In August 2009 WAH nails founder Sharmadean Reid opened the doors of her first salon to a London hungry for jazzy fingertips. The press lapped up Reid’s fashion-forward designs and her customer base grew from a steady stream to an international following. Six months in, team WAH had taken up residence in the basement of Topshop’s monster flagship store, where they remained for a little over six years. But Reid’s aspirations were never limited to manicuring a production line of tourists’ hands. As she says: ‘Who wants to spend eight hours a day in a basement listening to Kasabian?’ It was time for a rethink. They decamped and Reid reflected on what she wanted to achieve. Which brings us to the Kingsland Road space – mark II.
WAH Nails’ new home is part development space (where Reid and co create new products) and part salon (where customers can get the WAH signature style) and part shop (stocking the brands’ quality polishes, pens and tools). But the best part of the regeneration is that it now offers nail art masterclasses.
All the essentials are supplied, including a rainbow of polishes, basecoat and topcoat, nail pens, a nail buffer and the ultimate tool for the unskilled – the clean-up brush. Central to the WAH philosophy is the idea that you shouldn’t need an entire armoury of nail-based weapons for fabulous fingertips. Dotting tools and embellishments, while nice extras, are not strictly necessary. Patient and encouraging, Reid explains that inspiration is everywhere. A Central Saint Martins graduate, she scours coffee-table art books and fashion magazines for designs, which can be translated into nail art. As ’90s R&B plays in the background, the colouring pencils come out and the class begins work on their own pattern. We go back to basics to prepare our nails for the forthcoming art – precise polish is a must. The bulk of the day is spent honing the skills needed – nail wheel after nail wheel is given over to a dizzying number of stripes and spots. Practice should make perfect. Then comes the fun part: I’m given free rein with countless pots of glitter and Swarovski crystals. It’s a magpie’s dream come true.
By the end of the eight-hour class, participants should have learnt all the techniques necessary to master a WAH manicure. Some of the designs are so intricate that I know, I have little hope of ever accomplishing them. Still, it’s a fun and weirdly therapeutic way to spend the day, and Reid and her gang, warm and funny, are a real pleasure to be around. I set off home with a head full of new skills and hands that sparkle.