LINCOLN CENTER — From tuxedos to evil eyes to reverse French manicures, those at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week are letting their fingernails do the talking when it comes to style.
While shoes, clothes, hair and makeup have long been canvases for creativity, those on the edge of fashion trends are embracing nail art to showcase individuality. Whether it's costly gel-polish art, strip stickers, or a DIY job, anything is possible for the humble shaped nail.
"It is actually an additional accessory," said Van Houten, listing off bright bananas, a Peter Pan collar (rounded shirt collar) and stripes of color as some of the designs that have recently graced her nails.
She also keeps tabs of her eccentric nail designs with another blog, TheFreshMani.com. The blog has been going for about a year, and leads to an occasional writing gig when Van Houten contributes nail trends stories to Lucky Magazine.
"People realized that they can express their style in their nails," said Van Houten, 22, who likes heading to Marie Nails on Elizabeth Street where art can cost from $50 to $130.
For style director Ayoka Lucas, 39, good nails are essential for business.
"You did everything head to toe, but you left your nails?" said Lucas, who had just attended the Jill Stewart runway show. “There is really no grey area. It's mandatory."
Acrylic nails affixed to the tips of her fingers displayed a twist on the French manicure with sparkling gold flakes on the ends. The look is known as a reverse French, where different colors replace the traditional white tips and nude basecoat.
"If you are a stylist, you know that true importance is in the detail," she said, adding that her own presentation is a personal billboard for the styling service she offers.
Doing her own nail art has become a stress reliever for 31-year-old Crystal Tomlin.
"This has become a way to really zone out and focus my creativity," said Tomlin. She flicked through pictures on her phone showing intricate works of stripes and patterns in several different colors.
"The only way I can keep them out of my mouth — which is disgusting in this city — is to keep them painted," said Tomlin, who works in events management.
Each manicure she gives herself can take up to an hour by using a manicure kit with fine brushes and a metal skewer for dotting. Tomlin keeps about 50 different polishes in color-coded zip lock bags and peruses Tumblr nail art pages for inspiration.
When it comes to brands, Tomlin rates Essie as just "OK." OPI warrants a "meh," but she singled out China Glaze for its match of quality and value. Sally Hansen strip stickers in an array of colors and patterns can also do the quick trick, said Tomlin.
About $75 was the price Amber Herring paid for nail art that used ten layers of gel polish and took an hour and a half.
"Over one hundred people have commented," estimated Herring, who is the accessories editor at Self Magazine. The design, complete with a gradient of blue color and an evil eye painted on each ring figure, has so far lasted two weeks.
Herring called the next-level manicure a current trend, noting it appeared on the catwalk only days ago in the Kate Spade runway show.
Like Van Houten, she saw the elaborate designs akin to accessories.
"It's another layer, but I would still wear other accessories and it can go with any outfit," said Herring.
"It's a conversation starter," she said.