Eye On

The Art of Lipstick:
Red Hong Yi on her
Chinese New Year

"My family in China would always get together for Chinese New Year. It's about making time for each other," says Red Hong Yi, a Malaysian-raised, Melbourne-based artist. She's not alone. Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday of the year for many, celebrated with everything from impressive fireworks for all to enjoy to personalized gifts, like traditional hong baos (red envelopes given by elders) and little indulgences, like luxury beauty treats.

This year, Clinique asked Red to design limited-edition gift wrapping to celebrate Chinese New Year. Why Red? Because she specializes in creating unique installations using everyday objects as a medium like tea bags, coffee cups and basketballs. Her medium for this project? Our favorite everyday essential: Clinique Pop Lip Colour + Primer

"We wanted to have an effect that almost looked like acrylics or paint in an effort to merge art and makeup," says Red. The finished piece is a polyptych divided into a grid of nine lipstick swatches, intended to look like a painter's palette. "The Pop Lip lipsticks are luscious and soft, which translated well for the image we wanted to create," says Red. "The range of shades was also very important."

The end result? A beautiful selection of wrapping, gift bags, tags, and, of course, hong baos, decorated with Red's lipstick design. Here, she talks about her unique creative process and the meaning behind this exclusive artwork.

The Wink: What was the design process like?
Red Hong Yi: I really wanted to project something unexpected with the texture of the lipstick swatches. I wanted to make the lipstick look like it was a different material, like paint. But it was a lengthy process. I had to get the perfect smear for every lipstick shade, then the perfect imprint of the Chinese knot or Clinique logo. It took me four days to achieve that, but we successfully merged art and makeup. 

TW: Why did you choose the Chinese knot?
RHY: The Chinese knot symbolizes unity and reunion and it reminds me of my experiences around Chinese New Year. My family from China and Malaysia would always gather together for the holiday, and that symbolizes that we are one and that we love each other.

TW: What does the color red mean to you?
RHY: For me, it symbolizes love, luck, passion, sacrifice and prosperity. Red is definitely heavily tied to Chinese culture, because it represents all of these values and ideas. That’s also why I used all of the red shades in the Clinique Pop Lip line to represent everyone coming together and all of these values. Red has also become my nickname. A friend started calling me Red because my surname Hong sounds like the word red in Chinese. Then, when I registered my YouTube account, I used RedHongYi and it just stuck!

TW: What is your favorite Clinique product? ​
RHY: Definitely Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion+. My mom has used it since I was a kid and I would always see this bottle of yellow lotion in her bathroom. I use it, too, and I love it because my skin is pretty sensitive and dry, especially when I travel to colder climates.

TW: What is your favorite Chinese New Year memory?
RHY: When we were kids, my siblings and I would stay up really late on the eve of Chinese New Year. There is a tradition that if you stay up late, your parents will live longer. So it was a great excuse to stay up, and we would try to last until our eyelids were too heavy!

TW: How do you find your inspiration?
RHY: I've been working on art installations using everyday materials for about four years now. The more you focus on something, the more you notice the little things. Now, because I focus on everyday materials so much, I always notice what is around me and visualize possibilities. They're endless! 

Portrait courtesy of Red Hong Yi | Words: Helena Yeung

Shop the Story