It’s fair to say Sharmadean Reid, superstar stylist and founder of Wah Nails, knows a thing or two about fashion. Her Hackney flat is testament to that. The bookshelves swell with fashion reference tomes and style pictorials that spark the imagination at every turn.
And her personal style is pretty wonderful too. From Proenza Schouler tie-dye T-shirts to Alexander Wang heels, her closet is a feast for the senses. Step into her ultra-stylish world and prepare to be inspired.
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Photographed by Claire Pepper
How did you get into the nail art business?
“I’ve been painting my nails since I was 11 and I’ve always loved matching colours to my makeup and accessories like they do in Clueless. I love that. When I came to London, I was getting my nails done and you could never have exactly what you wanted, you couldn’t hangout with your friends and chat and drink. I wanted a Dior double French, white moon – white tip, and they were just so difficult about, it I got home and thought I’m going to open my own nail salon. It was literally as basic as that. I’ve been getting my nails done for so long I knew what would work. I always keep reference tear sheets for work and I had a lot of reference tear sheets of Marian Newman’s work for Vogue. So I knew translating fashion into nails would be really easy. In the same way that fashion translates into art, it would just be one further down. I just wanted to open a nail salon where you can have everything you could ever want and it’s never a problem.”
Zara top, PVC trousers from Camden Market, Zara heels, & Other Stories necklace.
How would you describe your home’s décor?
“I would say my house is quite rustic; I love a country rustic look. Everything about me is so urban and metropolis that I like my home to feel like a “down at the farm” home. Wood is the number one element. If I could just live in a wooden house I would be so happy. Dark wood rather than a blonde wood. I have quite a lot of ‘70s furniture. I really like a lot of G-Plan and when I can find it I’ll go for mid-century things. It’s a lot of black, with wood, and splashes of orange in the house. I’m really inspired by an American farmhouse look. Obviously because of my background in fashion, I have a lot of magazines and books that I’ve been collecting over the years. They are really important to me. In an ideal world I’d have four different houses with four different interior styles in. One day.”
Tell us about the projects you are currently working on?
“With Wah nails, I don’t really want to expand to any more nail salons — so many people can do nails now that I’d rather be able to reach people’s homes abroad. I’d rather establish my own product range to do that. I’ve just finished the second Wah nails book, which is really exciting. The first one did crazy well so the second one isn’t just about nails, though there are 25 nail tutorials. I’ve interviewed all of my friends who are business entrepreneurs and I’ve asked them about how they started their businesses. It’s going to be called “Wah book of downtown girls,” and it’s essentially saying that being downtown is not a geographical location, it’s a state of mind.”
How would you describe your personal style?
“I’m like a true Gemini, for me it’s about adopting a character. It could be something like I watched a French film and the girl’s hair was tucked into her sweater and that is just as much of a fashion statement to me as the latest handbag. I like things to feel effortless and subtle. I’m very aware that I don’t always achieve it as being a curvy, black girl in London is very different from a gamine French woman in Paris, but I do try and adopt a whole thing going on. I always have to be able to reference my look. One day it is a Yoji ‘80s Parisian look where everything is oversized and menswear, and then it will be Jennifer Lopez —Jenny from the block. I always try to keep it at opposites. If I feel too prissy, I’ll always rough it up. Or if I feel too street I’ll put heels on. I just don’t like to be too one thing. It’s definitely a bricoloage of things going on.”
If you could change one thing about your home – what would it be?
“I’d love parquet flooring. If I could have parquet flooring in every house I ever lived in I would be so happy. It makes the house look instantly timeless and expensive.”
What’s your favourite room in the house?
“I like my living room because it is a big open space and when it is sunny and quiet, which is rare, it is nice to just lie on the sofa and watch TV. I like my bathroom too as it has so many shiny beauty products.”
Have you had to change your décor at all since your son was born?
“Becoming a mum has coincided with me caring a lot more about my interior style. I don’t buy anything that I would get upset about if it breaks. You can’t have that attitude. This table [points to dining table] my son sits here and bashes it. My sofa, I opted to buy a faux leather one because if he slashes it I don’t want to get upset about it. Everything is in mind for that. Also there are a lot of colours and visuals. I bought this rug from Sasha Knight, who has a company that makes Navajo themed accessories and when [my son] has his own bedroom, its going to be cowboys-and-Indians theme, that’s going to be in there. It’s more fun with him.”
What’s the best advice you’ve been given during your career as a stylist and business entrepreneur?
“It’s really hard because I haven’t had a mentor. I can’t think of any advice that I’ve been given. I just remember seeing this diagram on the internet. It was a circle and it said "known" and outside the circle it said "unknown" and there was a dot in the unknown that said, “this is where the magic happens.“ It is only when you step out of your comfort zone that you push things forward. It is about innovation. I’ve never in my entire life been a follower. For anything. I have loads of ideas and ultimately I come from an entrepreneurial background but sometimes I’d have an idea and I didn’t act upon it because I’ve seen someone do it and I don’t want to be second. When we opened the salon we were the first. No one did what we do. We put ourselves out there. I guess I’ve just developed my own advice over the years from reading so many interviews with successful businesswomen who have been inspiring to me. I guess I know what I need to do; it’s just whether or not I choose to do it. I always know.”
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
“I don’t think I’ve had it quite yet. Having the book was good. I felt well, Carrie Bradshaw to be able to say, “I’m a published author.” I guess my little highlights are seeing someone with cool nails and asking them where they got them and they say, Wah Nails and they don’t know that I own it. That is really nice. I loved being on Woman’s Hour as Wah stemmed from a feminist fanzine and I’m all for women’s issues.”
Neighbourhood top, Topshop jeans, Alexander Wang heels, Supreme hat.
Do you have any beauty tips for people who are a little scared to try nail art for themselves?
“You can start by being on trend with your colour. We pioneered this in the salon; all of the other nail salons would just do their own polishes. I wanted it to be a rainbow of colour. Everything is about a feeling. Sometimes you get a feeling for a lilac. It doesn’t always have to be loud, for a long time nude was cool but this summer aqua blue and pastel pink and lilac are just floating my boat right now.”
What are your predictions for the next big things in nail art?
“What I’d love to do is a project with loads of graffiti writers where we do graffiti nails. When I was in Paris I got my friend who is a writer to do his signature graffiti styles on my nails and they looked amazing. There are different types of nail pens you can get that are like writing pens rather than a squeezy pen. I’d like to see us doing more of that, a bit Stephen Sprousey. I’d love that.”
What are the five fashion items in your wardrobe that you can’t live without?
“An American football top, a white crochet dress (I’ve got several of them in my wardrobe), Nike Air Max, a black leather mini skirt, and acid wash jeans. Even when they were out of fashion I always wore them.”
Are there any labels or designers you love and love to wear?
“I wear a lot of Alexander Wang, as my look is quite sporty and street. I love Kenzo for the globalness. Kenzo for me was like a bygone world where people travelled and accumulated style as they went. I do love Zara to cement everything down. I kinda hate a head-to-toe designer look and also my life is spent rushing around. Sometimes I’m on the tube and I’m wearing an outfit that cost a few grand and I’m on the tube getting it dirty. That really bugs me [laughs]. I like to mix it up. I like to find things in weird places. When I first moved to London and I was an assistant stylist to Nicola Formichetti I was so shocked to see where he got all his stuff from. He’d send me to Camden Market, he sent me to Kings road, and he sent me to an actual cowboy shop to get cowboy boots. You’d never go to designers or the high street for everything. You’d mix it up. I’ve taken that attitude with me.”
Where do you like to go to buy items for your home?
“When I go to America I literally take an extra suitcase. I look around my flat and I’ve got so much from America. There are cushions from Crate and Barrel and lots of kitchenware. I picked up these blue bottles from Ibiza. All over. Things don’t always make it back though; I picked up a cake stand in Venice Beach, which broke on the way home. It’s so beautiful; I can’t even chuck it out. I do love picking up homeware from around the world.”
What are your favourite London boutiques?
“I do a lot of shopping online because I get into bed after a long day, and it’s really bad, I’m pretty sure the majority of my purchases are made between 10pm and midnight. I’m sure of it. But I do love the basement of Dover Street Market and I love going to Liberty, as it is so old-worldy.”
Who are your style icons?
“I would say I have three. If I were doing a European look I would say it is Camille Miceli, she’s an accessories designer at Louis Vuitton and she to me is the ultimate French woman. For South America I would say Jennifer Lopez because I love that sassy hot pants and a little dress, hoop earrings look. And then I do love a classic upstate American style, where the look is like a man’s shirt, jeans, and loafers. Kind of like the outfit New York society women wear to the country. A Maine style. Like Mary Randolph-Carter.”
Proenza Schouler top, Topshop skirt, Versace for H&M jacket, Marc Jacobs braclet, Nike Air Max trainers.
Just a fraction of the huge collection of coffee table books in Reid's hallway. So, so jealous.
Behold the cover of the first Wah nails book. Can't wait to get our hands on the second volume!
Major style crush alert. Seriously major.