"Love the lippy" is set to be replaced by "Who did your nails?" as the beauty catch-cry of the season.
From the international runways to the local salon, nail art has well and truly come in from the cold. No longer is it seen as some sort of trailer trash affectation. At Fashion Week starting in New York this week and at the New Zealand version already under way in Auckland, creative teams will beaver away backstage to come up with ever more eye-catching nail treatments.
"Nails are an extension of the concept of presenting a total beauty package that is fresh and new," says M.A.C's senior artist in New Zealand, Amber D. She's a dab-hand at nail art herself, practising new tricks until they are well-honed enough to do for local designer shows such as those by Zambesi, Hailwood, Salasai and Trelise Cooper.
One new fashion obsessive trend to look out for is pattern complementing, where designs on the nail reflect the prints, patterns and even textures in the clothes. "That's a labour of love for a show with 20+ models," she says.
Nail art has been making fashion news for a while now - apparently it dates right back to an upper-class diversion during the Renaissance - but since the likes of Chanel's modern-day paint drip finish catapulted across the beauty blogs and spawned DIY disasters, there has been a growing appreciation of its artistry.
Even 200-plus Olympians got in on the act in London, with Usain Bolt among those sporting specially decorated fingers.
A nail art technician needs a steady hand, good eyesight and a flair for combining colours, says a leading local exponent, Petrina Martin. Her Magic Tan & Beauty salon was one of the first to introduce gel polish, foil finishes and now nail art to its manicure menu. She works with designers to develop customised nails, including the dramatic talons she sculpted for World's fashion show last month. Hieroglyphics were an inspiration for the look which incorporated specially cut mirrored cardboard glued on to false nails.
Martin has perfected the ombre finish (a graduated colour fade) and worked with new textures such as Caviar nails, a bobbly-effect English innovation that has recently been picked up by some New Zealand nail salons. She especially loves crafting hand-painted zebra and leopard nails.
"When people come in asking for pale pink we challenge them to think outside the square. It's a little like trying clothes on - you need to have some vision ... as well as bravery. We now have days where we are fully booked for nail art."
Its popularity is growing, says Martin, and not just with its core group of women aged 16 to 35 who want it for every day as well as weddings, balls, graduations and parties. "Women in their 50s are even asking for glitter feature fingers."
Her team will be demonstrating some of the effects at their stand at Fashion Weekend.
Even with polish alone, there is a big range of looks being adopted, says Amber D, "From cool on-trend colours and metallics to a bit of custom shade mixing."
Martin says when quality gel polishes are used for nail art (she prefers Orly Gel Fx or Artistic Color Gloss) then a design can last without chips for up to 21 days and much longer on toes. Done with regular polish, well-applied and top-coated, you should get several days wear.
TRY THIS AT HOME
Unlock your inner artist by trying some nail art. "It's kind of like painting on a teeny-tiny, slightly bent canvas! It doesn't always work but you never know if you don't try," says M.A.C's Amber D.
A relatively easy way to begin experimenting is with a streak, applied in an accent shade over two coats of a light base colour. Press down at the centre of the nail tip and flick the brush back over most of the length of your nail.
"The slightly painterly look is all part of the charm," says Amber D. Once the streak is dry, use a top coat for a glossy finish.
For anyone wanting a bit more of a challenge, she says glitters and pigments are fun. Press these on to the tips of a still wet coat of colour then follow with top coat.
New York-based M.A.C senior artist Keri Blair says that thanks to You Tube, Google and various blogs, DIY nail art tutorials for every nail design under the sun are available. "Using scotch tape, toothpicks, clear polish and a makeup sponge you can create so many amazing designs. The only limit is your imagination."
Blair shares some of her runway-inspired ideas below, but says for women who don't want to do nail art, then by all means stick with classic polish, just update your manicure with on-trend shades - deep plum tones, chocolate browns, bright pops of colour or coppery metallics.
Flared: One of the most popular nail art options is to create a gradient effect across all five fingers, or to give one nail special attention. Keri Blair says she often wears this herself and calls it a "flare" nail. Accenting a classic manicure with another colour - some people favour the ring finger - is a great way to be on trend without going crazy, she says. Take the flare one step further and try colour blocking. It's a technique that can be done at the salon or at home.
Marbled: Begin by choosing three favourite shades. First roll the polishes in between your hands to ensure the colour is well mixed. Then loosen the lids because you will need to work quickly to create this design. Apply an ample layer of clear polish to one nail then apply small drops of each colour lacquer on the nail plate. Once you have placed your drops use a toothpick or dotting tool to swirl the colours into each other, creating a marbled texture to the nail. Clean off excess polish from cuticles and then repeat on the rest of your nails. Once all 10 nails are done apply top coat to seal your design.
Graduated: Start with one dark shade on your thumb (try M.A.C Deep Sea). On a small piece of foil drop a bit of your chosen dark polish and a bit of white polish near each other and mix together with a toothpick. Use the brush from your initial choice to paint the index finger then add a bit more white to the mix and paint the next finger. The trick is to use a small square of paper towel and nail polish remover to clean your brush before dipping back into your polish. Repeat this process until all 10 of your nails are painted.
Textured: Combining textures is a subtle way of creating interest to your manicure. Try using a creamy polish first and then use a metallic polish to create a tip or moon shape on the nail. Look to the runway, with its varying textures and layering of shapes, for inspiration. Think of your nails as another affordable accessory.
Outlined: For a cool way to wear a nude polish, start with a great manicure, leaving nails short, round and conditioned. Apply a nude polish that suits your skin tone, then, for character, add a thin line of black or taupe at the smile line. (Where your nail just leaves the nail bed.)
Matched: Fashion-forward colour combinations recommended by Keri Blair include orange and pink (try M.A.C Morange and Saint Germain), navy and fuchsia (Spirit of Truth and Girl About Town), green and copper (Deep Sea and Mean & Green) and taupe and nude (Anti-Fashion and Coffee Break.)
Crackle finish top-coats have just transitioned from teen play-thing to designer statement. Dior's Golden Jungle makeup collection includes a gold nail lacquer worn with a "crocodile effect" top coat in khaki. The duo costs $64. If you would rather keep it mono, then stick with khaki alone or try an earthy brown as a safari-inspired new season shade.
Ruby has cleverly tied its spring nail colours together with the new fashion ranges now going into its boutiques. Think bold yellow and pink and this shade we especially like called Jacaranda which matches a signature print for the season. The polishes cost $19.
Nail apps (aka transfers or stickers) are cheat's nail art. They give you an intricate look without the work. O.P.I has just brought out Pure Lacquer Nail Apps in 14 designs with both cream and shimmer finishes. The pre-cut nail strips can stretch or trim to fit and give a high-gloss finish said to last 10-12 days. The Apps come off with acetone remover. A pack of 16 strips to cover varying sizing requirements costs $22.90. (Stockists ph 0800 144562.) Check out options from Sally Hansen also.
Fancy different digits? Then you'll like the new small-sized L'Oreal Paris Color Riche Le Vernis and their small-sized price of $9.99 each. With 33 shades you will be tempted to sample a selection. The gel-based formula glides on smoothly with its one-stroke brush and there is no need for a topcoat. Also appealing for those on a budget are the new Max Effect Mini Nail Polishes, priced at $8.99. We like Cactus Green, one of 12 shades chosen by the company's global creative design director, Pat McGrath, to work with spring-summer fashion's bold palette. (Exclusively from Max Factor stands at Farmers.)
Lips and tips
Now you can match lips and tips with M.A.C's first permanent nail lacquer collection. Priced at $26 there are 30 shades with three finishes in cream, frost and pearl to choose from. Bright orange Morange and light pink Saint Germain are proving popular, as is barely there Snob.
Goss on gloss
High-shine polishes that claim to last up to a week are becoming more common, utilising superior polymer bonding. Hot on the heels of Revlon's ColorStay Longwear Nail Enamel comes Max Factor Glossfinity Nails, including Amethyst. There are 18 shades priced at $14.99 each. For best results, apply two thin coats and then a top coat, allowing each layer to dry before further application.