François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today”

François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today”

One on one

Site: Yeong Sassall

Image: Patrick Demarchelier

With its sleek and sexy black packaging and cultish following, it’s not surprising that the creator of Nars is just as enigmatic as his famous brand

Orgasm, Sexual Healing and Belle De Jour. As any beauty girl will tell you, there are a few things Nars is famous for - and it's not just the blush-inducing shades. From Laguna bronzer to The Multiple highlighting sticks - there's an entire generation (and counting) of Nars devotees. A favourite of beauty editors, celebs and the fashion-forward, ever since French make-up artist François Nars launched his eponymous line of 12 lipstick shades in 1994 - the beauty world has been enamoured. We sat down with the legendary image maker to talk fashion, fame and favourite faces.

Related story: Strange beauty: inside the Steven Klein x NARS collab

François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today” (фото 1)

François Nars


You've done some really interesting collaborations this year, like the Steven Klein one. Was it a challenge to collaborate with a photographer, to try and merge the make-up and photography worlds?

Steven was an obvious choice - I've worked with him quite a lot in my life and I really love his photography so much. The biggest challenge was to nail down photographs; you can imagine Steven showed me at least a thousand images so it was quite hard to nail down just 10 or 12. I could've used 50 or 60, so that was hard but everything else after was fun. I'm [one] of the lucky people on the planet who do work that feels like holiday.

You were a make-up artist in the '80s and '90s. Has the industry changed a lot in the last 20-30 years? What are the biggest changes you've seen?
Fashion is always reminiscing from past decades but I think people are so much more conscious about what is going on because of the internet, fashion TV and magazines. Nowadays, you can get connected to everything that's happening from London to Paris to Milan in a second - [you can even] watch the shows live.

Back in the '70s when I was growing up as a kid, we only had magazines. Nobody knew the names of supermodels - [it was] very rare. Maybe Twiggy, but most of the other models that were amazing back in the '70s, nobody knew. Today you know everybody. You know what they do, where they go on holidays. That's the biggest change to me. And the pace of everything - it's very fast. It's good and bad. I remember loving the fashion world when I was a kid because it was so magical and nobody knew anything about it. It was very private. It's different now, but you go along with it. 

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François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today” (фото 2)

I love the way the way you use unconventional beauties in your campaign - Erin O'Connor, Tilda Swinton and Charlotte Rampling. Is there any type of beauty you find yourself drawn to?
I like different types of beauty, different types of women. Not your obvious kind of beauty. What I mean by obvious is what you call the perfect face - the perfect nose, blue eyes, perfect hair. In general I'm always attracted to models or actresses with very strong attitudes and strong features, like Angelica Houston.

You've picked people to star in campaigns but never chosen an ambassador - is there any reason behind that?
I tell you one thing - I love working with models and have worked with them since I started my career and will as long as I work for Nars. Of course, once in a while, I like to work with an actress as long as [it's] somebody I really admire and love, but in general, I choose the people I work with for the way they look and not because they're famous. I really like to make a beautiful picture and be sure that the person we present, the image, fits my standards and fits my ideal beauty. I think I pick the right people - at least I'm happy with my choices!

We don't have an ambassador like some other brands have. Tilda Swinton, Charlotte Rampling, Daria [Strokous], those ads that I shot with her, Mariacarla Boscono  (she's going to be in the next campaign for spring/summer) - I think those girls are the greatest ambassadors. I don't care if they're in a movie or not, or they're in the social scene. They're just fabulous girls and that's all I care. I like people that have done something in their life, not just gone to a club. For me, it's really important to pick girls with substance.

Related story: Need it now: all about the lust-worthy Nars x Christopher Kane collab

François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today” (фото 3)

Tilda Swinton in the Nars campaign


I think a lot of people really responded to Tilda Swinton, because it was nice to see a woman who has maturity and experience.
I'm always attracted to older people. Even when I was a kid, my best friend was at least 15 years older than me. I don't really care [about] age, as long as they're amazing and I think you can look great getting older. It's about style and substance. Substance means there is something behind, not just a face or fame. In a way, fame is easy to get today; it doesn't mean what it meant before.

I find it fascinating that you have your own private island. How did this happen?!
I don't know, believe me. I never plan things - I'm a very spontaneous person. I bought that place in about a month - an island over a period of a month! I believe in following your instincts, and at the time I was in Tahiti when I saw that place and I was able to purchase it financially, so I didn't really think twice. I just loved the place, [it was] beautiful and I wanted it. You know I'm very spontaneous in my choices. Even if I buy a fragrance in a store, I know right away whether like it or not. I'm very black and white. I'm rarely confused in my choices when it comes to real estate. I love islands, high seas, ocean. I love the water and I think as a kid, tropical islands were paradise, so I guess Bora Bora was an obvious choice.

As a brand, do you feel pressure to have a social media presence?
Yes and no. I can't say totally no, because I guess you go a little bit with the flow but I like going against the flow. I like to be rebellious. I'm more attracted to the person, not going after the girl that is the latest because she's followed on the internet by millions of people. It's not really my cup of tea but you know, never say never.

I'm not saying I will never work with a model who is social media mad, but it's really not something I'm after or obsessed with. Some people use those girls that are in the public eye and I think, how long will it last? There will be another one coming out in a year. You have to concentrate on long-term thing. Substance is important.

Related story: Gwen Stefani on beauty blunders, '90s make-up and Urban Decay

François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today” (фото 4)

Have you ever had a product that a celebrity has said that they use and you've noticed sales have sky rocketed?
Oh yeah, of course. I'm not spitting on celebrities, don't get me wrong! If a celebrity says I'm using Orgasm blush, of course it's going to send so many people to buy the blush. Celebrities are a great tool for selling products and make-up and clothes. I just don't want to feel like the brand is only surviving because of celebrities. First you have to have a great product and then really try and have to have a great marketing machine, not just based on celebrities.

The Nars Hot Sand Collection is available from December 26 at Mecca Cosmetica and Mecca Maxima stores and at

François Nars gets real: “Fame is easy to get today” (фото 5)

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