NARS: A GOOD DAY IN L.A.
Byline: Louise Farr
LOS ANGELES — The windows at Barneys New York, Beverly Hills, blared a welcome recently when French-born, New York-based makeup artist Francois Nars came to town for a one-day personal appearance.
“Bonjour, Francois,” read the signs in the windows.
It would turn out to be a good day for Nars — and for Barneys, as well. By the time Nars began working his way through the waiting women, fans were regarding him with abashed smiles, talking about how much they love the line. The store had estimated a $12,000 take for the day, but by the time it was over, the figure would reach $20,000. “It was a huge success,” said Heidi Manheimer, Barneys divisional merchandise manager, cosmetics.
“It’s like being an actor,” said Nars. “It’s part of America. You have to sell yourself.” Apparently he has been doing an effective job of that.
In 1994, when he launched a line of 10 pencils, he was best known for the imaginative runway faces he created for designers such as Versace, Marc Jacobs and others. In August 1995, Nars launched a full makeup line in black rubber packaging, with his name in bold white letters. In two months, it had become Barneys’ number-one color line, and according to Nars, grossed $17 million over the last two years.
“It’s been a huge success since the first day,” said Manheimer. “Our customer really looks to him for what to buy for the season.”
Nars’s $19 lipsticks have names like Lolita and Barbarella and account for 24 to 27 percent of sales. Foundation retails for $37, with his $32 multiple sticks — tubes of color used for blush, lips and eyes — making up 19 percent of the volume, which Nars says he’s hoping to double or triple in the next two years.
The Nars line is carried in all Barneys, in 25 Saks, at four London stores, and outlets in France, Germany, Kuwait, Singapore and Hong Kong. But Nars has bigger plans.
In October 1998, Fred Segal, in Santa Monica, Calif., will begin carrying the line. And Nars is looking for space for a freestanding store in New York’s SoHo, which he hopes to open by spring 1999, followed by stores in Paris, London and Tokyo and possibly San Francisco.
Not bad for someone with an annual advertising budget of $400,000, and who has shunned traditional glamour images in favor of hard-edged models with a street look.
“Makeup is not just meant to represent the blonde, American, sexy bombshell,” said Nars. “Things have changed since the days of Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista. I think the new girls on the runway are more human — they’re not as plastic.”
Nars’s models gaze, largely unretouched, from compelling photographs that he shoots himself.
His minimal ad budget has allowed Nars to place only eight national ads a year — two each in Bazaar, W, Interview and Allure. He’s also advertised on 75 New York buses. For next season, he’ll hike his ad budget to 15 percent of sales.
He intends to keep the line small, he said, introducing two new lipsticks and two nail polishes every spring and fall. This month he unveils Monoi de Tahiti, a $55 shimmering body oil made with tiare flowers and extract of coconut oil. For fall, he’ll add six Japanese-made brushes to his existing five; a foundation stick, and a line of six lip glosses in pots.
“It comes from us to teach women out there in the country to get more style,” said Nars, who made a post-Barneys appearance announcement. In the past associated with New York’s Oribe salon, he’ll now be doing makeup consultations through his SoHo office. Instead of his usual fee of $1,500, he’ll charge $250.