All right, technically the NARS Semi-Matte Lipstick in 413 BLKR has been around since Fall 2013. But it’s my standout lipstick acquisition of this fall, so there. I’ve had it for two weeks and have worn it on almost half those days. I can’t stop. It’s just too good.
I forget how exactly I became fixated on this lipstick. Maybe it was when I was planning my birthday visit to New York and I remembered that the NARS flagship store was close to our hotel. Or maybe I just happened upon 413 BLKR during one of my many stress-relieving swatch explorations in October. Nothing soothes me more than emptying my mind, opening my browser, and clicking through image after image of cherry red, coral, plum, deep brown. I tell myself that I can sink into the swirling depths of material desire and emerge just as I was, but that rarely happens. More often I surface with a particular lipstick name clinging to my brain like a barnacle. In the spirit of my current no-buy, I’m going to give up this particular kind of meditation, but at least I don’t have any regret about buying 413 BLKR.
The 413 BLKR collection was created two years ago, in honor of the global flagship store’s relocation to 413 Bleecker Street in the West Village. The collection started with the semi-matte lipstick and an indigo nail polish, and has since expanded to include one of almost every kind of NARS product. (Luckily, the 413 products are available in more places than 413 Bleecker: you can buy them on the NARS website and at freestanding NARS stores.) It’s hard to say what unifies the collection apart from the name. In addition to the semi-matte lipstick, there’s a Pure Matte lipstick in warm medium brown, a Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in shimmery fuchsia (featured by Teresa here), a cool pink blush similar to Mata Hari…Like, what? I suppose most of the colors can be described as “deep yet subdued,” but then there’s the fuchsia lip pencil and the cherry-red lip gloss. Perhaps there’s something quintessentially “New York” or “West Village” about these shades, but your guess is as good as mine.
When you hear “NARS flagship store,” you might think of a cavernous gallery overflowing with every variety of Orgasm, but 413 Bleecker is quite small: space is at a premium in downtown Manhattan. Just for fun, I’ve included a few photos of the store. I took them not on my birthday but last weekend, when a dear college friend (that’s her in the red plaid coat) visited NYC and asked me to help her buy a new lipstick. She has a warm-toned complexion and likes wearing tomato-red lipsticks, so I suggested a berry-toned red for fall. She settled on the Audacious lipstick in Audrey, which was smashing on her: much brighter and pinker than it looked on me a year ago. I love helping people choose makeup! I might love it more than buying makeup for myself, honestly. Sometimes I wonder if I missed my true calling as a Sephora employee, but I think I prefer doing my work pro bono.
On my birthday, I didn’t linger long enough to take photos. I find that the size of a store is inversely proportional to the pressure to buy, especially when I come in alone. So I made a beeline for the 413 BLKR table, swatched the semi-matte lipstick, marveled at its exact resemblance to the color of dried blood, decided that it wasn’t a dupe or near-dupe for anything in my collection, paid up, and got the F O.
The “413 BLKR” name is significant to me in more ways than one. Yes, I bought this lipstick at the 413 Bleecker store, but 413 was also the area code of my first cell phone, which I got just before starting college in Western Massachusetts. (I’m really dating myself here: my first year of college was 2005.) I kept the 413 number until I switched providers last year, so this lipstick’s name is a nice reminder of my alma mater’s area code. Also nice: the name is right there on the tube!
I can’t help wishing NARS had released an entire collection in the same color as the semi-matte lipstick. It would make a beautiful blush and eyeshadow, don’t you think?
NARS describes 413 BLKR as “warm rose brown,” which doesn’t seem quite right. I’d say the color is about 45% red, 35% brown, and 10% plum. It’s more earthy than the usual brick-red, yet much redder and cooler than a true brown like MAC Whirl or Urban Decay 1993. Remember Marsala? It verges on that, but it’s a little deeper and redder. Autumn distilled, basically.
This is the sort of lipstick color I’ve associated with NARS since I first got interested in the brand. Of course NARS makes some iconic fuchsias, nudes, and corals, but a “NARS color” to me is a dark off-red mixed with brown and/or plum—something like Trans Siberian, Scarlet Empress, or Transeurope Express. It’s no coincidence that the lipstick named for Charlotte Rampling, the face of the Audacious campaign, is a similarly complicated red. These are grown-up colors. I imagine them worn by intimidatingly sophisticated Russian ladies on their casual days: ladies like Nabokov’s Ada Veen in her thirties, I’m thinking. Your humble narrator can never be more than a part-Russian lady and her name has never appeared in the same sentence as the phrase “intimidatingly sophisticated,” but this is why we love makeup: it helps us embody our fantasies (or just conceals the fact that we haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep in ages).
Even as I swiped my card to buy 413 BLKR, I worried that I might have a couple of near-dupes at home: Revlon Sultry, maybe, or NYX Alabama. So imagine my surprise when I did comparison swatches for this post and found nothing even close to a match in my collection of 75-ish lipsticks. Here, I’ll prove it. L-R: Maybelline Crazy for Coffee, NYX Matte Lipstick in Alabama, 413 BLKR, Topshop Matte Lip Bullet in Get Me Bodied, Revlon Matte Balm in Sultry, NYX Simply Vamp Lip Cream in Enamored.
There’s not even a theme here, really: it looks like I swatched six different lipsticks at random. After photographing these swatches, I thought of two more lipsticks that might resemble 413 BLKR: Milani Matte Fearless (left) and Revlon Coy (right). But as before, no dice:
I thought I was good with color (I took this test a while ago and got an almost perfect score), but 413 BLKR has stymied all my attempts to find a match. François Nars is still the master of creating colors that look familiar but resist all comparisons. I don’t normally develop attachments to beauty brands, but NARS is the brand that has come closest to making a fangirl of me.
413 BLKR, like most of NARS’ non-Audacious lipsticks, comes in a “semi-matte” formula. But don’t be fooled: NARS semi-mattes are mattes by another name. I suspect that NARS adopted the “semi-matte” label in the post-’90s era when people were afraid that matte lips would look dated, and now they’re stuck. If they were a new company in 2015, they would almost certainly advertise their semi-matte lipsticks as matte, because that’s what everyone is doing in 2015. Yes, 413 BLKR has a hint of sheen, but so do MAC’s matte lipsticks and Topshop’s Matte Lip Bullets. A photo of 413 BLKR in direct sunlight is revealing:
With the exception of Maybelline Crazy for Coffee (far left) and NYX Enamored (far right), all of the lipsticks I’ve swatched for comparison are advertised as “matte.” And yet 413 BLKR is the matte-est of the six! It doesn’t look much shinier on my lips, either. It has a dry (though not drying) formula, and it tends to drag if applied straight to the lips, so I like to put it on over a thin layer of lip balm. Over balm, it gets sheered out a bit to reveal the red tones; on its own, it pulls darker and more brown. Here are some lip swatches in two different lighting situations (both natural light, but different times of day):
Like most matte lipsticks, 413 BLKR doesn’t really budge when I’m drinking, but it does need to be reapplied after eating. It also doesn’t dry out my lips, which is more than I can say for the NARS Matte Lip Pencils, much as I love Mysterious Red.
I’ve worn 413 BLKR at least half a dozen times since buying it, but I’ve paired it with roughly the same makeup every time (my current schedule and mental state don’t exactly enable creativity). I like to do a neutral taupey color on the eyes and either Sleek Flushed (red berry) or Urban Decay Rapture (mauve-plum) on the cheeks. Here’s 413 with NARS Lhasa eyeshadow, some dark purple theBalm eyeshadow on my lashlines, and Sleek Flushed blush (I wore this look to teach and felt perfectly professional):
Not sure what eye makeup I’m wearing here, but I know my blush is Urban Decay Rapture:
Today, with a matte taupe theBalm shadow and Rapture blush:
UGH THIS LIPSTICK IS SO GOOD. I haven’t even felt tempted to break my no-buy with any other lipsticks, because I just want to keep wearing this one. It’s too deep to be considered a neutral, but I don’t feel at all uncomfortable wearing it in professional situations. I have a Skype interview in two weeks and might actually wear 413 BLKR for it (please tell me if this is a terrible idea).
Speaking of professional situations, I lied: it turns out that I don’t actually have the time to return to a regular blogging schedule this semester. I’ll do my best to check in occasionally, though! I really wonder how people with full-time jobs find the energy to blog. Oh, and a quick administrative note: I’ve made the photos larger in this post. Is that better, or is it visually overwhelming? I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the hugeness of my face in the new format. D: