Marooned On NARS Island

When you get an email from NARS asking if you want to tag along to Bora Bora to interview legendary makeup artist (and brand namesake) François Nars, you kind of have to wonder karmically what you did to deserve something so amazing. Whatever it is I did must have been REALLY good, because that's exactly where I found myself a few months ago. Nars purchased Motu Tane (yes, the island has a name) after selling his company to Shiseido back in 2000. The island serves as both a hideaway where he can escape the fashion and beauty industry madness and a studio where he can shoot his iconic campaign ads. Armed with a GoPro and a crapload of sunscreen, I hopped on a plane — well, three separate airplanes. Over 13 hours later (because they don't call it a remote paradise for nothing), I was in the South Pacific sitting down with Mr. Nars himself to discuss what inspires him, what he loves about Motu Tane, and, of course, all things makeup.
Photographed by Megan McIntyre.
What makes Motu Tane such a special place for you?
"I'm very open on the island — I love walking around, and it’s nice to see the sunset. It’s very versatile, the light keeps turning all the time, so I like following the light sometimes. It’s beautiful to see the sunrise in the morning." What are some of your favorite places on the island?
"I like my library. It’s like a little study library; I love that room. My studio, of course, because sometimes I shoot there. I love the beach; I love being on the beach." What about Tahiti and Bora Bora inspires you?
"I love the people here; that was really the thing that attracted me — the people, the culture, the music, the way they dance and move. There’s something very charming and almost [childlike] sometimes about them that is very touching. They’re very laid-back — in general, they’re very sweet people. I think they are very beautiful; they have amazing skin, their hair is incredible. I shot many people in the book [Tahiti: Faery Lands] from Tahiti, and I think it translates that. I like looking at them! Men and women — I think they’re all very beautiful." Are there other places that inspire you to the same degree?
"I must say, New York and Paris. I lived in Paris for a few years, so I love Paris — it’s always inspiring. I love watching the light in Paris, and I think it’s so beautiful. And New York, for the energy and the insanity, and the craziness, and the crazy people! It can inspire, too."
Photographed by Megan McIntyre.
You tend to draw inspiration from locations — a lot of the NARS shade names are named after places. Why do places make for such rich beauty inspiration?
"I haven’t been to all the places that I named products after. It’s just imagination. I think you can travel in many different ways — through books, movies, or music. Sometimes, I name a color after a place and it’s how I envision it. It might not be totally what it is, but it’s what I’ve seen in pictures or books. I think it’s nice to name a product based on something that you can dream of, and to make you remember it. It gives it more personality."
What is your favorite product that Motu Tane has inspired?
"The Monoi Body Glow, because it comes from here. [Monoi is] what the Tahitians have been using for hundreds of years, with coconut oil and the tiare fragrance inside. I love the product, and I wanted to have it in NARS after I came here. I’ve known that product for a long time; my mother used to use it when she was a kid, but we made it better, and hopefully we added some great ingredients that make it a little bit more updated. But the essence is still the same." If someone is new to NARS as a brand, what are the three must-have products they have to have?
"I would say the Audacious mascara that’s going to come out for fall [in August]. I love the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils. If [I'm] doing makeup a lot in studio, like I used to 20 years ago, I use Velvet Matte Lip Pencils because I love the colors, the textures. I love all of [the colors] — Train Bleu is a good one, which is a very beautiful, deep color. The Velvet Shadow Sticks — it's almost like a Crayola! You just put it on and blend it with your finger. Very easy." What do you think is the most under-appreciated color in the makeup world?
"Green, because green is sometimes one of the colors that doesn’t sell the most. Which is so wrong; I love green! I love many shades of green — I would do '50 shades of green!' Green is a very beautiful color and very hated by a lot of people, and I think it’s very wrong. I think it’s a very understated color, and every time I use green it’s some of my favorite makeup."

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