I’d like to introduce the coolest new polish brand on the block: NCLA. (Which, I just learned, stands for Nail Couture Los Angeles. Guess I was wrong about “Northern California” and “North Carolina.”)
NCLA launched in February 2011, selling nail stickers. In November 2011, they expanded into nail polish, with 18 fabulous shades. They recently offered me the opportunity to swatch their wares, and I responded with an enthusiastic “heck yes!”
People often bandy about the term “fashion forward,” and I sometimes wonder what that means for polish brands. Technologies (matte finish, micas, flakes, crackles) seem to arrive on the scene at the same time from multiple brands. I don’t believe color can be unique — and even so, only rarely does a company come up with a shade that really shakes up the category (as I think Particuliere did).
But NCLA is progressive. From the beginning, they were partnering with west-coast fashion bloggers and local designers (Secession, Melody Ehsani) — they even did a collaboration with PETA. The result is nail art that’s much more intricate, more advanced, more creative, and hipper than the mass market stuff. I confess, I’m usually looking east to NYC for fashion, but NCLA makes L.A. seem like a chic and awesome place to be.
So let’s talk about their nail polishes. Hello, I Love You! (new for March 2012) is a magenta-berry, sheerer than the others — and, without a topcoat, it dries to a jelly, plastic, semi-matte finish. I’m With the Band (new for March 2012) is coral with teeny tiny microshimmers, which are only visible in the sun. Downtown Dollface is an ash grey-white; very clean, the color of brand-new concrete. Venice Beach Vixen is Greek blue. Malibu Beach Babe is turquoise-teal. Rodeo Drive Royalty is a classic deep berry-red (pink-based). Rush Hour is a soft rose red (also pink-based). I love cream finishes. Poolside Party, All Eyes On Me! is an 80s faded fluorescent orange; orange sherbet. Like… Totally Valley Girl is a slightly dusty Pepto-pink. It’s approximately the color of Bazooka chewing gum. Beverly Hills Bunny is a fuchsia-rose pink with a subtle blue-violet duochrome shimmer for a slightly satin finish. I am obsessed with Santa Monica Shore Thing (more on that later). You know Tiffany-blue? This is Tiffany-green, a pastel, antiqued, blued-green Robin’s egg seafoam. Eight Days a Week (new for March 2012) is Santa Monica’s companion blue. It’s Wedgewood, dusty painted-sky blue. Pick Me Up at Melrose Place is jellybean electric blue-purple grape. Mulholland Maneater is midnight eggplant, a super dark blue-violet. Hollywood and Vine Starlet is a sheer black base with tiny silver sparkles. The sheerness is important, because it allows you to build the glitter density (in an opaque base, only the sparkles on top show). Hollywood & Vine gives me fantasies of sparkly black short nails, living the life of a cool girl, lunching al fresco in a cafe in L.A.
West Hollywood It Girl is a clear base with tiny, dense magenta sparkles. Miss Sunset Strip is a clear base with: a medium number of tiny purple sparkles, a few medium-size round silver holographic glitter pieces, and a few big grape-purple hexagon glitter pieces. I painted four coats and still didn’t get full coverage, so you’ll probably want to apply this one over something else. Hollywood Hills Hot Number is a clear base with a medium number of medium-size round silver holographic sparkles and a few big hexagon silver holographic sparkles. I also painted four coats of this one.
LAX Jet Setter is — indoors — a gunmetal-grey frost. It becomes a little warmer (greener?) in sunlight. It is also a little brush-strokey. Bel-Air Trophy Wife is a bronze foil (a cool gold-brown with a few tiny silver sparkles).
Even though it’s not going to look pretty, I’ll show you what one coat of the blingy shades look like, so you can get a feel for glitter-density. NCLA polishes are free of DBP, Toluene, Formaldehyde, and Camphor, and the company does not test on animals. Their polishes are $16 each. Click here for U.S. retailers (there’s one in Dallas!), here for international retailers, and here for online retailers. They also sell polish through their website, and they offer free shipping at $50.
I don’t think it’s possible to fully get the brand without taking a look at their nail stickers, so here are a few of my favorites, past and present: