Napolean on make-up

SPEND five minutes with the dynamite behind Australia's most successful make-up export, and you will understand how he has charmed a nation.

In 15 years, Napoleon Perdis has primed and swiped his way to the top of the make-up chain.

For the past five years, he has been living in Los Angeles, working shoulder-to-shoulder with fashion houses such as Givenchy and amassing celebrity cult-followers including Nicolette Sheridan and Debra Messing.

But Napoleon has not forgotten his roots and, on August 23, he travelled to Brisbane for the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival, hosted by Brisbane City Hall, and featuring established designers from Juli Grbac to Paul Hunt and Akira, as well as local designers Mother Maria and Tulipani.

As official make-up sponsor of the week-long event, Napoleon and his team had their hands full, creating specific looks for the different shows.

Speaking from LA, Napoleon joked that he was “putting half a foot up” now that the show had wrapped up, but was already preparing to board another plane, this time headed to Brazil.

Not that he was complaining. Despite his immense success, he remains down-to-earth and friendly.

And when he speaks of his craft, his excitement is tangible as his thoughts spring from his mouth with all the vivacity of an Energiser bunny, and it is impossible not to love this unique character.

Napoleon said he had been impressed with the models from the festival and felt that he had achieved his goal of delivering a show that pushed the boundaries, but which also had a lot of fun.

Trends that emerged from the runway, he said, included flawless matt skin, which was achieved by combining the new Boudoir Mist with his popular Camera Finish and China Doll foundations for a camera-ready look.

Napoleon also stressed the importance of making sure the skin was well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and using his Auto Pilot skincare range before applying a primer because, as he likes to say, “Not to prime is a crime”.

Aside from the flawless complexion, Napoleon wanted to create a “dramatic” look on the catwalk and did so with extravagant, voluminous lashes.

Individual full-sets, feathered and coloured lashes were used in conjunction with thickening and lengthening mascara for an “eye-popping” look.

“We used 80 pairs of lashes on each day,” Napoleon said.

“We even doubled the lash on to the eye.”

To further emphasise the eyes, Napoleon ensured eyeliner was used with maximum effect by channelling a Catwoman-like style.

“I didn't want to do a weak liner,” he said.

“You can do a sexy liner and you can still feel comfortable … it's beautiful.

“It's both elegant and punky at the same time, both romantic and dramatic, but not detracting from the embellished details of the clothes."

Moving down the face, the lips were like beacons drawing the audience in with their bold, bright hues. Colours such as DeVine Goddess Hara (a blood red) and Calypso (vivid pink) flounced the runway and were finished with a Lip Veil for added appeal.

Showing his diversity, Napoleon turned on his golden charm during the group show on Monday night where he used golden hues to accompany designs by Sacha Drake, Chelsea de Luca, Talulah and Katlyn Aslett.

“Gilty pleasures”, he said, was a delightful mix of golds and bronzes that paid homage to the Aussie summer.

Green and black nail polish completed the models' look.

The Napoleon Perdis collection has gradually built up over time and the current collection is extensive.

However, Napoleon is never at a loss for inspiration.

When creating a new range, he allows himself to be influenced by different people and places.

His latest offering, The Divine Marchesa, is in honour of Italian socialite Marchesa Luisa Casati, who was no great beauty but had style money can't buy.

Galliano and Lagerfeld have referenced her, while earlier this year, Chanel channelled her in the 2010 resort collection.

The range includes the Boudoir Mist, Dramatic Eye Shadow Quad and Black Sapphire nail colour, which is like an artist's palette for Marchesa's own face.

“She really worked it,” Napoleon said.

“The quad is a representation of her face … smokey eyes, mother-of-pearl.”

Meanwhile, his latest muse is the soon-to-be-released blockbuster Nine, which is based on the life of Guido Contini and stars Daniel Day-Lewis, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Kate Hudson, Sophia Loren and Fergie.

A “sophisticated northern Europe” is how Napoleon describes this latest collection, which he hopes will “enhance strength in women”.

Dutch painter Vermeer has also proven an inspiration for Napoleon, who is fascinated by his bright colours such as cornflour blue, turquoise and yellow.

“I love the way he treats colour,” he said.

“He really wanted to create a more beautiful world than what he saw.”

Surprisingly, Napoleon still seems to be coming to terms with his success.  

But while his jet-setting life prevents him from taking much time off, he plans to visit the Sunshine Coast, staying at Noosa with his family for his 40th birthday - a break well-deserved.

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