NCLA Nail Polish

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. NCLA, nail polish, swatches, Hello I Love You!, I'm With the Band, Downtown Dollface, Venice Beach Vixen, Malibu Beach Babe, Rodeo Drive Royalty, Rush Hour, KarlaSugar, Karla Sugar 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. NCLA, nail polish, swatches, Poolside Party All Eyes On Me!, Like... Totally Valley Girl, Beverly Hills Bunny, Santa Monica Shore Thing, Eight Days a Week, Pick Me Up at Melrose Place, Mulholland Maneater, KarlaSugar, Karla Sugar 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. NCLA, nail polish, swatches, Hollywood & Vine Starlet, West Hollywood It-Girl, Miss Sunset Strip, Hollywood Hills Hot Number, LAX Jet Setter, Bel-Air Trophy Wife, KarlaSugar, Karla Sugar 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. nail polish, swatches 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:


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9 Responses to “NCLA Nail Polish”

  • Jennifer A. says:

    I have to say, these colors don’t look at all special for $16. And this is someone who buys pretty much every Chanel Le Vernis.

  • Elin says:

    <3 this! amazing job with the swatches ;) xx

  • Ellie says:

    Love the range, they’re bright and fun!
    Cute that the lacquers work well with the decals they carry too.

    @Jennifer:
    Chanel colors don’t wow me either — you’re buying the brand, not the colors.

  • AlexandraRC says:

    Oh wow I need at least half of those <3 these swatches!

  • These shades look so fantastic! Even those glitzy ones looks glorious! This is my first time hearing of this brand, and hopefully not my last ;)

  • Elsa says:

    Love these color and these names!!!! Obsessed with Poolside Party All Eyes On Me :)

  • Beth Maiorana says:

    I have not heard of this line before today, and, I must say, I am intrigued (which is saying a lot really). The swatches are just amazing and most appreciated, Karlasugar…!! Many thanks for all you do xo Beth in Pgh ;-)

  • Jennifer A. says:

    @Ellie That was my point, although many Chanel colors are special, which is why they are duped so frequently. As someone who spends more money for polishes that aren’t always unique (aka NCLA’s prime customer), I’m not interested. Many boutique brands have come up recently trying to capitalize on the popularity of nail polish, and if they don’t have something unique to offer, I’m not buying.

    As always, Karla, your swatches are beautiful.

  • Veronica says:

    I don’t know I’m digging Poolside Party All Eyes on Me quite a big :) and the Pick me up at Melrose Place (mostly because I am addicted to purples, particularly lilacs and this color looks gorgeous on your fingers!). I might have to buy them :3

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