So 2016 is upon us... January is always a poignant time for me as it reminds me of when I first started WAH Nails. I came up with the idea to open the ultimate, most amazing, bestest ever nail salon in December 2008 and proceeded to spend the whole Christmas holidays boring my then boyfriend and family with all of my crazy ideas. Every year, in September (back to school) and January (new year obvi) I always take the time to reflect on my future - where I'm going, what I'm doing and how I'm getting there. This year I'm gonna do the opposite. I'm gonna have a think about our origins, our beginnings and I'm gonna do my best to remind everyone exactly what WAH is about and where it came from... So here are 10 things you probably didnt know about my company...
1.WAH STARTED OUT AS A FANZINE
For those of you who are like wtf is a fanzine, you're obviously too young to remember cutting out bits of magazines and sticking them in a little paper book and passing them round to your friends. Basically a fanzine was like a Tumblr page, pre internet. Whatever you were a fan of, you would obsessively collect images, text, poetry, whatever really... and then make a little "zine" and then photocopy it and post it out via snail mail. I was obsessed by hip hop, and in particular women in hip hop. So I gathered all I knew about the subject and made a little magazine that i got printed and handed it out to any girl I saw at a hip hop club. I made 5 issues. It was awesome and I made a lot of friends. Naturally when I had the idea to open a nail salon, I thought it would call it WAH Nails.
2. WAH STANDS FOR
We Ain't Hoes. True Story, nuff said.
3. WE'VE BEEN DOING WOMENS PANEL TALKS SINCE 2008
Thats right, even before the salon started we were all about supporting and encouraging female entrepreneurs and I feel super proud to think we've contributed to a small army of female bosses who we've helped inspire. Our first ever WAH Power Lunch (ironically named as its not a lunch, but it has a whole lotta power) was held at the ICA gallery in November 2008. I gathered five women in cool jobs together and each one candidly explained how they got their jobs and answered questions for a small but eager group of young women. This was our flyer for the first one - an image of a female president being sworn in, taking from an old DKNY ad....
4 - OUR FIRST EVER SALON WAS IN DALSTON, LONDON
I lived in the area now known as Haggerston, a no mans land between Dalston and Shoreditch in London. There was no Overground, no coffee shops, no restaurants, nothing. When I had the idea to open the salon, I found a unit on a stretch of street 2 minutes walk from my house known as "The Waste" and thought Yahoo! This is it! We opened up at 420 Kingsland Road in July 2009 and it just exploded into the business you see today :) Along with Real Gold club nights and the Work It Girls parties and the Haggerston pub, we slowly drew more people to the area and today it's thriving. a bit like Williamsburg in NYC, or Echo Park in LA. Of course the rest is history.
5 - BLEACH LONDON STARTED OUT AS TWO CHAIRS IN THE BACK ON WAH DALSTON
Alex Brownsell came in my salon and was like I love it in here. I was like, well just have two chairs in the back, we've got loads of room. We didn't even know each other but I thought she was cool and I always wanted to support my fellow girl entrepreneur so that was that. They opened on our 1st birthday and the party was crazy and now they're huge! This was our flyer, which perfectly represents the WAH/Bleach synergy...
6 - WE'VE PAINTED NAILS ON A BEACH IN KOH SAMUI
We've been lucky enough to travel for private clients all over the world...We've done nails for everyone from British Airways to Marc Jacobs and have travelled to NYC - PARIS - TOKYO - SHANGHAI - BANGKOK - KOH SAMUI - ABU DHABI - MOSCOW - MILAN - COPENHAGEN - BERLIN - AMSTERDAM - ANTWERP!!! Weirdly though we've never been to LA or Miami.... Or South America... They're on our list for 2K16.
7 - FKA TWIGS SUPPORTED OUR BOOK LAUNCH PARTY IN NEW YORK
When we launched the American edition of our book in 2012, we celebrated with three parties over three nights in New York. We brought out a 15 strong London crew and a then unknown baby Twigs supported us by performing with her stunning songs and style at the events. She is still very much part of our family. Heres us in the grimy bathroom of the rental we were staying in.
8 - I GOT AN MBE FOR SERVICES TO THE NAIL AND BEAUTY INDUSTRY
Slightly embarrassing but I won a Queens Award for contributing to the Beauty Industry. Feels really weird and I cant wait to meet HRH to get my medal, but in any case, I feel pretty proud to be recognised in this space. The Colour Cosmetics industry is worth 1.6 Billion a year to the UK alone and nails is worth 284 million of that. Furthermore, the nail sector has been growing year on year since... oh 2009... coincidence huh?
9 - WE USED TO HAVE A CLUB NIGHT
It was really fun, we had a bunch of girl DJ playing girl songs.
10 - HIP HOP PHOTOGRAPHY LEGEND MARTHA COOPER TOLD ME I WAS A FEMINIST
The editors letter in the first issue of my fanzine had a very childlike proclamation of all the things We Aint...
“We ain’t booty shaking video girls but we ain’t ashamed of our bodies. We ain’t gonna stand back and go unnoticed. We ain’t tryin to be something we’re not. We ain’t gonna moan about the lack of women in hip hop. We ain’t obsessed with our appearance. We ain’t gonna follow the rules. We ain’t feminists. We ain’t stupid. We ain’t hoes.”
Martha Cooper was a personal hero of mine so imagine the shock when I got an email from her saying I saw your zine and its great, but you're crazy because you're totally a feminist, you just don't even know it. I was 22 years old. I thought it was important to learn from your elders...So I schooled myself on Womens Studies from an academic standpoint and did a lot of personal soul searching about what it means to be a woman and thought... ok i get it... I am a Feminist, I believe I can be any "type" of woman I want to be. I believe in equal rights. Period.