Beauty / IN THE BAG

Charlotte Gainsbourg on enhancing your true self

The actress, the signer, the icon. You know the face, the hair and that style. Not one for convention – in celebration of her new collaboration with NARS, Charlotte Gainsbourg tells what changed her views on beauty and the city she calls home.

How do you define your career and how did you come to work in this field?
It’s about me wanting to have different experiences and try different things. I began acting at an early age and over twenty years ago, I would have thought – no, no – my place is being an actress and I can’t do anything else. I was singing at that time, but very uncomfortably; now I do know that I can try different things.

What is the first thing someone should know about you?
I’m not necessarily shy but more reserved and more comfortable being quiet rather than being an extrovert but that’s just my nature. So being able, through films, to have these outbursts, is just great, but that doesn’t mean it has fundamentally changed me.

What is your favourite career memory / highlight?
In terms of makeup, it was when I was 14; I did a film called The Impudent Girl, ‘L'Effrontée’, where I worked with a French makeup artist named Joelle LaVou. He was this wonderful character. He was an artist. Usually, I hated having makeup on, but he worked on my face, not putting any foundation. He would enhance all the things that you would usually hide. He would make them stronger – so little veins that I had he would draw and make them more apparent, even veins on my neck. It left a real mark on me. The idea that you deal with what you have on your face and you accentuate rather than hide things, which was quite interesting to me.

How did your collaboration with NARS come about?
Well, it started a long time ago now. The whole process took quite a while, but I met François during a photo shoot and then he just asked me if it was something that I'd like to do and I was very flattered and happy because it was something I could ... I did have something to say. I wanted to explore things that felt true to me and he always wanted something as close as possible to what I felt and what I truly wanted.

You helped design the new NARS products. What did that involve? And have you ever done anything like it before?
I’ve never done cosmetics before, no. For this collection, there were 10 of us sitting around a table, exchanging ideas. The feeling was light-hearted and easy. Fabien Baron was also wonderful to work with, suggesting that I could trust my instincts and didn't have to look too far. They were making it sound as if anything was possible. I really thought about what I wanted and what kind of products I would like to have. 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.

What was it like to work with François Nars?
I really enjoyed it. 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.

Was your decision to move from France to New York a career-based decision, or a family one?
I had always wanted to eventually move from France and find another place. In New York I have more freedom, when people recognise me it’s for my films. In France I have the legacy of my parents, it’s a massive every day thing to deal with.

Outside of songs, do you write? You have lived quite a fascinating life; do you keep a journal of it all?
I don’t really write, I used to have a journal but I did it for so long that it became boring to me. I’d love to be able to write again.

What are your top five most useful beauty products?
I would say always a concealer and something to enhance the lips for every day. My other must-haves are Avène Thermal Spring Water, Smith’s Lip Balm and Biologique Recherche, a skin care I tend to use. I come back to it each time I wander off and try out new things.

What is your favourite thing about your job? What to you find most frustrating about your industry?
When I am on a project, it’s about having these great exchanges with the people I work with, whether it be music or film. It almost makes it easier to be more open and reveal yourself through your work where I would not necessarily be as open in my personal life. At the same time, I think one point I have come to accept through my work is that you won’t be able to control how other people see you. There’s always going to be people seeing things I don’t want them to see. It’s part of the job.