As Nars Cosmetics finally launches in the Middle East (October 16), we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the iconic make-up brand.

It may now be synonymous with supermodel clientele, sell-out cult products and technicolour ad campaigns, but when François Nars, a young French make-up artist living in America, set out to develop a line of cosmetics over two decades ago, he simply intended to create a practical make-up collection. Instead, he created a beauty movement.

His journey, from lowly assistant to make-up and photography icon, is even more impressive when you consider the difficulties he faced as the new kid on the block in the late 80s. “Back then the fashion industry was very much closed to outsiders,” explains James Boehmer, Creative Director of Global Artistry for NARS, “François managed to infiltrate this tight-knit community through sheer hard work, glowing recommendations from make-up artists he assisted, and friendships with up-and-comers in the fashion industry like Marc Jacobs and Steven Meisel.”


Frustrated by the lack of pigmented products on the market to use in his photoshoots, François quietly created an eponymous line of 12 bold lipsticks, sold exclusively at Barneys in New York. He slowly began adding to the collection, creating cult product after cult product as he went.

Fast forward 20 years and every beauty guru worth her contouring brush has worn NARS’ Blush in Orgasm, lip gloss in Turkish Delight and lipstick in Roman Holiday, along with the countless famous faces who have demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to the brand since it began. Among these celebrity fans are Daphne Guinness, Amber Valetta and Naomi Campbell, all of whom continue to act as muses for the entire make-up team.

Now spending more time behind the camera as a sought-after photographer, François continues to inspire both the backstage and the beauty industries, penning four books about the subject along the way. Emirates Woman takes a look back at the brand’s colourful evolution and exclusively reveals what we can expect from the hotly anticipated regional launch next month…

The Campaign Trail High-fashion highlights from the last 20 years:


Autumn 2004 featuring Naomi Campbell


Spring 2009 featuring Guinevere Van Seenus


Summer 2009 featuring Guinevere Van Seenus


Holiday Campaign 2009 featuring Heather Marks


Spring 2014 featuring Stella Tennant


Nars by Numbers

18 years since François was too poor to hire a photographer and so shot the first campaign himself

4 books of make-up artistry under his belt

1 island owned in French Polynesia called Motu Tane

3 years in a row that NARS’ Orgasm has been the best-selling blusher at Sephora in the USA

10 year hiatus from creating runway looks between 1999 and 2009

14-year-old French bulldog (named Marcel) owned by François cast in the NARS Autumn 2010 campaign

5 custom candles created by François and named after his favourite exotic locations – from Jaipur to Acapulco


Colour Theory The iconic picks that deserve a spot in your beauty bag:


L-R: Bronzer in Laguna, Satin Lip Pencil in Luxembourg, Nail Polish in Hunger, Multiple in Copacabana, Lipstick in Schiap, Eyeshadow in Kauai, Eye Paint in Baalbek, Lip gloss in Turkish Delight, Illuminator in Hot Sand, Blush in Orgasm