In 2007, I was an unpaid intern at a magazine in New York. It was two years after Phillip Lim splashed onto the city’s fashion scene with his easygoing, off-kilter classics, and our Manhattan offices were torturously close to his first store. I browsed sac dresses and ruffled bib blouses on my lunch hours, feeling I could, if given a paid job, be the kind of effortlessly cool Lower East Side girl who wore his clothes.
Seven years and a few 3.1 Phillip Lim splurges later, I received an invitation to interview the designer at his West Village studio about his first collection of nail lacquers for Nars. Lim has worked with the brand on his past 14 seasons, with Francelle Daly creating clean, ethereally highlighted faces with punches of punk, like this fall’s heavy, square-sculpted brows.
His loft is the stuff of modern-age decor magazines, whitewashed and meticulously designed. In white culottes, a white-on-white Hawaiian shirt and white sandals, Lim looks like a monochrome against the chic tableau. He’s tanned, fresh from a holiday in Turks and Caicos, and game to talk polish.
“These eight colours,” says Lim, gesturing to the dark, jewel-toned bottles, “I call them colours that live in the shadows because they’re not true primaries. They’re two steps right before or two steps right after.” Those enigmatic hues abound in his fall collection: boxy wool coats hovering between camel and rust, and blue—or is it purple?—silk pants that shade-shift in the light.
“This colour here,” he says, picking up Crossroads, a deep purple-grey, “comes from the African violet. It’s a beautiful little flower. In the daytime it’s charming. But at night, the colour appears even more mysterious—it roars.” I pass him Gold Viper: “What about this one?” “Nails are like an accessory,” he explains, “and when you’re deciding on jewellery, you’re like, Do I wear silver or gold? This is right in between. It’s also our house metallic.” He points to the hardware on his clothing racks and table legs, which are the exact same burnished tone.
As charmed as I was by the backstories, I know they don’t matter much if a polish doesn’t last. As son as I get home, I test drive the samples. Nars redesigned the brushes, making them oval-edged and wider for easier application. The formula, too, has been retinkered for durability: it lasted 10 days—a lifetime in lacquer years.
Click through to see the full Nars and Phillip Lim nail polish collection.