When the time came to launch an advertising campaign, a restrictive budget did nothing to deter him. He captured the dark-skinned perfection of model Wek, who embodied everything atypical of Nars’s definition of beauty. It is precisely this predilection for the unique that keeps him at the front.
“In the natural pursuit of beauty, women change constantly – great products inspire and guide this process. It’s all about finding different ways to express individual beauty and personality,” describes Nars of his provocative aesthetic, which aims to inspire self-expression and forward thinking.
Working with Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, and Irving Penn, Nars lent his imagination to create some truly unforgettable, groundbreaking images gracing the pages of high fashion magazines including Harper’s BAZAAR. He values this process as a means of improving his work and sharpening his eye to take up the camera himself. “I’ve always loved photography. I could have easily picked up photography instead of make-up, growing up. They are very connected – they go hand in hand.” In fact, Nars has put together some truly stylised photography tomes over the years, such as X-Ray (1999) and Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself (2001) that featured the unforgettable faces of Carine Roitfeld, Diane von Fürstenberg, Alexander McQueen, and Donatella Versace, all shot by the make-up maestro himself.
The Multiple, the Jungle Red lipstick, and the Orgasm – every product in Nars is bound to provoke. He once divulged of his product christening process in Interview: “I have this little agenda that I am filling up 24 hours a day with names.” Of course, there is always the question of the iconic, scandalous moniker that gets us blushing. “I came up with the name Orgasm first before the colour. I wanted to create something more audacious.” Orgasm still counts as one of the most suggestive, best-selling blushers ever.
Although he left the scene for 10 years – only to return with 60 stunning looks for Marc Jacobs’s Autumn/Winter ’09 show – he always kept a close reign of his brand despite having sold the company to Shiseido Cosmetics in 2000. He continues to photograph the campaigns, and recently oversaw the installation of his boutique, again designed with Baron, on 413 Bleecker Street in West Village, New York City. Cue hardwood floors, Louis XVI-style mouldings, a monochrome colour scheme, and a fireplace. He told The New York Times that “It’s more a personal space than a shop. I wanted something warm and modern that reflected my personality. I could live there!”
TAKE ME THERE
This style may just be reflective of his private domain in Motu Tané, one of the French Polynesian islands that Nars calls his own. He cites the untainted blue horizon, verdant fronds, shimmering blue sea, and golden sandscape as inspiration for the vibrant colours and high-impact textures that will have women charging through the doors of his boutique, demanding their share of his genius. “Make-up artists are like painters. I come up with so many ideas when I am there. It’s a magical place,” he muses, so much so that he is set to release a new coffee table book, which offers fans a window into his world on the lush private island.
It is easy to see Motu Tané in the soft loose powder that simply disappears into the skin; its sun in the Tahitian Body Glow; and the shocking bright hues for the lips and eyes. Also, Nars’s glow-inducing skincare line of light-active micro-prisms that bring clarity and luminosity to the skin long before anything else goes on. “Skin is 50 percent of the make-up,” he famously said when Narskin launched in 2002. “The best skin is skin that can reflect light.”
One wonders, though: If the distinctive qualities of a woman’s individual skin is half of what determines her beauty, what then of the trends subscribed to by the masses? “There only used to be one trend. There is so much more freedom in beauty today,” says the make-up artist. “There are no rules. Nars is about finding looks and trends that suit you best. We offer possibilities. We never dictate. Go with what catches your eye!”
The Multiple in Orgasm, a first and one- of-its-kind head-to-toe illuminator that tops the favourite charts of major celebrities and industry experts alike
Stella Tennant represents the modern beauty of Nars Famous friends would sit for his photography tomes. Here, Marc Jacobs, all dolled up by Nars
Nars x Guy Bourdin Cinematic Lipstick in Future Red, RM90