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In Conversation with François Nars: “Be Yourself, But More”


Photo courtesy of François Nars

I have always loved his eye for elegance and the sensuality that his products deliver while simultaneously providing extreme wearability. François Nars is recognized worldwide for his use of high pigmented color along with timeless, minimalistic packaging and branding; but most importantly, for his ability to make women feel special time and time again. His work is a constant source of inspiration to anyone in fashion, but also to women and men around the globe.—Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Vogue Arabia on the global impact of legendary makeup artist, photographer, and entrepreneur François Nars.

In today’s fast paced world, social media plays a pivotal role in most artists’ career trajectories, but only a few manage to catapult themselves into the celebrity stratosphere. The business savvy transition themselves into successful entrepreneurs, and build empires that transcend worldwide borders. The “new guard” reaches a new audience, educating them on the “how-to” secrets that were once only reserved for the elite few who shadowed legends like François Nars.

Celebrity makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic, shares with Vogue Arabia, “François Nars is the ultimate inspiration. His work is modern and provocative and so tasteful. The same goes for his brand. He is a true innovator.”

One of the first makeup artists who successfully parlayed his talents into other arenas—including photography and brand building—François Nars, stands as the blueprint that has inspired a generation of countless beauty enthusiasts. His makeup products have become must haves for every cosmetics bag, an essential for every artist kit, and a foundation that cosmetic wardrobes are built on. With the release of his new book, François Nars, fellow artists, entrepreneurs, and celebrities pay homage.


Photo courtesy of François Nars

Mary Phillips, shares with Vogue Arabia, “In all of the fashion magazines that I read growing up, I remember seeing his name continuously, and his looks were always so edgy and so stunning—right away you knew what was his work. Philips explains that when his makeup line came out in the early ‘90s, varied cosmetic options did not exist. “I remember thinking that it was so cool and tasteful. I loved the touches of humor with the names too, and how that was threaded through things—even the line’s Instagram name, @Narsissist—cheeky, but in a refined sense, and I love that.” Philips points out that François Nars was one of the first makeup brands to use Instagram. “Nars didn’t wait for years to see if it was going to stick or not; the brand just went for it. I think that’s what you have to do today—just go for it—regardless of what anyone else is doing or not. That’s clearly something that François Nars has always done throughout his entire career,” she adds.

To mark the launch of his new photo-biography, François Nars, Vogue Arabia speaks to the makeup master. 

At the start of your career, the fashion world consisted of a small, elite circle of insiders. Today, it has become more consumer facing and interactive. How has this evolution influenced you?
As for fashion and makeup, there has been an incredible evolution. Women are learning and experimenting more. Magazines, professional artists, and of course the freedom of fashion are helping women make fewer mistakes. I think Nars has especially pushed women to have fun while still keeping their look sophisticated.


Linda Evangelista, Photo courtesy of François Nars

Throughout your career, you have worked with iconic photographers, from Richard Avedon, to Paolo Roversi, and Bruce Weber. Is there one photographer that particularly influenced you?
It’s hard to choose only one! I have already worked with so many incredible photographers that inspire me, most recently Steven Klein and Sarah Moon. I loved working with Avedon, Penn, Newton, and Meisel. Many times Meisel would invite me to look into the camera and that helped me when I began photographing our [Nars] campaigns.

Which actress/celebrity past or present would you like to photograph and why?
I would love to shoot Cate Blanchett. I love her work and her physique.

Who would be part of the “dream team” to shoot her?
I love working with Patti Wilson [styling], Giovanni Bianco [direction], Oribe Canales [hair], Peter Savic [hair], Diane Kendal [makeup], and James Kaliardos [direction] on my shoots.

With the Nars brand, you managed to create hero products that have surpassed generations. What is the recipe for creating a product that is universally used?
You never know which color will be a bestseller. I designed the first Orgasm blush the way I design all my colors and it just happened that Nars fans fell in love with the name and the color. It didn’t seem that daring, but everyone loved it.

I always follow my instincts and use everything I’ve learned over the years. I create products based on what I’m attracted to in that moment.


Photo courtesy of François Nars

Your ethos of enhancing natural beauty vs. makeup as a mask has become the brand’s signature. What advice can you give to the modern woman on accentuating her unique beauty?
Makeup should be thought of in the same way as a wardrobe. It is an accessory. I always encourage women to keep a basic wardrobe of colors that you really love. Keep them all year and add from different collections or seasons. It’s really about adding in those colors that have a great impact on you during a season and that you have an attraction to.

As an entrepreneur, what have you learned about building and developing your own company?
It is always very stressful when you start something new. You’re excited but terrified at the same time because you never know what the public response is going to be. It was the hardest, but most rewarding and exciting thing I’ve ever done.

The creativity behind your products endlessly inspires other artists in the industry. Besides the image of your mother and grandmothers, who or where do you turn for your daily inspiration to create?
Everything! There is so much inspiration in my life that comes from so many different sources. I love traveling; I pick up many different ideas from all over the world. I love going to museums in any city that I visit.  And of course, photography always inspires me.


Photo courtesy of François Nars

The comprehensive looks in one of your earlier books, Makeup Your Mind [2001] simplify the makeup application process for women. What are the must have products every modern woman needs?
I have a real love affair with lipstick. It has such a strong impact on the face. You feel immediately elegant and chic and it gives the face a lot of strength. For someone on the run, the Multiple [multipurpose stick for eyes, cheeks, lips, and body] is the best product to use. It is very velvety and the transparent texture makes you look great in under three minutes. Also, I love our Kabuki Artisan Brushes. You cannot achieve good makeup without good tools.

The use of extensive color is a differentiating point in your book. Most women are afraid to use color and stick to the beige/brown family; what are some ways to ease into it?
Be daring and don’t be scared to express yourself. Go for a transformation. Be yourself, but more. Go for a strong lip and try sharp, strong colors on the eyes. And, if you don’t like it, take it off and try something else. Makeup is not a commitment!


Photo courtesy of François Nars

With the rise of Instagram and online beauty Vlogs, will you take your makeup tutorials 3D?
I think there has been an incredible evolution of the access to beauty not only because of social media, but also because there are so many more choices in makeup. Women are learning and experimenting more; and magazines, professional artists, and the freedom of fashion are helping them explore these options and make fewer mistakes along the way.

As for 3D, we will see…

Strobing and contouring are two big trends that have surfaced in the past few years; what do you visualize trending in 2017?
I don’t like to speak to trends. I think it is best to find out what works for you.

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