Ji Baek on the Modern Manicure

Ji Baek
Photo courtesy of Ji Baek
Rescue Beauty Lounge founder Ji Baek

Fiercely opinionated and impeccably dressed, Ji Baek is one of the few names in the nail game to make the fashion set fall at her well-manicured feet. As the founder of Rescue Beauty Lounge (both the Meatpacking District spa and the product line), Baek consistently creates polishes that capture the style zeitgeist.

It’s crazy how polish obsessed people have become. Why is it such a hot accessory?

It’s affordable. They used to say that lipstick really survives a recession—today, some lipsticks are $45! Now nail polish is the price that lipstick used to be.

It’s also hard to wear some of the major color trends as makeup. I just started wearing orange-red lipstick—I tell you, it takes courage! You have to always look in the mirror, you can’t eat a huge sandwich—it’s high maintenance! Nail polish, you put on once and forget about it for a week.

Polish also allows you to channel a trend for a fraction of the price of an accessory. Not everyone can run out and buy this season’s bright yellow sandals or bag, but you can buy a yellow nail polish.

What’s unique about your collections is that they’re so influenced by the runway. What polishes are you loving for spring?

Here’s the thing: You have these gorgeous neons at Jil Sander, crayon stripes from Prada, and a punk vibe at Balenciaga. If you add any of those typical spring pastel polishes in there, you’re going to look crazy. It’s too much. You have to balance it out with your color choice.

So if you’re going to wear brights this summer, try them with a dark shade like Iconoclast, a black with shimmer. I love the idea of wearing colorblock platforms with a dark polish. A gray also works well too.

Now if you’re going punk, then be girlie at the same time with a lavender polish. But it should be a f—ed up lavender, like Insouciant. It’s a shimmery purple-gray, but it’s not girlie-girl. My girl is never a girlie-girl.

rescue beauty lounge nail polish

Photos courtesy of Ji Baek

Made in the shades: Rescue Beauty Lounge nail polish colors (left to right), Chinoise, Iconoclast and Insouciant

What shades always look right, every single season?

Classic red—Chinoise or Bangin. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just love wearing it on fingers and toes with a matching red lipstick—totally chic. The best part is, you can wear that look with all your old black sh— and still look modern. And we all wear all our old black sh—.

What’s the biggest manicure mistake?

Thinking that a manicure means polish—it doesn’t. Polish is makeup. Just like your lashes shouldn't always be coated in mascara, nails shouldn’t always be painted.

So many girls don’t even know what their nails look like! Think about it: Even when you’re at the salon getting your nails done, you don’t actually look at them without polish—you’re too busy reading Us Weekly! I recommend you have a naked day with your nails. It’ll be healthy for them.