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Secrets From the CND Design Lab

Fresh off of Fashion Week, NAILS takes you behind the scenes to a place few have gone before, The CND Design Lab.

View from the second floor loft
<p>View from the second floor loft</p>

One of my favorite things about going to NYFW is seeing the CND Design Lab, the place where the magic happens off the runway. CND rents out a penthouse for their nail artists to work in, completing exquisite and extremely detailed nails for that season’s runway shows.

Torie Bastian
<p>Torie Bastian</p>

For Autumn/Winter 2016, CND welcomed 10 artists to work on nails for both Libertine and The Blonds. This amazingly talented team consisted of:

  • Nataliya Al-Ta'ai, CND Education Ambassador
  • Torie Bastian, Artist-in-Residence
  • Samantha Birkett-Leigh, CND Education Ambassador
  • Ashley Craig, Honorary Artist
  • Heather Davis, CND Education Ambassador
  • Kristina Estabrooks, CND Education Manager
  • Amanda Fontanarrosa, CND Education Ambassador
  • Sarah Okins, CND Education Ambassador
  • Shelena Robinson, CND Education Ambassador
  • Roxanne Valinoti, CND Education Manager

Maggie Mulhern of Modern Salon and I dropped in between shows to see the team perfecting the nail concepts. For me, highlights included a smoking nail and edible nail art.

The smoking nail was constructed by hiding an e-cig in the model’s  sleeve. The tips carried sculpted lips that the smoke went through. Kristina Estabrooks called the smoking nails the most “mechanically ambitious” design they had done. For the edible nails, Roxanne Valinoti explained that cookies were adhered to tips with edible glue and the model would be instructed to take a bite at the end of the runway.

We asked the CND Design Lab team what they thought the most interesting things to know about the Lab were and here’s what they came up with:

The nail supplies!
<p>The nail supplies!</p>

1. CND sets up a fully functioning Design Lab in New York City stocked with CND shades, product, art supplies, and tons of inspiration for one week, two times a year.The team’s supplies fill a small truck!

Shelena Robinson's nails for The Blonds
<p>Shelena Robinson's nails for The Blonds</p>

Amanda Fontanarrosa's set for The Blonds
<p>Amanda Fontanarrosa's set for The Blonds</p>

Nails by Heather Davis
<p>Nails by Heather Davis</p>

2. Each team member has her own specialty/talent. It is only together that they achieve outstanding results.

Jan Arnold  holding up Harriet, created by Ashley Craig
<p>Jan Arnold&nbsp; holding up Harriet, created by Ashley Craig</p>

3. CND co-founder and style director Jan Arnold visits daily to inspire and encourage the team.

The inspiration wall at The Lab
<p>The inspiration wall at The Lab</p>

4. Headphones are a must for quiet “detail work.”

5. The team works around the clock for six days straight—and love it! The team eats lunch and dinner together as a “family” while they share funny stories.

View from inside the @cndworld #designlab #NYFW #bts

A video posted by NAILS Magazine (@nailsmagazine) on

6. 6 p.m. is Wine-o’clock.

7. After a long day of working hard, the team can be found laughing, dancing, and hula-hooping in the Design Lab.

8. Each year the team develops a fun twist — this year they gave each other chicken names.

9. Designs don’t always come out exactly as envisioned, and the team has to not get frustrated. It usually evolves into something even greater.

10. It’s never said that the team should top themselves, but the team always aims to do so. Their work during Fashion Week provides creative satisfaction on another level, and the opportunity to put nails in the forefront of a runway show is not to be underestimated.

See more photos from the Design Lab and backstage at NYFW here.

See all the final nail designs from front of house, here.

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