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· The Makeup Artist: François Nars

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The Makeup Artist: François Nars
by Dain

We all know the feeling. You're browsing through the counters, swatching idly, when, all of sudden, something very pretty, very shiny beckons. And there you are, yet another eyeshadow richer. "Daïn's got a new toy!" my family likes to say. My first such magpie moment: Rated R.

Versatile, Rated R is not. Without work, the bright colors overpower me, and after twelve years, the textures have become outdated. Still, I treasure it, and will always treasure it, the last remnant of a once massive NARS collection. Rated R is a memento—of the very first time I bought makeup simply because it was pretty—but it also serves as a reminder about embracing experimentation. "One of the best things about makeup is its impermanence. If a look is a success, you can work it into your wardrobe of makeup 'faces'. If not, you can just wipe it off and try something new. I try not to take makeup too seriously, and neither should you." (p. 13, Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself). NARS duos presented a challenge, at a time when eyeshadow palettes were tame and predictably coordinated, in how to harmonize colors in more inventive ways. To this day, it still informs how I manipulate colors.

Like most fashion brands, the focus is on glamour, often in François Nars' idiosyncratic palette. If naturalism is about fine-tuning and restraint, to the point it disappears from view, glamour makeup is an escalation in intensity. Even when worked in neutrals, glamour makes a statement. You could call it empowering, you could call it unapologetic, you could even call it excessive—like all statements, 'glamour' is open to a multiplicity of interpretations—but from tightlining to a flick, it is perhaps more simply described as a subtle shift in self-perception.


With increased freedom, one might think that glamour makeup has no restraints, no thought process behind the decisions. But for all the difference in intent and style, glamour abides by the same cardinal rule of naturalism: good makeup respects the face. Like Mercier, his fellow Carita alumna, Nars' more extroverted style builds on the features unique to the individual. "All too often, too many makeup artists go off on their own ego trips... Instead, they're out to prove... their skills or to put what they presume is their unique stamp on a woman's face... The woman being made up is the most important person here. Not the makeup artist." (p. 7, Makeup Your Mind). Certainly, a flick has more attitude than tightlining, more of a presence, but what matters most is how well it suits Deva's eye shape. In all his looks, François Nars manages a very delicate balance between freedom and control. He is stylized, yet not at all conceptual. The look is not a concept; it is still a face.

"Observation is the key to learning how to apply makeup" (p. 13, ibid), François Nars is keen to emphasize. This visually oriented approach, in which the face is shown with and without makeup, is more instructive than a hundred maxims. When the face dictates, you learn to trust the judgement of your eyes.

However, my admiration is alloyed with criticism. There is room for improvement with textures; though originally decent, the competition has left NARS behind. Since its inception, NARS has successfully established itself as a mainstream brand. Unfortunately, with such a high proportion of iconic shades, there is great difficulty updating formulations—a consequence of notoriety, perhaps. It's a shame. François Nars' eye for color is very special, not easy to replicate. After a lull of several years, an absence of direct agency within the collections, I was happy to see inspiration return full force in recent collections, especially since NARS has such powerful nostalgia for me. It would be wonderful to see that excitement of color married to buttery, luxurious textures.

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2/08/2013 [6]




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