Centered around memento mori, a reflection on mortality, Libertine’s stand-alone presentation breathed life into vintage fabrics and hand-embroidered designs, with a nod to the ethereal and the embellished. The CND team incorporated antique botanicals, 17th century Flemish paintings and enclosed plant terrariums into the nail look for Libertine’s AW19 show.

Going on seven years working with Libertine founder and creative director Johnson Hartig, CND style director and co-founder Jan Arnold gives us an inside look into her process of collaborating with her team to design the editorial nail looks for the made-in-Los Angeles label’s upcoming collection.

What instruction do you get before a show for the nail looks?

JA: Normally our key lead artist, Heather Reynosa, meets with Johnson to discuss the vision and story, but this season, 12 of us met with him—what a gift that Johnson was able to tell his story to the entire team. Since we’re the translators, the CND team came with sketchbooks. Johnson showed us the fabrics, explained his vision and feeling for the collection. There was a moment during the meeting when he closed his eyes, teared up and said, “When you think about what we do everyday, how lucky are we to work in a profession that allows us this creative freedom and fulfillment.” He used words like memento mori, celebrating a time of the past, while modernizing it for the future. Johnson designed a custom fabric with elements like skulls, fine china patterns, English roses and gold beading. If you look at his collection, it’s not old fashioned in any sense—rappers wear his pieces. Johnson envisioned a nail with moss dripping from its underside, so it looks modern and glossy, but also aged and alive. The team created 100 templates. He looked at the work and told us exactly what he wanted—he’s so personally engaged with [the art]. He said, “I could never do a show without CND.” We understand the metaphor and representation of the story he’s telling.

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How can nail professionals incorporate runway show looks into their clients’ designs?

Runway is theatre and is designed to elicit emotion from the viewer. Capture the mood, color pallet and antique finishes. Create an antique wash over the color or add a bit of chrome to the free edge to elongate the nail. Create a decoupage with color sheets. Cure sheets of color on the back of a form prior to your client’s appointment to prepare color sheets to apply to the nail.

What kind of questions do you ask the designer to ensure you’re on the same page?

We ask the designer to give us words. The designer never says, “I want this nail and this design.” We are the nail experts, and we tell the designer what nail is needed. In the old days of fashion, we would ask the designers what kind of nail they are envisioning. Now, the tables have turned. It’s our job to ask questions so that we can understand their vision and translate it onto the nails. The entire time the designer speaks, we’re sketching.

How can you protect nail artists’ editorial work from being covered by pockets and gloves?

We talk with the designers prior to the show and ask about gloves, pockets and how many girls will be wearing gloves and pockets. Sometimes you renegotiate. We have a mutual relationship and respect with our designers. We are elevating the status of nails and the role of the nail professional to be equal with hair and makeup. We opened that door to protect the nail artist’s work. I feel like my job is not only to nurture my partnerships, but protect my team.

What can we expect from CND’s 40th anniversary?

We want to spotlight and celebrate innovation, creativity—and how it translates to empower the nail tech—, education and our commitment to our community. The nail professional is at the epicenter of who we are as a brand and why we exist, so we want to spotlight their talent and their left and right brain precision. Their canvas is so tiny. They must remain relevant, creative and on the cutting edge. We want to tell the nail professional’s story. Like our nail artist Winnie Haung, whose parents wanted her to attain a four-year degree, while she dreamed of pursuing nail art. So she got the degree and immediately went to nail school. I feel like every nail pro has an amazing story to tell. We want to utilize our anniversary to turn the tables and cast a spotlight on them. Without them, we have only products.

—by Angelina Lewis

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