A few weeks into the coronavirus lockdown, it became apparent that our new circumstances would change the way we looked.
Following government regulations, beauty, hair and nail salons closed their doors, leading people to change, or even abandon their grooming routines, whether that was getting a haircut, eyebrows waxed or a manicure.
But it is sometimes these seemingly trivial activities, like getting your nails done, that can offer a sense of normalcy in difficult times.
Japanese nail artist Mei Kawajiri knows a thing or two about looking after your nails. Last year, she created 21 individual designs for Marc Jacobs' Spring-Summer 2020 Fashion Week show, and her resume includes celebrity clients like Gigi Hadid, Alexa Demie, Dua Lipa and ASAP Ferg. This week, she agreed to help CNN journalist Dominic Rech attempt a DIY manicure for the first time. (To get Kawajiri's advice on how to do your nails at home, watch the video above.)
Born in Kyoto, Japan, Kawajiri started her career in Tokyo with her own nail salon called FOXXY, in fashionable Harajuku, before moving in 2012 to New York, where she was met with glowing reviews as locals raved about her intricate nail designs, which were unlike any others in the city.
"I think the nail is a really good canvas to show my art to so many people," Kawajiri said in an interview from her home in New York. Now, Kawajiri is so in demand that she only takes on new clients through referrals, and her manicures can cost up to $200.
Her colorful Instagram feed gives a good idea of why she's become so popular. Kawajiri's inventive, sometimes three-dimensional, designs often take unusual, bold proportions. She uses add-ons like chains, pearls and crystals, expertly creating bright patterns. In response to the coronavirus outbreak in New York, she offered some advice in the form of a clear manicure decorated with 3D bubbles — a gentle reminder to wash your hands.
Fashion designer Marc Jacobs is one of her biggest fans, and he usually graces Kawajiri's Instagram feed to show off his well-manicured nails. Although men have been painting their nails for centuries, including warriors in ancient Babylonia, in the past few decades it's been male musicians who have spearheaded the use of nail polish and nail art, from David Bowie and Kurt Cobain to Snoop Dog, and more recently Harry Styles and A$AP Rocky.
"No one can have the same (nails). You can create your own design, it's very special," Kawajiri said.
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