Nail jewelry — or accessories that you wear on your nails in replacement of manicure — has been on the rise, with stars like Doja Cat wearing the look on the red carpet. METALBELLY is one of the few rising designers championing the trend, creating 3D-printed pieces to wear on the tip of your fingers.
The creative recently caught up with Hypebae China to chat about her creative processes, career path and more. “I used to do my own nails quite often, but obviously, nail art doesn’t last very long since nails grow. So, I began to think of ways to make my art last longer,” she explains the reason behind making nail jewelry. Initially starting off with “nail gloves” — gloves with nail art attachments — the designer was naturally led to create nail jewelry for their versatility.
Continue scrolling to read our conversation with METALBELLY down below.
You’ve been creating nail and hand accessories, which are quite uncommon. What led you to create these pieces?
I have always been passionate about nail art. Great nails can make you feel so powerful — they make them feel like you own the world! I used to do my own nails quite often, but obviously, nail art doesn‘t last very long since nails grow. So, I began to think of ways to make my art last longer. That’s when I began experimenting with nail gloves, matching all sorts of nail art with different styles of gloves. I created my own press-on nails and attached them onto gloves, and just like that, you have something that allows you to have new nails in a second — and the confidence boost along with it. Gradually, this idea developed into something even more enduring and sustainable: nail-inspired jewelry. And that is the project you see today: METALBELLY.
Tell us about your career path and how it has been operating METALBELLY as a side project.
I studied oil painting and fashion design in college. After that, I moved to China and worked in brand marketing and event production for many years. Although the jobs were still within the fashion field, I’ve always felt that I lacked a proper creative outlet to fully express myself.
I’m lucky I get to take my time when working on the pieces for METALBELLY. And thanks to my work experience, branding is not unfamiliar to me. Although it may take a little longer to get this brand going, this is a good pace for me to enjoyably continue the brand.
Walk us through the process of creating your nail jewelry.
Back when I was making nail gloves, I experimented a lot with 3D printing and it resulted in these unique, abstract nail shapes. These pieces inspired my designs and I turned them into wearable jewelry, not only for nails but also as earrings, necklaces, bracelets and so on. These eventually completed METALBELLY’s debut collection.
In comparison to nail art, what are the advantages of nail accessories besides being more convenient to wear and saving time?
I traveled a lot, and there were many times when I didn’t have the chance to tend to my nails and they’d be overgrown or broken. So, my idea was to allow people to get manicures, at least some form of it, when they don’t have the time to get manicures.
The nail gloves I made at the beginning did just that, but they were generally a little eccentric for daily wear, so I played around with the idea of nail jewelry: jewelry for the nails and also jewelry inspired by the form of nails. They’re versatile and give the wearer a sense of power and confidence, and they match the “multifaceted-ness” of the modern-day girl.
How do you think different styles of nail accessories and nail art reflect a person’s attitude towards fashion?
I think nails are definitely a big part of fashion. Just like your makeup and hair, they can change with different looks. Nails are not like makeup or hair styling that can be changed easily on a daily basis, but nail accessories can. Nail accessories can be changed in a short period of time according to the mood, occasion and so on.
How has your creative style changed over time?
Back when I worked on nail gloves, I wanted to create them in all sorts of styles to represent how I think the nail art culture is many-sided; they can be adapted to different moods, different occasions and different needs. But since the gloves I made were one-off custom pieces, it was tricky to retail them. So in those early stages, nail gloves were simply a creative platform for me.
After some time, the concept I had stuck with me, but I wished to develop them into actual wearable accessories that could be worn daily, and are more versatile than gloves. Progressively, I used the unique 3D-print nail shapes I’d made to inspire jewelry design that can be worn in a variety of ways.
Nail accessories are very versatile when it comes to application. They can be used to decorate hands and can also be worn as earrings or necklaces.
My inspiration is all the “multifaceted” gals and sisters out there. Everyone has more than one side to them. I, too, do not want to be labeled as one type of person or to be restricted to only doing one thing. I think everyone has multiple talents and passions, and they shouldn’t be characterized solely by their job titles or their academic majors.
METALBELLY represents self-expression and liberation from conventional restrictions, to reveal the beauty behind one’s versatility. I hope to express the diversity of the modern girl’s identity through our collections.
How do you think millennials or Gen-Z view nail jewelry?
I actually think the current youth are very open to new things. With nail art recently getting more of the attention and appreciation it deserves, people may want to give nail jewelry a shot.
I’ve been able to interact with some girls on the internet who I admire through mutual friends. I gave them some of my products and, luckily, they like and support them! It’s an encouraging community to be a part of, and they’ve made the METALBELLY platform feel like a positive place. I’ve been able to meet a lot of talented and compassionate sisters.
What are some trends you think will be big in fashion in the future?
Fashion brands are always trying to keep up with the market of Gen-Z consumers. I think it’s great that the current generation is getting more and more innovative and independent in thinking, and they are more likely to accept new concepts and ideas. They are willing to try new brands and styles, giving creators and designers a lot of space to develop new ideas. For example, nail gloves were mostly used by drag queens in the beginning, and now can be seen on runways, as well as in music videos.
With the current wave of virtual fashion, have you considered creating your accessories in the form of digital art? What are your views on virtual fashion?
The nail shapes that I create actually started with 3D printing, so collaborating with 3D artists is definitely something I would like to do. I love that METALBELLY can serve as a platform that allows me to connect and work with artists that I admire.
I don’t know much about virtual fashion yet, but I do have friends who are coming up with some really cool stuff. It’s all innovative and inspiring to me. I find it similar to the concept of haute couture. I hope one day I’ll have the opportunity to give it a shot.