Forget the lipstick index, the beauty economy is measured in lacquer lust

New York women are buying bolder nail color instead of lipstick (and only hand models are wearing jewelry like this)

Conventional wisdom holds that lipstick is recession proof. But that doesn’t seem true in New York. “No way that’s the case now. Not in New York City. Here, it’s definitely nail polish,” says Katie Chang, owner of Miomia, a Billyburg beauty boutique. Chang opened her unisex shop four years ago on Bedford Avenue, and has since become a T Magazine darling, and a beauty bellwether.

Time Magazine reported that nail salons have seen revenue plunge 25% across the country this year. But that’s about the percentage sales are up for Chang.

And her customers aren’t buying basic red. Even though makeup is quite minimalist and natural-looking these days, New Yorkers are going for wild (or previously weird) shades on their nails right now. And not just art students.

Chang’s constantly restocking sky’s-the-limit shades like British Racing Green from Butter London ($14), and Liberty from Knock Out Cosmetics ($19), which is meant to look like patinated copper (a la Chanel’s limited edition Jade), a fall color with the desirability of an Hermes bag that’s currently Miomia’s best-seller.

Today’s varnishes reflect a beyond-playful palette borrowed more from John Cameron Mitchell than pretty-in-pink bridal mags. The green Liberty shade made by Knock Out is the creation of celebrity NYC makeup artist Mike Potter, who did makeup for “Hedwig & the Angry Inch” film and stage and Cameron’s “Filthy/Gorgeous” Scissor Sisters video. Potter’s flatte (shine-free) shades (that also come in Calamine lotion pink and mannequin-hand Plaster) are a sign of the tougher rocker-chic times. And yet the art deco bottle with an extra long handle adds a bit of dressing table drama for just $19 (perhaps where a $275 bottle of Crème de la Mer once sat).

Knock Out in Liberty green
Knock Out color without the chemical bouquet, this line is three-free

“Women seem totally willing to go playful, bold, and experimental with nail color right now in ways that they aren’t with their makeup, says Chang. “I’m not just talking edgy Williamsburg women.” Even women with babies, who work at desks, who are wholesome and do yoga! Because they’re so temporary, Chang suggests, there’s something especially permissive about daring nail polishes. Plus, polish costs less than a trendy H&M top. And lord knows you get more uses from a bottle of varnish.

Even chipped nails are more acceptable than ever. (Though not in every context, of course.) Disheveled beauty has found its poster child in French Vogue fashion editor Carine Roitfeld. Likewise, NYC women on the street are rocking a new fashion republic that’s more Mad Max than Max Factor.

Have you been wearing wilder nail colors? Tell us, here!

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