Whether it’s the hip-hop-inspired 3D designs she created for the Moschino Pre-Fall 2020 show, the Kawaii-informed digits she designed for Marc Jacobs or the personalised French manicure she gave Bella Hadid—Mei Kawajiri has been creating viral nail art for the past eight years.
Born in Kyoto, Japan, Kawajiri honed her craft at a local beauty school before working as a nail technician in various salons. In 2012, she moved to New York, where she began posting her whimsical designs and signature pop culture-inspired aesthetic on Instagram under the now-famous moniker @nailsbymei. Having built up a cult following, Kawajiri has designed nails for everyone from Dua Lipa and Alexa Demie to Balenciaga and Alexander Wang. In October 2019, the British Fashion Council named her as one of their New Wave: Creatives ahead of the Fashion Awards.
Finding inspiration all around her, she’s been keeping busy during lockdown, designing nails that reflect current world affairs, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the global pandemic. We caught up with her over email to discuss her top five nail trends for summer and what she misses most about the real world.How have you been coping during lockdown?
“I’ve actually made a lot of great nail art. I guess my brain is more relaxed than usual.”What nail styles have you been trying out?
“At first I tried many different kinds of Stay Home-themed nails, and then I moved on to more unique nail art. Like Earth Day nails, bear-inspired nails, stay horny nails, hospital-themed nails, thank you nails and many more.”What do you miss most about working?
“I miss working for people. I haven’t touched other people’s hands in a while—that’s what I miss most.”What are your favourite five trends for summer?
“I’m into metallic greens and purples—they’re much more chic than the regular neon pinks, oranges and greens that we normally see in summer. Shiny colours go well with white, which people often wear in summer. It brings a bit of fun to the overall look.”
“Another trend I’m into is cream—it’s my new white. Inspired by 1980s interior, I like to wear it with orangish-red in a French manicure.”
“Red sequin nails are great summer nails. They’re fresh, and much more fun than glitter.”
“I love crazy nail styles for the summer. I’ve recently been inspired by Kawaii and 2000s bling, worn long with squared-off tips.”
“Finally, I’m loving spike nails, which are inspired by Lady Gaga’s new album.”How should we be looking after our nails while using so much hand sanitiser?
“I’m sure everyone’s hands are dry because of the sanitiser, so don’t forget to moisturise your hands and nails. You can keep them short so they’re clean, but you can still add lots of nail art.”What is the first thing you’re going to do after lockdown?
“I’m going to make [more] fun nail art and go dancing.”What is your all-time favourite nail style?
“I would say all my 3D nails! I can’t pick one [style].”Where do you get your inspiration from?
“Everywhere. At the moment, I’m inspired by worldwide situations.”Also read:
10 manicurists to follow on Instagram if you love nail art
4 of the best nail art trends you’ll want to try this season
4 stand-out spring/summer 2020 nail trends that will brighten your day