Expression through NARS' colour play

  • Style
  • Tuesday, 12 Nov 2013

NARS offers a range of cosmetics that inspires self-expression, creativity and artistry.

After tantalising teasers and suggestive name-dropping, the much-awaited American cosmetics brand Nars finally arrives in Kuala Lumpur.

SINGER Gwen Stefani is hardly ever spotted without her signature matte red lipstick while actress Angelina Jolie’s glorious red lips (and eye-catching white and red evening gown) at the 2012 Golden Globes received rave reviews from fashion critics.

If you haven’t figured out the connection between the two by now, it’s lipstick. While it seems celebrities tend to get their make-up colours just right all the time, it’s really a constant challenge for make-up artists to be able to come up with the right palette that’s trendy at the same time to match skin tones.

And what do you know? It took a man to figure out what women needed.

NARS founder Francois Nars tinkles his magic onto a model before a Marc Jacobs fashion show.

In 1994, French make-up artist Francois Nars revolutionised how the beauty industry viewed lip colour by coming up with a collection of 12 lipstick shades (sold at Barneys New York) to suit women of different skin tones.

Housed in soft-touch packaging designed by creative director Fabien Baron, the brand NARS took off two years later when its first avant garde advertising campaign was shot. Since then, the brand’s campaigns have continued in the same vein, with a style characterised by bold imagination and individuality.

With the success of his make-up line, Francois further expanded the brand by going into the skincare market with NARSskin together with strategic partner Shiseido cosmetics (which acquired NARS in 2000).

Three months ago, NARS started off their opening teaser by sending two dashing young men with hot bods to match, to visit media editors and drop off some make-up colours. Since then, the American brand has “littered” a lipstick here and a product there to tantalise us further, spelling their imminent arrival at Pavilion Kuala Lumpur.

Now that the new standalone NARS boutique has finally reached our shores (it opens on Friday), make-up lovers can look forward to being tantalised with an even wider range of colours to suit every occasion.

The collection is all about polished beauty with high-impact colour and playful textures. It offers solutions for women who feel they are stuck in a rut, having worn the same make-up colours for years.

NARS boasts a full cosmetics line which has over 400 products that embrace the limitless possibilities of artistic expression.

Don’t be serious, it’s only make-up

“In the natural pursuit of beauty, women change constantly; great products inspire and guide this process. It is all about finding different ways to express individual beauty and personality,” said the French make-up artist in a press release.

It took a guy to revolutionise how the beauty industry viewed lip colour.

“There are so many possibilities for women now. The range of trends has changed. There only used to be one trend but now, there is so much more freedom in beauty. NARS is about finding the look and trend that suits you best,” said the bearded and bespectacled make-up magnate, who is touted as among the most influential image-makers in the world. He has worked with fashion photographers Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Bruce Weber, who helped shape the mercurial, character-driven looks of style icons like Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and Madonna.

Synonymous for its tactile rubbery packaging, iconic colours and saucily titled products, the brand offers endless possibilities of artistic creation while its cheekily-named items provoke the imagination.

With salacious colour names ranging from nail varnish colours like Throb and Blow, to lipsticks like Climax and Fetish, it’s no surprise that it has garnered attention from critics and consumers for products that inspire self-expression, creativity and artistry.

Make-up wonders: Kate Moss as demure Dorothy Gale of The Wizard Of Oz.

“It’s more fun to have a name than a number. I think this gives our products personality. I get the names from literature, movies, opera, travelling, nature, poetry, sometimes even the street. I keep a small book that I write in. I wake up in the middle of the night and jot down a name for a lipstick or an eyeshadow,” said Francois in an interview on

The lipsticks comprise a well-edited collection of shades and has led to new explorations in the lip category, ranging from pure matte lipsticks, larger than life lip glosses, matte lip pencils to lip treatments. Given the amazing range of choices, it will certainly be hard for women to say, “I don’t know what to wear.”

The extensive catalogue of pigmented eye colours comes in a full spectrum of vivid hues, finishes and formulas that allow for an unlimited range of effects. Eyeshadows are available as singles and duos; they can be worn on their own or layered for a unique look. There are also long-wearing eyeliners, eyeliner stylos, soft touch shadow pencils and mascaras to help you add a twinkle to the eyes.

Nail polish shades are a coveted favourite, as the brand’s signature bold palette is translated to the nails. New technology makes it possible for improved flexibility, durability, better wear and gloss properties. All nail enamels are toulene-, formaldehyde- and dibutyl phthalate-free.

There’s also NARSskin, designed to restore the skin’s youthful        radiance. Light-active micro-prisms are combined with algae extract and Polynesian seawater, said to boost clarity and infuse skin with moisture and minerals. Complementing its cosmetics range are primers, tinted moisturisers, brushes and accessories (including candles, oils and make-up removers).

Man about town

Prior to creating a cosmetics line, Francois had already carved a name in the industry, having worked for publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, ELLE and Vogue. He chalked up another milestone after collaborating with designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Dolce & Gabbana and Anna Sui, on their runway shows. He has also worked on advertising campaigns for clients such as Versace, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Barneys New York.

Francois’ passion for fashion and beauty surfaced at a young age, when he pored over his mother’s Vogue magazines while watching classic Hollywood and European cinema. This resulted in a profound appreciation for the sophistication of the designers, models, hairstylists and make-up artists of the 60s and 70s.

“I’ve always loved photography. I was fascinated by magazines while growing up and could have easily picked up photography instead of make-up. Make-up and photography are very connected. They go hand in hand. What interests me is character; I’ve always been attracted to faces that have personality, strength and a unique quality. That is beauty,” said Francois.

An accomplished photographer and author of portrait books, his works include X-Ray and NARS 15X15, which commemorates the 15th anniversary of NARS cosmetics featuring portraits of celebrities Marc Jacobs, Isabella Rossellini and Jennifer Jason Leigh.

His first make-up manual – Makeup Your Mind – was published in 2001, featuring 63 “before” and “after” images of some of the world’s most recognisable models, including Naomi Campbell, Maggie Rizzer and Karen Elson. Two years ago, he launched a sequel – Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself – in which readers get to learn more about make-up application and how to express their beauty, individuality and creativity through cosmetics.

Clearly, make-up isn’t just about colours anymore as Francois explores new territories and challenges the conventional. Some of his collections border on controversy, especially when you think about where some of his inspirations come from. But perhaps, that’s what it’s meant to do: get you out of your comfort zone and start expressing yourself!

*NARS will be located at Level 3, Pavilion Kuala Lumpur. Products are priced between RM60 and RM300. For more details, go to

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