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The Blonds X CND: Behind the backstage beauty

New York City, LES– In a sunny hotel penthouse suite perched high on the Thompson Hotel, a handful of ladies are stationed. The room has been converted to a makeshift workshop. The hours are ticking down. Focus is imperative. Their hands are charged with the delicate task of bringing the notoriously fantastic vision of dynamic fashion duo Phillipe and David Blond to life.

A finished look. One of the Harley Quinn looks.
Courtesy of CND
Model Anna Vanravenstein models "Knitting Kitty" nails created by Team CND for The Blonds FW 2014 presentation.
photo courtesy of CND

But the whirring of sewing machines is nowhere near.

The ladies are not sewing garments. They are crafting artificial nails.

For Fall 2014 The Blonds channeled a character that is near and dear to any woman who ever fancied her alter-ego to be super in nature: Catwoman. And, even the least educated person in comics knows, Catwoman is one villain/heroine who’d be lost without her nails.

Within the walls of CND’s pop-up nail-art studio it is evident that the show’s nail design is not merely an afterthought. Every set of faux nails reads like a frame within that season’s graphic novel; each lacquered falsie­ is a singularly integral piece of the storyline. In The Blond’s universe, nails are every bit as important to the final presentation as makeup, hair, and even the garments themselves.

CND begins the creation process for their fashion week collaborations roughly a week before show time. Dubbed the “A-team,” CND culls top artisans from all around the world to work at the Design Lab. Once assembled in New York City the nail artists dive in headfirst.

“It’s really collaborative. We feed off of each other and concept ideas. To do it singularly at home is difficult. You get stuck in your own head. It’s when we get together– that’s when the energy and the magic happens,” explains CND International Education Manager and Fashion Week Team Lead Roxanne Valinoti.

After the initial brainstorm, the artists gather materials provided by The Blonds-- sketches, slivers of fabric, and concept ideas individually. Ideas from that phase are ultimately pooled together and discussed again with the group to flesh out the final direction of the nail designs before they begin production.

Even after the team begins to sculpt and paint, they are continuously receiving feedback from Phillipe and David.

“Things are changing, often up until the last minute, “ chuckled CND International Education Ambassador Amanda Fontanarrosa, “In fact we just got a few more pointers, sometime around midnight last night.”

The revisions don’t seem to faze Valinoti and Fontanarrosa. Both are fashion week veterans with 14 years of backstage beauty experience underneath their belts. When CND first began working with fashion brands to create nail looks for runway, apparel designers largely had no clue what to do with nails. Even today, backstage nail artists will confirm that most designers are very conservative, often choosing simple nudes or single colors to pair with their garments. Few designers have the sense of adventure that The Blonds exhibit and CND has long cut back on their fashion partnerships to focus on their favorite collaborator.

“We’ve practically made the space that we live in now. We’ve created it. We’ve paved the way for other nail professionals to come in, which is what we’ve always wanted to do,” says Fontanarrosa, “ We really wanted to advance the [perception of] who a nail professional is and to gain respect in the fashion and beauty industry. We made this space.”

Twenty-eight seasons later, Fontanarrossa and Valinoti are proud to report that CND continues to be on the forefront of nail design at New York Fashion Week, continuously pushing boundaries even while solely devoting their energy to working with The Blonds. Now the “A-team” can completely focus on innovation and the “couture” nails they love to make. To them, cutting back is actually a badge of honor. CND succeeded in opening up an exciting niché for nail professionals backstage. Having nail artists for a runway presentation has evolved from something that no one ever thought to include, to an absolute need. To be in a place to step back and relinquish opportunities to other brands is a point of pride.

CND has arrived.

For additional photos and NYFW coverage please swing by Musings of a Candifiend on Youtube, search #teamcandifiend on instagram, and swing by Alice's blog: Made(Up) in NY.