François Nars knows iconic. When he launched NARS Cosmetics 15 years ago he started with 12 perfectly edited lipsticks in shades that drew on inspirations from Hollywood to Shanghai, finding references in people, places, films and even emotions. That attention to unique muses has been unwavering from the beginning.
As the new year approaches, NARS Cosmetics continues to defy conventions and celebrate unique, bold beauty. “True icons are larger than life, unforgettable with an elegance that’s mesmerizingly timeless,” says Nars. Just like the products themselves.
When asked what he is most proud of in these 15 years of creation, Nars says that he loves the confidence that his collections encourage. “We are not afraid to be a bit different, to make shades that are bold,” he says. “We don’t tell women how to look, but give them the products and inspiration they need to feel and look beautiful.”
In the pursuit of promoting this inspiration, Nars has continued to create modern, adventurous colors that stretch the boundaries of beauty in a bold way. 70s supermodel Dayle Haddon credits Nars’s success to his unique, elevated taste and point of reference. “You can tell that he has been studying beauty, photography, arts, architecture, culture, etc, for a while,” she says. “He has fine tuned his craft and is willing to go very far. He has tremendous respect for the talents that went before him.”
It is this reverence of the past and fearless pursuit of the future of beauty that makes the NARS brand more a state of mind than a simple makeup collection. In honor of the influences that inspire him, Nars took on a new project to celebrate his 15 years in the business: 15X15 is a book that showcases 15 celebrity portraits, each inspired by a NARS product shade and based on an iconic reference chosen by François (who personally did the makeup and photographed the series). Profits benefit 15 diverse charities chosen by the participating celebrities—from Meath Women’s Refuge in Ireland, chosen by Daphne Guinness, to the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Amanda Lepore’s selection, to Forest Ethics, Shalom Harlow’s charity focus.
15X15 captures the spirit of NARS Cosmetics, as each muse embodies the product shade and reference they represent. “François is to cosmetics what Jean Paul Gautier or John Galliano are to fashion,” says Isabella Rossellini. “You can tell there is a true artist behind NARS products.” Her portrait references her most recent project, Green Porno, a series of short films written, directed and featuring Isabella, which examines the sex life of bugs. She wears Misfit Duo Eyeshadow in Ecru and Emerald, a richly-pigmented pair, and her charity of choice for the project is The Guide Dog Foundation.
Iconic Supermodel Naomi Campbell was fully herself for her 15X15 portrait, and she exudes chic in Taj Mahal Blush, a burnt orange with shimmer. “François can make you look different every time—when he is working it's like he is painting on a canvas,” says Naomi. “He can create any image and any look he wants.”
Nars enjoyed the creative process immensely. “I picked these participants for their inner style and elegance,” he says. “My favorite thing in the world is to create a look and get the best out of people when I photograph them. And, I was able to give back by having all the proceeds from the sale of the book to charity. That was very important to me."
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Also included in the book are designer Marc Jacobs posing as 1960s supermodel China Machado in reference to a photo by Richard Avedon, actress Jennifer Jason Leigh in a tailored Old Hollywood look, Russian model Natashy Poly in a nod to Stephen Sprouse’s uptown/punk/pop aesthetic, and many other iconic muses.
The remaining quantity of 15X15 books can be ordered at www.15x15project.com. Each participating celebrity subsequently took on the role of guest editor, photographing their interpretation of the NARS product shade that inspired his or her own portrait—these photographic interpretations are also available for purchase.
In the next 15 years, Nars—who already has 5 years of new color names written in his small Hermes inspiration notebook—has no plans to slow down. “I’ll keep creating modern, deep, rich and adventurous colors and products that inspire creative expression every day,” he says. Visit www.narscosmetics.com for more information.