppyking_storyopenIf you're a lipstick person, someone who simply cannot function in the outside world without the right super-intense scarlet-red, you know about Poppy King. "Every era, you can see how lipstick has played a role," King says. "During WWII, it was considered patriotic to wear lipstick because it cheered everyone up."
King was the person who, in 1992, after years of fruitless searches for the right daring lip shades, launched her own line at just 20 years old. "Since I was 16, I can remember just never liking the whole mood of lipstick, from the packaging to the names, like Tangerine Dream!" King says. "Forties-inspired lipsticks with intense pigments just didn't exist. And I knew even in the '80s that my look wasn't the typical Pat Benatar—It was more Marlene Dietrich."
Just seven lipsticks strong, the audacious Deco-by-way-of-Biba-inspired collection was unlike any cosmetics around. During an era when the Cliniques and Diors ruled the counters, King's quirky indie brand of varnishes knocked the industry on its ear (and "little" brands like Hard Candy and Stila promptly began sprouting up). When Prescriptives came knocking, asking the entrepreneur to head up its creative development division, King shuttered the brand and shipped off to New York where she still lives, but not without an idea that her lipsticks would someday live again. More than a decade later (and no longer living the corporate life), King is ready to unveil her new line: just lipsticks for hardcore lipstick ladies.
Named Lipstick Queen, the idea is the same—super intense shades—but with a whole different look. "Before it was very Deco, but this time around I was inspired a lot by Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Frank Lloyd Wright," she says. The other difference now is that King will be selling the ten shades exclusively in handpicked boutiques such as Lyell. "I want to be in a place that's intimate," King says. "I love talking to customers about lipstick." And perhaps the biggest motivation for the line is King herself. "I can't leave the house without lipstick," she says. "I feel invisible without it. When I want to be anonymous, I cover my lips." Here, the resident lipstick queen tells us about the main ingredients that inform her style DNA.
mystylepoppy_lipsticksmall1. Lipstick.
"I have worn red lipstick since I was 17. I feel invisible without it. Occasionally I wear another color, but red is the signature."
Diane von Furstenberg fall/winter '06/'07 runway
mystylepoppy_leopardsmall2. Leopard print.
"I've always loved leopard print, and I've worn it since I was little. There's something so timeless about it. I have a lot of leopard-print trench coats, jackets, shirts, and most of it is vintage. But my big splurge was a pony-skin leopard-print Prada handbag. My heart was pounding when I bought it."
Prada fall/winter '06/'07 runway
mystylepoppy_garnetssmall3. Garnets.
"I love garnets! It is such a beautiful stone, garnets are a real style hallmark for me. I love those mourning rings or Victorian garnets."
Antique Victorian garnet necklace at Shelly Steffee, 34 Gansevoort Street, 917-408-0409
4. Equestrian.
"Waistcoats, jodhpurs, saddle bags, I love all equestrian-inspired pieces."
Balenciaga fall/winter '06/'07 runway
mystylepoppy_bootssmall5. Boots.
"I am mental about boots, and they're all vintage. I'm not a high-heel girl, so I mostly go for lower heels. I love Zachary's Smile; they have an amazing selection of vintage boots."
Boots at Zachary's Smile, 317 Lafayette, 212-965-8248
ladyslimkeithsmall6. Slim Keith.
"She was such an individual, so iconic. She was so simple but had such a strong look and such presence. I don't identify with celebrities, but a woman like Slim Keith who is truly chic is really inspiring to me."
mystylepoppy_aliceroismall7. Alice Roi.
"I love everything from this season, especially the sweater dresses. Alice is a genius."
Portrait by Piera Gelardi. Slim Keith photograph courtesy of
On the eve of introducing her new lipstick collection, the bona fide Australian lipstick queen tells Refinery29 about her very own bon-vivant-touched-with-retro style.

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