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Nails to “Mails”: Nail Artists Polish Their Personal Brands

Published on March 7, 2022, at 11:15 p.m.
by Alice Helms.

The smell of fresh polish and scented lotion while hearing the buzzing of nail-grooming tools is a common experience for many of us as we have our nails professionally done. Male or female, our thought is mainly one of personal health and nail cleanliness. The designs and colors we pick out, more likely than not, reflect those of our favorite celebrities, even if we must modify the length slightly.

Nails for @aliceandolivia on Instagram. Photo courtesy of @ginaedwards_ on Instagram

With the rise in popularity of celebrities such as the Kardashian-Jenner family and TV shows like “Claws,” loud, colorful and cute nail styles have become a conscious choice to many consumers. Lifestyle magazines such as Allure, Nylon and Elle have all published articles about celebrities that feature the best nail designs and the artists who create them.

Behind the influencers breaking the internet with their nails are the artists themselves. Britney Tokyo, Elle Gerstein, Mei Kawajiri and Gina Edwards are only a few to have A-list clients such as Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, Blake Lively and Tiffany Haddish. Many of the artists have noted that their artistic abilities originated as a way to express themselves growing up or as a way to showcase their talent.

Previously, nail technicians relied on old-school, word of mouth client relations. Now, they are able to expand their reach — bringing in new clients and forming trends in the nail industry — through social media and celebrity clients. Becoming celebrities themselves, the artists gain consumers’ attention by posting their nail fashions and art forms on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok.

Nails for Rita Ora. Photo courtesy of @britneytokyo on Instagram

Jenny Bui is a notable artist for celebrities such as Cardi B. Bui contributes social media to her success, as well as adding the female rapper to her clientele. The key for many artists’ success has been creating social media pages to grow their audiences.

Keeping up with her own nail art, Britney Tokyo has clients such as Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner. Her designs are promoted by the sisters via social media. As an influential artist, Tokyo predicts the future of nail art will feature men’s nail designs.

The nail industry is beginning to be inclusive to male nail fashion, or “mails.” Celebrities such as Harry Styles, A$AP Rocky and Brad Pitt have begun to express their fashion styles and personal brands through their “mails.” Both Styles and Machine Gun Kelly have created nail polish lines catered to males and females.

Nails by @nailsbymei on Instagram. Photo courtesy of @themarcjacobs on Instagram

Marc Jacobs is another celebrity setting a trend for men’s nail designs within fashion shows. He has participated in the growing “mail” trend by partnering with celebrity nail technician Mei Kawajiri in creating designs for his SS20 show. He was wearing eight of his collaborated nail designs from the collaboration. The New York-based artist Kawajiri noted that his input with the designs is “unique and inspiring.” According to Jacobs, “What our hands look like can, at times, outweigh any handbag or outfit.”

The modern nail industry has shifted to become a place of fashion. Artists create designs for celebrities featured on social media as a successful way to grow their relationships with nail industry consumers.

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