After releasing collaborations with the Andy Warhol Foundation, Guy Bourdin, Sarah Moon, and most recently, Charlotte Gainsbourg, NARS is outdoing itself again with the Man Ray Holiday collection, which will feature limited-edition shades influenced by the electrifying art of the early 20th-century modern master, Man Ray.
Naturally, the packaging is adorned with his iconic black-and-white photography. And there's really something for everyone inside — from glossy bright glosses and sooty shadows to neutral lipsticks and metallic bronzers. Highlights from the collection include the Love Game Eyeshadow Palette, inspired by the vibrant persona of Man Ray's muse Ady Fidelin, the first Black model to be featured in a fashion magazine, and the Kiss Velvet Matte Lip Pencil Set, which consists of four new shades in a sleek gold cosmetic case.
Ahead of the launch next month, Refinery29 caught up with the founder of the global beauty brand, Mr. Francois Nars himself, in Paris to discuss his passion for photography, the new Man Ray collection, and why he loves women.
Why did you choose visual artist Man Ray for your latest collaboration?
"He's been my inspiration for many, many years, since I grew up in the South of France, my parents had many books of Man Ray in their library and I used to go through them — I was mesmerized by his work at a very early age. He inspired me in so many ways in the fact that he was so daring and ahead of his time. I was just fascinated by the way he took photographs. It came at such a fabulous time when he started taking photographs in Paris in the early '30s and there was so much creativity in Paris. All of the fabulous painters and writers were here. So, you know, all of these things I think contributed, and also the world they lived in at the time was quite special. His images stick with me. Then there was a time to actually pay him an homage and we felt that if we had the agreement from the foundation, from the estate, that it was the perfect combination for us and Man Ray. I hope he would be happy."
How long did it take to bring this idea to fruition?
"A couple of years. We work always a couple of years before [the special collaborations come] out. But I have at least four people I would love to collaborate with. The next collaboration is somebody from England — major in England. But I can’t say anything [laughs]. It is just a tease! Somebody more contemporary, more contemporary than Man Ray. It's going to be so much fun. So we keep going, and do very fun artists, just to keep everybody excited, that's the whole point."
You've worked with the Andy Warhol Foundation and Guy Bourdin on previous holiday collections, and now Man Ray. Do you think a key part of your success is elevating the brand with these unique collaborations with the world's greatest artists?
"It's a great platform for us to make people more aware, especially in America, of the European artists. At times they may not know them so well, so it's a good thing!"
NARS really champions diversity with a brilliant shade range and the encouragement of self-expression and experimentation. What does beauty mean to you now, and what did it mean to you when you first started?
"You know I love women [laughs]. I’m obsessed with women, so that's why I love making them feel beautiful. That's really always been my goal and my drive. I think it's nice to open up and make sure the market is very open and we have diversity of product for everybody. I think that in the past, it was hard to find foundation, powders, everything, so we always try and push that we have makeup for everybody. So everybody finds what they're looking for."
You started out as a makeup artist before moving into photography and founding your brand. Which is your first love?
"I picked makeup first but photography was always there for me, because I knew I was not going to work in a salon — I was going to work on photo shoots. So that's why I picked makeup, because I knew makeup would lead to me working with great photographers if I worked hard enough. I think it's connected together; makeup and photography are so similar — you want to take a great picture, you want to make the people you are photographing feel great, look great. Which is exactly the same process as doing makeup — you want people to look good and feel good.
"I jumped into photography quite naturally; I don't want to say easily because nothing is easy. It was not even a transition because I still do makeup and I'm still involved in makeup. They're almost together, they're almost the same thing for me."
You must have come into contact with some of the greatest photographers in the world. Is there one particular photographer who has had a major impact on your work?
"I love Avedon so much. Richard Avedon was really one of my favorite photographers. Irving Penn, of course. Man Ray was huge for me, and I love Henri Cartier-Bresson. The list goes on and on. But Avedon for the fashion portraits that he did, the beauty portraits of Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, all the big movie stars. There was such a world of glamour when he started back in the 1940s. That was magical and really influenced me. You always go back, like, me and probably hundreds of other photographer go back to look at Avedon's photographs over the years because he did so much. He did it with such an incredible lightness, talent, and sophistication. We all learned from Avedon. So having worked with him was the best thing in the world. I was a very lucky guy."
If you could only recommend one NARS product, what would it be?
"One product? I love my Monoï oil with glitter in it. It’s so good for the skin and you can bring it everywhere. It looks great if you’re in a big city, it's amazing. It smells so great and moisturizes the skin. It’s the Monoï from the Tahiti islands. Yeah, I mean, there are many good products. I'm very happy with so many of the products, practically all of them, so it’s hard to pick!"
The Man Ray for NARS Holiday collection will be available starting October 6.