In honour of her debut book Nailed It, fashion’s go-to nail artist Marian Newman reflects on the history of nail art, and creates six designs exclusively for Stylist.
Nail art used to be reserved for those who wanted to make a statement. But, as popularity surges and spreads across boutique nail salons and Instagram alike, it’s fast becoming even more of a revolution.
Stylist chats to fashion’s favourite nail master, Marian Newman, about where nail art’s been, where it’s going, and how to overcome that fear of DIYing it.
You’re the person designers like Gareth Pugh and Vivienne Westwood go to when they want to embellish their fashion week collections to the next level. You’ve worked on the talons of Kate Moss and Gisele. If anyone’s the authority on nail art, it’s you.
What’s the history of it?
WAH Nails, started by Sharmadean Reid back in 2009 in East London, pretty much revolutionised nail art. As more and more people jumped on the creative trend, conventional colours like nude and red took a back seat. I remember when Chanel released a deep green shade called ‘Jade’, and suddenly people started embracing more out-there shades because that showed it could be luxury.
With the help of Instagram and Pinterest, nail art is being shared more than ever. Do you think social media is the biggest inspiration for people seeking out nail art?
Social media has changed the world as we know it. When I started my career, social media didn’t exist, so in order to come up with ideas you had to look in magazines, watch films and be inspired by everyday objects.
Now, nail art has totally exploded because of social media – artists with huge followings have their work shared and taken into salons to recreate, just like how people used to cut photos of hairstyles out of magazines. It’s a lot more instant, social media’s like the biggest beauty catalogue.
Celebrities seem to be flaunting nail art more and more now, too. We’ve also seen some killer extensions on the red carpet – would you say the attitude towards fake nails has changed?
Definitely, since they first came on the scene back in the 80s (which were created using clever chemistry) and since the days of the Noughties long square French manicure. That was such a look – they weren’t elegant, but everyone had them.
Now, with UV gel technology and newer, slimmer acrylics, there isn’t such a stigma around false nails. Different shapes, like stiletto and almond and oval, take it away from that WAG chunky thick square territory.
What nails trends do you see emerging? Or is there even such thing as a trend nowadays, as individuality is pretty much dominating as a main beauty trend?
Exactly! I think for nails especially, I wish the word ‘trend’ would go away. Because it’s you that is looking at your hands every day, more than anyone else is. Your nails should please you, and that’s all that matters. The word should evolve.
We’re bringing looks back from ten years ago, two years ago, looking to the future. It’s a constant cycle. With that being said, I am seeing modern updates on the French manicure, and the negative space trend isn’t going to be over anytime soon - I’ve made some creations for you guys to show how easily it can be done at home.
How to: Paint the nail white, add a red stripe, use a ballpoint pen to add dots of red polish to the edge then go over with a hairpin dipped in white. Add red and white dots on either side with a cocktail stick.
The tool: CND Vinylux in Wildfire, £7.95
How to: Draw a streak onto lacquered nails using nail adhesive and a thin paintbrush. Sprinkle crystals over, shake off the excess, then spread adhesive over the crystals to lock in place.
The tool: Swarovski Crystalpixie Petite Crystals, £19.79
How to: “We’ve come a long way since the chunky square French manicure of the Noughties,” says Newman. Embellish yours with dots in varying shades to modernise.
The tool: Essie Nail Polish in Vanity Fairest, £7.99
How to: Place tape randomly over nail, then fill in with various shades of peach polish, using an eyeliner brush to get into corners. Leave to dry then lift the tape carefully and finish with top coat.
The tool: Elegant Touch Monochrome Nail Art Tape, £3
How to: “The underside of the nail gets overlooked but glitter catches the light as you move,” says Newman. Add glitter polish, a crystal, then tidy with a pointed cotton bud dipped in remover.
The tool: Barry M Nail Paint in Diamond Glitter, £2.99
How to: Paint stems on a base colour, add a clear coat, then three dots of adhesive. Place a UV crystal on each, then use a cocktail stick to seal the edges with adhesive.
The tool: Swarovski Electric Flatback Crystals, £19.99