The Diary Of A Fashion Week Nail Artist


Pour one out for another Fashion Month well spent (by ITG, sitting at our desks, occasionally checking Instagram). Not everyone was so lazy about it. And thank goodness, because now we have something interesting to look at. Specifically these nails by Lauren Michelle Pires, a British nail artist who has stolen our Instagram hearts and reignighted our interest in press-ons. Below, a little ditty by the woman herself, on her floral take on the season.

Dear ITG,

I’m on my way home from LFW; I’m shattered from a 48 hour nail-prep marathon, but running on adrenaline and love for what I get to call “work." I just hand placed over 400 real pressed—tiny—flowers onto the underside of 360 diluted long square nails, to create an encapsulated nail look. This may sound like tedious hell to you! But it was total heaven for me.

Friday: The Beauty Test

The chaos starts Friday, the day of the Beauty Test. This is when the designer invites the makeup artist, hair stylist, and manicurist (myself) to meet two days before the show to experiment and see what beauty look works best with the upcoming collection. This season I was lead manicurist at Charlotte Knowles’ SS19 show using Nails Inc. Having been briefed on the inspiration behind the collection, we propose nail looks, and mock up color swatch samples to pitch to the designer there and then. For this show I chose to play with a softer muted palette, by diluting a few drops of the colors with clear topcoat to create custom tinted shades that coincided with the designers collection. These were buttery yellow, brown, baby pink and powder blue.

The collection also had sporadic bursts of floral prints, and the designer wanted to elevate this detail onto the nails with real pressed flowers. As soon as I heard this, I knew there was potential for this to be a real "nail moment," and I knew I had to push my creativity. So I experimented with placing the flowers on the underside of the transparent nail—to mute them slightly, and stray away from the obvious placement on top. We didn’t want the flowers to look too “pretty,” so that, combined with a lick of the tinted color on top, allowed the flowers to peep through in a subtle but effective way.

Saturday: Prep Day

I start by tacking the press on nails onto orangewood sticks, in size order. There must be 20 nails prepped per model, to ensure there is a size range that fits all the models' nail beds. It’s not one size fits all!

At 10AM, I start painting two very thin coats of the translucent shades onto the nails, followed by a high shine topcoat. Always topcoat! I arrange the flowers in color clusters, decide on a color duo for each nail set and start gluing these onto the underside of each nail (so, so delicately) with tweezers. By 5AM (!!) issa wrap, and I’m finally done with all the prep. I apply Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil to my face. It gives me a big dose of antioxidants and perks up my skin, so I don’t look quite as tired as I actually am for tomorrow's show.

Sunday: Backstage

Convincing myself that I have the stamina of a Powerpuff girl, I feel around with my eyes closed for my Aesop Immediate Moisture Rose Face Mist, spritz my tired eyes and feel ready to wake up. I take my daily vitamins, put on Face Inc’s Gold Sheet Mask, my towel robe, and reply to a few last minute emails ahead of the show...looking like a total glamour puss/borderline pshyco.

I make up my face in full Glossier, get dressed and opt for my NikeLab cargo pants, crop top and sneakers. Comfort is a must backstage—as a manicurist, you never know what positions you’ll find yourself stretching in, in order to reach the models hands. On my way to the show I grab a Ginger Shot to give me a final boost, and head backstage. I meet my team of six assistants, brief them, and do a demo of the nail look. The press-on nails are fully prepped to save on drying time backstage, so I allocate models to each assistant and we get straight to work. Having completed my first model, I do a quick walk around to oversee that my assistants are all OK and on schedule. We have 18 models to complete in one hour.

For a manicurist this nail look was a dream, and couldn’t be further from the overplayed natural nail, and I have to thank Charlotte for trusting my vision, and letting me have fun with it! Nothing quite compares to being backstage and seeing everything come together in a beautiful but chaotic harmony. The blood, sweat and tears are always worth it when I see my babies bloom on the runway.

—Lauren Michelle Pires

Lauren Michelle Pires is a London-based manicurist. Polaroids photographed by Samuel John Butt backstage at LFW SS19.