In an all-black studio on a quiet hill in Seoul, South Korea, the glittery, technicolor nails of your dreams are being created. Widely known as Unistella, nail artist (and owner of the studio of the same name) Park Eunkyung is the mastermind behind the most viral nail art looks.
Five years ago, Park gained global attention for her glass nails, which looked like shards of opalescent glass were affixed to polish. But that was just the beginning. She's since brought wire manicures, nail jewelry, and ice nails into the world. These days, Park is obsessed with crafting tips into Mickey Mouse, cheese, and lipstick-like shapes. All the while, Korean celebrities like Irene Kim, Sunmi, and the members of Blackpink have become obsessed with her work. You can also count Allure editors as admirers.
When we were thinking of nail looks for our May 2020 cover featuring Jihyo of Twice, editor in chief Michelle Lee immediately thought of Park. She ended up putting together dozens of looks for the entire K-pop group to try for our shoot. A week earlier, I stopped by the studio to have my very own nails graced with Park's genius, too.
Once I sat down with Park, she asked me what I had in mind. As much as I would have loved to try one of her innovative nail shapes, they aren't realistic for my baby hands and lifestyle. Instead, I told her I'd love anything rainbow and glittery. As she stared at my nails for a minute, I could see the designs being mapped out in her eyes. Then, she asked her assistants for various glitters and polishes, and they instantly delivered. By the time she was done with my nails, her workspace was cluttered in materials in every shade of neon and pastel possible. I didn't even know they made glitters in as many shapes and colors as I saw splayed out and stacked on roving bar carts around the studio.
Each of my short nails was given individual attention. None of them looked the same. Park custom mixed chunky glitters together in various sizes and hues for some nails. She carefully placed sparkles around others to fashion frames. One nail became a mini watercolor painting while another became a tiny universe of star gems and glitter. Crushed-up opalescent shells were also glued to my thumbnails along with shards of iridescent cellophane. With each assembly, Park was laser-focused, hardly saying a word. Afterward, we caught up, and she shared more about her favorite materials to work with, where she buys them, and who her dream client is.
Favorite place you've traveled: "Los Angeles. The majority of the time I have to travel is for work, so I've only started to enjoy traveling lately. I realized that you have to be in tourist mode to really enjoy the trip."
Favorite place in Seoul: "There's this tiny tunnel in front of my house called the rabbit hole, and you'll see the Han River on the other side of it. It's not the most wonderful place you'll find in Korea, but it's my favorite path to take and my go-to place."
Best place to shop for nail stuff: "Online shopping is a big thing in Korea, but if I had to go find something in person, I like the professional nail supply store located in Dongdaemun Market. You can see all the supplies at once and make wholesale purchases."
Most complicated nail look you've ever done: "I am the type of person who really focuses on the steps rather than the result, so they often turn out to be pretty complicated. A few [looks] that just came to mind are Terrazzo nails and sushi nails. For Terrazzo, I looked up the process of making actual Terrazzo floorings on YouTube. Similarly, I looked at sushi-making videos to capture every little detail in them. This process is probably what makes them complicated."
Simplest nail look you've ever done: "I have so many because I love simple, minimal nails, but my ultimate favorite is art with a simple dot. It's so chic."
Most memorable nail look you've ever done: "I know it sounds cliché, but I think almost every single design I have done so far (even the ones that aren’t famous) is memorable. If I really had to choose one, I'd pick the art with wire on the edges of nails because one thing I really put into consideration when creating nail designs is if it's wearable and if it's doable. This wire design looks very simple was really difficult for even nail artists to recreate, which meant it wasn't really doable. I made jewelry in the shape of it instead, but it made me sad at that time because most people couldn't recreate it."
Favorite nail art you didn't do: "@noodle_yess's wavy design. It really breaks the stereotype we have on nail designs."
Dream client: "Lil Miquela. I always have someone in mind, and I really want to work with her this year. Since it's just my dream, it changes all the time, though."
A typical day looks like: "Most of my days are either preparing for a shoot or on the shoot, so I mostly work on nail art press-ons. When I'm in the salon, I take over the information desk and take some nail photos for customers who visit. I can't always be at the salon, so I don't take any appointments but I sometimes do if I'm free that day. I must have time to chat with my friend during the day because that's how I get rid of my stress."
When you have a day off, you: "Probably won't leave the house and catch up on TV shows."
Most unexpected item in your kit: "A 3D printing pen. I was going to get a 3D printer, but I was told to try using the pen first instead. I bought it and think it was a mistake. I can't use it on nails because it's too hot when the filament comes out."
Items you always have in your kit: "If I had nothing and had to choose one item, I'd pick Uni Posca pens. They're something I always have in my bag, even when it's super full and heavy. They allow me to draw anything on my nails, even though my drawings are not that good."
Best non-nail beauty product: "Freck [a faux freckle pen]. I love this, it's my all-time favorite."
If you weren't a nail artist, you'd be a: "I never pictured myself not doing nails, but I guess a dancer. I started doing nails in middle school when I gave up on becoming a dancer."
Read more about Eunkyung Park's creations:
Now, watch a rainbow nail art tutorial:
Originally Appeared on Allure