This Christmas, there's a makeup collection that any fashion lover will be dying to get their hands on. Like mini works of art, the kits and palettes in the Nars x Steven Klein collection are adorned with the photographer's stunning images. Cutting-edge, slightly macabre and oh-so-beautiful, the makeup were created around the images and not the other way around. Here Nars founder François Nars and Steven Klein himself talk about their collaboration.
What was the moment you decided to collaborate with Steven on a makeup collection?
It takes quite a long time to create a collection, so about two years ago. Knowing him and his work, I thought "let's do a collection that celebrates Steven's art" because photography really is an art. I felt like he deserved to be recognised, and I think the combination of having makeup around him was a good idea.
What was the process like?
I don't like to sit down for hours around tables, so it started with Steven sending me a selection of his photographs from all different periods. It was so hard because I love so many of his images. We had to edit them down, we went from hundreds of images to just a handful. I worked with Steven and Fabien (Baron) to find a story — looking for a combination that reflected Steven's work. Which was incredibly difficult, because how can you reflect someone's work in just ten or so pictures?
Guy Bourdin was the last photographer you worked with on a Holiday Collection. How did the creative process differ? Steven Klein's images don't necessarily depict beauty photography in the traditional sense, so how did you conceptualise the colors for this collection?
With Guy Bourdin it was a little easier because we were able to pull colours or specific shades from his photography. With Steven's photography it was very abstract. We created colours based on the theme of this photography. We built the collection around Steven and his world — a darker, sexier world. It's very edgy. This is also the first collaboration we've done with an artist who is alive, so it was great to be able to work directly with Steven on every aspect of the collection.
Was Steven involved in naming the products?
Yes, I wanted him to be involved with that, because, again, he's such an artist. He's not just taking pictures. He builds a whole story or world with his photographs, which I love. All great photographers create their own world, Newton, Bourdin... It was also important that he got involved in the shade names, the choice of words and the names of the gift sets.
Some may think the collaboration is a little controversial. Was your goal to provide an edge of subversiveness within the collection?
That can be expected when pushing boundaries. People sometimes only see what's on the surface but if you really look at something, you can find the beauty, the art in it. I like the idea of taking something that may be controversial and bringing it to a different level. Also, I don't think this is what people would expect from a makeup brand and I like that.
When did you first meet François?
We met roughly 20 years ago when we first started working together. The first job that we did together was when I was photographing Isabella Rossellini, and he did her makeup. The second time, I worked with him as a makeup artist was with Linda Evangelista.
What is your relationship like?
We're both very busy in our own worlds and we don't necessarily hang out all the time, but we do understand what the other is doing. When it came to this collaboration François was very forthcoming in wanting me to do what I do. He endorsed what I do as a photographer and didn't use me as a service to promote a lipstick or an eyeshadow. That was unique and it is very, very rare these days that people will come to celebrate your photography.
What was your first impression when you learned NARS was interested in collaborating with you on a collection?
The whole idea was a no-brainer. I love the idea of not shooting images for a campaign, but using archival photos. What François said to me were key words, because I'm always restricted. He said, "If we use your strongest images, we want you. We love what you do and I want your vision." How could you refuse an offer like that?
Tell us about the collaborative process
It was really interesting because he had me submit pictures that I like, and then he made a large selection, and we both chose the final images together. We thought we'd represent this new collection and represent me as a photographer. I found that really exciting given the climate of the corporate control with most brands (especially in cosmetics). Everything has still come back to me. That's why this project was so exciting; I was working with another creative person, collaborating directly with him. He's the one in control, so he doesn't have to go through this corporate board to crush ideas.
What is your definition of beauty?
Beauty can be a goddess or it can be a beast. I think it is how one sees it. It can be the dark, it could be the light. Beauty isn't everything. I think it's more how the eyes are looking at it, how one perceives it. I don't think there is any definitive idea that you can state about beauty because I think it exists in everything.
Do you have a muse?
Not so much a muse, but I would have to say, hands down, Kate Moss would be (and has been for a long time) this kind of, "I'm everything, but I'm not much." I like her attitude about beauty and I like the way she puts herself together. To me that is the woman that I'm attracted to in a way. I like her humour about who she is and what she does. To me she's the contemporary icon of beauty.
See our picks of the best pieces from the collection:
This collection is available from 1 November at Nars counters