I was 21 when I first heard about the NARS multi-purpose stick in the shade Orgasm. I remember nudging my sister to find an authentic Indian seller who could get me the product in India. This was a decade ago when owning a NARS product was considered a treasured asset. A couple of months later, when I held the product in my hands, I could resonate with the feeling of owning something as iconic! I must confess that I kept it with me for years, even after its expiry!
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Almost a decade later, the brand has finally come to India and it’s a trip down memory lane for me. Before the much-anticipated India launch, I got an opportunity to speak with François Nars, founder of the brand, about his creative process and the journey that’s been with the brand so far. Nars, for the unknown, is an expert whose body of work is a beauty blueprint for beginners. “I am involved in the creative process of developing a product at every step of the way. I am here to ensure that every NARS product embodies the brand’s vision,” he says while chatting about everything that made NARS a legendary brand.
ELLE: From cult favourite Orgasm to Savage and Aroused to Dominate, what’s the thought process behind these rather scandalous names?
François Nars (FN): When I first created NARS, I could go in one of two ways as it relates to naming the products – assigning numbers or giving them a real identity and personality. I chose the latter, aiming to make women dream when they used NARS. I wanted them to drift away and be completely immersed in the meaning of the shade name. Naming the products something practical, like ‘strawberry red’, felt boring and uninspiring to me.
ELLE: For the record, did you ever anticipate Orgasm’s popularity?
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FN: I must admit that I never anticipated the overwhelming popularity of the Orgasm Blush. It took me by surprise, as I never imagined it would become such an iconic and beloved product. I am grateful for the love and support it has received over the years.
ELLE: You have confessed you’re not fond of trends, yet from your products to the looks you have created, they all have been a trendsetter…
FN: I believe that trends can be limited and fleeting. My approach has been to focus on creating timeless products that offer something fresh and captivating. Trends come and go quickly; and rather than trying to predict what might be trendy, I am more interested in creating products that stand the test of time and continue to be relevant and loved by people for years to come.
ELLE: You’ve also confessed to being an introvert, and not too fond of social media. While the world stays abreast with the global beauty industry via social media, how do you make the exact opposite work in your favour?
FN: I experience beauty in person and in real-time. It may be considered old-fashioned, but I believe it offers a more genuine and lasting connection to the world of beauty.
ELLE: With social media content taking centre stage, how do you make sure NARS, which has been iconic for almost three decades now, still stays relevant and appeals to beauty consumers of all ages?
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FN: While we honour our iconic heritage, we also engage with social media and digital platforms, ensuring NARS remains accessible and resonates with beauty lovers of all ages.
ELLE: How does a particular shade become a NARS shade?
FN: A NARS shade must have the potential to stand out and make a statement on its own, and it also should complement and fit well with the other colours within our portfolio.
ELLE: If we can now go down memory lane and talk about Anna Sui’s 1992 show where you shaved off Kristen McMenamy’s eyebrows–how did that become a part of the mood board?
FN: The moment I first saw Kristen, I was fascinated by her one-of-a-kind beauty. She resembled a blank canvas with endless possibilities. The popular story is that her eyebrows were shaved off, but in reality, I plucked them. She was my muse for the entire show. What truly impressed me was her fearlessness in embracing her unconventional style – she had guts! I believe right around that same time, Garren chopped her hair off and dyed it jet black. Today, many attribute her skyrocketing career to that iconic look.
ELLE: After spending significant time in the fashion industry and having the above-mentioned beauty moments to your credit, what do you think of the industry now?
FN: I find it very powerful that the concept of one ideal beauty is disappearing today. Beauty is being embraced by all ages, genders, ethnicities, skin tones, and facial features. It’s something I have always felt strongly about, something I have always tried to communicate through NARS’ ad campaigns and the choice of campaign models.
ELLE: The industry is growing and evolving every day. Do you still invest time in learning?
FN: You are right, the world of beauty is ever-evolving and there is always something new to discover and explore. Learning is an ongoing journey, and I am excited to see what the future of beauty holds.
ELLE: What keeps you inspired and motivated throughout?
FN: My creativity is inspired in many ways, and sometimes in the most unexpected moments. I’ll see something as simple as the beautiful colour of flowers in a garden and say to myself, ‘That should be an eyeshadow!’ You can find inspiration anywhere.
ELLE: If not beauty and makeup, what is it that you love to do to unwind and relax?
FN: I love going to museums and looking at exhibits, whatever might be on display at the time. I also find great joy in going to opera and movie theatres. I enjoy shopping. Living near Central Park in New York allows me to take long walks and connect with nature. sometimes I love doing nothing giving myself the freedom to think and dream.
ELLE: While you have spent enough time in the industry, does coming up with something new and pre-launch moments (still) give you jitters?
FN: Absolutely, the process of creating something new and the pre-launch moments continue to give me great joy and excitement. It’s a feeling that never truly fades.
ELLE: What next?
FN: Karl Lagerfeld may have answered it best: “Who knows?” Although, I hope that beauty will remain a form of self-expression for years to come.