The Geisha Influence: Serge Lutens on Japanese Inspirations


Serge Lutens talks about the influence of geisha traditions in his work as a make-up artist in the Sunday Times Online article, The Look of Geisha (scroll down to section titled “The Geisha Influence”).

Photo: Maiko, apprentice geisha from


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  • annieytown: Thanks for posting this article V!
    I am a huge fan of Liz’s writing. Her geisha book was so damn good. January 9, 2006 at 8:23am Reply

  • primavera24: It’s very interesting, Thanks. I post here for the first time. I love your blog. 🙂 January 9, 2006 at 9:56am Reply

  • Robin: Fascinating article, thanks V. January 9, 2006 at 12:15pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Annie, I really enjoyed her book, which was very interesting. I especially loved the historical section. January 9, 2006 at 1:46pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Primavera, welcome! Thank you for a nice compliment. I am glad that you liked this little article. I also very much enjoyed it. January 9, 2006 at 1:52pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, I was very excited to read it, especially since Serge Lutens’s work as a make-up artist clearly exhibits Japanese influences. January 9, 2006 at 1:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I would agree, but geisha were never courtesans, but rather artists and entertainers. Courtesans and prostitutes always existed alongside geisha in Japan, but these worlds were separate. It is a quite interesting topic, and the book by Liza Dalby which Annie mentions above explains the history of geisha and their place in the “floating world” in the antiquity and nowadays. She is the only foreign woman to have been a geisha. January 9, 2006 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Bela: Interesting article, but – sorry, Serge – I must be the only person in the world who’s not totally fascinated by courtesans, oriental or not. January 9, 2006 at 2:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Thank you for clarifying. I was just pointing out the distinction that for courtesans, sexual favours were obligatory, while for geisha, they were not. Nowadays especially, most geisha are primarily performers, and in the past, the ability to sing and dance was also prized above all else. Anyone can go and see the recital in Kyoto nowadays. However, I still see your point on what to make of women whose life is devoted to pleasing and entertaining men. January 10, 2006 at 1:23pm Reply

  • Bela: I was using the term in its wider sense: a woman whose entire life is devoted to entertaining and pleasing men. French courtesans, say at the court of Louis XIV, were also gifted singers, dancers, etc. It didn’t stop them from providing other services. Isn’t it a little disingenuous to think that geishas didn’t/don’t too? January 10, 2006 at 9:27am Reply

  • primavera24: BoisdeJasmin, seems you really studied about Japan. Performers is a correct word I think. Japanese courtesans are called Oiran, for example. I have to learn more about that era though. January 11, 2006 at 12:25am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I studied Japanese in college and I have always been interested in the history and culture. I wanted to read Sei Shonagon’s Makura no Hon in the original. 🙂 January 11, 2006 at 12:43am Reply

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