The spirit of couture extended all the way down to the fingertips at recent Fashion Week events, where exceptional displays of intricate nail art were rampant, confirming our suspicions that this trend is indeed experiencing a resurgence. While using impossibly intricate nail art to punctuate the designs sent down the runways is decidedly not a fresh concept, it has gained new relevance of late, showcasing modern advancements in technique and materials. These novelties are affording talented artists, such as award-winning salon owner Liza Smith, the ability express themselves more completely than ever before. With a professional background that includes international competition wins, a role as Education Ambassador for the global brand CND, and participation in Fashion Week since the early ‘00’s, Liza is the perfect person with whom to discuss nail art’s evolving role in couture, as well as her own groundbreaking endeavors in the industry.
Why choose nails, rather than the more common beauty pursuits of hair and makeup?
My first love was make-up and hairdressing, (I was practicing on my friends and family from the age of 12!) I have always been fascinated by the human body but my creative side drew me to Nails and hair. By the time I was traveling in the nail competition circuit, I was fully enthralled with the science behind the creativity and continued to develop my skills. It was these skills that have flown me all over the world to look after the hands and feet of the famous!
How did you build such a successful relationship with label Vin + Omi, and what drove your collaborations creatively?
After building up a great team to work with me at Fashion Week three years ago, I was put in touch with Vin + Omi and we clicked straight away.
Each show we experimented liberally. In our second season we applied vintage candy directly to tips to look as though the models had stuck their hands in the sweetie jar. Another season with CND onboard as a sponsor and we were asked to make a dress out of nail tips. My team hand-painted over 17,000 tips in 7 different colors that were then hand applied to the material of the dress. This season CND sponsored in a bigger way than ever before and funded a project that saw six of us design and produce the biggest and baddest nail styles I have ever produced! This show was called Colourotic, and was based around over thirty shades of CND Vinylux polish range. We were asked to design no holds barred nail styles based around surrealism and/or extreme shapes.
Designers like Vin and Omi are a dream to work with because they treasure creativity across all of the elements of their show.
Tell us about Bodylines.
What began with only myself and a trainee on the payroll has since expanded to cover three thousand square feet on three floors and has shifted from a beauty and hair salon offering nails, to a Nail salon offering hair and beauty. Because we have the CND Kent Academy on the same premises as the Bodylines salon, our staff is repeatedly put through the classes for nails and waxing. We also send them to regular training with Dermalogica, HD Brows, and Neauveu lashes. After all of my travels and networking with different salons around the world, I have a very clear vision of my brand and its offerings of many inter-connecting treatments to the highest level, with amazing, science-backed knowledge.
With such great strides in innovation, products and techniques, which ones are you implementing in your services?
I only use products from the brand CND. They are one of only a few brands in the industry that research and develop their own products and their science-based knowledge that is passed onto us as educators allows me total faith in offering the very best to my clients. My signature looks are using custom blended acrylic colored powders to completely change the look of the natural nails but leaving them looking totally natural. I also developed a technique around 18 years ago called 2-step. This involves using opaque acrylic powders to extend the look of the nail bed and then applying a 2nd extension to create a stunning customized end within which I trap different mediums to achieve a 3D effect.
What does the future hold for you?
There isn’t yet a high street nail franchise in the UK and, after 30 years of running a salon and my experiences of the industry, I feel I know how to make a good business model. While there are lots of high volume/low cost nail bars here in the UK, just as there are in the US, there are not enough really great, affordable, well-educated high street salons. I intend to change that.
Text by Jennifer Moulaison
Photograph by Genovea Arteaga-Rynn / Vin+Omi