Olivier Echaudemaison is the artistic director of Givenchy cosmetics and the man who created the Givenchy Beaute line. In theory, that means he was in Hong Kong last week to promote the launch of Rouge Miroir which, according to the press handout, is 'the new charm weapon to cast a spell on men and create that feeling of irresistible dependence'. You could spend a wasteful chunk of today trying to work out just what that means so here is the answer: it is a lipstick. In fact, it is Mr Echaudemaison himself who is Givenchy's charm weapon. If there is an irresistible quality to be found, it lies in the flow of his conversation, very little of which is concerned with Rouge Miroir; every now and then, he has to remind himself that he is here to sell a particular product but it is evident that he would much rather chat about some amusing incident featuring Jackie Kennedy, Wallis Simpson, or Princess Margaret. In a world of extravagant claims and humourless promotion, Mr Echaudemaison twinkles like a rare gem. He has worked with the House of Givenchy for many years, and before he became a make-up artist in 1972, he was a hairdresser so he knows pretty well everything there is to know about female beauty. As a lad, he worked with such society photographers as Cecil Beaton and Norman Parkinson. He has flown on Air Force One and passed through the gates of Buckingham Palace (but, alas, although he did Princess Anne's face for her wedding, the jingoistic British media worked itself into a lather about the idea of a Frenchman daring to apply paint to English royal skin so he never got a chance to do Diana). He watched Coco Chanel, 'an old granny', as she scowled from her usual perch on the staircase above her fashion shows. He knew Cindy Crawford when she was a raw unknown in Chicago. He held Audrey Hepburn's famously calloused and stained hands. 'She loved gardening, that was why her hands were so rough,' explains Mr Echaudemaison, waving his own in the air. He is a man of great emphasis, leaping to his feet to demonstrate - amongst many other things - the exact degree of vindictiveness with which the Duchess of Windsor would trample upon a freshly ironed frock, the misery with which her maid would react, and his own gleeful shock at such diva-esque behaviour. And now he is promoting Rouge Miroir . . . 'Alors, now we are more serious,' he remarks at this reminder. 'What can I say? It's a 21st-century lipstick. The technology is so high the quality is close to perfect, it's very comfortable. It's a new story for the new fashion of [Alexander] McQueen.' Mr McQueen, of course, is the current designer for the House of Givenchy who replaced John Galliano, who replaced Hubert de Givenchy himself. On the surface at least, the streetwise Mr McQueen has about as much in common with the aristocratic Hubert de Givenchy as Homer Simpson has with Wallis Simpson. Mr Echaudemaison sees it differently. 'He is very much in the style of Givenchy, his tailoring and cutting is in the English traditional style mixed with some humour. But he is much more contemporary.' Hence the launch of Rouge Miroir which should raise the temperature in the endless, and lucrative, cosmetic wars waged by the fashion houses. Mr Echaudemaison (whose name, by lucky chance, literally translates as 'hot house') ponders the historical significance of lipstick: 'A lipstick is always a lipstick, it's the same for the past 50 years, I think since the time of Charles Revson at Revlon. You know why? The beginning of the colour movies - suddenly women see other women with bright lips, the revolution of film made it acceptable.' No doubt Rouge Miroir's range of colours will be highly acceptable to today's women (in another press release Mr Echaudemaison waxes lyrical about his palette: 'I deliberately opted for either deeper tones of openly playful, even sci-fi, hues such as white, steel and smoke, to draw women into the third millennium'), but it is the design of the case itself which marks the major change after half a century. For the first time, a mirror has been incorporated into a lipstick's casing. As an idea, it seems so simple and so obvious that it is hard to believe it has not been done before. Mr Echaudemaison, freely scrabbling in my deep bag to prove how difficult it is for a woman to find both her lipstick and a mirror, insists that it is a technological first conjured up by the wizardry of those who make mirrors for cars. 'I'm sure the others have tried. And I'm sure in one year from now there will be lots of copies.' He gazes at the lipstick, specially designed by the Argentine sculptor Pablo Reinoso, with admiration. 'The curve means sensuality, it's more sexy than a square box, don't you think? Make-up can give so much power to a face, the power to seduce, it's so interesting.' What about make-up for men? 'Men only need to wear a suntan,' he replies, with a laugh. Isn't that dangerous? 'For you, yes, it means wrinkles. A woman is old with a suntan, but a man is sexy, macho, charming.' (Perhaps it should be noted here that Mr Echaudemaison had spent the previous day topping up his suntan next to the pool at the Island Shangri-la hotel.) Still, after a lifetime devoted to maquillage, he knows what dreams women invest in the little glittering tubs on their dressing-tables. 'It must be fun for women, that feeling of being four or five years old and you pick up the lipstick of your mother, and you become a film star.' Mr Echaudemaison pauses and, being a true Frenchman, scrupulously adds: 'But we don't sell love and a woman in love does not wear so much make-up. For her, love is make-up.'