All lacquered up
Red fingernails or frosty pink toenails were once a mainstay for women of style. But now it seems jade green, 'cashmere' browns and blacks, as well as different textures such as matt and suede, are taking over - and not just for the edgy.
That's not to say hot pinks and nudes are a no-no - it's just that nail varnish companies have hit their stride when it comes to getting unusual yet flattering shades into the bottle.
Some fashion houses are using them to complement their catwalk creations, while other nail polish brands are inspired by the fashions themselves.
This has prompted the normally staid to covet tones such as Chanel's new jade lacquer, which was an autumn-winter nail colour of choice at the fashion shows, causing a stir among fashionistas for the way it matched the designs and was a departure from unobtrusive nudes and ho-hum reds.
OPI has also introduced a matt finish product and a suede texture that actually does look like suede. Essie nails has entered the fray with new dark and moody tones, its cobalt blue being a stand-out. Essie has also launched a matt shade - Matte About You - that is used as a finishing product.
'The rich suede look is a stunning complement to fall fashions, and is meant for the woman who is confident about her style and wants to stand out,' says Suzi Weiss-Fischmann, OPI's executive vice-president and artistic director.
But apart from the onset of a new season, why are brands focusing on special lacquers?
Essie Weingarten, founder of the Essie lacquer brand, says it all stems from fashion shows.
'At the shows, designers showed striking tailored pieces in muted fabrics that exploded with bright pops of colour - that was really refreshing and exciting,' says Weingarten. 'I applaud that fresh colour perspective ... the mix of deep hues and happy brights is like no other collection we've done before.'
And making a statement with a dramatic nail colour is a simple, risk-free way to herald the start of a new season during a year of recessionary caution.
'This season, women are updating their looks with colour and accessories without having to buy a complete new wardrobe,' says Weingarten. 'A great way to incorporate colour is on your nails. It's an affordable luxury.'
Weiss-Fischmann says unusual nail colours are a great way to beat the blues.
'Feel-good fashion pops with bold colour, like fuchsia, ultra violet and orange, lending an upbeat energy and dazzling optimism to the season. These vivid shades put autumn nails right on trend.'
The Essie autumn collection includes six shades that complement the fur-trimmed bomber jackets, neon wool capes and classic crisp blouses with slouchy cardigans seen on the catwalk. Their matt finisher - not used alone - is painted over your usual shiny nail polish, the idea being that it adds a new dimension to your normal polish.
'A matt finish is very fashion-forward,' says Weingarten. 'We developed Matte About You so you can still wear the colours you love - classics and hot-right-now - but with a ... matt finish.'
OPI's Weiss-Fischmann, however, concedes the brand's matt texture is not as long-lasting as the usual shiny finish polishes.
At Chanel, make-up artist Peter Philips says the brand's new jade green and pink colours were created to suit the brand's seasonal styles.
'These mineral-inspired shades transform the nails into veritable gems and recall the pink jade jewellery of the fashion show and the pink knit and pistachio tweed of the autumn-winter 2009 ready-to-wear collection.
'For the nails, Karl [Lagerfeld] wanted a green shade to evoke the jade notes of the collection. So I worked with our laboratories to offer him a palette of 10 green shades. We chose the colour that most resembled a green, tweed skirt suit from the collection.'
Other colours in OPI's and Essie's ranges include We'll Always Have Paris (a suede chocolate brown), Chinchilly (a slate, granite grey), Midnight Cami (a shimmery twilight blue) and Gargantuan Green Grape (a matt green).
But have women in Hong Kong followed suit and given up their traditional approach to colour and textures? Sara, a nail technician at a large local spa, says most women are still favouring the hot pinks and brights of summer.
Yet she says she is seeing more come in with their own store-bought lacquers, such as Chanel's blacks and deep purples.
Anna Orvay, who owns a chain of spas in Hong Kong, says traditional colours make it easier for women to match with their outfits, so the staples such as nudes, beiges and reds will never go out of style.
'Our Western clients are still conservative with nail polish colours and the most popular are red, red-orange, beiges, dark burgundies and nudes,' says Orvay.
'However, nail polish companies are regularly updating their colour charts and add hints of shimmers, glosses and a variety of shades to choose from. The in thing now is matts.'
Orvay says that in summer those who are 'nail savvy' are a bit more adventurous and add hints of pink, fuschia and subtle blues.
'But since autumn, darker shades are more of a preference. From experience, Asian women tend to be more open to trying on a variety of colours.'
For those tempted to do something different but who feel a dramatic colour change would be too much of a departure from their usual look, Chanel's jade green has the mark of a classic, and its jade pink is ideal for conservative fingernails.
OPI's new Spanish range for autumn features Pamploma Purple, a deep plum that is also set to be a wintertime favourite, and very much in keeping with the moody make-up on the runways.