When the island came into view, I nearly dropped my rum punch over-board into the crystalline blue waters. Virgin Gorda (in the British Virgin Islands), where I was headed for a holiday with my new paramour, looked like a mirage: a bay of crushed-sapphire waves lapping onto sponge-cake sands overflowing with emerald palm trees. I knew then (just as surely asIknewIhadtohangondearlyto my precious drink) that it would be a heavenly week away from hectic city life. I spent most of my break writing in a journal—I was so inspired by my surroundings that I began mapping out ideas for a novel.
I’m not the only one to have a muse moment in the tropics.
Islands—the exotic, Robinson Crusoe, take-me-there-right-now variety—have fascinated us for centuries. According to Dr. Jordan Bernt Peterson, a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto, they appeal to us because we perceive them as an easy-living paradise. “Islands are unspoiled places where you can relax and disconnect, allowing you to leave society in pursuit of perfection,” he says. “There’s no discipline or normal routine, so people dream about using their time to do something better.”
It’s no wonder, then, that the world of beauty taps into the call of the exotic this season to create an archipelago’s worth of makeup, perfumes and skin-care products. Leading the way, unsurprisingly, is makeup maestro
François Nars, who has used idyllic locales as product names for his eponymous line for 17 years.
Nars solidified his island-inspiration theme further by looking to his very own tropical isle, Motu Tané, to create the limited-edition summer collection Laguna Portrait of Paradise.
Nars first visited Bora-Bora in French Polynesia in the late 1990s and, after falling under its spell, bought the neighbouring island, Motu Tané. “It’s breathtaking,” says Nars from his home in New York. He traditionally visits every spring to relax and design new collections. “I work so well there. I look out my window and I’m inspired by everything: The blue lagoon has mesmerizing colours, and the smells of gardenias and local tiare flowers are amazing.” Nars adored the tiare’s scent so much that he put it into the Laguna Body Illuminator, which comes laden with gold and bronze flecks to give skin a shimmering, sun-warmed glow.
While Motu Tané is an endless resource of inspiration for his makeup colours, Nars has worked exclusively in black-and-white photographs to capture the island for a coffee-table book (to be published in 2012) full of people and landscapes from French Polynesia. The tome will mark Nars’ fifth book, following this spring’s launch of the innovative makeup instruction manual
Makeup Your Mind: Express Yourself.
Nars isn’t the only one translating island imagery into cosmetics. In 2009, designers
Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana looked to their beloved volcanic island of Stromboli, where they have a summer villa. Stromboli is located off the coast of Sicily, and inspired colours for their makeup line. McGrath helped the duo nail the shades from the island’s rugged terrain and surrounds. “We speak of a certain type of Mediterranean blue and Pat knows the blue we like,” says Gabbana. The Stromboli eye pencil is flecked with gold, resembling the island’s glistening volcanic sand, and a shimmery bronze and gold eyeshadow quad features the island’s sparkling hues.
Bora-Bora served as both the muse and the name for Lise Watier’s latest summer collection, which channels the colours of fruit and nature that are found in the exotic Polynesian haven. High-pigment shadows in shades of violet, papaya and jungle green turn up drama on the eyes (not for the shy island girl, that’s for sure), while the Lip Kiss Crayon Gloss is a hybrid mix of lip pencil, gloss and moisturizer.
Other brands are sourcing new active and natural ingredients from islands to create
skin-care products that promise rejuvenation and hydration. Sulphur is a potent gas with an unmistakable rotten-egg pong, but on some volcanic islands, like the Caribbean’s Saint Lucia, it’s used as a treatment for many skin conditions. Inspired by this idea, Lush created Brimstone, a skin-clearing body scrub with sulphur, its odour masked by the addition of sweet-smelling jasmine.
Sourcing cold-pressed organic virgin coconut oil from the South Pacific island of Samoa,
The Body Shop infused the ultra-moisturizing oil into its Coconut Bath and Body range and its organic anti-aging skin-care line Nutriganics.
We’re all familiar with the intense association that scent has on memory. One whiff of sweet frangipani immediately transports me back to the British Virgin Islands and my happy rum-filled afternoons. Designer Giorgio Armani looked to his Italian retreat, the island of Pantelleria, when creating last year’s intoxicating Acqua di Gioia. Intent on bottling the feeling of tranquillity he gets whenever he’s on vacation, Armani chose notes of lemon, mint and aquatic jasmine.
The niche fragrance line Carthusia is also intrinsically linked to the breathtaking Italian isle of Capri—its perfumes boast native flowers like lily of the valley and wild carnation. Capri established itself as a pleasure island for playboys as early as 27 AD, when Emperor Tiberius decamped there to indulge his sexual fantasies, leaving Rome’s empire in the hands of the senate. This summer, the perfume house launches Carthusia Lady, a heady, musky scent with notes of peach, patchouli and iris inspired by the noblewomen who vacationed in Capri in the 1920s.
India Hicks, who lives in the Caribbean with her husband and children, has finessed the art of island inspiration into a variety of products. Her body, fragrance and home collections draw from local plants, flowers and fruits, and Hicks even got a royal warrant for her lotions and potions from her godfather, Prince Charles. She adds to the collections every year; a hand therapy is set to launch for summer. She loves the daily adventure of life on an isle. “Island living is full of extremes—sights, sounds and scents alongside the inspiring colours and water,” she says.
Much like Nars, Hicks has tuned into a natural beauty showcased by island life and its people. “Poets and artists alike are drawn to Bora-Bora,” says Nars. “It’s easy to understand why. Whatever you believe in, the islands and the people have such a strong feeling of beauty and are an endless source of inspiration.”
Image courtesy of La Prairie