Charlotte James was a self-described “obsessive” nail biter until she was 24 years old. “I talk a lot with my hands and would see people looking at my horrendous nails,” says James, now 26. She says the decision to indulge in gel manicures led her not only to prettier, longer nails, but to the world of nail art and, eventually, her very own business.
Right around the time of James’ nail awakening—which also happened to correspond with the last presidential election—a light bulb went off for her and her friend Valentina Fiamma Ziino Colanino. The duo, who met through an exchange program in Argentina during high school, were feeling very politically engaged and wanted to find a way to express themselves. Suddenly, it occurred to them: nail art!
“We see people’s hands all of the time,” says James, “and while you can’t necessarily be in a boardroom in a T-shirt with sparkles that says something political, you can be at an office job with nails that say ‘queen’ and have wax prints on them to express your cultural pride and power as a woman.”
At first, James and Colanino discussed creating nail art featuring sayings such as “nasty woman” and “bad hombre,” and other Trumpian sound bites, but then they had a sudden change of heart. “We decided what we actually wanted to do was to celebrate and uplift women and not place focus on other people’s words,” James says. “So we designed patterns based on different textiles and amazing women through history who have inspired us. I am black, and Valentina is from Argentina, so we had a desire to create products especially for black and brown women dedicated to uplifting that cultural diversity. We wanted to make something for us.”
From there, Power Nail Decals was born. The e-commerce site launched in November and features 20-25 different colorful nail wraps or decals that sit on top of your nails and act similarly to a temporary tattoo (they are sealed with a layer of top coat).
Since Power Decals launched, the brand continues to grow through local makers’ markets, online sales, and social media. James does all of the production here in Baltimore, while Colanino creates the designs in Argentina. Yes, the two partners live far away from each other, but they get together every two years and manage to make it work.
“We hope to continue to expand our market,” says James. “We’d like to work with more nail technicians, salons, and retail shops but also have a lofty ultimate goal of one day having our own salon that could bring something more curated and focused on nail art to Baltimore. The nail game is getting crazy.”