Sharmadean Reid doesn’t really remember a time in which she wasn’t getting her nails done. Reid, a former trend consultant, stylist and zine-maker, is the force behind London’s WAH nails, the go-to place for ombre leopard nails, studded Aztec designs, or whatever else you can dream up (and fit on your fingernail). She’s in New York for a few days for a private pop-up and a raging party (held last night, at the W Hotel in Union Square), but also for the sake of her first book, WAH Nails.
Reid started her salon in 2008, a good year or two before nail art-mania began sweeping the world. “I’d do these big trend reports for major brands about what was going to be cool and pull these trends from different sub cultures and I noticed that fashion magazines would start to have a cool nail in a shoot—not a nail shoot, nail pages didn’t exist when I started the salon, but just one nail—so I’d just be looking at the nails in a shoot with a magnifying glass when they started to be interesting,” Reid explained. She figured if she and her friends were into it, and high fashion was into it, there was something to the idea of nail art. “The way that trends work, it can’t just be a small group of people in one place doing it, it has to have reach.”
After a few bad experiences in LA and New York—”The whole process was a bit fussy”—followed by one particularly “stressful” occasion in London where the technician wouldn’t give her the Dior nails she asked for, Reid went home and told her boyfriend that she was going to open her own shop. A few months later, with construction on her salon well under way, Reid launched a sort of pop-up in a gym in Shoreditch. “A cool gym with cool girls,” she says, “And it went crazy. Oh my goodness I just invited all my girlfriends and we did free nails and even then, when I look back at the nails from that night, they look so crap! But they were still better than what was being offered.”
The name, she explains, comes from the zine she launched in 2005. “I wanted to make this little magazine for girls like me who were doing stuff,” she says, naming her legions of creative friends. “I used to go out to a lot of hip-hip clubs and always get hit upon! Guys always thought we were just there to pose even though I knew the lyrics to every song and was just dancing the whole time and didn’t give a shit about the boys.” So WAH was born; it stands for “We Ain’t Hoes.” Not surprisingly, Reid was worried about how the distinctly East London vibe would translate stateside. “New York girls expectations are so high,” she says. But the warm reception—or, actually crazy enthusiastic would be more accurate—has changed her mind. Until then, there’s the book, which offers detailed instructions for how to give yourself 25 of Reid’s most popular designs. Snap it up and work on that steady hand while you wait for it to land on your doorstep.