Fashion Talk: Forget handbags and heels, 'It' nails are in
In the great depression of the 1930s, sales of lipstick rocketed. This year, the continuing financial squeeze puts nail polish as the top-selling accessory throughout North America and Europe. Nails - not bags or shoes - are the new way to show you know about fashion and trends.
At the Chanel haute couture presentation in Paris, fashion clocks were reset, at least for the nail colour of the future, by Karl Lagerfeld.
Never one to miss out on a raging trend and in keeping with the collection's all-blue theme (a tongue-in-cheek homage to those charming Pan-Am air stewardesses), models were sent out, often teasingly with hands tucked into pockets to conceal the star-of-the-show, which was a milky-blue nail polish.
Nail blogs and websites (yes, there are literally thousands of these worldwide) not surprisingly went berserk.
Was this a combination of the limited-edition Les Jeans de Chanel blue varnish trio collection launched to celebrate the Vogue Fashion Night Out event in Autumn 2011? Or could that particular shade be a revival of Chanel's 2010 sell-out "Riva" shade? Indeed not.
The colour was "Sky Line", a blindingly new nail hue from the not-yet-launched Bleu Illusion collection concocted by Chanel's masterly make-up creative director, Peter Phillips, available in July. (Plenty of time to hype it, then?)
There's something cheeky about launching the cheapest, most mass-market product you sell during the most expensive and exclusive line. Sensible, though.
A major global recession isn't going to put a halt to fashion, as companies whose livelihoods rely upon it well know, but nail polish could be their saviour at a tricky time such as this.
During the spring/summer 2012 shows, nail art came through as "the" beauty trend, mirroring extreme colours and hyper-real floral and painterly effect prints on the catwalks.
Bright colours and blinding prints aren't for everyone, however, and what better way to join in with fashion while remaining in your comfort zone? You've even got a choice. Either you can paint nails yourself or get someone else to do the job for you. Many of the big cosmetic companies are currently busy collaborating with designers to create edgy, limited-edition ranges that mirror high-fashion trends that can be bought over the counter.
MAC has the avant-garde designer Gareth Pugh and the aristocratic fashionista, Daphne Guinness on board to offer something a bit different for younger customers.
Sally Hansen has ranges by Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung and Tracey Reese.
Meanwhile, you can choose from a mix of spring/summer 2012 "it" nail colours. Where to start? Lancôme's Green Almond, (a pale mint green); OPI's Holland collection of "tulip"-inspired hues; Shu Uemura's Ciel Bleu (available from February 6) and YSL's colour duos Manucure, designed to coordinate with YSL patent bags and shoes.
Nail salons (whose growth has outperformed the overall economy, by the way) and in-store nail counters have become an inexpensive way to get that instant fashion grab.
One of the latest trends to hit the professional manicure world is Minx nail art. Huge in Los Angeles, this makes your nails resemble the super glossy, metallic finish of a 1950s souped-up Cadillac (perfect for this season's Prada).
Victoria Beckham, Leighton Meester, Heidi Klum, Beyoncé, Megan Fox, Liv Tyler and Rihanna are all fans of Minx, whereby you choose a sticker, which is then "set" on the nail with a hair dryer or heat lamp. This can last for three weeks without chipping.
According to Jenni Draper, a session manicurist and salon owner, and an adviser to the iconic Swiss brand Mavala: "Nail art used to be for young, streetwise women. Now, I have clients in their mid-thirties with young children coming in wanting to make a fashion statement. It's not about having little diamanté and bows or stripes, more about choosing a really amazing on-trend colour and getting a fashionable shape."
Spring 2012 colours are sherbet shades, believes Draper. "Zesty lemons, dusty pinks, spearmint greens, peaches, sky blue and pale lilac." Funnily enough, Mavala has just launched a zingy pastel range because wearing last year's colours simply won't do. "Shades are definitely lighter than last year, with nails an elegant length, shorter, rounder and more feminine."
But fear not; there will always be classics. "The dark nail colour thing that Chanel's Rouge Noir kicked off, is still around," the British session hair and make up stylist, Carl Stanley, tells me.
"It's almost become a neutral. All big cosmetic companies put in new limited-edition colours but wouldn't be narrow-minded enough to stop bestsellers. The whole pastels thing has kick-started a new era in nails in terms of a mass-market trend."
Stanley recommends Dolce & Gabbana's green nail polish because it looks "modern but luxurious" and advises for those who dare to pick a sorbet flavour like peppermint or lemon. "Peridot", a gold metallic polish with flakes of green by Chanel, was by far the most popular choice with fashionistas during haute couture. Something to tide them over until "Sky Line" becomes available?
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Updated: February 5, 2012 04:00 AM