You've Got Nail
At just 27 years old, nail artist Sophie Harris-Greenslade has the whole world at her fingertips
London-born Sophie Harris- Greenslade is a go-to talent in the burgeoning nail industry. She counts M.I.A, Rihanna and Gwen Stefani as clients and is an OPI ambassador. As if she wasn’t busy enough, her new book, Nail It, hits shelves this May. We popped over to her East London studio for a good old chin wag...
How did you get into this business? It was a mistake really. My mum’s done beauty for 20 years and she was always massively into nail art. I used to paint nail tips with her at home, just for fun, but I never wanted to do beauty. I was always more interested in art and design.
So you come from an art background? Yeah, I studied printmaking, illustration and animation, but when I came back from travelling I was a bit like, ‘Oh, I don’t really know what to do with myself’. Mum suggested I do a nail course at college to get a skill that would always earn money. And I loved it. It was around that time, 2011, when nail art was coming back into fashion.
How did you get your first clients? I had a space in the hairdressers Stunt Dolly in Dalston and a year later started The Illustrated Nail Tumblr. I was really lucky because that’s when social media started to boom, so my posts would get reblogged loads. Then people started calling me up and asking me to do fashion shoots. It just spiralled. Now I mostly do editorials.
Do you have any favourite products or brands? I’ve just signed with OPI, so I’m one of their ambassadors now. I love OPI; they’re the best. I’ve always used the brand’s varnishes, so to be an ambassador is a dream come true. I love their S/S 15 Hawaiian collection: it complements spring fashion with the colours of the islands – beaches, surf, sunsets.
Do you have a signature style? To begin with I did a lot of African batik prints, and super-intricate designs. I was doing things that hadn’t been done before. But it’s more simple and elegant these days.
Do you feel a pressure to have amazing nails all the time? I never look after my nails. I’m really bad! I just keep them clean and buffed to a shine. I do a lot of nail tutorial videos so I can’t have anything too crazy on there as it distracts from what I’m doing.
Any there other nailpreneurs that you really admire? It’s a nice little community. A few years ago, I went over to New York where there’s an amazing nail artist called Naomi Yasuda. Her designs are phenomenal. She’s probably my favourite. I like Fleury Rose, the Illamasqua brand ambassador in New York, too. We keep in contact – she brought me gel colours from Japan.
Tell us about your new book, Nail It. It’s really exciting! The publishers approached me and asked me to come up with 100 step-by-step designs. It took me a long time to do it. In the introduction there’s health care, so it talks you through how to prevent ridges and things like that. And then there are ten chapters of nail designs. There’s Spots and Dots, Geometrics, Half-Moons and French Tips, you know, fun ones – so there’s a real mixture. If you like graphic stuff, or little pictures, it’s all in there. So it’s a manual for people to do it at home? Yeah, but I wanted it to relate to professionals as well, it’s a book where they can also get ideas. So, I’ve included a catwalk section with longer, more advanced nails.
Who are your nail icons? Who gives great nails? I’ve always really wanted to do Katy Perry’s nails. I did Rihanna’s last year, which was amazing, and Nicole Scherzinger, Gwen Stefani for OPI and M.I.A. for Versace. It was one of my first shoots ever, for W magazine, and I met Donatella, she was so nice. She said, ‘Oh, the nails are fantastic!’
Which nail trends are on your radar this year? Negative nails are going to be massive. It’s a peekaboo kind of thing: you have the natural nail coming through, but a design on top. So whether that’s a half-moon or a French tip, the rest of the nail is left naked. Geometric shapes are popular too, rather than intricate prints. It’s thinking about space on the nail. And textures, glitters and chromes are going to be big news, too. There’s a lot more stuff on the market now for chrome-like finishes – in the past you had to use stickers.
Any manicure dos and don’ts? Sometimes, when people get extensions, they can look so awful with those big white tips. I love a French manicure, but a nice thin one. Now if you’re having extensions, there’s a clever way to elongate and sculpt the nail bed so you can’t see your actual nail underneath it. Oh, and please always go and get your gels professionally removed.