NCLA Is On Point: The Fashioning Of New Nail Territory


What’s your nail game like? Mine is markedly strong. I’m an acrylic aficionado with an affinity for slick gels, sparkly glitters, and unexpected designs. When nail art popped off a couple years ago, I popped off with it–experimenting with different artists and styles in hopes of making all of my manicure dreams come true as quickly as possible. I cherished manicures, an affordable luxury enjoyed by all types of women, rather than a specialty beauty service for the well-kept and completely paid for, and celebrated my favorite nail salon as a necessary recess into female space amidst a bullshit, patriarchal world.

But one day last fall, I had just had it. In the back of a car on my way to LAX, I  yanked my acrylic shields off one by one, revealing the natural, unimpressive forms resting beneath. I swore I was over the time, money, and attention I gave my nails. I wanted to prove myself  a “top notch glamour chick” without the confidence polished hands gave me, and I succeeded at that for about a month. During that time, I went from daily performative speech-giving to conveniently hiding my nails behind my back. Come to find out, mani-less me meant losing my skills as an orator! And as I prepared for the launch of Wicked Games, a video I put lots of energy making with my best friend Niko, I wondered if I could really get full-glam for our premiere without a full set.

That’s when NCLA swooped in and saved me from myself. Utilizing the company’s customizable nail wrap technology, my friend and NCLA graphic designer Sam Adams offered to make me nail wraps featuring stills from the video. Within a couple of days, she had re-told our video’s story the NCLA way–capturing our acting performances, favorite props, and my ultimate death scene through the nail wraps. Needless to say, Sam’s art warranted a proper canvas. I put my acrylics back on and released the Wicked Games video online. My manicure celebrated a project I was very proud of, and allowed me to gaze at my own face while writing. But it was more than just commemorative. My customized nails served as an effective, intimate marketing technique about town. Everywhere I went, people asked me about my manicure, and everywhere I went I got the opportunity to shout out Wicked Games (and NCLA, of course).


I love the way NLCLA is reimagining nail art. And since I believe we should always learn from what we love, I spoke to Sam and her supervisors over at NCLA about the success of their myNCLA nail wrap app, NCLA’s collaborations with Hello Kitty and Beyonce, and their quick rise from LA-based startup to a majorly successful, international beauty brand.



When and where did NCLA begin? What was your initial vision for the company?

When NCLA started in 2010 in Los Angeles, CA, our initial vision was to provide women with nail wrap designs that were better than anything on the market. The unsurpassable quality of our nail wraps took the nail world by storm, and our designs continued to be fashion forward and recognized by some of the biggest names in fashion. We continued to grow NCLA by coming out with 5-Free, LA-made nail lacquers, to soon be joined by a treatment line launching in 2015!

What distinguishes NCLA from other nail wrap and polish brands?

We’ve made sure to consistently stay ahead in the industry but creating fashion forward designs, and collaborating with names like Alice and Olivia, Beyonce, Wildfox, and Hello Kitty. I love the endless opportunities that we have with nail wraps. There’s designs for every single type of girl.

Professionally, what’s NCLA’s biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is making sure that we are constantly ahead of the game. We create innovative ideas to keep NCLA growing. The recent launch of the customizable nail wrap app, myNCLA, was something we felt truly changed the nail world.

What about your biggest success? Any “this is all worth it” moments?

The “this is all worth it” moments are when we have the opportunity to collaborate with brands that we have always looked up to. The recent launch of the NCLA x Beyonce collection, for example, was something that made us all realize how far we’ve come!



What is NCLA office culture like? What do you look for when hiring new team members?

The culture at NCLA is collaborative, we are a team. Business and strategy decisions come from the owners. We want new team members to be able to work autonomously in an entrepreneurial environment. We like people that are self-motivated, driven and creative.

Any “this is all worth it” moments?

Moving into our new office in December 2014 was a “WOW” moment. It is kind of crazy to think that it all started four years ago in the closet of my apartmen,t and so quickly evolved into where we are today–having employees and a pretty big office space.



How did you begin your NCLA career?

I started as a freelancer doing designs here and there, tried to quit that a couple times, moved back to New York, and then tried to quit again. I even hired Sam (NCLA graphic designer) as a stand in for my final act. Now I’m the Creative Director and living in L.A. I couldn’t be happier.

What set of your nail wrap designs are you most proud of?

Hands down, 1•9•9•1. They’re my favorite not because of the baroque nod to Versace but because I had to beg for almost a year to get them released. The girls in the office straight up told me they were too tacky… they’re available online now and I’m currently brewing their sister wrap, 1•9•9•2.

How would you like to see nail art further incorporated into style culture today?

I’d like to think we’re pioneering the way here with the myNCLA app. It aims to give control to the consumer and open the creative gates with the nail as the canvas. myNCLA seemed like such a simple idea for us but in reality it really takes marketing or branding to another level. In the same way Sam was able to transfer screenshots from Wicked Games right to your finger nails, with myNCLA you can create nails to match a print on your dress or add an event logo to your finger tips before you step out. If nothing else, it makes for a hella cute Instagram pic. We’ve seen people order some weird shit too. Anything from Kim Kardashian’s crying face, to their kids graduation photos, pets, and logos. There was once a butt crack, and an embarrassing photo of the bride used for Bachelorette party nails.

Why do you think nails are SUCH a thing? Why do so many nonglamaholics love hot manis?

For some people nails are used as another way to be creative and express yourself. You have people doing the craziest 3-D nail art because it fits their personality, then you have a working girl wearing nude gels for two weeks because she doesn’t have time to think about it. We recently did a collaboration with HUF on a men’s nail lacquer. It was news to me how many skater bros were into black nail polish, but it makes total sense because chipped black nail polish just finishes the look.



How would you describe an NCLA customer?

The NCLA woman is always on point.

How does the myNCLA app even work?

You download the myNCLA from the app store. There you are able to select any photo from your camera roll or the internet. You position the photo in the template and can then add any of our classic nail fashions to it–a half-moon, stripe, or an orbit ring. To finish up, you acknowlege that you own the rights to the pic, name your set something cute, and then wait two weeks for a delivery. The packaging is also really chic, if I do say so myself.

What set of nail wraps are your favorites?

I love the latest Hello Kitty wraps I designed for Valentine’s Day, and all the other Hello Kitty wraps I’ve done. I’ve been a huge fan of all things Sanrio since I was a child, so getting to work with them as a designer was a dream come true.

What’s your design process like?

It really just depends on what the concept is for the wrap.  Rory and I have definitely gotten super creative when it comes to designing wraps whether were hand drawing/illustrating patterns, using photos, photoshopping, etc.  A lot goes into a single nail.

What’s the most fun part of your job?

The coolest part of my job is seeing something that I’ve created on my screen be produced and sold and worn in real life by girls all around the world. If you ever look at #NCLA on Instagram theres about 50K posts and I’ve gotten to work on a good number of those…that really blows my mind.

Any tips for taking the most flattering nail pics?

I’m not very good with nail pics… I always feel like my hands look awkward AF in pics, but holding on to something cute like a clutch or something helps.

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