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Francois Nars: Redefining Beauty through Makeup

Having been a part of several fashion shows and photoshoots, I know that hair alone can’t make the model. Equally important is the makeup that helps complete the overall look, and Francois Nars is a makeup legend whom I respect. His technical skills and creative vision transformed not only the models’ faces, but also the definition of beauty.

Inspired by the Hollywood glamour of the 1920s and 1930s, as well as the bold color palette from the 1970s, Nars wasn’t afraid to push boundaries and ultimately change the public’s perception of beauty. During the 1980s, the public acknowledged the ideal beauty as the typical blonde with blue eyes, with an excessive polished look. Nars, however, believed that makeup should enhance the woman’s underlying style and individuality, rather than mask it. By revealing freckles and other individual features on his models, Nars soon established a name for himself as a makeup artist in the elite world of fashion.

Nars collaborated with fashion creatives Steve Meisel and Oribe to create countless spreads for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle, transforming the then-fresh faces of Naomi, Linda and Christy into fashion icons of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Collaborating with designers such as Dolce & Gabbana, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Sui and Marc Jacobs, he combined textures and colors to create dramatic, evocative looks that captured each model’s individuality. He also helped recreate Madonna’s identity in the ‘90s by bringing out her sensuality and glamour.

Not afraid to take risks, Nars executed his daring vision, he created striking looks for the runway throughout his career. In the early 90s, he shaved off model Kristen McMenamy’s eyebrows, and a few years later, he introduced intense shades of fuchsia and orange makeup for Anna Sui’s fall show. After a 10-year hiatus from the runway, Nars returned for Marc Jacob’s fall show in 2009. Using heavy black eye shadow complemented by streaks of bright color, he created 65 unique looks inspired by the 80s-inspired nightclub days in New York.

Makeup wasn’t Nars’s only creative outlet. In 1994, when he launched his own makeup line NARS, he took the camera in his own hands and shot his own photos for the advertising campaign. By inviting Sudanese model Alek Wek and redheaded and pale-skinned Karen Elson as campaign models for his makeup line, he continued to spread his belief about the face of beauty. Beauty was no longer symbolized by a universal, predictable face. Instead, it was comprised of several faces, each unique with an element of self-expression. Thanks to his innovative vision and artistic skill as a photographer, Nars found himself landing editorial commissions for Vanity Fair and French and German Vogue. He also assembled portraits featuring unique self-identities and personalities for his three photography books, X-Ray, NARS 15×15 and Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself.

I’m a believer of individuality, where each person’s style expresses who they are and defines their own standards of beauty. And Nars, through his makeup, lets that message resonate.

Photo Credits: Temptalia, Aeronaves, Demeterclarc