Karen Murrell is a bit of a flower child, happiest walking along the beach barefoot, enjoying the embrace of nature. Her North Shore home looks out to sea and a short walk takes her down to Narrow Neck or on to Cheltenham Beach.
It was there last winter, on a romantic walk, that this specialist formulator found inspiration for her latest lipsticks.
"Bursts of vividly dusky, cerise pink-coloured camellias were delicately peeking out of the gloomiest day of the year," she recalls.
Being the glass brimming over type, Murrell was captivated by the notion of turning a dull day into an instant pick-me-up.
"It really was the only inspiration I needed to combine my love of flowers and colour into a lipstick collection designed, just like nature, to inject colour into your day."
Murrell set about surrounding herself with her favourite flowers, studying their shades, and working out how to capture these in natural pigments.
She describes the resultant Summer Bouquet Collection as a "coming of age collection".
The personal connection that inspired it means her Facebook status now reads "in a relationship". She is loving life, surrounded as always at home and in her office by flowers, and enjoying the challenges of a fast-growing business.
When Viva spoke to Murrell about five years ago, she had recently launched her natural lipstick line with a balm and a few shades. Now there are 16 shades, export orders to fill and plans aplenty for further development.
Her lipsticks have won international plaudits for combining colour and care.
The old chestnut about women ingesting 2kg of lipstick over their lifetime and it being best to keep it "nasties" free has helped drive natural lipstick sales worldwide. Choice has been limited, with formulas often waxy and in muted colours.
Murrell's background - working first on cosmetics counters then in a partnership launching a commercially successful, naturally based, skincare line - gave her a head-start in what women wanted and how to make it. She has also put in the hard yards, using herself as a guinea pig and getting the necessary certifications for guaranteed natural status.
Her love of fashion - and flowers - has helped her products stand out on the shelves. Stylish black canisters are made of biodegradable corn resin and the originally illustrated packaging is, naturally, recyclable.
New Zealand now has several other credible natural lipstick makers (check out Antipodes, Living Nature and World Organic for starters), but Karen Murrell has undoubtedly led the way in terms of colour.
The five new floral shades extend her selection and the view that, "Lipsticks, just like flowers, have an instant feel-good factor that can brighten, and make someone smile on the gloomiest day, no matter what size, shape or age you are".
Viva asks the lipstick queen's advice, and what shade she will select on Valentine's Day.
How should women choose a lipstick to suit their style?
Women are becoming more and more confident with wearing bold and bright lipstick colours, which is a reflection of the fashion trends we are seeing. There are no rules now for what colour should be worn where and when. But women need to be comfortable with the hue selected as the colour should not overpower their confidence. Starting off with a lipstick that has enough depth will help build confidence to try out brighter shades.
What's your favourite from the bunch?
When I create a new lipstick I always get a sample to personally test run for a couple of months to ensure I am happy with the colour. When I tested out Poppy Passion I got so many comments that I couldn't stop wearing it, and I knew it would be the hero colour of the new collection. I'm a creature of habit and treat my lipstick collection like my accessories, they are always on display to select from each morning depending on how I am feeling; normally, Carnation Mist (rose petal pink) or Sand Storm (nude).
What are your plans for Valentine's Day?
Hopefully, being able to finish up work by 7pm and go for a romantic walk along Cheltenham Beach.
What lipstick will you be wearing?
My new favourite lipstick colour, Poppy Passion - a vibrant poppy flower-inspired pink bursting with passion and drama.
Which flowers would you love to receive?
The mysterious yet alluring slipper orchids are one of my guilty pleasures and all-time favourites to receive. I adore them so much that I created a lipstick colour called Orchid Bloom.
Romance to you means . . .
Being thoughtful and smiling when you think about the one you love.
KAREN'S LIP TIPS
If kissing is on the agenda, any advice on how to choose a lipstick for the evening?
Nothing beats a vibrant, pure red - it screams, "I'm confident and want to be kissed!" For those who are not as daring, a rose petal pink is the perfect colour. It's always romantic and admired for its natural kiss of colour.
What are your secrets to kissable lips?
Lipstick worn on lips that are smooth, soft and supple; smiling with great teeth and ready to be kissed! You don't need to overdo your lip care to keep them looking and feeling kissable, simply exfoliate once or twice a week to buff away any dry skin (a little facial exfoliator on to your lips with a flannel in the shower works well), then condition with a natural hydrating balm to lock in moisture. Also, try to wear a natural hydrating lipstick.
What should people know before choosing a lipstick?
As a lipstick designer I have tested them all. I now live and breathe by four lipstick rules. Touch: It must glide on. Smell: It must smell great. Wear: It must last well and not rub off easily. Ingredients: It must have natural high pigment with lip conditioning ingredients such as evening primrose oil, avocado oil and shea butter.
How do you best apply lipstick?
My failsafe way is straight from the canister, and then press your lips together. This fixes the pigment and waxes on to your lips and creates high pigment with a long-wearing fix which should not feather.
Go on, kiss and tell . . .
I am a bit kooky and seem to always be without a pen - therefore most of my friends are used to me leaving random notes on their cars or front doors written in Karen Murrell lipstick - it goes down a treat.
• Karen Murrell Lipsticks are available at selected pharmacies and health stores. Stockists ph 0508 600 400 or see karenmurrell.com.