Strange beauty: inside the Steven Klein x NARS collab
Make-up maestro François Nars had done it again - this time, teaming up with longtime friend and collaborator photographer Steven Klein for an once-in-a-lifetime collaboration
It's easy to explain the cult of NARS to the unacquainted. One glimpse at the iconic shades, striking matte black packaging and formulas that pack a punch pretty and you've got another convert on your hands. Then there's the collaborations and campaigns - from celebrating Tilda Swinton's other-worldly beauty to collaborating with fashion trendsetters like Christopher Kane - creator François Nars has a knack for the unexpected - which is why his latest collab is so genius.
Teaming up with legendary American photographer Steven Klein - who's worked with everyone from W magazine and Paris and US Vogue to Madonna, Brad Pitt and Lady Gaga to create some of the most visceral and at-times unsettling fashion images of all time, the project is a true meeting of minds. Boasting a limited-edition colour collection made up of eyeshadows, lipsticks, nail polished and glosses, the pair have also created a series of gift sets containing cult NARS products packaged in striking equestrian boxes, bullet-shaped lipstick cases and mirrored containers, some decorated with Klein's most famous images.
"I really wanted his impact, his input to be as strong as possible, and he had to be the one that decided everything," explains François Nars. Despite knowing each other for 20 years, this project is the first of its kind for both. "Steven and I are both drawn to interesting beauty, it's not too obvious, too sweet and sugary, it's unexpected, different, strange," adds Nars. "Knowing him and his work, I thought "let's do a collection that celebrates Steven's art" because photography really is an art. I felt like he deserved to be recognised." Settling on a series of 11 images from Klein's expansive archive, the pair found a way to incorporate the unforgettable images into the collection.
Here, Klein explains the collaboration with NARS in more detail.
You collaborate with true creators, artists - why is this important to you?
I get bored very easily so I try to keep it exciting. Selfishly I think I choose these collaborations because their work interests me. If you're bored yourself then others will be bored. I try to surround myself with things and people that I feel are very different, and new, and hopefully that will be exciting for other people to discover.
When did you first meet François?
We met roughly 20 years ago when we first started working together. The first job that we did together was when I was photographing Isabella Rossellini, and he did her make-up. The second time, I worked with him as a make-up artist with Linda Evangelista.
What is your relationship like?
We're both very busy in our own worlds and we don't necessarily hang out all the time, but we do understand what the other is doing. We both have always appreciated each other's work. When it came to this collaboration François was very forthcoming in wanting me to do what I do. He endorsed what I do as a photographer and didn't use me as a service to promote a lipstick or an eyeshadow. That was unique and it is very, very rare these days that people will come to celebrate your photography.
Tell us about the collaborative process.
It was really interesting because he had me submit pictures that I like, and then he made a large selection, and we both chose the final images together. We thought we'd represent this new collection and represent me as a photographer. I found that really exciting given the climate of the corporate control with most brands (especially in cosmetics). Everything has still come back to me. That's why this project was so exciting; I was working with another creative person, collaborating directly with him.
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How did you choose the shades for the collection?
For me, it was a great opportunity to explore my work in a different way - it's turning my images into three-dimensional products. The collection was based on my images that existed as opposed to creating images that were inspired by the products.
Who has been your favourite person (or people) to shoot?
I have a strong connection Madonna - she's one of my best friends and we have a long history together. It is unspoken words of love and respect for each other. She was the first person that told me to pick up the film camera. Ever since then, we've been doing various projects together. We don't always see eye to eye, which is good, but we have the same interests. We love horses, we love great art and we love cultured and intelligent people. We're both seekers and we don't settle for anything but pushing the limit as far as we can go.
What inspires you?
With beauty I like the idea of masculine elements mixed in with feminine elements. They really almost need that yin and yang. I like the bullet idea, the idea of war, but it's also lipstick. I like the implementation of both elements. In these pictures from the campaign, they're almost like a surrealist vision of beauty. I think as a collection - as a whole - it has a statement about looking at beauty from a different point of view.
Do you have a muse?
Not so much a muse, but I would have to say, hands down, Kate Moss would be (and has been for a long time) this kind of, 'I'm everything, but I'm not much.' I like her attitude about beauty and I like the way she puts herself together. To me that is the woman that I'm attracted to in a way. I like her humour about who she is and what she does. To me she's the contemporary icon of beauty.
The NARS Steven Klein collection is available at Mecca stores and mecca.com.au from October 27.
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