The beauty of Instagram is you can be transported to a nail studio thousands of miles away with just a tap of your finger. As you scroll through the feeds of the likes of Seoul's Eunkyung Park, aka Unistella, or Barcelona's Violetta Kurilenko, who you may know better as @yeswhatnails, you get a peek into the nail art trends of a city far from your own. “If something is trendy or similar to your own style somewhere, and you see it via Instagram, you can try to recreate that, no matter your location,” Kurilenko tells Allure.
With some bright polishes and ultra-fine nail striper brushes you can bring the design to the same finger you scrolled through their feeds with. Looking to be transported to Moscow, Berlin, generic for januvia Melbourne, or even London? We asked six different nail artists from across the world about how their hometown spark their creativity and what nail aesthetic reign where they reside. You'll be surprised to find out which city finds colorful manicures a novelty, not a regular part of self-expression.
Vibrant Patterns in Berlin 🇩🇪
Though moody, chipped manicures are trendy in Berlin, architect-turned-nail-artist Petrenko focuses on clean, colorful designs, like vibrant mosaics, intricate florals, and cheery portraitures. “We enjoy good sun here in Berlin, especially after a long, gloomy winter, and sparkly nails are what make spring even more fun,” says Petrenko. She is often inspired by Berlin’s ever-changing foliage and the city’s poster-plastered façades. The walls have “amazing graphic patterns with torn edges,” says Petrenko. “These layers of paper mixed with graffiti tags, for me, are a perfect representation of Berlin style.”
Farmers Market-Inspired Motifs in Mexico City 🇲🇽
Mercado de San Juan, a food market selling flautas and catch-of-the-day fish, is just down the street from Herrera’s studio. There, she infuses nail art with the rainbow of fruits, vegetables, and street art she sees on a daily basis. Like the menagerie above, most of her work entails “tiny drawings on negative space.” Sunny-side up eggs, 3D gold-leaf frames, bunches of balloons —these play off of Mexico City’s “eclecticism that is redefined all the time. We unintentionally make kitsch look cooler,” says Herrera. Her kit — which is filled with every shape and color of sequin imaginable (and then some), chunky gems, and smiley faces made of polymer clay — is like a portal to a quirky fantasyland.
Mismatched Manicures in Barcelona 🇪🇸
Orange leopard spots, an abstract green design, blue and red woven ropes — these are the components of a single manicure in the spirited world inhabited by Kurilenko. Her saturated, mismatched creations are often inspired by trips to Els Encants Vells, Barcelona’s largest flea market, which dates back to the 14th century, or afternoons spent wandering a city famous
for its wild, kaleidoscopic Gaudi architecture. Kurilenko describes her work as “elaborate miniature paintings,” but can also relate to the difficulty of drawing with a non-dominant hand. “I always wear designs on the left hand and just one color on the right,” she says. “Don’t be scared to wear two different hands.”
Crisp Curves in Moscow 🇷🇺
Before becoming a nail artist six years ago, Istominа was an accountant for a construction company. Stifled by the budgets and data, she found solace in the boundlessness of painting tiny masterpieces onto the tips of peoples' fingers. Typically, Istominа bases her nail art off of her clients' personalities instead of limiting herself to one specific style. Ethereal botanicals, crisp curves, and comic book-like illustrations all in her wheelhouse — an attribute she's picked up from making sprawling Moscow, filled with modernity beside antiquity, her home. “I'm inspired by its diversity and the fact that you can find anything you want in this city,” she says. In fact, no two nail artists in Moscow are alike. Everyone has their own thing, but what unites them all is immaculate skills. “All over the world people are trained in Russian manicure,” Istominа notes.
Tattoo-Inspired Designs in London 🇬🇧
Pria brings her talents to a tattoo studio once a month, and it shows. Her elaborate illustrations that seemingly require the same concentration needed when operating a vibrating needle pay homage to the tattooists she is surrounded by. She'll paint on Old English lettering on top of rainbows, fill hearts with flames, and deck out French manicures with teeny-tiny black roses the likes of which you've definitely seen inked someone's arm before. Of course, hints of London are infused in Pria's work, too. She loves mixing and matching patterns like the clashing street art, galleries, and installations she passes when she walks to work. “Every corner is inspiring,” she says. “I am always taking photos on my journeys when I spot something amazing.”
Maximalism in Melbourne 🇦🇺
Too much is never enough for Peter. “I like way too many styles to ever intend to aim for just one kind of vibe,” they say. In Australia, getting your nails done is treated as a novelty instead of a consistent part of a beauty routine. Needless to say, Peter goes all in for their clients' visits with animal prints overlaid on technicolor ombre, Bratz illustrations backed by glitter, and slime-like drips falling down a neon base — just to name a few. When you decide to treat yourself, might as well go all out, right? Instead of pulling ideas from the sights and scenes of Melbourne, people-watching is the catalyst for Peter's creations. “I like to imagine what sort of nails a particularly intriguing stranger might have and what would suit their imagined personalities,” they say. And based on their portfolio, Melbourne is filled with colorful, glittery people worth commemorating.
A version of this story originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Allure. Learn how to subscribe here.
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