What Happens Before the Show
When CND does nail art for New York Fashion Week, it isn't just a paint-and-go situation. Rather, the artists on the team work on concepting and handcrafting designs and attachments (we'll get to "attachments" later) months in advance.
This season, CND is doing the nail looks for Libertine and Alice + Olivia, and the Libertine nails are really out of this world. "Our co-founder and style director, Jan Arnold, first meets with Libertine creative director Johnson Hartig—he always has so many different ideas, swatches, and fabrics that he also shows to our lead nail designer, Heather Davis," says Roxanne Valinoti, CND's education manager.
Valinoti leads a one-on-one tour of CND's temporary design lab in the Lower East Side neighborhood of New York City. On the penthouse level of a hotel, nail artists gather around at their work stations meticulously placing beads, pigments, and even dangling tassels onto pre-shaped acrylic nails.
One artist is hand-making tassels for a full-set manicure. New skill alert!
"Johnson has all of these ideas and then it's up to us to categorize them and make groups," Valinoti says. "His artistry validates mine," says Davis. "Everything that he does is a way to upcycle a classic, which is what CND does anyway."
These dog and girl nails are a work in progress, but nonetheless look much better than any nail art we could do ourselves.
Davis, who is the go-to person for all of the Libertine nail designs, describes the numbers of the NYFW process. "After we met with Johnson, we figured we'd do about 11 looks, and we sent those ideas out to the team," she explains. "The team came back with about 94 concepts that we then narrowed down to 74, which Jan presented to him months ago in L.A." It turns out the whole "11 looks" idea was a low estimate. "Johnson loved most of the designs and from there we came up with 24 individual looks and then at the last minute, as in the other day, we included one more, making the grand total 25."
This is an example of the level of detail an artist applied to just one nail design.
You can imagine that 25 completely different sets of manicures, that are all crafted by hand, would take some time. "As of right now, I'm clocking in around the 60-hour range," Davis says. Multiply that by about 5 to 7 artists and you have hundreds of hours spent making these avant-garde designs. Artists combine liquid, powder, pigment, and shellac materials to sculpt the different designs.
Libertine's collections treat pink as a primary color, Davis notes.
"Both the nails and the clothing tell a story of more anarchy, an uprising, and there are cynical images of iconic figures, like Nancy Reagan," Valinoti says. "That's our interpretation for spring, something that's more retro-futuristic and yet '80s-centric."
"Johnson loved most of the designs and from there we came up with 24 individual looks and then at the last minute, as in the other day, we included one more, making the grand total 25."
"Johnson is in love with flocking, which is a process that uses crushed-up materials, such as plastic and velvet, to create the look and feel of texture on the nail," Valinoti says. "There's a lot of texture happening this season, and with the chrome nails we're adding bumps, and for others there are layers and fuzzy slipper-type materials."
Well, we'll be sitting here with our basic manicures.