“It’s like a cloud…” Anja K whispered into the mirror, freeing her puff of platinum hair from an elastic. “It’s acting up today.” The twenty-one-year-old, pint-sized (5’4”) model has been running all over New York, rumors of high-profile, career-making bookings trailing close behind. And upon meeting her it’s clear that what she lacks in stature she makes up for in pluckish charm and determination. Even her cumulonimbus-meets-cotton-candy hair—on this particular day, at least—was unyielding to comb or brush, and yet totally appropriate: after all, we’re boarding Uslu Airlines.
Julia Frakes initially turned me on to the Berlin-based cosmetics brand, when she waxed poetic (“it’s pretty radtastic”) on its range of unusual nail polish shades, each named after a 3-letter airport code. The company’s original offering was a DIY airbrush-makeup system developed by founder Feride Uslu, a makeup artist who once assisted François Nars, but it’s the slightly off polishes that have gained the company a cult following. News of limited-edition collaborations with European designers (Bernhard Willhelm), boutiques (Colette), and even DJs (Rollerboys) seems to spread quietly, mostly by word-of-mouth and then poof! Sold out.
When I visited Feride in her Mitte district studio recently, her creative approach to application and color had me hooked. “I never do all ten nails—impossible!” she says. “Maybe because I was not allowed to wear nail polish as a girl, because I’m from a Muslim family, and I always would only paint one finger and then hide it during dinnertime so my father wouldn’t see it. Still, I don’t paint my thumb or the index finger. It’s usually those three: the middle finger, ring finger, and small finger. I use nail polish more like an accessory, like a belt or a flower, or like a button. I use it sometimes only on two fingers to add a little color statement. I guess I think it’s cool—that’s my thing.” Uslu sent me home with two colors, DRS (a bright baby-blue named after Dresden's airport code), and BHX, Bernhard Willhelm’s "Jaguar green" (named after the airport in Birmingham, England, where Jaguars have been manufactured since the '20s), and a piece of advice—“just to put a different color on every nail won’t work. It needs to have concept to it." At the moment, she’s gravitating toward “doing the index and thumb in one color, and the other three in another color.” But after Anja and I got to chatting about tattoos (she got hers mainly “because I was bored, and I can’t change my hair”) and she showed me the "MEOW" inscribed inside her lower lip, I thought, 'We’re going with just two nails.' An individual approach for an individual girl.
Anja K photographed by Emily Weiss in New York City on June 22nd 2012.