My feature on super cool Sophy Robson came out in the paper today:
Here’s a link to the online version.
And here’s the text with more photos and the full interview:
ALL HAIL THE NAIL QUEEN
By Pam Pastor
They call her nail queen.
But Sophy Robson didn’t set out to be London’s hottest manicurist, the woman fashion magazines and hot designers turn to when they want eye-popping nail art and unbelievably clean manicures and pedicures to grace their pages and the catwalk.
If the young Sophy could have chosen what kind of royalty she would be, there’s no doubt she would have gone for something else entirely – hip-hop. “I was really into music and a real tomboy when I was younger. I worked in a record shop called Blackmarket.”
Sophy may have been a hip-hop DJ but even that early, nails were slowly becoming part of her world. “The hip-hop look was about accessories… hair, shoes, bags, earrings, nails. There was a hip-hop magazine called The Source where I always looked at the nails. A lot of the artists I was into – SWV, Roxanne Shante, Lil Kim – had really long amazing nails. I became obsessed with doing a French manicure on myself as there weren’t many salons you could get your nails done then.”
It was the birth of her daughter in 1998 that altered her world. “I changed professions as I wanted to do a job where you could work in the day and not at night! Nails seemed like the natural profession choice. Nail bars were starting to become much more popular in London and I had lots of offers to work as soon as I trained at college. I had an edge over a lot of other manicurists as I was hungry and ambitious and I was dedicated to what I was doing. I literally spent every spare moment of time I had working on nails.”
Not content with just working in a nail salon, Sophy devoured magazines and began building her portfolio by offering her services to glossies that needed manicurists for their photo shoots. Her hard work paid off. She was signed by an agent and started being booked by magazines like Vogue Italia.
Soon, Sophy was a high-fashion favorite, doing not just magazine work but fashion shows and big campaigns. She has become Tom Ford’s go-to girl for his shoots, shows and campaigns and he’s not alone. Sophy has worked with the world’s biggest brands and designers – from Marc Jacobs and Vivienne Westwood to Louis Vuitton and Chanel. She’s played manicurist to countless models and celebrities including Alexa Chung, Kiera Knightley, Gwen Stefani, Erykah Badu, Dita Von Teese and Kate Moss.
Today, Sophy continues her love affair with high fashion but also devotes time to her passion for giving people great manicures and pedicures. Her own nail boutique in Fortnum and Mason continues to draw people in for many reasons, one of them being her legendary pedicures.
In this exclusive interview, Inquirer Lifestyle talks to Sophy about her life in fashion, why she loves the internet and the rainbow nails that she made famous.
Have you always been into nail polish even as a little girl?
Not really but I do remember painting my nails with Tippex (whiteout) when I was at school.
You have a daughter. How old is she now? Is she into nail polish and nail art too?
My daughter just turned 12! Yes she is really into nails now and is always asking me to do her and her friends nails. She is learning, and has been to a few shows and many shoots with me.
Did you ever think your love for nail art will take you this far?
How could I! No I never dreamed that I would even work out of London. Opportunities and experiences just get better and better. It is amazing.
You’ve worked with a lot of celebrities and models – any favorites?
Oh yes loads! I love Daphne Guinness, Kylie, Dita Von Teese, Pamela Anderson, Laetitia Casta, I love Freja Beha, Alessandra Ambrosia and Natasha Poly, Daisy Lowe, Alice Dellal, Hannah Holman, Akexa Chung. I could go on all day!
You’ve done campaigns and a lot of magazine work – any favorites?
Most of the best beauty pictures I’ve worked on are with Solve Sundsbo (YSL/Tom Ford/etc.) and Mert & Marcus (Gucci/Tom Ford White Patchouli/Bulgari/Iceberg). I have also worked with Tom Ford when he has taken pictures and he is lots of fun to work with, and I also love working with Katie Grand who styles Louis Vuitton and is the editor of LOVE magazine and Carine Roitfeld at French Vogue. You always know it’s going to be something exciting!
You do a lot of work on fashion shows. Who are your favorite designers to work with and why?
I love Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, Tom Ford, Henry Holland, Gareth Pugh, Giles – the ones that appreciate the importance of a good nail.
What’s the most difficult manicure you’ve done? What was the most difficult project you’ve had?
I am a bit of a prefectionist so I’m not often entirely happy with what I’ve done. If I am pleased then that is a job well done! The first time I worked on the Louis Vuitton show in Paris, me and my team had to do 54 models’ hands and feet with the mannequin look. Marc Jacobs is also a perfectionist. I was so nervous the night before, and it was quite hard explaining to the team exactly how to match the polish color to the models’ skin color as obviously they are all different shades, but we pulled it off and I felt quite triumphant afterwards.
You’ve done a lot of nail art – do you have a favorite? Which one do you consider your masterpiece?
Ha ha! Well I’m English so I find it difficult to describe my work as a masterpiece! I love all the luxury logo nails I do and I love making my own patterns up such as the Marimeko Daisy and the animal print motif. The rainbow tip also seemed to please a lot of people. I am also very proud of the “new French manicure” I did for the last Louis Vuitton show. I love it when people copy my designs…it is the sincerest form of flattery.
Can you talk about the rainbow manicure that you made famous?
It was just and idea I had as I had always done different colored tips on the end of the nail and there were so many rainbow bright nail polishes coming out that year, I thought it would be nice to make it look kind of like a rainbow. I was making pictures for my website and that was one of the ideas for that in 2007. I also used it in a couple of editorials. I had no idea it would become so popular!
What’s the most number of manicures/pedicures you’ve done in a day?
When I was working for Bliss Spa, I was regularly doing seven pedicures a day as well as managing the nail department so I am not shy of hard work. Sometimes I do 12 different manicures in one day for campaigns and at shows. I lose count!
Is it harder or easier to do your own nails? Why? How often do you do your own nails?
I find it fairly easy to do my nails. The problem is allowing myself time for them to dry. I only like them to look perfect and unfortunately when I am working they are always getting messed up, but when everybody is on set at a shoot is always a good time. I try to do them every four days or so but sometimes my manicure lasts over a week!
How do you relax?
I always listen to and download music and I love to go running. I am also a bit of a shopaholic and I love lurking around the internet. I love seeing my best friends as they have been with me through thick and thin. I also love karaoke.
You are very internet savvy – you have a website, a blog, you’re on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Is the internet something you really enjoy? Do you like interacting with fans of your work?
I love the instancy of the Internet. Twitter is a great way of promoting yourself. It brings the right people to you as they are actually interested in what you are up to and it is a great way of showing work to and communicating with an international audience, as not everyone reads fashion magazines. I think al ot of people like Twitter as you can be witty and funny on there. You always get the news and gossip first on Twitter! I also have a Facebook fan page, but I find it much harder to attract a big audience on there. So if anyone is reading this, it’s www.facebook.com/sophyrobson!
You do tutorials on Youtube, teaching people how to do your nail designs. Some people freak out about that, saying you’re giving away your secrets. How do you feel about that?
I am simply sharing information. I will always think of new ideas as that’s the way I am. No one can copy my originality!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by my culture, my clothes, my shoes, art, objects or accessories I see in shoots. I have random ideas all the time and then I have to wait for an appropriate time to execute it. Some people have pointed out that I have taken ideas from street culture and made it couture. I think that’s a fair assessment. I’m still a b-girl at heart and I still love what goes on in hip-hop culture. I have always looked out for interesting nail images and now with the internet it is so much easier. There are some great websites for example 2bitchezdeep.blogspot.com or www.missomnimedia.com where people post pictures of far out nails and I love that. I do not copy the ideas there but it’s just the culture I feel I can relate to. It inspires me to know how much girls love their nails and the extremes they will go to to look good. I saw a picture recently online of nails with cheese as the tips and a little rat on the nail… It was incredible!
What are some dos and don’ts that women should keep in mind when it comes to
nail care, manicures and pedicures?
If you take a little bit longer by using a base and top coat, the polish will stay on for longer and look so much better.
What are your nail polish/nail art/manicure/pedicure pet peeves?
I just can’t bear sloppiness – good nails require a fine attention to detail.
What is your stand on fake nails?
I love fake nails and often have them. It has never caused any lasting damage to my own nails! The trouble is they are a lot of maintenance and I often don’t have the time.
Any tips for women who have never tried nail art but would like to?
Try something simple like a contrast color tip. Leave yourself plenty of time.
Any tips for women who can’t decide on their nail shape?
Use your own cuticle outline as a guide and mirror it.
Any fearless nail trend forecasts that you can share with us?
Everyone is asking for 60′s or 70′s Helmut Newton nails. I think the glamorous nail is definitely back in fashion.
What colors are going to be hot in the next few months?
Military, earthy tones, and 60′s retro colours.
What is your secret in keeping your own nails healthy?
I put tons of Solar Oil on them and I wear a protein strengthener when I don’t have polish on to protect them.
What are your favorite nail polish brands and why?
All the ones I mention on my blog!
How many bottles of polish do you own?
I have never counted but probably more than a thousand.
Favorite nail treatment/product?
Favorite nail polish remover?
Is there any particular shade of polish that you use the most? Which one?
I have been wearing Nouvelle Vague by Chanel a lot this summer and using it in lots of pictures.
Any upcoming releases that you are excited about?
The new A/W Chanel collection is fabulous but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet!
If you can wear just one shade of polish for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
That I could never do!
What does someone have to do to get their nails done by you?
Pay me lots of money, be really nice to me or be someone really cool.
Tell us about the All For Eve Red Nail Polish you created. How can people buy it?
You can buy it online at www.allforeve.co.uk/products/brands/sophy-robson and at Harrods and John Lewis in the UK. All the profits from its sales go to charity so it feels really to be good to be working with the brand.
Who is your favorite nail icon?
I think it has to be Sharon Stone in Casino and Lil’ Kim.
What do you love the most about your job?
Travel, food, working with and hanging out with amazing talented people
Is there anything you hate about it?
Running a business is extremely frustrating sometimes, and you can come across some very difficult people who can temporarily make your life miserable, but I wouldn’t use the term hate. Hate is a very negative energy to carry around with you. Working in the fashion industry consumes much of your time and energy, and can be exhausting but ultimately the rewards make it worth it!
How do you feel about being called Nail Queen?
Ummmmmm I LOVE IT!!