Why you should care
You can get your nails done — or you can bling them out with one of the latest Japanese fashion trends to hit stateside.
The first thing you notice about salon owner Connie Lee is her nails — long, cotton-candy-pink talons encrusted with glitter and Swarovski crystals. Even so, she applies rhinestones one by one to a pinky nail with the fluid, delicate precision of a surgeon.
Lee opened her salon, Bling Your Nails, in Castro Valley, California, to share her passion for Japanese 3-D nail art. The trend traces its roots to the 1970s, when artificial nails emerged in Hollywood. It spread to Japan in the 1980s, when the country’s first nail salon opened and took the American invention to zany extremes. Sachiko Nakasone, founder of NSJ Nail Academy, in Tokyo, helped pioneer 3-D nail art; her technique has earned her students international recognition at nail-art competitions. The ornate manicures spread to Taiwan, Vietnam and other Asian countries before landing stateside in the past five years or so.
The entire process involves applying gel base layers, plus polish and glitter, followed by an acrylic layer sculpted to the natural curvature of the nail bed, topped with crystals and other 3-D decals. Long nails let you pile on the bling. Elaborate designs convey scenes — a pond with cranes, pandas and lotus flowers atop turquoise nail polish, for example. Romantic themes create nails whose rosebuds, pearls and crystals evoque Baroque chandeliers. Then there’s cute: Hello Kitty, Care Bear and cupcake decals.
But making your nails this fabulous takes more than a snap of the fingers. OZY visited Lee for a look at a $150 manicure and the women who go forth into the world to type and text in them — precariously but glamorously.