The Insider Tricks A Manicurist Uses Backstage At Fashion Week

Confessions of Sophy Robson, a seasoned nail technician who’s worked with the likes of Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Henry Holland

The Insider Tricks A Manicurist Uses Backstage At Fashion Week

by Sophy Robson |
Published on

'Nails had this moment where it peaked. There was this hysteria about it - so much interest and excitement – but then it just dwindled. It’s so fashion, everyone feels like “oh we’ve done that now” so we have to move on to the opposite of nail art, which is the natural look. But, it’s not just that, I feel like the whole nail industry has waned in the last few years, it’s on the downslide economically so brands aren’t really prepared to invest in statement nail designs. And, when they did, they didn’t know how to make the most of it anyway.

I get frustrated because I’ve always used social media to showcase what I’ve done, but brands rarely make the most of footage and then they say my work isn’t worth their investment because they don’t get enough coverage. And, there was this dirty undercutting that started, which didn’t really help. I think people thought, “I want to do that show because I’ll get the publicity that she’s go” but it didn’t work out that way because I’d built up the publicity myself. But, I did do pretty well out of it all because I definitely achieved what I set out to do as in the end, I got to work at Paris Fashion Week.

The Insider Tricks A Manicurist Uses Backstage At Fashion Week
©Instagram/Sophy Robson

I feel like I’ve helped bring nail design into the spotlight. I began working in fashion but made a conscious plan to push myself into the nail industry because I felt like it wasn’t really getting the acknowledgement that it could. Make-up and hair got headlines but the nails rarely did. I wanted to deliver high-quality catwalk work to showcase what was possible.

I had this game-plan to raise the level of backstage, and this relied on being really neat. I wanted my quality to standout so people would book me more, and that would get me the better jobs, which would mean my assistants would get paid better. It didn’t take long and the industry started to give us respect, we were invited to looks meetings, we got proper sponsorship and people started writing about nail designs. I was generally hired by someone who wanted my creative input, but I don’t know, recently it feels like we’ve gone back a little bit.

In the beginning [making sure models didn’t smudge their nails] was my forte. I have a specific technique: I skip the base coat and apply a very thin polish coat and finish with a quick dry tip. Also I always finish one hand totally before the other so you know at least one will be completely dry.

Personally, I favour the old-fashioned nail polish brushes because nowadays they tend to be a lot thicker. Ever since they came out with the one-stroke brush it’s made it harder to be accurate, whereas with the old style you could be accurate around the cuticles.

No matter how accurate I am, accidents happen you just can’t avoid it. Sometimes models just don’t think, they put their hands in their pocket or shove them into shoes. In those circumstances, all they can do is hide their hand for the picture.

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Backstage usually starts off really chill and then it gets manic and stressful quickly. There are a lot of egos running wild so I always make it my policy to be super nice and calm with people (especially if they get rude). At first, you can take your time, but then the atmosphere changes. Suddenly you know how many models are going to be late or just not show, which is when things start going wrong, which usually coincides with the press and cameras arriving. All of a sudden the models need to do a rehearsal, which means people start shouting and my time to paint nails has just gone. It’s over in a flash.

In fashion and nail design there’s so much plagiarism that goes on, but to prove that someone’s copied you is really difficult. You have no copyright, you have no rights in fashion and it's frustrating, I’ve got a solicitor and attended seminars but owning the rights to a design is a very grey area. I’ve been into Boots and I’ve seen one of my designs copied and being sold by Elegant Touch. It’s the same colour, the same everything, but there’s nothing I can do about it other than tweet it. At the end of the day, I try to keep things moving and move so it doesn’t bring me down, because when you have no control and there’s not much you can do about it.'

As told to and condensed by Lucy Morris.

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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