Nail art is booming once again in Italy. Gender neutral and super colorful, these amazing and eye-catching nail looks are popping up everywhere on artists, influencers and celebrities—men and women. And Isabella Franchi (@unghiedellamadonna), a nail artist based in Milan, Italy, has found herself in the middle of it all. Her rise to fame came after adorning the nails of Italian mega-influencer Chiara Ferragni and her musician husband Fedez. The power couple were spotted wearing his-and-her manicures with matching happy faces and Pokémon characters, courtesy of Franchi. Here, we talk with the creative visionary about nails, her inspiration and Italian beauty trends.
NAILPRO: You are one of the newest and most-appreciated nail artists on the Italian scene, creating nail looks for artists, influencers and celebrities. How did you get into a career in nails?
Isabella Franchi: I was born in Imola, a small town in Northern Italy, close to Bologna. I completed my degree in fashion studies and later moved to London to work as a visual merchandiser. There, I started visiting local nail salons and developing my passion for nail art as a customer. Once I moved back to Italy, I looked for nail professionals who would do nail art, but I couldn’t find anyone in Milan who could recreate what I was looking for. Eventually, I decided to do my own nails, and then I started experimenting on friends and friends of friends. That’s how I started in nails. After that, I decided to quit my full-time job in retail, and I’m now a freelance nail artist.
NP: What’s your favorite nail length and product to use in your work?
IF: I mainly work on short, natural nails using gel polish. I find short nails to be more wearable and certainly more functional, but I still wanted to find a way to make them look pretty. I do a lot of free-hand brushwork and I occasionally use stickers. I don’t use traditional gels or acrylic. I sometimes prepare press-on nail tips, but that’s only when I’m doing very elaborate looks for photo shoots and editorial work.
NP: How would you describe your signature style?
IF: I would define my style as genderless, playful and custom. My most iconic design is flames, which I paint on the free edge of the nail, overlapping onto a full-color base. Happy faces and tattoo-inspired art are also very popular among my clients.
NP: Can you describe your creative process? How do you develop an idea and put itinto shape?
IF: When I work with brands or for editorials, I’m usually given a mood board and I develop my sketches based on that. With a background in fashion, iconographic research is essential to me. For my regular clients, I don’t usually choose a design for them. Rather, we work to develop an idea together. From there, again, I do a lot of image research. I rarely reproduce the same designs on different nails. I like to offer a tailor-made service to each customer, where the design is specifically formulated for them—it’s a process not unlike how professional tattooartists work.
NP: Where do you find your inspiration?
IF: I explore various sources that I’m passionate about: fashion, art, design, tattoos and Japanese manga cartoons. But I also find inspiration in interesting and unexpected things that I see in everyday life, such as a pattern of an Ikea pillow or a particular tile in a hotel room. I take a lot of pictures, which become my personal source of inspiration. I also look to various music icons; I love Dua Lipa and Gwen Stefani for their unique sense of style.
NP: You often create nail designs on both women and men. Do you find that creativity has nothing to do with gender, age and traditional references?
Author bio: Chiara Tentori is a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief of Beauty Forum Nailpro based in Milan, Italy.