François Nars is someone who puts the "artist" in makeup artist. Yes, he's also a photographer and the author of five books, but the man is a true visionary when it comes to making women look — and feel — their best. Nars (the man) is pushing his artistic vision for Nars (the brand) in his upcoming holiday collection, a collaboration with legendary French photographer Sarah Moon. The pair enlisted models Anna Cleveland and Codie Young to pose for the accompanying campaign (photographed, of course, by Moon), and the results are simultaneously ethereal, beautiful and alien-like. This collection is a personal one for Nars; one could argue that it's been in the works for him depuis son enfance (that's French for "since his childhood"). Fashionista sat down with the visionary makeup artist to find out more about it, as well as his thoughts on the power of makeup and how he's using his brand as a platform to feature fellow artists.
What made you want to collaborate with Sarah Moon for your holiday collection?
I wanted to work with Sarah because I've been one of her biggest fans over the years. I remember when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old, I [had] already noticed her work in all the French magazines in the '70s. She had already worked and done the imagery for Cacharel, which, in the '70s, was quite big in France. She had created these incredible images, which were actually quite close to what we did for Nars. It was my dream to work with her one day, and when we started doing collaborations for Nars, I was lucky enough to say, "I want to work with Sarah Moon." And she agreed.
Can you tell us a bit about how the process of working with Sarah and how you jointly conceived the collection?
The most exciting thing for me was the fact that I told Sarah she could do anything she wants. I was probably the best client she could ever dream of; I said, "Do not limit yourself. Give me anything you want. Your requests will be orders, and we will get it done." She decided everything from the styling — the plastic that was done with Patti Wilson, the stylist — everything was done in London, Patti did the research and had the accessories made. All this part was very fun and the fact that by the end, I knew I was going to get a pure "Sarah Moon" image. I didn't want her to feel like she couldn’t do this or that, so it was very exciting on that part.
You mentioned that you've been a fan of Sarah's work for years. How did you know that she'd be a great person to collaborate with?
I didn't! [Laughs.] Actually, that's not totally true. Patti Wilson was a very good friend of hers for years, and they had worked on many projects together. And she always said to me, "You would love Sarah, she's so sweet." I knew that somewhere we were going to connect and be good partners in crime.
How does Sarah's artistic style align with the Nars brand? Her style is so dreamlike and beautiful.
I'm always trying to work with people that have a very strong visual sense of beauty. I think Sarah Moon and [previous collaborator] Steven Klein are so extremely different, but they have the same love and same strong, edgy, sharp sense of fashion and beauty. And they love women, which is so important. They love making [women beautiful], elevating them and really beautifying them. Steven [Klein], Guy Bourdin and myself — because I love making women look beautiful when I take pictures for the campaigns — it's really the same approach. We all do it in different ways, but we all love making women look beautiful.
Did your shared passion of photography make approaching this collaboration with Sarah any different from past collections with fashion designers and artists?
That was the fun part about it. I don't have a "competition" or "ego" thing. I've worked all my life with photographers, and I've worked with the best photographers in the world. I've been lucky enough to have this career that made me work with the best photographers in the world, so I never had an ego feeling like, "I don't want to work with another photographer, because I'm a photographer now." Doing these collaborations makes us really promote photography and great talent. It's a platform; we're putting them in focus and in the spotlight and maybe making the public discover someone like Sarah Moon, who, in America, might not be as famous as she is in Europe, or Guy Bourdin, who is more famous in Europe. Now, maybe more people know Guy Bourdin's work and hopefully Sarah's. And that’s what I love, because I love photography in general. I love photographers, so it's very nice that through that, I'm having so much fun creating colors and doing the packaging. And at the same time, it's great for photography and artists. The collaborations won't only be with photographers; we're going to have painters, we're going to have sculptors, who knows. We want to work with different people.
Sarah once said, "I think of color as more of a common language. More generous, more open, not transposed. The language of the real." What are your thoughts on that quote, and on that note, what was the process of determining the shades in the collection like?
It's funny, because I love color, but I am a very black-and-white person. But I also love black-and-white makeup and non-color makeup, like dark grey or black or neutrals. I can go either way, I'm very multifaceted when it comes to that. So my relationship with color? I love black and white as much as I love color. The same with photography: I love black-and-white photography and I love color photography. My next book I'm coming out with [François Nars] is all-color, but I also did one in Tahiti that is black and white. It's the same for makeup; the only thing that's important to me is that makeup should be very open. I would hate to have a makeup line that's just beige and brown. That would bore me to death! I'm a real makeup artist. I love the full spectrum of makeup from black-and-white to multicolor. Every single blue, every single green, every single orange. To me, makeup should be a rainbow of everything.
Do you have any favorites from the collection?
I love the [Glass Metropolis Mini Audacious Lipstick Coffret] here, and I love all the lipsticks in it, the small ones. And I love this image so much, I want it for my house. I love the [Give In Take Dual-Intensity Eye and Cheek] palette, I love the purple eye shadow; it's a deep plum, but it's not obviously plum. And that's the first time we did a [vertical] palette. I think the lipsticks are really great; they're really extremely matte and velvety. I wanted them to look like velvet, and for anyone who loves reds, those are really the ultimate lipsticks. I mixed [the formula] up a hundred times, and the depth of the red is very good. Deep wines, burgundies. They're good reds.
How collaborative was the process of creating the products? How did you go about curating the different makeup items?
She gave me total trust, just like I gave her total trust for the pictures. She didn't worry for one second. She said, "You know what you're doing." And she loved everything, even the names. Sometimes I ask the artist to give me some names, so she gave us a few but we also had to deal with all those trademark nightmares and some names were taken already, so we tried to come up with names that also translated to her world.
You phrased so perfectly that you love to make women feel beautiful. What else would you like to convey women who are wearing the cosmetics in this collection? What do you want them to feel?
To me, makeup has become such an incredible accessory. I think women feel good when they apply makeup, and they feel more powerful and ready to face the world in a better way. That's what I think makeup is for, and with this collection, it's really feeling like you have that little extra accessory that makes you feel glamorous and sophisticated. It's a full accessory, same as when you buy a great bag or a great pair of shoes. Makeup, to me, is whatever you choose. Makeup, to me, becomes another element — it's part of your wardrobe, almost. It could very minimal, just lipstick or black eyeliner and nothing else. It doesn't have to be a whole look. Makeup should just make you feel good.
I completely agree! I always feel a little more powerful when I wear red lipstick. It's the best mood-booster.
I think it's great. I wish I could wear red lipstick! I get jealous.
You could definitely pull it off!
But I think it's an incredible thing that women have, that they can enhance [features] and wear makeup, false eyelashes. I think it's fun. It's like playing; you want to look sexy or you want to flirt, it's a great way to flirt. and it gives you a different approach to life and to other people, too.
I love the imagery with Anna Cleveland and Codie Young. What was it like working with them?
They were the easiest girls to work with. I love models and I've worked with them my entire life, more than celebrities, more than actresses. I've worked with so many actresses, but I have a special relationship with models because as a kid, I used to love looking at all the supermodels in the '70s and I learned makeup by looking at photographs of models. [Cleveland and Young] were so sweet, and they have that sophistication and they understood [the essence of the collaboration]. Codie had worked with Sarah before, many times, but for Anna it was the first time. And Anna is quite exuberant, but she really understood how Sarah works, which is very emotional, quiet and intense. There is not much talking, a bit, but just capture the moment and taking the photographs. So you had to work with her. For a model, you have to be still for hours, so it's a lot of work. Both of them were incredible, and both worked together extremely well.
Click through the gallery below to see the full Sarah Moon for Nars holiday collection, which will be available exclusively at narscosmetics.com on October 5, Nars Boutiques on October 15, then at Sephora and specialty stores on November 1.
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