The only man never to fail at giving a woman an orgasm–we’re talking blush here–François Nars has been redefining the face of beauty since the ’70s. Born in the south of France, Nars spent his childhood replicating the faces he found in Vogue in his notepad, paying specific attention to the way models wore their makeup. After honing his craft at Paris’s prestigious Carita Institute, he went on to assist industry legend Olivier Echaudemaison before moving to New York where he spent the next few years creating arresting and often iconoclastic images for Vogue and collaborating with designers like Marc Jacobs, Saint Laurent, Calvin Klein, and Versace. Thirty years since launching his eponymous brand, Nars’s unique approach to color, texture, and design remains as progressive and impactful as ever, and will be the subject of an documentary by Lisa Immordino Vreeland and narrated by actor Charlotte Rampling.
Collaging film clips from over 50 of his favorite movies with rare backstage footage from runway shows and shoots with Steven Meisel, Unknown Beauty: François Nars tells the story of the legendary makeup artist, photographer, and creative director of Nars Cosmetics. “Through this film, my intention was to offer viewers a glimpse into the very essence of what has fuelled my creative journey throughout the years,” says Nars. “It was important to me to share the sources of inspiration–such as a time period between 1970s and 1980s–that shaped my artistic vision.” Beyond that, the film is a celebration of the universal pursuit of beauty, one that still preoccupies Nars today.
Vogue sat down with the makeup maestro to discuss his unique vision of beauty and how he hopes to be remembered.
What inspired the documentary?
This documentary was driven by a desire to provide a more intimate and authentic portrayal of my life, and to share insight into the many things that have inspired me and shaped my creative journey. By pulling back the curtain, I hope to ignite a sense of wonder and fascination in viewers, and impart a sense of inspiration and encouragement to aspiring artists and creators.
You’re normally behind the lens, what prompted you to step in front of the camera? Why now specifically?
The team at Nars Cosmetics had been asking me for some time to work on a documentary. It was the right time to begin work on a film about my life. I knew at the very start that I didn’t want it to be a traditional documentary. Throughout my career, I have primarily worked behind the scenes, empowering and capturing the beauty of others, and I had no intention of deviating from that. I wanted to adopt a fresh perspective for this film–I decided to create a visual document that illuminated the driving force behind my lifelong pursuit of beauty.
Why was Lisa Immordino Vreeland the right person to tell this story?
Lisa’s work has always captivated me. She has a rich culture and a deep understanding and appreciation for the world of film, fashion, photography, art, and beauty. Her remarkable ability to capture the essence of her subjects and convey their stories in a visually stunning and emotionally rich way is incomparable. Each of her documentaries has a unique narrative, distinct from the previous ones. I have so much respect for her work. It has been nothing but an extraordinary experience working with her on this film.