A England Princess Sabra (Tristam Eyes)

Painted nails are more than cosmetic and accessory, they are part of one’s body language.

The quote above is just one of many gems that you can find in an interview with Adina Bodana, the sole creator and owner of cult nail polish brand A England, as she discusses her desire for human communication and recounts her philosophy on beauty and art which eventually culminated in the wonderful concept of creating products that offer a story and a chance to fantasize. Leaving the comfort and career stability of her native country, Adina found her “personal Epiphany” when she moved from Italy to England in 1989 where her love for architecture, Pre-Raphaelite art and English literature came to blossom in her impassioned pursuit of discovering beauty in every possible field, describing London as her “beloved city on earth” with “its spirit intrinsically bonded with [her] life.” She is as tethered to her adopted homeland as the “A” in the brand logo – her first initial.

I realised instead that painting my nails was still a constant expression, a source of enjoyment and a way to connect with people. Eventually the right time came when I felt ready to entwine my two passions for England and nail colours.

A England has exploded all over polish blogs recently with the release of Adina’s second collection, The Legend, at the beginning of the year. This highly anticipated collection of holographic polishes followed in the wake of her very successful debut collection, The Mythicals (inspired by Arthurian legend, this came out mid 2011), with many bloggers wondering how Adina could top the 15 gorgeous, top-quality shades from the first line. But she has truly outdone herself with The Legend and we’ve been treated to six unique holos and a stunning blue shimmer from a collection that pays homage to Saint Georgian legend. Being an avid bookworm myself with a predilection for folklore and mythology (I have almost the entire Speciallità Hits no Olimpo collection, just ’cause they take after Greek deities and are amazing holos to boot), I was all over these like a cheap suit, snapping up five of the seven polishes available, and throwing out my NY resolution with wild abandon. I’ve never understood the hype with holos and was never particularly swayed by OPI’s Designer Series nor China Glaze’s notoriously HTF Kaleidoscope collection until I came across Speciallità and A England, who have shown me just how extraordinary and eye-catching these little bottle beauties can be when they are not done-to-death, perfunctory-pastel holos.

For the health-conscious and vegans among us, all A England polishes are BF3 and animal cruelty-free.

Without further ado, I’d like to show you the first polish I chose to wear from The Legend. This is Princess Sabra (Tristam Eyes). For reference, I have one coat each of Orly Bonder Base Coat and Seche Vite Top Coat.

Warning: This polish is a photogenic camera whore and I was most obliging, so this post will be more picture heavy than usual for a review featuring one polish.

Isn’t she just exquisite? ISN’T SHE JUST?!

Holographics/Holos are specialized polishes which contain rainbow/prismatic glitters that reflect a myriad of colours in light, especially under direct sunlight. They give off a multi-coloured metallic rainbow effect, rather like an oil slick, and the holos are differentiated by the strength of the prismatic effect they impart (e.g. scattered throughout or linear like a vertical rainbow). Holos are pricier than regular nail polishes as the holographic ingredients are more expensive.

Princess Sabra (Tristam Eyes) is an olive green scattered holo with an underlying golden hue. The holographic effect is very strong and entirely entrancing in the sun; it even shows through under lamp light. The formula and application are fantastic, only two coats are needed to create an even, smooth and buttery finish; the dry-time is also impressive. My mani barely sustained any unsightly chips after a week of wear, and removal was remarkably easy with non-acetone nail polish remover. I love the complex, sparkly texture and glossiness of this polish, as well as the unique and elegant finish of the fine holo particles. I think it is quite office-appropriate as the soft khaki green base is subtle enough for work; the polish takes on a subdued, yet sophisticated, shimmery mossy green tone without the holographic bling when indoors. For all the warm-toned ladies out there, I BEG OF YOU, GET ON THIS – STAT.

And who is Princess Sabra, you ask? She was a king’s daughter in a Libyan town, a fair maiden and the token damsel in distress in the tale of Saint George and the Dragon. This story has circulated since the Middle Ages, passed down from the Crusaders and first printed in a book titled The Golden Legend way back in 1483. Heavily imbued with the romantic notions of nature and chivalry, this legend is a favourite among the Aesthetic Pre-Raphaelite artists of the mid 1800s who collectively admired and were inspired by the inherent creativity and simplistic virtuousness of medieval culture. The story goes that England’s future Patron saint came across a lake where Princess Sabra, gowned in bridal robes, was waiting to be devoured by the town’s sheep, children and virgin-eating Dragon (I too raised an eyebrow at the last sacrifice of choice – pretty sure all flesh tastes the same, blushingly chaste or not – just ask Hannibal Lector… but don’t mention cheeks!); Sabra had the misfortune of having her name drawn from the daily sacrificial lottery as an unwilling martyr to keep the Dragon fed, appeased and out of town. Saint George charged at the Dragon on horseback and slayed it with Ascalon, his lance, relieving the town of its burden and winning Sabra’s hand in marriage. The other six polishes in the collection – Saint George, Princess Tears, Ascalon, Dragon, Bridal Veil and Order of the Garter – were inspired by this great story and are aptly named according to colour (I won’t be reviewing this just yet, but do look up swatches for Dragon – it’s the perfect serpentine dragon green, incredibly scaly and magical-looking).

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Wedding of St. George and the Princess Sabra, 1857.

 Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Saint George and the Princess Sabra, 1862.

The above watercolour from 1862 has its own fascinating macabre tale to tell. The woman modelling as Sabra is Rossetti’s pregnant wife and primary muse, Lizzie Siddal – while she is immortalized on paper, Siddal died (somewhat eerily) soon after from a laudanum overdose which has been widely regarded as suicidal (an illegal and immoral act for that time, says Wiki). Siddal had an extensive medical history of ill heath, depression, laudanum addiction (basically a concoction of opium with dashings of citrus juice) and experienced the tragedy of a stillborn daughter with her first pregnancy. Distraught with grief, Rossetti buried his sole and entire manuscript of unpublished poetry in her coffin at Highgate Cemetery, only to have her grave exhumed several years later to retrieve them for publishing in 1870. The erotic nature of these poems were deemed scandalous and offensive, and so it was with this poor reception, aided by Rossetti’s own haunting guilt, that he spiralled into alcohol (whiskey) and drug (chloral) abuse. He eventually painted again and released a second volume of poetry, but ultimately died a recluse.

You will notice that the polish has two names – Princess Sabra with Tristam Eyes in parentheses. This is because the polish was also inspired by the deeply mysterious and enchanting eyes of Adina’s handsome kitten, Tristam! She says Tristam has “brought more joy in my life, inspires and amazes me every day with his innocence and purity.” Naww =^-^= Here’s a picture from her Facebook – I adore his regal coat and beautiful markings!

I purchased my A Englands directly from the official website, at £9 each which is ~ $13-14 AUD, with free shipping worldwide (Uh, WIN?!). Amazingly, I received my polishes in just a little over a week despite Adina’s notification that deliveries would be delayed due to widespread “enthusiasm” which must be an euphemism for what I can only imagine were overzealous nail polish fanatics exercising poor self-control single-fingeredly and wantonly wreaking havoc on bank accounts in a gloriously pontifical display of ferocious purpose, much like this:

My portrait on any given day. xd