Vintage CHANEL: The Vamp Trilogy – Rouge Noir, Rouge Très Noir, and Rouge Argent (swatches & review)


The beauty of going back into my nail lacquer vault, is rediscovering past gems: case in point, I present you with the original “Vamp Trilogy”! Being a long-time fan (and collector) of CHANEL cosmetics, I find it so interesting that so many of today’s hues & nail lacquer trends, actually have roots in releases of the past; I didn’t even remember CHANEL creating glitter polishes other than ‘Night Sky’ (previously reviewed here), until I started digging through my collection, and was amazed at what I turned up (more on that in a future Vintage CHANEL post!). The three ‘Vamp’ varnishes that make up this trio have by now reached almost mythic proportions (well, not really…but they should!) and in my opinion, deservedly so. All swatches are with Deborah Lippmann’s 2-Second Nail Primer, and a-england’s ‘The Knight’ Base Coat and ‘The Shield’ Top Coat (previously reviewed here).



When I think of “vamp”, the image that comes to mind is that of a true femme fatale, such as Greta Garbo (pictured above) and not anything twilight-related. To me, being vamp means expressing your inner sensuality by a subtle visual clue, as in mysteriously darkened nails … enough said!



I absolutely love how the above photo (taken with my husband’s iphone using the Instagram app), gives a true “vintage-y” vibe to these gorgeous lacquers – how perfect is this?!



Back in 1994, when CHANEL was about to present one of their runway collections to the media, stylists quickly painted the models’ nails with black marker, then had their production department replicate the look using varnish, and ‘Rouge Noir’ (‘Vamp’ in the US) was born.  Rather daring for the times as none of the great houses had ever shown a nail as dark as this before, this shade quickly gained notoriety when it was chosen to be worn by Uma Thurman in the now cult hit, Pulp Fiction.  Not only was the wait list for this lacquer instantaneous but sales quickly surpassed the $1 million mark – unprecedented for a nail varnish – and so, a new era of hues was ushered in.  For the most part, us Canadians receive the European version of CHANEL products (unlike in the US where CHANEL products are specifically made there and for that market), and therefore my bottle not only hails from France, but is actually a first run edition dating to 1994! Yes … I jumped all over this beauty back then, the very instant I heard the first whispers!



A deeply blackened red, almost replicating the colour of dried blood – but only in the most fashionably tasteful way – ‘Rouge Noir’ to this day, remains the gold standard that other “vamped” shades aspire to.  Amazingly, the formula is still absolutely incredible (after 18 years, no less!) with an excellent viscosity, flowing well across the nail.  The first coat shows a maroon-like base, which quickly deepens to the bottle colour by the second coat (as applied here).  Completely self-levelling with ZERO brush strokes, the finish is insanely glossy, although I applied top coat as further protection.  Wear time was also impressive, lasting easily a full 5 days before there was the most minimal of chipping.



Hot on the heels of ‘Rouge Noir’s’ incredible success and approximately a year after that shade’s original release, CHANEL decided to expand the line with two more varnishes in that family.  First up is ‘Rouge Très Noir’ (‘Very Vamp’ in the US), ‘Rouge Noir’s’ browner sister.



Leaning rather more towards the burgundy, this shade holds that “secret shimmer” that has by now become synonymous with CHANEL, and which adds such a stunning overall depth of tone here.  Once more, the formula was excellent, albeit somewhat thinner-flowing than ‘Rouge Noir’. The first coat lays down more brown than reddish, but  by the second coat (as applied here), its true depth is reached. No visible brush strokes and with a smooth application, this lacquer may not bear the mirror-like shine of its more famous sibling, but leaves behind a super-high gloss shine nonetheless.



The final member of this fashionable trilogy, is ‘Rouge Argent’ (‘Metallic Vamp’ in the US).  Released almost simultaneously with ‘Rouge Très Noir’, this third instalment completed the triumvirate.



Moving some distance away from the more red-leaning natures of its two previous sister shades, ‘Rouge Argent’ goes towards a new, rock & roll direction with its deep purple base colour and more obvious metallic look. I found that this shade had the thickest formula of the three, although it still flowed exceptionally well just the same, levelling off easily and keeping any visible brush strokes to a tight minimum.  The first coat appeared rather grape-hued with some slight reddish undertones, but by the second coat (as applied here), the deeply blackened violet of the bottle colour, was definitely achieved.  Interestingly enough, its inner subtle shimmer comes through quite clearly in this incarnation, lending ‘Rouge Argent’ a slightly more metallic finish.


Final thoughts: These three particular lacquers hold very special meaning for me: ‘Rouge Noir’ was released in 1994, the year my daughter was born, and by the time she was 1, the other two shades had followed … turning me into (what I believed) was quite the fashion-forward new “mommy”! What I can appreciate now, even more so than when I originally wore them, is not only how sublimely these varnishes wear, but how ahead of their times they were, helping so many other brands turn the corner on standardized hues, and setting off a veritable explosion of previously unheard-of new nail polish colours. Remember, in the world of CHANEL, being a “vamp”, is good … very, very good!





*Image credit

52 Responses to Vintage CHANEL: The Vamp Trilogy – Rouge Noir, Rouge Très Noir, and Rouge Argent (swatches & review)

  1. Simone says:

    Thank you so much for your wonderful posts. You have such an amazing collection! My Chanel Le Vernis collection begun with the Robertson Blvd limited edition colors ( Rodeo Drive, LA Sunrise, LA Sunset, Melrose) & has expanded since then. Too bad I only have very few vintage colors, my favorite being Tickled Pink. The quality is still there and a great trick for thickened polish is to add polish thinner. I recommend Mavala thinner, a few drops, shake and voila! like new again.

    • Eugenia says:

      Thank you for your kind words! I’ve never had an issue with any of my CHANEL polishes needing to be thinned out (but I appreciate your tip!). As all lacquers are made with acrylic polymers, what’s key in preserving their integrity, is to keep them stored out of direct light and humidity, and to ensure the caps are tightly closed – it’s when oxygen gets in that they can then thicken.

  2. M.R. says:

    “Vamp” actually comes from a reference to actress Theda Bara. She starred in a silent film called “A Fool There Was” in which she played a vampire. She was known from then on as “The Vamp.”

  3. meinthecity says:

    Oh how I loved Very Vamp and Vamp “back in the day”! I have a question for you. When wearing Very Vamp have you ever had a white discoloration form on your nails? I stores it properly and followed all Nail Addict protocol for preserving your polishes.

    I bought two separate bottles and it happened with both of them, Every Single Wear! It drove me nuts. It almost looked like how chocolate looks when it blooms (turns whiteish on the surface) had anyone else ever had this happen? I asked at the Chanel counter and they looked at me like I was nuts.

    Someone please tell me I am not alone!

    • Eugenia says:

      When you say “white discoloration”, are you referring to something appearing no the natural nail once the polish has been removed, or on the polish itself after it has been applied & dried down? To be fair, I’m not sure I’ve ever noticed anything like that with any of my polishes, let alone CHANEL – but you do have me curious. The two bottles you purchase, were they from the same counter/source? Because if so, it could very well be that the batch may have had issues. If both bottles came from separate stores, then it’s either a) a coincidence or b) something in that particular formulation that could be reacting to you. Either way, it’s definitely a mystery to me and you sound like a person who knows how to take care of her nail polish, so I really don’t think you’re imagining this!

  4. Nastya says:

    Hello! )
    In Moscow I’ve found a place where is possible to buy vintage Chanel nail polish with old vintage numbers (small range). They look like new but in old-designed boxes. I am confused with the sign on the box:


    Trying to figure out whether it’s fake or not.
    The thing is that the polish has a magnificent quality – dry fast, flowing well, “creamу-gel”, fantastic color, very easy to use. And I can’t see any point in imitating little-known Chanel vintage nail polish but yet… I would be happy to find out any information about this strange Chanel line (if there is/were) with the sign Vernis Nail ENAMEL.

  5. I just received Rouge Noir as a Christmas gift & I am IN LOVE. This is definitely the start of an addiction.

    • Eugenia says:

      I couldn’t think of a better CHANEL shade to start your “addiction” with, than Rouge Noir – a classic, iconic colour! Congrats and hope you had a fabulous Christmas!

  6. D... says:

    First of all I just love going back to revisit all of these trends, proving that very little is new, just rediscovered. The funny thing is that I was not into Vamp when it came out, I was still a young thing, maybe that’s why. Now I can see it being such a classic and understand the depth of it. I think that was about the same time that Urban Decay and Hard Candy were coming out. OMG, blast from the past, no? This was before we talked in acronyms.

    Secondly, how on earth did you get your polishes to stay so new? Keep it in the fridge? I must know.

    • Eugenia says:

      It’s funny you should mention the fridge; many eons ago, someone told me to store my polishes in the fridge to ensure their longevity — which turns out to be 100% unnecessary. Nail polishes are made with acrylic, which definitely does NOT need refrigeration and does not benefit from it, so out of the fridge they came and since then, I simply keep them away from excessive moisture & heat, and most importantly, out of direct sunlight. I also tightly cap them between coats, when I’m using them; the least amount of exposure to air, will ensure that they won’t glop up and thicken. Remember that these old formulas were made with many of the ingredients that are omitted these days, therefore the very “toxins” we avoid today, are actually what went a long way in preserving these varnishes. All in all, I don’t wear them daily, so any exposure is beyond minimal at best — I can sleep at night knowing this!

  7. lolaluvsu says:

    I love that you did this. When the first came out, I got them too. I still have my original vamp and the metallic vamp (I lost the very vamp). I have noticed that I use the metallic more often than the original vamp. Don’t know why but perhaps I want to limit my use. Thanks…I thought I was the only one.

    • Eugenia says:

      I’m so happy to meet another “vintage lover”, lol! And no, you’re not alone…there’s more of us out there! Thanks to this series, I’m rediscovering my treasured vintage shades! I’m so sad that you los Very Vamp :( But at least you have the other two beauties to play with! :)

  8. Tasha says:

    Wow I LOVE this post ! To me THIS is what nail polish is about; it’s a fashion statement and a reflection of our time & culture… especially when it comes to Chanel ! I’ll link this to my comparison post 😉 It’s so cool that we did this within days of each other !

  9. Latoya says:

    I really need to own Rouge Noir, that’s just all there is to it. Stupidly amazingly gorgeous and sexy and awesome. Rouge Tres Noir is pretty hot too though, gotta say!! I’m loving these vintage Chanel posts, keep ’em coming Eugenia!

    • Eugenia says:

      Lol…thanks, Toya! I still have a few more vintage Chanels coming down the pipe – some really unique for Chanel, and some more classically-inclined! So glad you like them and yes…every girl needs some ‘Rouge Noir’ in her life, especially for those “vamp” moments…..!!!

  10. gattacanne says:

    Hello !!

    J’adore le rouge noir… mais j’arrive un peu tard pour le trouver.
    Merci pour la machine à voyager dans le temps cosmétique…


    P.S.: Keep on posting from your past collection it’s quite interesting !!!

    • Eugenia says:

      Pauvre toi! Even though there’s always ebay to look for it, I understand how it’s not the same. I’m so glad you enjoyed my little “vintage” trip (bravo! très bien écrit: la machine à voyager dans le temps cosmétique!) Don’t worry; I still have several more “blasts from the past” that I’ll be posting about! :)

      • gattacanne says:

        I found it this afternoon ” au printemps” !!!!
        I’m so happy !!!
        And it’s a new one !!!!
        I’m ready for your next Blast !!

      • Eugenia says:

        Woo-hoo! *score*!!! I hope it’s like the original and without the shimmer that was included in the re-issue! I’m so happy for you!! You have to send me pics!! Now I have to work on my next blast! 😉

      • gattacanne says:

        Sorry, no pics my phone die this evening and i haven’t got a camera, i’m so sorry , the color seems more darker and there is no shimmer at all…

      • Eugenia says:

        Don’t worry about, mon amie….if you get a chance, feel free to send me photos! Thanks for the description!

  11. I LOVE that you’re showcasing the vintage Chanels! I had no idea that was the story behind the creation of Rouge Noir. Fascinating!

    Rouge Noir is still on my list to get. I love my vamps like Essie Wicked but the collection seems incomplete without Rouge Noir or a true black. I don’t care much for the other two shades as much but it’s so interesting to see the discontinued colours that used to be so fashion forward back then! Thanks for this, Eugenia!

    • Eugenia says:

      You’re welcome, Liz…glad to have you back my friend! Rouge Noir is such a classic; I would warn you, however, that unless you’re buying it in Europe (or perhaps Canada still) to be careful, as the re-issued Rouge Noir had been tweaked somewhat, being a touch lighter in hue & with some added shimmer….no idea why Chanel would want to mess with a good thing. I want to pick up a newer version as well, if nothing else, to be able to compare!

  12. Wow! Big Sis, you certainly were a fashion forward mommy! I think I was lucky if i brushed my hair back then lol! LOVE these colours a lot-I’m just starting to get into more vampy colours.

    • Eugenia says:

      Well, after looking at pictures of me from back then, I realize that the only thing fashionable about me at that time, was in fact my nails, lol! You DO NOT want to see the hair!!! With your skin tone, I think the more moodier shades would look absolutely killer on you!

  13. pajammy says:


  14. I have to stop coming to your blog. Everytime I do come, I end up wanting something that I don’t want to get. LOL! They’re all just too pretty!

    • Eugenia says:

      Nooooo….don’t stop visiting — I like you too much to do that!! Lol! I don’t really enjoy showing products that aren’t available anymore, but to me these are a part of history (my history!) and I like sharing them and perhaps the story behind them as well. Even though these are long gone, they can serve as inspiration for anyone trying to duplicate their look!! Have I convinced you yet? Lol!!

  15. Kat says:

    Wow, 18 years! I hope my bottles will last that long too. Do you have any tips for how to preserve nail polish in the best possible way?

    • Eugenia says:

      Hi Kat! As nail polish is all made with an acrylic base, you really can’t do all that much to help preserve them, except for try and keep them out of direct sunlight, away from heat sources and if possible, stored in their original containers. I find that keeping the cap tightly closed closed is also important, especially when you’re in the process of painting your nails; in between coats, don’t be tempted to leave the bottle open/loose. Also, storing your bottles in the bathroom where they could be at the mercy of major humidity is never a good idea either. Hope this helps!

      • Kat says:

        I must admit I’m guilty of leaving the cap loose in between coats, but it’s nice to know that I’m doing everything else right.

        May I also ask how often you use your older bottles? I’m always worried whenever I use my LE bottles because I’ve noticed that the ones I frequently use thicken and dry out waaay too fast.
        Thank you so much for your reply!

      • Eugenia says:

        I have to say that I don’t use my older and/or LE shades all that often, as my collection has grown to such proportions, that I’d need double the fingers to do them all justice, lol! The more you expose your bottles to air, usually the faster they’ll start to turn, but bear in mind that the older formulas do contain some of the ingredients that companies avoid today, so that would perhaps explain their longevity. I would imagine that the best way to avoid losing one of your coveted bottles, would be to obviously not use it as much, but then what’s the point, right? Enjoy it now while you can, and take tons of pics to remember it by!!! :)

  16. Shimmer says:

    OMG, I loved this Eugenia! I’m totally jealous of your ‘original’ bottle of Vamp! I remember trying to find one back then, immediately after I saw ‘Pulp Fiction’…which makes me wonder, how did we find out such information (meaning, that Uma wore this color) back then without the internet? hahaha Must have been all the beauty magazines we were reading! XoXo
    PS The other 2 Vamps are pretty kick ass in their own right, however Rouge Noir will always hold a special place in my heart :)

    • Eugenia says:

      Thanks, my friend….and you’re right: how DID we find out about the Vamp-Uma Thurman connection? Must have been on Entertainment Tonight, or something like that! And yeah….there will always be imitators, but there’s still only one ‘Rouge Noir’!!

  17. Larie says:

    Ah, Rouge Noir…such a classic shade! I actually prefer that to the other two with Chanel’s “secret shimmer!”

    Such beauties 😉

  18. Kristi says:

    Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your vintage Chanels. I never knew that story behind vamp.

  19. Gorgeous! Wow. 18 years. Other polishes are probably dried by then. lol. Essie’s Masquerade Belle seems to be pretty close to Rouge Noir, non? (Heh..I start speaking French whenever there are French words involved in the post…I wonder why :P)

    • Eugenia says:

      Hahahaha! Love your French accent -très chic! I haven’t had time to pull out comparisons, but off the top of my head, I’m guessing you’re right about Masquerade Belle. I would also include Deborah Lippmann’s Just Walk Away Renee or even Single Ladies in that list. But you know what they say: you never forget your first!

      • Haha. Actually I learned French in high school…BUT, when I was a junior, my teacher was super intense. So we pretty much read and spoke lots of French about everything. And now I have this problem of French coming back to me from time to time even though I haven’t touched it in a year…Lololol.

      • Eugenia says:

        The more languages you have under your belt, the better I always say! Here in Quebec, we have no choice but to learn/speak French – but that’s a good thing for me, as I love languages!!

What are your thoughts, beautiful?