Hottest nail art trends for AW21 and how to create them

Whether you love or loathe it when the air starts to turn crisp and the leaves begin to fall, there’s no denying it’s an exciting time in the salon for nail trends. Neon brights and pastel shades are stowed away, while mustards, wine tones and classic nudes return to centre stage.

“While I love the bright and optimistic summer shades, this year it feels new and exciting to switch to autumn and winter tones,” says Roxanne Campbell, session tech and founder of at-home manicure service Revarnish. “Because last winter we spent so much time in lockdown with nail professionals unable to work, it’s been too long since we’ve seen those polished, rich autumnal jewel tones.”

These are the AW21 trends set to rule as the nights start to draw in:

Nail art trend one: Retro vibes

After a year where we all posted more throwback content than ever before, it’s no surprise that clients are reliving the golden era of fashion and seeking comfort from vintage styles that make them feel safe and secure, as well as bringing smiles to their faces.

It’s our love of yesteryear that makes ’70s-inspired nails such a strong trend. “Swirls and waves will continue to prove popular for AW21, but the pastel shades will be swapped for burnt oranges, mustard yellows, olive greens and strong royal blues,” says Salon System nail expert Jaz Moger. With intricate waves of colour, you can choose a palette that reflects the season and wear the trend well into winter, swapping for reds and greens when the festive feels kick in.

Nail art trend two: Leather-look tones

The ’90s trend is here to stay too and nails can tap into this. “Choosing classic ’90s shades such as beige, brown, chocolate and leather-look tones for clients’ nails this autumn will give them a sophisticated look that will layer up perfectly with their favourite winter coat,” says Victoria Trafford, education ambassador for CND. “There’s a hue to suit every skin tone; just make sure to use a super high-shine top coat to really make the shade pop.”


Nail art trend three: Minimal elegance

Over lockdown, you might have noticed that clients focused on their natural nail health, keeping their talons treated with cuticle oil and nourishing top coats while they waited to book in with you again. “This means that some clients have come back to us with nails they’re proud of and they want to show them off,” says Trafford. “Offering a flawless manicure with a ‘barely there’ shade will be a big hit this coming season. If you want to add a little something special, go with a minimal design using a gold colour to give an elegant and bespoke finish,” adds Trafford. “Gradient nails are also simple yet so effective, and this will be a popular trend in-salon as clients can get more of a bespoke look without paying extra for nail art.”

Nail art trend four: Alternate tips

As well as getting their natural nails in peak condition during lockdown, clients may also have become used a to low-maintenance look, swapping out dramatic coffin nails for something altogether more pared back. “I’ve definitely seen a move towards people choosing subtle colours that are more forgiving as they grow out, as well as nail art on the tips that leave more room for regrowth,” says Campbell.

“Clients are loving low-maintenance, high-impact looks such as alternative French, particularly Minimalist French featuring pastel colours,” agrees Emily Geer, Lecenté educator for Southampton. “For AW21, I see the look featuring more muted, neutral tones paired with metallic, holographic and chrome finishes, which can easily be achieved with foils and powders,”

Nicole Parker, ambassador for the Georgie Smedley Group agrees, adding: “I see the trend for alternative tips continuing into autumn and winter but reflecting the darker, warmer shades we tend to see around that time of year including deep blues, rich purples and dark reds.”


Nail art trend five: The shape of things to come

Every season we see a different nail shape take centre stage, so what will it be for AW21?

“After all the uncertainty this past year has brought us, it comes as no surprise that a lot of clients have been asking for shorter, more manageable nail lengths and shapes,” explains Trafford. “Many clients have got so used to seeing their natural nails for so long, they’re opting to keep them polished and tidy now, with a simple squoval shape.”

Amy Martin, Georgie Smedley Group educator and ambassador, agrees, adding: “Since coming back from lockdown, clients seem to have adjusted to having their natural nails with gel-polish instead of long acrylics. I think we will see a lot more natural nails and shorter lengths as autumn progresses.”

Of course there will always be the more adventurous clients out there, and for them, Geer predicts that long beautiful almond nails will be popular – “especially if they want to rock that extra-special nail art they’ve been missing,” she says.


Nail are trend six: Cuff and deep French

Also known as reverse French, cuff nails are where your French tip is painted along the base of the nail instead. “People are starting to add different elements than just the colour tip at the free edge of the nail,” says Parker. “I’ve been adding dots near the cuticle or even cuffs that mirror the tip; these are often the same shade but people are now starting to explore contrasting colours.”

Another take on cuff nails, the deep French look extends the tip of the French manicure two thirds of the way down the nail, bringing it closer to the nail bed, where you leave an oval shape of natural nail. This is a fun take on the classic look, plus it’s great for hiding regrowth if clients are reliable at rebooking.


Nail art trend seven: Matte/shine contrast

If high shine isn’t something your clients fancy, then suggest the best of both worlds.

“Matte-finish nails have come and gone over the years but this season, it’s time to mix it up,” says Trafford. “Finishing your nail designs with a mix of both matte and shiny top coats gives a whole new dimension to the overall look.”

“This style was demonstrated beautifully at Prabal Gurung’s AW21 show where we saw models sporting a stunning French tip and cuff that had a high-shine finish, leaving the middle of the nail matte. It’s a great way to switch up your French designs and add another level to your nail art,” she adds.

Did you catch our round-up of the hottest nail trends for Spring/Summer 2021?