Sparkle with substance


POSTED: Thursday, December 10, 2009

If you want to add sparkle to your holiday wardrobe but can't afford to splurge on new jewelry, the answer may be at your fingertips.

Yuko Fadigan is aiming to bridge the distance between Japanese- and Western-style manicures through her newly opened Salon Glitter.

The name is fitting because anyone going in for a manicure is immediately confronted by dozens of glittery options, glitter being just a start. Nails can also be blinged with crystals, hologram paper, rubber art, paint, airbrushing and charms that can be positioned to dangle from your fingertips, if that's what you want.

It would be wrong, however, to assume the nails are about flash with no substantive difference from a traditional manicure. More important than the embellishment is that the work is set with Calgel, a clear resin developed nearly 30 years ago in South Africa, spread to Europe and was elevated into an art form in Japan about a decade ago.

Fadigan recently returned from a nail art trade show in Tokyo, one that she said drew 20,000 people a day.

“;I was shocked. Usually Japanese people are polite, except for trains, when they push you. I used to do that and dealt with it all the time when I was going to school, but being in Hawaii for 10 years, I changed. They were pushing and stepping on my feet, so that was interesting.”;

She was somehow able to see the new offerings and returned home with more colors and more nail charms.

The phenomenon is considerably less known here, practiced only by a handful of salons, typically at a cost of $100 or more per manicure.

Fadigan has brought the price down to the $40 to $50 range so more people can try it.

Once you wear them, the beauty of the Calgel becomes immediately clear. The resin is hardened by curing under a UV lamp for a minimum of 20 seconds. Those whose hands are subject to daily abuse through normal household chores will discover this produces a virtually indestructible smooth and glossy finish that won't chip or scrape off the way traditional nail enamels do. Once cured, nothing will remove the Calgel but filing it down or a solvent made for the task. That is how Fadigan is able to continue working on nails without ruining her own manicure.

She had been working at a nail salon in Waikiki, primarily geared toward Japanese visitors, when she decided to introduce it to the local market.

“;Over the last few years, more people were starting to see this and wanted to try the gel,”; she said.

She leased a space within Chop Salon, and by the time the salon closed a few months ago, she was ready to make the leap to her own salon.

Fadigan, who grew up in Kawasaki, Japan, said, “;I always loved getting nails done, and I was always into art. I like painting.”;

It's one of the techniques she now brings to her work with nails, using thin-bristled brushes to create popular and seasonal imagery, if desired.

THERE'S A cultural difference between Japanese and Western thought when it comes to nail art. In Japan, where a Calgel manicure starts at about $200, it attracts an exclusive clientele of models, actresses, celebrities and those seeking a bit of drama for special occasions.

Here, blinged fingernails are a downmarket phenomenon that suggests frivolity and a lack of sophistication. But typically, such fears and snobbery are overcome by the practicality and, often, beauty of the nails.

“;A lot of people who come in for the first time don't want shiny, glittery nails,”; Fadigan said. “;The next time they come, they want to try a little glitter. After that, they want to do something more dramatic.”;

Michelle Ah Sam, who was in the salon for a manicure and pedicure, met Fadigan at Chop and now visits Salon Glitter regularly. Manicures generally last about three or four weeks, and Calgel refills—covering the newly emerging base of the nail as it grows—are $28.

“;They make me feel pretty,”; said Ah Sam, who doesn't mind that she gets a lot of attention from sales clerks and bank tellers as she goes about her daily chores. “;One time I was standing in an elevator and a girl blurted, 'Your toes are so cute!'”;

She's already thinking about her next visit, planning to wear Christmas-themed nails. “;I do the holidays except Halloween. I don't want a ghost, and I don't like the color orange.”;

For those who can't afford a manicure until the holiday bills are paid off, the salon also offers rubber and other decals with imagery of bows and hearts, at $6 or $7 a set.

Salon Glitter is at 903 Keeaumoku St. (across from McDonald's), with parking behind the salon, off Liona Street. Call 949-2218.