Closed Set with Julie Bensman: Can I Get Your Digits?

Jason Wu Fall 2011 manicureMoving February 1 followed by planning my boyfriend’s birthday and Fashion Week shortly after, the month of February has been just a tad stressful for me, and while my diet and sleep schedule have certainly suffered, it’s my nails that have taken the biggest beating. It’s an unattractive and, dare I say, unhygienic habit I’ve never been able to shake: when the going gets tough, the tough get biting.

Over time, I’ve become comfortably numb with the blatant abuse I inflict on my poor nails, brushing off others’ good-intentioned bits of advice with a “pish posh” and wave of a hand screaming for professional help. Hence, in subscribing to the “ignorance is bliss” credo, I’ve attempted to successfully avoid any manicure outside of mandatory wedding party obligations and office “bonding” spa trips. Who knew that while I was busy putting the nail on the back burner, the fashion set was gearing up for its busiest season yet?

It has been said that hands are our greatest tools, and for many, an additional way to express ourselves, complementing verbal and visual communication. With regards to the latter, it’s no surprise that beauty trendsetters have turned their eyes to the nail as of late and, well, turned it out. “Nails are just as important to communicating a designer’s message as the makeup, clothes or accessories,” Niche Media Beauty Editor Anne-Marie Guarnieri told me. “Now that we have even more access to super-detailed shots from the runway moments after a show ends, seeing a close-up of a cleverly manicured hand wrapped around the latest It-Bag inspires perhaps more lust for the nail color than the accessory, because most of us can at least afford the polish.” This accessibility factor may have had something to do with a 14.3 percent growth in nail polish sales last year (the only industry to post double digit growth, in fact).

Rebecca Minkoff Fall 2011 manicureNary a soul (at least from my hometown) would consider the price point of a 3.1 Phillip Lim piece “accessible” but the nude and navy moon manicures by CND at the recent Fall 2011 NYFW show are pieces of Phillip any frugal fashionista can incorporate into her style repertoire. Anne-Marie noticed the same nail backstage at Jason Wu (above), only this time a blood-red and gold combo. Then again, a hot-pink French manicure like we saw at Tibi never fails to impress.

“Our customers have definitely been asking for interesting French manicures in vibrant color combinations,” notes Salon AKS partner Susanna Romano. “It’s easy to experiment without feeling stuck with a look since the color comes right off.” Not only considered a nail expert among her contemporaries, Susanna also employs a rather convincing publicist, one who managed to get me in the Salon last week (I blame sleep deprivation).

When she got a look at my nails, I detected no judgment from my technician, although she must have thought I had a contact problem from the amount of wincing and eye-watering that ensued. But eventually, I relaxed, entranced by the calming effect of having my nails done. It was ironic: stress had me biting my nails and avoiding the salon, but being there calmed my nerves and left my nails looking better than they had in, quite literally, years. “A great nail salon is all about timing and customizing the clients’ experience based on his/her needs,” Susanna says. “Having a spa room where clients can sit, relax and have a cup of tea while their nails dry is appealing for a busy New York City woman always on the go.”

Did I go from short, stubby, and bitten to a smooth, sleek, graphic nail a la Lim? Not quite, falling somewhere in the middle with a dove gray shade from Essie blended with just a hint of purple. But I’m slowly coming around to the idea that routine manicures are not just necessary for my overall look, but perhaps for my overall sanity, as well.



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Editor-At-Large Julie BensmanThe Fashion Spot’s Editor-at-Large, Julie Bensman, is also the Entertainment Editor for Niche Media, whose titles include Gotham, Hamptons, Ocean Drive and LA Confidential. Closed Set is a collection of her musings on all things fashion, from an editor’s desk to your desktop.