Five exquisite manicures designed by nail art devotee Sally Singer are captured as fanciful still lifes by regular Vogue and T Magazine photographer Raymond Meier. Conceived for NOWNESS in collaboration with New York City-based nail artist Maki Sakamoto, Singer’s trademark artful talons are approached as miniature canvases influenced by the Japanese beauty mania for elaborate, 3D nail art, which may seem at odds with Singer’s personal pared-back approach to fashion and beauty. From an elegant silvery French tip or dégradé color effect to raised white ‘Wedgewood’ cameos on a matte black base, Singer’s nail concepts are inspired by everything from fashion and art to personal whimsy and politics. “I had an idea for left-wing nails — a left hand with the symbols for different socialist parties on each fingernail, and the right hand could just be painted black,” she says. When it comes to doing her own manicures Singer is more likely to go for a buffed nail or clear varnish, but whatever the look, it’s likely to influence the accessories she chooses. “If my nails are natural I’ll go minimalist with no accessories,” she explains, “but a glittery French manicure calls for lots of sparkly rings.” Below, Singer talks through the thought process behind each nail design, and how she would wear them this spring.
Powdered Violet Nails
This is “extravagant old lady.” The hand pictured is covered with powdery violets but I’d do fewer flowers for myself. It is matte, and I like how romantic, nostalgic and strange it looks. The clothes this spring were about a prettiness that’s so literal it becomes quite odd — for instance, the Comme des Garçons and Valentino shows. It refers to a history of femininity that is really interesting. I would wear these nails long and very rounded.
Everybody wants Céline, and if you can’t get the real thing, you can get the nails. It's their two-tone handbags and how their knits have that little Céline logo in the corner, like a man’s monogram. Maki used to do the Chanel logo all over the nails, but with Céline you only want it on one finger. I’d wear this style on quite square and short nails.
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Wear these on a clear, gelled nail and with a different face on each one staring up at you. Again, I like the powdery-ness and that crystalized sugar look. With this sort of Japanese-inspired nail art it’s about creating as much character as possible. You need a design where every nail is different.
I wanted a really textural nail, because for me that’s the most interesting — those strange, matte textures like the wooden beaded coverings on New York taxi driver’s seats. This would look good with Burberry’s spring collection.
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For this glittery blue nail with the single crown, I was thinking of spring 2012 Chanel couture, with all those deep blues. I don’t usually like a blue nail but I liked those color tones. It’s a royal, attention-grabbing nail — it’s the Kate Middleton nail. I wanted crowns and heraldry.
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Nail Artist Maki Sakamoto Assistant, Kazuhito Sekiya