As far as busy New York Fashion Weeks go, Deborah Lippmann’s schedule is about as hectic as it gets. As founder and creative director of her namesake brand, she conceptualized the nail looks at eight shows, squeezing in a Vogue cover shoot and business meetings along the way. Yet, when we first meet at the crack of dawn in a crowded, windowless basement (the joys of fashion week!) as she arrives to do the nails for Frame Denim, Lippmann is nothing but gracious, chatty, and enthusiastic.

“A lot of my evolution happens when I’m here at fashion week getting to work with all these creative geniuses. They help push and direct me,” she tells us. Since entering the market in 1999 with the launch of her now-famous line of luxe lacquer, Lippmann has made a career out of her ability to evolve, inspiring both everyday customers and high end fashion clients to think outside the box when it comes to nails. “My sensibility is a little bit off, which is why I think I’ve been successful in the fashion industry,” she says. “Dirtying things up a touch—making it imperfect—that can make it edgy.” It was with that playful attitude that she single-handedly put glitter nail polish on the map with the launch of her now iconic glitter polish Happy Birthday in 2009.

A sense of calm amid the chaos: Deborah Lippmann backstage at Public School.

Speaking to the SS ’16 nails from this week, Lippmann says the process is a bit of a whirlwind. She starts by discussing the collection with the designers, who share a mood board or inspirational words, and she admits there’s a lot of last minute changes during the test runs. As a testament, she shows us her own hands, which resemble an artist’s palette (when it’s not fashion week she changes up her color a few times a week).  “I always pull a ton of stuff and test it on my nails, then try two or three things before we confirm a look.”

Below, she invites us in on the creative process, sharing the steps to getting the perfect, show-ready nails. “Instgram has brought lots of attention to nails, and everyone is documenting. You can’t fudge!” Not that the Queen of Nails would ever have to…


“The inspiration words were Françoise Hardy and the French Riviera in the ’70s. This was modernized into present day natural femme fatale through clean and fresh looks for hair and makeup, which I chose to elevate with a super shiny, polished nude nail using the color Natural Woman.” – Deborah Lippmann


First, Lippmann’s team contoured natural nails into a short, rounded shape and applied a coat of All About That Base to create a smooth, matte surface. Usually the girls come in with damaged nails from all the shows, so if the base is too pigmented it will really show. They then applied two coats of Natural Woman, a full coverage almond nude, waiting two minutes to dry between each coat (time permitting!). FInally, the team used a really shiny top coat, for an ultra-shiny finish.


“We knew the models would all have different skin tones, so we can tweak this color according to the girl. Natural Woman is full-coverage pinky-beige color. If someone is really alabaster, we might put only one coat. If she is medium skin tone, we would do two thin coats, and two regular coats for a darker skin tone.” – Deborah Lippmann




Deborah Karlie


“Dao-Yi and Maxwell were inspired by the energy of travel and open spaces. For the nail look, I created negative space by offering whispers of white to fashion a feathering design that replicated the movement felt and seen throughout the clothing.” – Deborah Lippmann


To start, Lippmann’s team contoured the nails into a short, rounded shape, and then exfoliated then hydrated the cuticle using our signature Cuticle Remover and Cuticle Oil and cleansed the nails with 2-Second Nail Primer prior applying a base coat to brighten and strengthen.


To create a feathered look on the nail, the team used Amazing Grace, a pure white crème, wiping excess polish off the brush before application. Then, using a ‘dry-drag’ technique, they gently stroked the brush across the nail diagonally, creating an effortless brush stroke line. No top coat was applied in favor of a truly textured finish.





“I love fashion, and with Dao-Yi and Maxwell it’s a totally fresh perspective.  I love the people that I’ve worked with forever, but being amongst new thinkers and with the incredible talent these two have challenges me in fun new creative ways.” – Deborah Lippmann


“Narciso wanted to convey the city’s modern, cool girl, but one who isn’t afraid to hit the town with abandon. She is simultaneously glamorous yet carefree, unafraid to wear off her full face of makeup or mess up her hair dancing into the hours of the morning. I translated this elegant chaos by doing the reverse of what this girl normally does: rather than layer a shimmer over a nude, we modernized it by placing a nude over a holographic shimmer lacquer using My Dirty Little Secret, a brand new shade for Spring 2016. The effect, featuring a matte finish, is unexpectedly captivating.” – Deborah Lippmann


“Narcisso always has a very strong point of view about the nail. He said to me at one point that he wanted the nails to reflect that she’s a girl coming home from a club, where she’s been dancing, dancing, dancing, so there’s no blood left in her hands—like a dead person!” – Deborah Lippmann


First, the team created the short, rounded nails then prepped the nail plate by exfoliating then hydrated the cuticle using the signature Cuticle Remover and Cuticle Oil. They then cleansed the nails with 2-Second Nail Primer before applying base coat. One coat of Dirty Little Secret, sheer-holographic-greige-shimmer, was applied. Then, after two minutes, one coat of Like Dreamers Do, a pale bisque, was applied creating sheer, crème overlay. Finally, after another two minutes, they applied one layer of top coat to seal the nails and achieve a completely matte finish.



“I love the history that Narciso and I have. I love the history of his brand, the fact that he always surprises me with how his sensibilities evolve, yet his clothes are so recognizable. He has such an incredible eye and is able to make an extraordinary statement.” – Deborah Lippmann


Shop The Story