The French Girl’s Guide to Discreet Nail Art

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French women don’t chase trends, they stick to the incontestably chic classics. But when they do make an exception and embrace something au courant, it’s often with a well-calibrated dose of restraint. “Our beauty philosophy is never to look like we’re trying too hard,” says the Parisian-born makeup artist Violette, who is something of an expert on the subject. And that’s why the nail art phenomenon, despite all the mesmerizing geometric, logo-emblazoned, and sculptural 3-Ddesigns populating Instagram feeds of late, has never really taken off in France. “We can be fascinated by it and think it’s beautiful, but we’ll never really wear it,” she explains. And yet during her most recent visit to Hortus Nailworks on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Violette changed her tune.

Fresh off decorating her Brooklyn apartment and newly obsessed with the texture and finish of vintage brass, the recent New York City transplant decided to ditch her signature monochrome manicure (which is typically a custom red or deep eggplant shade) in favor of something gilded. Dipping her toe in the nail art pool for the first time ever, balance was essential, and, thus, so was a neutral canvas. “A nude gel polish allows you to really see the nails,” she says. On top of a sheer, pinkish-toned natural base, thin slashes of gold foil tape were pressed into each nail, deftly breaking up the negative space. For her, the linear metallic accents were like minimalist jewelry pieces, complementing the Art Deco ring and wire-thin bands she was wearing without distracting from them.

Consider the code for cool, seemingly effortless nail art cracked. Because when a French woman is seduced by a trend, it’s always on her own terms.

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