these manicures turn 2000s kitsch into exquisite fine art
At Vanity Projects, Kro Vargas's take glittery dolphins and LV logos to another level.
If there’s one thing Kro Vargas is more pedantic about than nail art, it’s taking photos of nail art. The 50k manicure junkies who follow her on Instagram — where she’s cheekily known as @krocaine — will know this isn’t just pride. The level of detail that goes into each design simply can’t be captured in sub-capture lighting. Think tiny Chucky dolls complete with blood-soaked scars, a lifelike portrait of someone’s real-life Chihuahua puppy, and bespoke Louis Vuitton monograms with thick chunky serifs and weighted thin strokes. (Some of Vargas’s fashion logos are look more legit than those on bootleg handbags.) A consummate Kro Vargas masterpiece is both exquisitely detailed and delightfully gaudy. On most days you can find her at Vanity Projects — a concept destination where nail art meets actual art — in Miami’s design district. She also tours the country doing custom work for clients ranging from queer dudes to Danielle Bregoli. And she’s a mom! Who said dope acrylics aren’t practical for diaper changes?
How did your love of nail art develop?
My love for nail art developed when I was a little girl and my grandmother would take me with her to the nail salons in Queens, New York. I would always get a cool color with the classic 5 Dot Flower.
Vanity Projects has locations in Miami and New York. How do you beauty trends differ between the two cities?
From my experience working in both salons, I feel like girls in New York are more fearless when it comes to certain styles. Miami girls need more convincing.
Who is your typical client? Is there such thing as a typical client?
There is no such thing as a typical client. I’ve done nails for every type of client: young, old, girly girls, tomboys, gay men, straight men — you name it. Everyone can appreciate awesome nail art.
Do you have more male and/or non-binary clients these days than you did, say, five years ago? Is outrageous nail art becoming more acceptable amongst people who don't identify as female?
I don’t normally get male or non-binary clients. I would say [my clientele] hasn’t changed much between then and now… I hope to have more in the future! I think nail art in general is becoming more acceptable. Since it’s become mainstream I think everyone is curious to see what the hype is about.
Why do you love putting so much energy and care into art that doesn’t last forever?
The nails may not last forever but the pictures do! I put the same amount of love and energy into the photos I take of the nails as I do for the actual nails. I can’t let my client leave without getting the perfect picture because then it’s almost good for nothing. if it’s not a regular client, I may not see those nails again... I even have some printed pictures of my favorite nails.
Fashion logos are a common theme in your work. Why do you think Louis Vuitton monograms and Chanel double Cs are such popular nail designs?
I think these are classic prints and logos that make every woman feel like royalty. No matter what, fake or real, designer everything!
What’s the craziest nail art request you’ve ever received?
I’ve had some pretty interesting requests. I think fried chicken was the most memorable one. Usually when a client gives me creative freedom is when I’ll come up with the craziest and most random designs. Like having a stripper on your nails or Fiji water aquarium nails.
Who would be your dream celebrity client?
Definitely Miss Rihanna. I hope to one day slay her nails ‘cause she is always the best dressed. She’s just missing some nails done by me.