I am as anxious as a child on a visit to the dentist. This time around however, while I am confident that my teeth are sparkling clean, I am nervous about my nails. One hand-shake and he’d know, I think to myself minutes before meeting up with Jeff Pink. “I wish I’d worn gloves,” I sheepishly tell him as I shake hands with the man who gave women (the world) the French Manicure. He smiles, “Oh, I never judge. Every woman has her own style and I don’t intend to make anyone conscious about following theirs.”
And that’s the secret behind the success of the man who invented a nail art form that has kept women happy for almost three decades now, and counting. Yes, the French Manicure could indeed be labelled as the first form of nail art. But did you know that Pink had initially christened it as the ‘Natural Nail Look?’ “I was on my return flight from Paris where I’d gone to showcase the look to the models and I thought to myself – why not call it the French Manicure? It had a better ring to it,” he recalls of the days from 1976.
Interestingly, the French Manicure was more a need of the hour invention than a fashion idea. “A colleague from the film industry approached me to come up with a solution to save on both studio time and money. Back then, the fad was to match the nail paint color with the outfit, which meant a long process of applying-reapplying-drying the paint, sometimes even three times a day,” he says. And so, a look that gelled with every outfit, season and skin tone, was born. Pink says it first came to mind when he was thinking over the white pencil that women used in those days to color under the nails. “I thought of playing with the white paint and requested a nail paint company for one, they thought I had gone crazy,” he adds. Little did they know that the romance of the look being created would last forever! The look became a hit with movie and TV directors, models and actors and celebs who were seeking a versatile nail style to compliment an entire onset wardrobe.
So, can we safely say that the 70s was all about the French Manicure? “It was in the 80s that the trend really picked on,” he says. Ask him to sum up the decades of nail fashion and he says, “70s was about the nail strengthener (he developed one called Romeo), 80s about the French Manicure, 90s about the pastel hues and 2000s about the neons.” And what lies ahead in the world of nails? “Nail care,” he sums it up in two words as he talks about the oil that one can use to strengthen the cuticles. He advises women with short nails to steer away from dark hues, shares how exposure to sun leads to better nail growth, and more.
As the conversation draws to an end I can’t help but wonder if Pink, the man behind the leading Orly International, ever regrets putting his heart and soul into something (paints, gels, shimmers, topcoats, removers, cuticle care products and more) that he can’t flaunt? I point towards his little finger painted in a hue of chirpy pink as I put forward the question. “Who says I don’t get a chance to do so? At night, I often try the shades on my hands, and at times I forget to remove them in the morning. Once, in the 70s, I walked into a supermarket with the nail paint on and got the sneers! I am talking of the time when men didn’t even wear a pink shirt so you could imagine the stir it created,” he laughs. “Oh, I don’t judge,” I smile back.