This is up there with a beauty junkie’s biggest highlights – Meeting François Nars himself. Yes, the man behind all those wonderful classics such as Orgasm Blush (although Deep Throat is my personal favourite), Sheer Glow Foundation and the amazing Creamy Concealer. Plus of course the latest lipstick launch that is pretty epic. Back a few months ago (bad blogger, I know) I met the amazing Mr Nars – who is not only fascinating to listen to, but also has some sort of miracle youth secret that I need to find out. Maybe it’s the Nars skincare range?! Who knows… but read on to hear a bit about my experience Mr Nars … oh, and which product he thinks every woman should have (and it’s not Orgasm…)
Q: What inspired you to get into the world of beauty in the first place?
François Nars: “Ah, what inspired me. I think probably the world of fashion was very attractive to me and I was very attracted at a very young age. Maybe at age seven or eight years old to flick through my mother’s magazines – I think she gave the the disease you know, of being a fashion addict and loving fashion. Then later of course getting into make-up through the fashion magazines also.”
Q: Why did you start your brand with a collection of only lipsticks?
François Nars: Well, I felt like it was the perfect timing for me. 1994 was the ideal time – I was completely exposed, in tonnes of magazines doing lots of editorial – especially with America Vogue at the time. So I felt my name was already out there, so it’s great timing – now or never. So then, I was a little frustrated that I couldn’t find a brand that had all the products I would be satisfied with from A-Z. So I thought it would be great to create a brand that I felt like everything worked. I used to, like any other make-up artist at the time I used to pick from different brands – a lipstick here, a blush there. But if I’m going to make a brand I want it to feel very complete – like this is the right one and I am satisfied with everything. It was one year before it came out – it was quite laid back and relaxed.
Q: Where does your inspiration come from when you visualise a lipstick or collection?
François Nars: Well, probably comes from so many different places – travelling. It’s a big part of my inspiration. I love movies, I love exhibitions, I love museums, I love walking down the street and the simplest things to the more intellectual things. Reading books – it’s really endless. For lipstick, for the entire collection – the ideas are all very ecclectic.
Q: Why did you decide to retire from doing the catwalk and then return to doing it later?
François Nars: Well, you know – when you have done 3,000 shows over 20 years you feel it’s time to look back a little bit. Then it came to a point where I was starting to do different things like taking photographs and I was really enjoying my new career as photographer. And the shows, the catwalks take a lot of time and energy. I felt I wanted to put that energy more into doing something else. I felt I had ‘given my due’ to fashion shows. Then I came back with Marc [Jacobs] because whilst I was partly over doing fashion shows – there was part of me that still misses it. So I felt you know, doing one show with one great designer was kind of a nice way to go back to, without being too much.
Q: Where does the inspiration come for the names of products – from iconic starts to the cult classic sexualised names?
François Nars: The inspiration comes everywhere – movies and travelling. The two biggest inspirations come from. For the lipsticks they’re all movie stars and actresses I love – but it’s up to everybody to guess the last name. My two biggest influences are travel and movies.
Q: Was there a reason behind the more audacious and controversial shade names? Things like Orgasm – is there a reason you chose those.
François Nars: Well I’ll tell you why. I thought those names – you know ‘Orgasm’ – it’s a great name and why not. I think make-up is a very sexy thing for a woman to do and look beautiful and it’s a way to facing the world and feeling great. Sexual names you could say – they felt like part of life and enjoying part of life. There’s nothing wrong with sex, there’s nothing wrong with Orgasm… the term orgasm was a universal name, an orgasm for life, for pleasure – more than just the sexual term. Nars is always a bit on the edge and I think I like pushing buttons a little bit. And I guess you know, for this blush – I was probably right! Women really embraced it everywhere and it became probably the most famous blush in the world! Then at the time I was also working a lot with Calvin Klein in New York and Calvin was also basing his whole image on sexuality and obsession. And I felt, you know what – we can transfer that to make-up and push the sexual part a bit. It’s more about sexy than sexual.
Q: How and why do you think a lipstick has the ability to change a woman’s mood?
François Nars: How does it change a woman’s mood? You should be telling me that?! I’m not quite sure – I think it’s such an easy accessory. One tube and you can actually feel sexy, look glamorous and give an instant feeling of sophistication and chic. And I think it’s so easy to carry – even during the war, women would give up everything except buying a tube of lipstick. I think that shows the addiction that women have to lipstick – it brings life to a face. I love lipstick, red of course – but any sort of colour.
Q: You choose interesting iconic women to front your campaign – not maybe women who you would think of as beauty ad faces. Why do you choose the women you do and do you have any muses?
François Nars: The models are always my muses – they’re my favourite faces. They’re the faces that I choose to be the image of the brand. I always love faces that are a little more unusual and not your typical kind of ‘cute’ beauty. I like strong features and faces with character. I love strong faces. I am very attracted to that kind of women – those who have a strong personality – not always the case with a model – so I pick a girl who has an intelligent face with a lot of strength to it. It could be an actress, it could be a model. It’s very rare that you would see me choose a girl that looks like a Barbie Doll. Less my type of beauty.
Q: How would you describe your typical NARS girl or woman? What’s her style – if she’s a celebrity who would she be?
François Nars: Girls who have a strong style. When there’s a nice style – that’s always a plus. A girl with timeless beauty, a little bit edgy. Maybe not the girl of the moment – even though we love to watch the girl of the moment! I try to find girls that don’t get bored easily. A strong look, but very timeless at the same time. Charlotte Rampling – not a young beauty, but timeless with a lot of strength and style that you never get tired of watching. What more can I tell you, I try to capture all those things – when I am casting. I want to get that type of woman.
Q: What’s your personal favourite out of all the NARS products?
François Nars: Velvet Matte lip pencil – very rich, very easy to use and nice and thick. It’s rich and deep in pigment so you can do wonderful lining and filling the lips with it. So it’s one of my favourite things. There are many things in the line that I love – I love the new lipsticks, that goes without saying. They have great texture, rich in pigment and last a really long time with a great range of shades. There’s more than one product I love – but I would say the Velvet Matte Lip Pencil if you need one only!
Q: You have a variety of textures within the NARS range, where are you going to go next?
François Nars: Where next, I don’t know?! I’m barely there now! Well, I think in the moment – of course, what’s next. But it comes more naturally and I get ideas from travelling – maybe I’ll find ideas in London and put them to paper back in New York. We have new things coming up and you will be discovering them through press soon…. there’s a new book I’m working on. Lot’s of celebrities in different cities. I’m also working on new colour collections which keeps me pretty busy and working on limited editions that have become a big part of the NARS brand – with a great living artists as we have previously always worked with artists who are gone – Warhol and Bourdin. The next collaboration is with a very alive artist. A fragrance will come in the next year or so. New free standing stores – one soon in London, you never know.
Q: What excites you most about make-up and beauty in 2014 and do you think anything is what’s missing?
François Nars: I try not to think about what year it is. I love music, I always keep an eye on singers so keep an eye on them. On actresses that shoot great movies that I might be interested in shooting. I go to museums, art in general. Discovering new countries. Going to Japan this year again also – getting ideas. I keep up with the things today to create a mix of the past, today and the future.
Q: When travelling around different cities, do you ever see women and thing ‘that’s awful, I wouldn’t do that’?
François Nars: I must say, less and less. I think you don’t see as many make-up mistakes – I think with blogs, and fashion magazines there’s so much information out there about what to do and what not to do. Which isn’t really what I love – I love giving people the freedom to do what they want. You do see less mistakes than you use to – like the two colour foundation for example. That has to be the biggest mistake – older women would use totally the wrong colour for the face compared to the body. Sometimes you see colour eyeshadow – but since I’m a colourist I love colour so I never really see it as a mistake. Seeing a mistake sometimes becomes and idea for something else. It’s very rare I walk down the street and see something really horrible – it happens of course, but less and less. Women are getting wiser and wiser in the way they apply make-up.
Q: Are there any products that you would like to launch in future that you don’t have in your current collection?
François Nars: I have to say, not many. We’re launching so many it’s overwhelming! There’s not really anything that frustrates me – it’s more about improving the formula of the products than really launching a revolutionary product. There’s so much happening in make-up, I’m always working on something revolutionary! Besides the multiples that came out a few years ago, maybe it’s more about improving products to make them longer wearing and better pigment. So what you buy is what you get – it always looks like that on your face. Instead of trying to find something new – I’m always looking for better quality. Once in a while a revolution is nice, but really it’s about improving.
Q: How do you make sure you create so many wearable shades for markets around the world?
François Nars: When I create a collection I work for a very universal woman. I don’t have a woman in mind – colours and collections are for women in general. I think having all these women in the back of my mind helps me create colours that work for all of them. So many are attracted from one side of the planet to the other. Regardless of hair colour- redhead, brunette, and the ‘right’ woman will be attracted to the right colour of product. Nars is a brand with something for everyone – younger and older ladies too so that’s the good part about Nars.
Q:What one product do you think every woman should have in their make-up bag from Nars?
François Nars: I would say the multiple stick. It’s still such a great iconic product that I would say there’s definitely a shade for everyone and it’s such a good product to look good in literally five minutes. You don’t have to use a mirror – very rare for make-up. You can dab on cheeks, lips, lids. For women who are very active or have work or kids – to throw in the bag, taxi, car – you can just at a red light practice. Apply a little and you look fresh and beautiful.