Queen of Talons - London's Top Manicurist Sophy Robson

It’s amazing how what you put into the universe responds in kind whether that be positive or negative so guard your thoughts people! Earlier this year when I decided to enroll in a nail technology program, I started doing research on manicurists and what made the top manicurist… well, so special. In my research I of course came across state side manicurists Deborah Lippmann, Jin Soon, Lisa Logan and Ji Baek, and then... a name I hadn't heard before Sophy Robson the UK's "it" nail girl, the one Mr. Tom Ford calls on for his shoots. The more I learned about Sophy the more blown away I became… In fact Ms. Robson is on my vision board, I love her work ethic especially how she allows her talent to speak for itself as opposed to boasting about her her celebrity roster (which happens to include some Royals) -- who knew just a few short months later that I’d be interviewing her! Her love and passion for what she does is undeniable... Get to know this week’s Image Maker Sophy Robson, you’ll be glad you did!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! How long have you been in the industry?

Sophy Robson: Nearly 10 years already!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! When did you know you wanted to become a manicurist?

Sophy Robson: I started by doing my own nails in a French manicure style – there were not many places you could get your nails done in London, at the time so you had to do it yourself. I became obsessed with doing it perfectly.

As soon as I enrolled on a "nail enhancement" course at my local college, I started to get offers of work. It was just starting to get popular here so there was never a conscious decision - it just happened! Oh I had just become a single parent so I needed to earn a living!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! What would you say are the biggest misconceptions about the industry and manicurist specifically?

Sophy Robson: I don’t know about America, but I felt there was quite snobbery towards the profession when I started. In actual fact the starting pay for a trained nail technician was way higher than a beautician, make up or hair artist. I feel a lot more respected for what I do now than in the early days. I still find some PR companies that are sending polishes out to take up artists who can’t even do nails, which is a bit silly. Things are improving all the time though.
I started my blog as I wanted to show the quality of my work close up, and show it was not retouched. Often, the detail is lost in the photos you see in magazines due to the lighting or lack of sharpness of the image. I was amazed by the International interest and support I began receiving and it has now opened up so many doors, it has been the best thing I could have done. I wanted to show that there is real thought and skill behind it, for all those that thought I "just paint nails for a living"!

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Would you say that you have a niche, or is there anything particular that your clients or industry peers would say you're known for?

Sophy Robson: I think as nails have become more popular, I have moved beyond just doing a perfect manicure(whether real or fake) or pedicure, to being as creative as I can with it and trying to bring different nail styles to the fore and making nail art stylish and chic.

When I first did extensions on shoots the people I was working with were amazed by how quick and real looking the results were.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! You were a big presence at all the Fashion Weeks, how does a manicurist make the transition from the salon to editorial work and backstage at Fashion Weeks?

Sophy Robson: The first thing I would suggest is to read all the best current fashion magazines so you can see what kind of nails you will be required to do. You should keep up with all the current trends and new technologies in nails and that means investing TIME and money in yourself. There are no excuses - if you want to do it that bad, you should make it your priority to invest in the best.

It is really hard to break into the fashion industry as it is extremely cliquey and to begin with you will have to work for free to prove yourself, but I believe if you want it badly enough it will happen for you. The opportunities are out there. Working as an assistant is a good way to start working with the right people and to get access to seeing how the fashion world works. By checking editorial credits, you can research who works in the field near you and try contacting their agency to offer your services. You need to throw all your conventional ideas and rules out the window as fashion is a law unto itself.

The problem is working as an assistant is not paid and neither is some editorial work so you will need to build up a clientele to support yourself financially. Unfortunately working in a salon is not easy as you will not be able to get time off for fashion work at short notice, so a lot of schedule juggling is required. When I think back to my early days, the first step I took was to collect photos and tear sheets from model clients (commercial not fashion) put them in an album and took it to agencies to show them how good I was. I have always said you can be amazing at what you do but if you keep it to yourself how is anyone going to know! This is what is so good about the internet, you can put yourself out there and people will come to you if they are interested.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! What’s a typical working day like for you?

Sophy Robson: What I love about my life is there is no typical day anymore! I am normally working on photo shoots at least 3 days a week. Sometimes they start at 8am or even earlier for commercials, but usually at 9 or 10 on a good day...As long as I have my coffee in the morning I am good to go! My daughter leaves at 730 so we normally have breakfast together. I will either be at a studio or on a location (such as hotels or unusual houses) so I normally have a car to pick me up as I don't drive to work anymore.

Sometimes it is one model and very straightforward, other days there could be up to 6 models and I have to do extensions on everyone. Everyday is different in terms of what the client wants and what the job entails. I also work for other brands such as Chanel and Sisley when they have product launches, which involves demonstrating on the beauty press. I really love that work as well as it allows me to expound my intimate knowledge to a captive audience, and they always really enjoy the experience which gives you amazing job satisfaction.

I also go to my salon The Sophy Robson Nailcare Clinic to meet my own clients or I will have private bookings with some of my elite clientele at their house or wherever they are staying. As well as all that I still have to answer many administrative emails a day, and upload my blog with new posts as I have a loyal following now which is so great. I seem to be doing more and more press interviews which also takes up time.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! It seems that every up and coming beauty pro wants to work with celebrities. What advice do you have for someone new who is trying to break into the industry and wanting to work with celebrities?

Sophy Robson: I think if you are really good at what you do, celebrities will come to you as word gets around. I would say focus on your abilities and your quality of service as that is way more important in the long term, than chasing after celebrities. Be careful because some celebrities may not appreciate you mouthing off to the media and trying to gain off their glory and that will always be short lived.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! Do you provide any mentoring or training for new manicurists?

Sophy Robson: I do get a few people writing to me or whatever but I haven really found anyone with the right mental attitude to the industry and this is something you can not teach. I am looking for passion, motivation, dedication and ability. It has taken 10 years to get to this point and I did not have anyone to mentor me. I am trying to explain through my interviews the processes of how to make it work for you. They can come try out as an assistant.

BEAUTYSCHOOLED! So what’s next for you? Are there any projects in the works that you can share with the readers? What about nail trends for the coming year?

Sophy Robson: The media is fixated with nails at the moment, which is great. I hope this will continue. When I first discovered the nail industry, I felt my ideas were so different from what everyone else was doing. For example my first fixation was making the most natural looking nail extensions when everyone else was into the white tip look. I found there was quite a demand for it and at first I used tips and cut out the well area to make the smile line deeper. I learned this technique from a master technician called Tom Holcomb, and it went against what everyone else was doing at the time and others were openly skeptical about the "strength" being lost, which turned out to be nonsense. At the time it was the norm to "blend" tips into the natural nail which was not only time consuming, but had increased risk of filing into natural nail and didn’t look real enough for me when finished.

Then I learned how to sculpt nails with another expert Leighton Denny, but I achieved the more natural effect by mixing white and clear powder before it was common practice to have "customized" white. I am always thinking outside the box and always knew I was in a different world from the the past year I have become slightly obsessed with modernizing the "nude nail" look as I was so bored of the sheer pink nails. So mannequin effect nails are becoming more and more acceptable, whereas before it was seen as weird looking. Nail designs and embellishments are becoming more and more popular as it loves from The Hood to the High Street.

I also think a longer more pointed shape will become much more common than the still popular squoval shape.

As my name becomes more recognized and my following grows larger, I concentrate on building the Sophy Robson brand so it becomes a commercially viable, International entity.

Thank you so much Sophy for an incredibly insightful and in-depth interview, we are definitely looking forward to what happens next with the Sophy Robson brand.

To learn more about Sophy Robson check out her blog and be sure to follow her twitter.

Ciao for now… Class is dismissed!

{Photo credits: Tom Ford Campaign by Mert & Marcus, Hand shot in UK Vogue by Mark Mattock, Japanese Vogue by Solve Sondsbo}

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1 comment:

Isis Nicole said...

Better late then never. This was a nice interview :-)

Isis Nicole