NARS: Twenty Years of Lipstick

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Claudette Nars
Claudette NarsPhotography courtesy of the NARS archives

As NARS celebrates its twentieth anniversary with a range of exclusive lipsticks, we look back at their iconic advertising campaigns

Who? In 1994, François Nars launched his namesake brand with twelve lipsticks. Twenty years on, NARS has released a special edition collection, named after the women that have inspired him, from the Claudia (Schiffer) and Anita (Pallenberg) to the Charlotte (Rampling), who – at the impressive age of 46 – has been unveiled as the face of the A/W14 campaign. “I love lipstick,” says Nars, “it is the one make-up item that women all over the world must have. No matter what.”

“Lipstick is the one make-up item that women all over the world must have. No matter what" — Francois Nars

What? With his provocative product names (Deep Throat, Sex Drive and Orgasm to name a few) and signature black rubber packaging (designed by French visionary Fabien Baron), Nars is to to make-up what Agent Provocateur is to underwear. The photographer and cosmetic magnate was first introduced to the industry via his notoriously glamorous mother, who would book appointments with esteemed make-up artists and in turn, introduce them to her son. He went on to study at the Carita Make-up School in Paris, before moving to New York where he met photographer Steven Meisel and hair stylist Oribe Canales. They worked together as a trio, shaping the face of beauty editorials across the pages of American Vogue, Vogue Italia and Elle.

Why? Nars originally launched his own line due to his frustration at the cosmetics available to him as a make-up artist. He also took to the lens to photograph his own campaigns, capturing the likes of Naomi Campbell, Erin O’Conner and Guinevere Van Seenus. His advertisements were some of the first to explore the many different faces of makeup, particularly the bare-faced minimalism now associated with the decade, and are now considered extremely brave for the time. The irony is that as fashion continues to pull on the nostalgia of the 90s, these early campaigns are as relevant and influential now as the date Nars launched them. And funnily enough, so are his lipsticks.

Text by Mhairi Graham