Spring nail trends: 5 fresh, minimalist approaches to nail art
Nail art’s not quite dead, but the baroque period is definitely over, as these five fresh-from-the-runways trends show. We’re in a minimalist phase, embracing subtle detailing, a more subdued palette and considerably less sparkle.
Spring Nail Trend #1: Candy-Coated
It used to be that pastel nail colours only came around on the same schedule as Cadbury Mini Eggs. And the polishes themselves tended to be thin, requiring multiple coats (and a lot of patience) before you could tell there was actually a colour there. Now, thanks to more opaque formulas and increased pigment, pastel polishes have as much impact as any bolder shade and are just as ubiquitous.
Every shade under the sun was pastel-ified backstage: pale blue at Badgley Mischka, soft yellow at Burberry Prorsum and faded peach at Karen Walker, plus a trio of new Sally Hansen polishes—petal pink, minty green, dreamy lavender—created exclusively for Prabal Gurung’s spring show, launching in June.
“The nails coordinated perfectly with the makeup and the clothing,” says manicurist Ana-Maria. “The idea was that the woman was delicate, like a rose, but strong and bold too, because it has thorns. That’s how we approached the pastel colours.”
Also seen at: Diane von Furstenberg, Just Cavalli, Custo Barcelona, Marchesa, Gareth Pugh
Products shown: Butter London Nail Lacquer ($17, sephora.ca) in “Keen”; Dior Dior Vernis ($25, sephora.ca) in “Porcelaine”; Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure ($9, at drugstores) in “I Lilac You”; Mary Kay Nail Lacquer ($10, marykay.ca) in “Lemon Parfait”
Spring Nail Trend #2: Whiteout
Sometimes a fashion show’s inspiration can seem a little Zoolander. (Derelicte, anyone?) But even the most outré reference can work, if it’s done in the right way. Take the stark white “traveller” manicures that Jin Soon Choi created for Tibi: She used a base of “Kookie White” from her own line with a single stripe of silvery “Obsidian” to recreate navigational symbols used by nomads—hobos, actually—in 1920s America.
“I’m into simple nail art, and I wanted to show a chic design that can be done at home easily,” says Choi. “This is a very clean and modern look, like Amy Smilovic’s designs for Tibi. It’s high-fashion, but wearable.”
White, graphic manicures appeared at a number of other shows, with polka dots, coloured tips and bright moons—arty, yes, but not overwrought. “White can be very glamorous,” says Choi. “If you’re looking for an alternative to nude or bright opaques, white is on-trend but not over the top.”
Also seen at: Charlotte Ronson, Kate Spade, Cushnie et Ochs, Desigual
Products shown: Jin Soon Nail Lacquer ($22 each, sephora.ca) in “Obsidian” and “Kookie White”
Spring Nail Trend #3: French Redux
Shorter lengths, untraditional colour pairings and regular appearances on major runways are helping the French manicure evolve from its tacky reputation. Take the “negative space” version that Essie’s Rita Remark created for Beaufille: She used “Ballet Slippers” on the base but kept the tips totally clear. “It was about leaving something bare—not everything needed to be polished,” she says. “Very simple designs can have a very big impact, and I think it’s something we’re going to see a lot more of.”
But this incarnation of the French manicure, also referred to as “reverse French,” provides the perfect template for colour experimentation. “The great part about the reverse French is that it looks so cool on the nails that you can use any combination,” says Ana-Maria. Wes Gordon combined lavender and nude (Essie’s “Lilacism” and “Sand Tropez”), while Holmes & Yang and Prism used colour only on the free edge (manicurist speak for “tips”). And, staying a little closer to tradition—but not too close—Deborah Lippmann painted feathery off-white tips using “Pseudo Silk Kimono” over “La Vie en Rose,” a shimmering pink base, at Zero + Maria Cornejo for an “imperfect French.”
Also seen at: Marc Jacobs, Yigal Azrouël, Carmen Marc Valvo, Prism, Olympia Le-Tan
Products shown: Revlon Nail Enamel ($6, at drugstores) in “Charming”; Giorgio Armani Nail Lacquer ($32, at Holt Renfrew) in “Greige”
Spring Nail Trend #4: Moon Phase
One of the more charming and enduring designs to come out of the nail art boom is the moon manicure. What’s cool about it is its flexibility: You can keep the composition super-simple by painting just the moon part, like at Lela Rose, or everything but the moon, as shown at Alice + Olivia. Or you can layer on the colours, like the “nail wave” design we saw at Peter Som, created by Zoya’s Sunshine Outing.
The shades—“Alexa,” a creamy teal, for the base and “Edie,” a deep blue, for the moon—were inspired by the ocean and custom-made for the show. “Som always wants to incorporate his designs in the nail look,” says Outing. “The blue and green symbolized where the sea meets the land, and matched the colours in the collection.”
Also seen at: Milly, Alice + Olivia, Alexis Mabille, Louis Vuitton, Mila Schön
Products shown: Zoya Professional Lacquer ($11 each, zoya.com) in “Edie” and “Alexa”
Spring Nail Trend #5: Sparkle & Shine
In addition to being a movie so terrible that its star, Mariah Carey, called it her biggest career regret, glitter is one of the more divisive polish textures. Too much and it looks tacky; too little and what’s the point? Yet in the right proportions, glitter (including foils, holographics and shim-mers) is an easy way to add interest to a manicure.
At David Dixon, Remark used “Topless & Bare-foot,” a creamy beige, topped with “Silver Bullions” across the top third of the nail for an “ethereal twinkle.” “Dixon wanted the nails to have a fairy-tale quality to them,” she says, “and the glitter was feminine and ladylike—not overdone.”
Over at Nicole Miller and Cynthia Rowley, the shimmer factor was amplified, with a stunning black-and-gold ombré for Miller by Katie Jane Hughes for Butter London and a riff on the galaxy manicure for Rowley by Essie’s Casey Herman. “Cynthia Rowley was a confident statement, but not in-your-face,” says Remark. “Just a beautiful blend of colours and glitter without too much contrast.”
Also seen at: Douglas Hannant, Thakoon, Mikhael Kale, Jenny Packham
Products show: Essie Nail Lacquer ($10 each, essie.com) in “Silver Bullions” and “Topless and Barefoot”