from orgasm blush to a man ray-inspired collection, françois nars knows how to please women

To celebrate the launch of his latest Man Ray-inspired collection, we joined the make-up maverick in his bedroom at the Ritz for a cosy tête-à-tête.

by Tish Weinstock
26 September 2017, 11:05am

"For me, beauty has to have something odd about it," Francois Nars muses as he settles into a gilded chair in his suite at the Ritz. "I don't want it to be obvious, that bores me. I like beauty that is different, strange, special." It's piping hot in Paris, and yet François remains effortlessly cool. We're here to talk about the make-up maverick's brilliant new Man Ray for Nars Holiday 2017 Collection.

Featuring limited edition shades in bright, bold, electrifying colours, high-shine lip lacquers, daringly dimensional blushes, and packaging adorned with Man Ray's iconic black and white photography, the collection is an incredible homage to one of the greatest modern masters of the 20th century.

Following on from highly sought-after collaborations with Guy Bourdin, Steven Klein, the Andy Warhol Foundation and most recently Charlotte Gainsbourg, this year François has dedicated his Holiday collection to someone very dear to his heart.

Man Ray for NARS - L Heure de L observetoire Les Amoureux

A keen photographer himself, the parallels between Monsieur Nars and Man Ray are endless. "I've admired his work since I was a child," François recalls, "especially his early work in the 30s. He's so incredibly daring. He was always breaking taboos and never compromised for anything. He was very ahead of his time."

François Nars is no stranger to breaking the odd taboo himself. Celebrated far and wide for his bold, unadulterated approach to beauty, this is the man who introduced risque names like Deep Throat, G-Spot and Orgasm into industry parlance. You didn't even need to buy the product; just asking for it over the counter was enough to make anyone blush.Born in the south of France in the late 50s, François was just 10 years old when he found his calling. Fascinated by the women featured in Vogue, François would spend hours replicating their faces in his notepad. While the fashion enthralled him, it was the creative drama of make-up that really had him hooked.

Man Ray for NARS - Mode au Congo

After graduating from Paris' prestigious Carita Institute, François went about carving a career for himself as one of the most esteemed make-up artists in the business. His keen attention to detail and philosophy that make-up should enhance the individual beauty of the woman who wears it, has seen him work with everyone from Yves Saint Laurent, who gave the young artist his first break, to Marc Jacobs to Calvin Klein.

Stifled by the cosmetics available at the time, and inspired by his daring love of colour and texture, in 1995 he created his own beauty line, NARS. A year later, he revealed to the world his admirable skills as a photographer when he shot the very first NARS campaign. Not only has he shot practically every NARS campaign since -- as well as countless fashion editorials in between -- François has devoted years to pursuing his own personal projects.

Man Ray for NARS - Le Violon d'Ingres

Particularly powerful was his 1999 X-ray series, a collection of portraits of unique individuals; men, women and children of all ages and ethnicities, which of course brings us back to Man Ray. "I read that every time Man Ray received a visitor in his studio, he'd photograph them," François explains. "He couldn't help it. It could be a friend, his lover, the postman, his housekeeper. He loved taking photographs of anyone he ever met, which is something I can relate to. He was a great inspiration for me when I was starting out as a photographer."

François discovered Man Ray's work through one of the many art books that filled his parents' library. "I used to love flicking through his work," he recalls. "I was fascinated with beauty and make-up at the time, and I remember the women in Man Ray's photographs were so dramatic in their looks and their choice of make-up. Man Ray was very daring in his casting, he was always searching for that type of unique beauty. I can relate to that, I don't tend to go for simple, pretty faces."

Man Ray for NARS - The Veil

With Man Ray's entire oeuvre at his fingertips, when it came to narrowing down the images for the collection, François stuck to the most iconic ones. "There were so many pictures to choose from but we only needed 14. In the end we picked the ones that spoke most about make-up. I also wanted them to be recognisable because not many people know who Man Ray is. But they might have seen these images in books or on postcards." Among the chosen 14, one stands out in particular: Man Ray's portrait of Ady Fidelin sitting in front of a chess board, which François had printed onto the lid of an eye shadow palette.

A marriage of two visionaries, and a celebration of unique beauty, The Man Ray for NARS Holiday collection is a work of art that belongs more in a museum than it does on someone's dressing table. But that doesn't mean we don't want it on ours!

The Man Ray for NARS Holiday collection will be available from October.

make up
Man Ray
francois nars