Do you remember nail art from back in the day? Those wispy airbrush designs, too-big diamantés and DIY blobby messes created with a toothpick and bottle of Hard Candy polish. It’s hard to imagine that what we think of today as nail art didn’t really exist before 2009, in a world without WAH nails.
And now WAH, headed-up by founder and former stylist Sharmadean Reid, is to open its second standalone salon in the heart of Soho. “Nail art was dry before we came along,” says Reid when we met up with her at the new space, “I think that part of the secret to our success is a 360º visual language that pours from my references in fashion.” And the success is clear for all to see, aside from the new salon opening Reid received an MBE last year for services to the beauty and nail industry; she just launched her first WAH collaboration with ASOS; WAH polishes, files and acrylics sell in Boots across the country; and this summer she launched WAH Power Lunches and Future Girl Corp, panel talks and workshops to encourage young women into becoming CEOs.
The new salon is vision of purple, black lacquer and holographic surfaces. With extra-wide pedicure benches (so you don’t have to put your handbag on the floor), wireless headphones for in-treatment Netflix watching and a plush cocktail bar to grab a drink at while waiting your turn, Reid has thought of everything for this new nail mecca. “A salon of the future is something I really want to strive for, and we do that by utilising tech to create an amazing customer experience that is way more fun and way more entertaining,” notes Reid. The salon features a state-of-the-art nail printing machine as well as WAHVR, a virtual reality headset that will allow customers to try out different nail designs and compare prices to create the look in the salon or at home. And Reid is experimenting with a custom booking system too, “Right now, I'm using systems, like tech systems in the salon, that are designed by men, and they're not really made for what a salon owner needs, so I want to make my own and make it better.”
Reid has thought of everything, from a super holographic selfie wall to inbuilt gel lamps. And the salon is stocked full with products you can buy and take home from brands that adhere to the “WAH vibe”. Reid has launched this “Beauty Gang” as a way of passing on her business acumen to like minded women entrepreneurs, she stocks products uniquely made by female-founded beauty organisations (we spotted lipsticks from the fabulous MDMFlow and pressed coconut oil by Liha beauty). “The Beauty Gang, is a natural part of our business. It goes back to our mission to connect great women and support them by facilitating independent, female-founded beauty brands who wouldn't necessarily be able to get a space in the big department stores because of minimum order quantities, or delivery issues. We just like it, see it, contact them, see if we can get it in store.”
Whether it’s the loyal gaggle of Instagram followers (WAH has more than 400k) who are sharing their own nail designs, the young and talented nail artists working in-salon, or the beauty entrepreneurs of tomorrow who are stocked in store, Reid surrounds herself with inspiring, bold and brave women all seeking to express themselves and succeed. “When I opened WAH in 2009, it was literally just for fun, to have my nails done for free. And now, it's like this whole thing,” she concludes. And what a thing it is.
WAH Soho is open from Saturday 19 November, with bookings at firstname.lastname@example.org.