Nars invokes a certain image of beauty, and have a knack of taking the overtly sexual and invoking something more edgy and cerebral. Auxiliary Beauty recently wrote a post about Urban Decay's Revolution Lipstick in 69, and made the comparison to the names from the Nars Guy Bourdin collaboration -- UD's name choice just seems lazy and crude in contrast. Sure, Orgasm and Deep Throat are as obvious as they come, but I suspect things were a little different when they were starting out back in '96.
François Nars also shoots his brand's advertising campaigns, and I think he does well in choosing great collaborators for some of their limited editions -- they don't feel like a marketing gimmick, and the product development often feels more fully fleshed than, say, MAC's limited editions. Their previous photographer collaborations were a little hit and miss: the Andy Warhol collection suffered from poor product quality, and the Guy Bourdin range was controversial due to the glamourisation of violence to women in his imagery. (Related: I really respected Christine of Temptalia's discussion of the topic.)
Steven Klein, Nars' latest collaborator, isn't without his controversies, either -- hello, blackface in French Vogue! Just about every one of his shoots featuring Lara Stone! I'm no art or photography aficionado, but I think there's a fine line between exploring and commenting on some of these challenging ideas, and glamourizing them (and as often is the case, exploiting them for commercial gain). There's something about Klein's subjects and settings, though, a plastic, almost alien quality that reminds me of Blade Runner (is Replicant Beauty a thing? It should be) -- it makes his imagery more abstract to me, and is challenging in a less blatantly violent way.
Soho, London, was basically the perfect place to host a Nars x Steven Klein pop up store for their Fantascene Holiday Collection. While gentrification has well and truly set in (my friend Ryan, Essex native and Soho regular, is forever bemoaning the Crossrail development), there are still classics like the Soho Original (bookshop-cum-sex store SEE WHAT I DID THERE) and establishments filled with sordid goings on. The pop-up was kind of a gallery setting featuring the Steven Klein imagery used on the products and in the campaign. There was a tiny bar out back serving red-hued cocktails, a photo booth, and a room featuring the Killer Heels looping video installation. The products themselves were laid out on plinths alongside the corresponding visuals, and you could of course play with them -- makeup artists were on hand to help.
I mentioned in my Anti-Haul post that I considered the One Shocking Moment palette, but went for the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit instead. When I visited the pop-up I swatched it, and asked a MUA to apply some of it on my face, and now I'm glad I went for the Hourglass. I wasn't so keen on the Paloma contouring duo included, already own Laguna, and while the blush shades were beautiful, I felt like I owned similar colours already.
So the palette was an easy one to forego, but I kind of fell in love with the An Abnormal Female Bullet Lip Pencil Set. One day I'll write a post about the reasoning behind my blog name, and Klein himself has referred to the inspiration behind the product design in interviews -- there are some obvious parallels to be drawn between lipsticks and bullets. The red-tipped, brass-toned packaging is solidly made and weighted at the tip, and there's nothing flimsy about it.
All three of the Velvet Matte Lip Pencils in the set are permanent and full size -- Sex Machine, 413 BLKR, and Dragon Girl -- and the whole thing retails for £45 (the pencils are normally £19 each). A while ago I commented on Auxiliary Beauty's (can you tell she's a favourite?) MAC Giambattista Valli Eugenie post that the range contained what are basically the Platonic ideals of all of the main lipstick colour families. The An Abnormal Female set is similar -- there's the mauve-y pink, a bright fuschia pink, and a punchy red. What would "complete the set" for me would be an orange or orange-leaning red, an oxblood, and a nude (I would never wear a pale pink like Bianca B).
I already owned a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil as I was lucky enough to snatch one up when Liberty gave away a hundred Mysterious Reds at their Nars counter, and I adore it. For reference, Dragon Girl is a touch more cool-toned than Mysterious Red, and not as deep -- I'll show lip shots and review the set later once I've had the chance to wear them. The set is exclusive in the UK to the Nars website (and the Pop-Up store, which has now closed). The One Shocking Moment palette is exclusive to Space.NK and the Nars website in the UK, and Sephora in the States.
I'd love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the collection, and let me know: have you picked up anything from the holiday collections recently? I think I've got all I want!