Napoleon Perdis talks about the elephant in the room

2 min read

“I used to watch my mum do her make-up,” Napoleon Perdis says. “I loved the idea of the face as a canvas, where you can create expression and motivate yourself. It’s like art.”

After graduating from university, Napoleon dabbled in an advertising career. But he found more satisfaction in helping women to “tell their story” through make-up. “First I worked in the bridal field and it just evolved from there. I didn’t start with wanting to run a business, but with a fascination. And that’s what still drives me today. It’s a continual, evolutionary process.”

The first Napoleon Perdis concept store opened in Sydney in 1995.  Today he has a chain of stores in Australia, New Zealand and the United States, with his make-up available in 4500 locations around the world.  One of his heroes is Helena Rubenstein, for her “determination”, focus on family and “marriage of beauty with power”. “She took what seemed to be a mystery for the elite only and made it available for everyone,” he says. “And did it all out of a salon in Melbourne, even though she was a Polish Jewish immigrant.”

Meanwhile, aesthetic inspiration for Perdis is found in art, from 17th century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer to 20th century American painter Mark Rothko. “I love the way Vermeer uses light to play on the face and the way he brings freshness and simplicity into his work. I love Rothko for his use of colour palettes, to create a mood and an emotional connection.”

But Napoleon’s muse is his wife, Soula-Marie Perdis. “From product development, to helping me be strong, to her beauty – that combination of European glamour with Australian freshness.”

And his advice for making your passion your life’s work? “Turn your vision into a process and keep moving forward. When you come across a stumbling block, don’t treat it as an elephant in the room. Chop it up a kilo a day and have it. Ultimately, the elephant goes away. Work within your means. And even when you reach the path you’re looking for, don’t stop remembering what drives you.

“Don’t be ashamed of ambition. Don’t be ashamed of profit. Don’t be ashamed of asking for what you want, even though your environment might not approve. I’m a Greek immigrant’s son – no one approves of me being a make-up artist, but it doesn’t matter.”

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This information is current as at 23/06/2015.