Looking back, Nars said his fashion-forward mother, Claudette, was a "big, big influence."
"My mother and my two grandmothers, I was lucky to have three women around me growing up that were very special, very elegant woman, very beautiful women," he said. "They were my first step into the beauty world, let's say, and then the fashion world, of course."
Nars remembers shopping trips to Paris from their home in Tarbes.
"I was a very lucky child because at the age of 16, 17 years old my parents would buy me clothes from Yves Saint Laurent, which was an incredible luxury at the time, but I was attracted to that whole world," he said. "I had a pretty nice little wardrobe by the age of 17."
After graduating from the Carita makeup school in Paris at 18, Nars wanted to pursue studio work but was in need of a job. He dispatched Claudette for makeup sessions with top names in the business to chat them up from the chair and ask if they needed assistants.
The first one didn't bite but the second, Olivier Echaudemaison, did.
"I was not there because I was too shy," said Nars of Echaudemaison, now the creative director of Guerlain. "He did her makeup and the next day I went to meet him with my mom. He said, 'OK, the fashion shows are starting in Paris in a month, why don't you assist me.' And that's how I started."
It was a few years later when Nars caught the eye of Vogue fashion stylist Polly Mellen and made the move to New York. "Polly knew the makeup I was doing through the magazines in France and said I want you to meet Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, Steven Klein. I want you to work for Vogue."
Nars' perception of beauty hasn't changed since he launched his company with 12 lipsticks sold at Barney's in 1994.
"I really wanted to have a different approach of beauty because when I came to America they were still heavily, heavily plastic," he said. "The ads were so heavily retouched. My goal was always to make the girl look real, and look beautiful. It didn't matter how much makeup. Sometimes it was none at all."