Susannah Frankel

If, a year ago, anyone had said that a shade that dwelt somewhere between mud-grey and sludge-brown would soon become the nail colour of the day – even, perhaps, the age – they would have been laughed out of town, not to mention Nails Inc. And so it is strange that Chanel Particulière, now generally referred to as 'mink', continues to make waves. The fact that, in relation to more than a few skin tones – especially 'pale and interesting' – the effect is nothing short of corpse-like, renders the success of this by now much-imitated non-colour more remarkable still.

Originally launched as a limited edition for spring/summer 2010, Particulière was loved so much by women the world over that it has now been incorporated into Le Vernis Chanel's permanent collection. And into mine, too. Being prone to at least a certain degree of whimsy, the fact that a second bottle appeared on my bathroom shelf earlier this week makes this the exception that proves the rule.

Particulière is a genius invention, perfect for those who find red polish too clichéd, pink too girlish and green/blue/purple/yellow/etc too "I'm mad, I am" for everyday consumption. Neither, to those with less than a total taste by-pass, is a French manicure any longer acceptable. As for sheer nail polish... Especially on toes, madam might need a little more help than that.

Particulière was originally part of a seasonal collection courtesy of Chanel creative director of beauty, Peter Philips, and devoted to Mlle's favourite colour: beige. It might have a neutral feel to it, but it's more shadowy than that – a little darker and all the better for it.

In the mid-Nineties, Chanel Rouge Noir (now No 18, Vamp), a colour inspired by nothing more obviously fashionable than dried blood, was similarly imaginative. People queued round the block for it and the lip colour of the same shade was equally influential. Vamp has since acquired classic status and Particulière is swiftly heading in that direction, too.