French makeup artist Francois Nars, a favourite of Madonna and Victoria Beckham, is considered one of the top five artists in the world. For more than three decades, he’s collaborated with the photography and fashion elite including: Richard Avedon, Steven Meisel, Karl Lagerfeld and Marc Jacobs creating cutting-edge beauty looks for every major fashion magazine from Vanity Fair to Paris Vogue. Here, he allows BEAUTY the guide inside Motu Tane, his private island in French Polynesia for a candid conversation.
The NARS Interview:
When I was young, I was obsessed with fashion. I was very lucky to have an extremely beautiful, glamorous mother, on which I was able to practice makeup. Every month she would buy French Vogue and I would comb through it for hours looking at photos and the makeup looks.
I loved going to all the discos with Marc Jacobs in the 80s and 90s – Studio 54, Danceteria, etc. I loved going to them so much, I named each shade of the NARS Glitter Pencils after a club.
I am constantly changing my favourite songs, but I love Lady Gaga. She is the most influential person right now.
My French bulldog Marcel has sadly passed away. But he used to accompany me on most jobs. American Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington and photographer Bruce Weber used to really spoil him.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I discovered Josef von Sternberg’s film The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich. It was a taste of perfection. I learned how careful attention to details such as lighting, costume and makeup created art. It was a major reason I pursued a career in fashion and beauty.
Madonna and I completely trust each other. She loves to push the envelope and I instantly understand her vision. We both share a love of Marlene Dietrich’s modern attitude. She was one of the first women to wear pants into a Parisian restaurant. It’s was scandalous at the time but she didn’t care. She was very daring and adventurous. She is a big inspiration to us both by the way she lived.
I’m a night bird. I’m most creative at night so I like to sleep in. After a good 1½ hour workout, I love to visit a museum or walk the streets observing young people. It’s very important to keep in touch with how young people live. I love food so visiting restaurants is a big joy in my life. After lunch, I like to shop for clothes, antiques, vintage photos and most importantly, books. I try to see an Opera or ballet as often as possible – especially when I am in Paris or New York. Most of all, I love to laugh with friends.
Each season, I look forward to arriving at Marc Jacobs’ studio to design the makeup for his runway shows. He has a big inspiration board on one wall and has girls try on the clothes. He takes me through is ideas and has definite images in his mind regarding mood and style. It is my job to translate those. It’s a big responsibility but we have a great deal of trust in each other. I love the collaboration.
I would say Linda Evangelista is one of my all-time favourite personalities to photograph. She is so fun and laughs so much. She’s a joy to work with.
My beauty icons: Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich
My favourite makeup tool: Brushes. “You cannot achieve good makeup without good tools. I love the Kabuki brushes. They originated in Japan with the beauty rituals of early Kabuki and Geisha theaters. When using them, you get superior coverage and control.”
Favourite movies: Blue Angel, All About Eve, La Chamade. “I have a movie collection of more than 5,000 movies at Motu Tane.”
Favourite place in the world: Motu Tane. I would spend the rest of my life there if I could.
Travel essentials: I can’t live without my iPod. I’m listening to Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black right now. She was such a talent. And I’m a huge Opera fan – especially Puccini and Mozat. I also carry with me my two Hermes agendas and a Goyard travel bag.
Favourite secret address in Paris: The restaurant Maison de la Truffle, place de la Madeleine.
Favourite book: Jules Vernes’ One Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.
Beauty philosophy: My mother never wore a lot of makeup. I think that is where my love for natural looking, very light makeup came from. My mother gave me the appreciation for natural beauty.
Favourite item of clothing: An alligator jacket from Calvin Klein.
Favourite NARS product: The Multiple
A NARS Beauty Master Class:
“Be light-handed when you’re applying makeup. It’s not about the quantity, it’s about the quality and how you apply it. Less is more.”
“I’m not a big fan of rules, but if you are concerned with overdoing bold colour, I would recommend keeping it to one feature: eyes, or cheeks, or nails. Wearing it everywhere else can look a little too disco.”
“Matte lipstick is perfectly appropriate for spring, especially in a strong berry shade. In fact, it’s the perfect transitional colour and texture to bridge winter and summer. If you have to have shine, you can add a little gloss on top.”
“Think of makeup as a wardrobe. Just as you have your little black dress, you need to find good basics that make you look good. Find a good foundation and powder and stick with it. You can dress them up with bold accents from time-to-time.”
“Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer has a serum-like consistency which is really unique. We’ve added anti-aging ingredients for preventative measures greater then those found in a simple moisturizer. The product is super sheer and translucent. It gives skin a beautiful, healthy glow.”
“I have a real love affair with lipstick. It gives the face a lot of strength.”
“When it comes to choosing makeup colour, you should have an instant attraction to the product. You should fall in love with it.”