Artist Mei Kawajiri on the Nails at Balenciaga Menswear


At Balenciaga Menswear Fall Winter 2017, fashion’s star boy Demna Gvsalia proposed a rethink of boring business attire. The idea came in part from the Parisian house’s relocation to its parent company’s corporate headquarters. At Kering, the super cool design squad likely ran into a few more suits than they were used to seeing. As far as we’re concerned, his proposal could do the world a giant favor if enough “suit types” catch on.

But what really got the crowds talking, were the logos that were peppered throughout collection. Homage was payed to the Kering company, and in a politically motivated move, a red, white, and blue Balenciaga logo was a nod to Bernie Sander’s campaign art. If you were able to get close enough, you’d have seen that both logos appeared as nail art throughout the show, a trend that Gvsalia has grown quite fond of, thanks to nail artist Mei Kawajiri, whose alias is “Nails By Mei.” She’s also responsible for getting Carine Roitfeld, who’s normally a purist, on board with things like nail charms and crazy designs; we regularly collaborate with the Japanese-born Kawajiri on all of our CR editorials—even if the shoot only calls for a simple nude nail.

Back in October, Kawajiri was tapped by the house for some rhinestone-heavy adornment at Baleciaga Women’s Spring 2017. “That was the first time that I worked with Demna. I did some nail art for him, just on his thumbs,” Kawajiri recalls her original Bart Simpson art that matched one of his tattoos. “He had fun with it and that made me so happy.” While shooting that collection’s campaign, they toyed with the idea of adding nail art to the Balenciaga menswear runway, which debuted yesterday in Paris.

Kawajiri, who has always encouraged both genders to get involved with nail art, was ecstatic when she got the greenlight. “I love to see men express themselves on their nails. Why shouldn’t they do it to?” Mei asks. “For women, I usually try to make their hands look beautiful, feminine, dramatic, etc. Men tend to request cartoons, symbols, and logos—it’s often more literal.”

This kind of self-expression may not be for the faint of heart, but 2016 has seen a spike in the number of men who have been officially brought into the beauty fold. For the first time, big names like Maybelline and Cover Girl are disrupting the category by employing males to be the faces of their cosmetics brands. Breaking gender biases was one of many hot button issues of the recent presdiential election in America, which has prompted a large number of citizens to defend those ideals in a march on Washington this weekend. But for fashion industry insiders who can’t make it to D.C., they’ve used their runway as a place to get involved. No official comment from Balenciaga has been made, but the Sanders-esque logos do strongly suggest that the Parisian house might be “feeling the Bern,” or at least not feeling the Donald.

Affiliations aside, if you’re of the opposite sex and looking to experiment with nail art, Kawajiri does have a good tip—no pun intended. “Look for inspiration in the world around you and then start with just one or two nails.” In the spirit of gender fluidity, that applies to us girls too.


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