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NARS x Charlotte Gainsbourg deliver a lesson in French style

Charlotte Gainsbourg for NARS - Francois Nars and Charlotte - jpeg

Clare Austin introduces the NARS x Charlotte Gainsbourg collection and talks to Charlotte Gainsbourg about her role in its creation. The entire collection will be available to travel shoppers in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa from May.

Column inches and entire books have been written trying to capture the formula behind that globally-recognisable brand of insouciant French-girl chic. François Nars has very cleverly gone straight to the source. In what at first glance could seem to be a partnering paradox – a make-up line designed by a woman known for her natural look and lack of make-up – lies beauty holy grail. The art of looking fabulous seemingly without trying.

Charlotte Gainsbourg photographed in New York by François Nars

An “actress, musician and creative spirit”, Charlotte Gainsbourg is something of an artistic Renaissance woman. Known for her work as an award-winning actress (with a CV ranging from art house films to Hollywood blockbusters); a critically acclaimed singer; a fashion icon; the face of brands including Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga; Gainsbourg has inhabited the cultural zeitgeist from the moment she was born as the daughter of French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and English actress, singer and muse Jane Birkin (yes, she of the Birkin bag), the artists behind the controversial love song ‘Je t’aime…moi non plus’.

Explaining his choice of Charlotte Gainsbourg as collaborator, François Nars said: “Her allure is all in the uncompromising power of her personal style. It’s very cool and authentic, very French. But there is real inspiration in how she moves through the world. Like her lyrics, her voice, her mix of presence and humility, she is herself, through and through. Her work reflects her soul more than anybody I know.”

Charlotte Gainsbourg repaid the compliment, saying of Nars: “He made me feel so comfortable, I could do anything I wanted as long as it came from me, something personal. So that’s what I did, created this collection around my exact beauty needs.”

Before we even get to the range itself, let’s talk packaging. It’s gorgeous. Cleverly combining the androgynous appeal of Ms Gainsbourg, a masculine, military-esque khaki is the unexpected signature shade of the packaging, softened by gold detailing and feminine shapes. It works beautifully, and at once sets the tone of the collection: pretty with an edge.

‘Effortless, Elegant, Eclectic’: The Charlotte Gainsbourg for NARS collection

Inside the packaging, the NARS x Charlotte Gainsbourg Summer 2017 collection is a limited-edition edit of ‘lived-in colours’ channelling Gainsbourg’s signature look of smouldering eyes, flushed cheeks and lips ‘bitten with soft colour’.

My references had to do with actresses in films, so a natural cheek, redness from crying, running – things that move me

The 18 products include: Lip Tint; Hydrating Glow Tint; Multiple Tint; Velvet Matte Lip Pencil; Velvet Duo Eyeshadow; Kohliner and a Brush Roll. Our highlights are Charlotte Gainsbourg’s version of the iconic NARS Multiple in a sheer tinted format to give lips and cheeks a dewy, natural look, and, the Kohliner in Zinc (slate grey), Cours Du Soir (deep moss green) and Nuit D’Encre (deep navy) which all deliver the perfect Charlotte smoulder.

Charlotte Gainsbourg had full creative control of the collection which François Nars wanted to be “a complete reflection of who she is – an extremely talented and sensitive artist”

Charlotte Gainsbourg’s heritage is rooted in both Paris and London, a link which is evident in the names given to the colours of the collection. For example, the limited-edition Velvet Duo Eyeshadow comes in Old Church Street (golden champagne and deep slate teal) and Rue Allent (shimmering frost and deep forest green).

And so to the woman herself: we grabbed five minutes with Charlotte Gainsbourg to talk make-up and travel.

In an interview with Interview magazine, you said: “…it’s always collaborations, and that’s what I like. I don’t like being on my own. I’m happy meeting people and collaborating”. You must be approached regularly to get involved in projects. What made you say ‘yes’ to NARS?

How could I say no? I was flattered and quite excited because it was such an unusual request for me, I don’t typically wear a lot of make-up so I was surprised that François Nars chose me for a collaboration.

You and your mother and sisters are known for looking great while not wearing a lot of make-up. How do you feel about make-up?

I like anything that will seem natural, erasing a few signs of age.

What is your own make-up ritual?

I tend to use a skincare called Biologique Recherche. I come back to it each time I wander off and try out new things. I should know by now that that never works for me. Then it’s really just a question of camouflaging dark circles a little (not too much), spots and giving myself a little life in the cheeks. In the morning it’s too early for me to enhance lashes or lips, that can happen later in the day.

How did you decide on the products and shades for your NARS collection?

The colours actually came after the make-up type. First it was a question of what kind of product. I couldn’t go toward something that was opposite of me, so it had to be quite natural. And, in the end colours were sort of obvious for me, nothing flashy, just tinted. Emotional if possible, my references had to do with actresses in films, so a natural cheek, redness from crying, running – things that move me.

What is your favourite product from your NARS collection?

The brushes are my favourite.

What make-up lesson would you pass on to your daughters?

Don’t put too much on.

Which art form do you feel best able to express yourself in: music, acting or design?

I would say I am an artist.

What is your favourite city to visit?


What is your favourite travelling experience?

Any time I’m with my kids.

What make-up essential do you always pack when you travel?

Smith’s Lip Balm.

True colours: The limited-edition Lip Tint formula offers a natural tint in three colours Double Decker (ruby red); Éphélide (antique rose); Promise (red plum)
Charlotte’s favourite: In the Au Poil Brush Roll each one of the five limited-edition, full-size brushes has its own unique handle
Clare Austin
written by: Clare Austin
With a background in fashion and beauty journalism for magazines such as Elle and Harper’s Bazaar Clare is a beauty enthusiast whose pulse quickens whenever a new product hits the shelves.