Think of a London art exhibition and the chances are you immediately thinking of the Tate Modern, installations by obscure artists and a never-ending supply of hipsters dressed entirely in black. However, over the summer a very different type of exhibition took place. This was Nailphilia, the first London exhibition dedicated entirely to the very best of nail couture and the most creative and extraordinary examples of nail art.
However, nail art has not always been so popular. The term ‘fake nails’ used to conjure up images of tacky red talons of bewildering lengths and the plastic, square French manicure acrylics beloved by archetypal Essex girls everywhere. Neverthless, creative nail designs have caught on big time recently, especially amongst celebrities. Lady Gaga, never one to shy away from the more unusual and extraordinary fashion trends, has long been an ambassador for intricate and innovative nails. From the elaborate black and crystal nails as seen in her 2009 Poker Face music video to her recent preference for the hottest new nail shape, the stiletto (think longer length, sharp, almond shaped nails). As with most of her fashion statements, Lady Gaga’s nails have caught on with A-listers everywhere, from Rihanna and Beyoncé to Jessie J. Even TOWIE’s Amy Childs caused a twitter sensation when she uploaded an image of her girly pink polka dot talons, complete with 3D bow effect and crystals.
However, this is not a look confined to Hollywood pop princesses and reality TV stars; nail art is becoming a fashion trend eagerly adopted by the general public. It’s now easier than ever to achieve unique, individual looking nails. Pop into Oxford Street’s Topshop and the ladies at the WAH nail bar can instantly transform your look with a range of up to 60 designs, from nautical anchors and hot pink leopard print to the more exotic ‘tutti frutti’ design featuring pineapples, kiwis and oranges.
High street and online stores such as River Island, Topshop and ASOS.com have caught onto this rapidly rising trend and are selling nail wraps — stickers that are simply applied to natural nails for an instant fashion update. This super easy method means that anyone can achieve gorgeous and professional looking nails for a fraction of the price of a manicure. If you have a particularly steady hand and a few hours to kill (generally, it will take us mere mortals a little while longer to master the more complicated looks), then you can have a go at creating your own designs with the growing range of nail art pens available from Boots.
It’s fair to say that nail art seems to be exploding at the moment — but who can realistically get away with the trend? Its popularity is mostly significant among the younger age groups, especially those aged 16-25 or those who are in college or university without the restrictions of a strict dress code, and I can guarantee you’ll be seeing a rise in nail art on campus. While jazzy leopard print nails might not be suitable for a Monday morning meeting, this trend definitely doesn’t exclude those safely ensconced in the world of work or the older fashion-conscious woman. Bolder styles can be embraced as weekend trends and the working woman can probably afford to have her nails pampered with professional designs. Even during the week, nail art can be adapted to look sleek and professional. The key lies in the shape and length; extra long, pointy talons in a bold colour are never going to be work appropriate, but a standard length almond shaped nail, for example in something like a reverse French manicure, remains polished yet fashion forward.
As nail art is increasingly so accessible, it seems to be a trend with genuine longetivity, and I can’t see this one going away any time soon. To get in on the action, instantly update your nails and spark your imagination. Here are my top 5 favourite nail art designs:
NUMBER ONE: Leopard print nails
This design achieves maximum impact with the minimum of effort required; this is one style you can definitely achieve for yourself with the use of a nail art pen. Due to its popularity, you can also find a large range of nail wraps in various leopard print colour combinations and any nail artist worth their salt can reproduce this look in an instant. Avoid the tacky yellow and black colour combination and think outside the box a little; I love this lilac and hot pink design created with OPI Nail Lacquer.
NUMBER TWO: Reverse French manicure
I’ve already mentioned this look as being work appropriate, and as you can see, a reverse French manicure that goes beyond the standard pink and white colour combination can look sleek, polished and professional.
NUMBER THREE: Lace nails
Lace has been a huge trend for a while now, and with the A/W 2011 fetish trend dominating catwalks, it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. If the idea of donning skin-tight leather brings you out in a cold sweat, channel the trend with these pink and black lace nails. Although this looks impossibly complicated, this was actually created with Accessorize Lace Nail Art Transfers. Simply paint on the colour of your choice, add the transfer and then seal with a top coat.
NUMBER FOUR: Crackle effect nails
This look is already a growing micro-trend thanks to Barry M releasing its budget friendly Instant Nail Effect polish. The chances are if you haven’t already tried this, you’ve definitely heard about it. Give it a go by choosing your own base colour and then simply adding a layer of the Instant Nail Effect polish for a cool, crackled effect.
NUMBER FIVE: Decadent Swarovski crystal nails
To achieve this look yourself, you’ll need the patience of a saint, perfect eyesight and, if you decide to invest in the Swarovski crystals used in this picture, a bank balance to rival Gaga herself. But the results can be stunning if you think you’re up to the challenge. Go for a silver nail polish and the best quality fake nail crystals you can find, adding the crystals using nail glue and tweezers.