You may not know Amber-Elizabeth Stores by name or face, but if you look closely in fashion magazines like Italian Vogue, Marie Claire and Spanish ELLE, you can see her work on models' most delicate and semi-noticed assets: their nails. The New York-based nail artist who got her start in MAC makeup has done work for fashion designers Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, and Betsy Johnson, as well as fashion brand Diesel. The Westchester native sat down with VIBE Vixen to dish about nail trends, nail mishaps and how to keep your nail healthy! –Niki McGloster
How did you get into the nail business?
It’s just that good, old-fashioned grinding. Looking in the magazines, finding names. Everyone has a website or contact information online, so Google people, beg them ‘please, please let me work with you,’ and just through doing that and honing my craft and really knowing what to look out for in fashion trends and transitioning that into nails, you meet people and you can’t be afraid to get yourself out there. And one day I was at a photoshoot, I was actually assisting another nail artist. It was a shoot for Patrick Demarchelier for Allure and someone just mentioned to me [that] their agency was looking for a manicurist. I called them and the jobs just kept pouring in after that. My first job ever was Italian Vogue with Greg Lotus. I was so freakin’ nervous. Here I am, this girl from the hood. Not really the hood, I’m from Westchester, and I’m working with these big people, no clue who they are and I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay!’ [Laughs]
What nail trends do you foresee in 2011?
I think 2010 was when people just started to embrace nail art as an art, as a part of being fashion, as an accessory. And I really see it really flourishing in 2011. It’s not the typical art we all got in high school, it’s more intricate with more thought put into it, more individualized.
In what ways?
Well, I see a lot of Japanese influence. Japanese nail art is becoming really, really big. Those people go all in when it comes to nails. People are more into getting decals and more rhinestones and glittery nails. I see a lot of fall back in the neon [colors], not too much neon anymore; there are more pastels. Also, two different nail colors. Like, it could be in the same family, but you have like a baby pink on one hand and then a blush pink on the other hand. There’s a faint difference. That’s one of the trends I see coming into fruition in 2011. I think it’s really the death of the square nail, too. If you look in the magazines, you don’t see square nails at all. Rounded nails look a little bit more delicate, as opposed to square nails—they make your fingers look a little bit fatter.
Yeah, Rihanna’s nails are what come to mind when I think of the rounded nail trend.
Rihanna’s [nails] are a little bit more drastic. Those are what we would call a stiletto nail. It’s very long, and it’s very, very narrow. If somebody wanted to transition and are used to the square, I would suggest a squoval, just a rounded tip to make it a little bit more delicate. But yeah, hers are extreme.
What are your feelings about the 3D manicure that is hot right now?
I love 3D manicures because I’m an artist, so any way that I can express my art is a win-win for me. That’s probably why I really didn’t embrace the minx too much or the foil layovers because it’s not really individualized; you can’t really express yourself. But when it comes to 3D art, people can say, ‘Oh, Amber did your manicure. I can tell her work.’
But with the 3D mani, how much is too much?
I think it goes in line with the individual. I was watching Married To Rock on E!, [and] one of the girls is really into Japanese culture and she piles it on--Hello Kitty, cupcakes, rhinestones, or whatever on her nails. But if she was working for a corporate company she couldn’t wear that, so it’s really up to the individual. When you have a problem in your everyday life with your nails, like typing or texting or cooking, then maybe it’ll be time to scale it back a little bit.
We’ve talked about the nail trends and what goes on the nails, but, most importantly, how can we keep our nails healthy?
If you want your outsides healthy (your nails, your hair and your skin), then you need to really take care of yourself inside. Eat the right things [and] take the right vitamins. Biotin is the best. It’s best for your hair, it’s best for you nails; it’s best for your skin. If you’re not big on color, it’s important to cover your nails with something. Even if it’s a clear coat, that’ll keep your nails from chipping and breaking; keep them a little bit stronger. If you're coming off of acrylics and trying to grow healthy nails, I suggest a soak-off gel overlay. My favorite is Mani-Q by Young Nails. That stuff is amazing! It promotes healthy nail growth, so you can get your nails up to tip-top shape. Also, be aware of what salons you go to ‘cause there’s a lot of things that people don’t know.
What are some nail myths that you'd like to dispel?
You don't have to cut your cuticles. That's actually illegal in New York.