Spend any amount of time with Sharmadean Reid and you’re likely to suffer an acute case of career anxiety. After all, at just 29-years-old, the multi-tasking phenomenon has already notched up impressive milestones like energy consultant for Nike, sportswear editor at Arena Homme Plus, publisher and editor of the cult fanzine, WAH!, author (of The WAH Nails Book of Nail Art) and mother to two-year-old Roman. But it’s with the burgeoning “hip hop meets punk, street meets fashion, uptown and downtown” nail empire WAH Nails that she’s emerged as one of the industry’s most exciting entrepreneurs, leading the way with her brand of nail art. As a teenager growing up in Wolverhampton in a single parent family, she was “quite precocious and I knew I was different from everyone else. I was always very noisy, curious and obsessed with learning. I was inquisitive all the time.” It was here that her ferocious work ethic was born: “I’ve had a job since I was 14 – I’ve always worked because I always wanted to own my own money and buy the things I want. When I’ve done a day’s work, I feel so satisfied at the end of it.” Poring over magazines from cover-to-cover, she moved to London to study at Central Saint Martins, in the meantime assisting the superstylist Nicola Formichetti during his tenure as fashion director of Dazed & Confused. The lovingly cut-and-paste fanzine WAH was born in 2005, both as a tribute to heroes like Lil Kim and Naomi Campbell and to “inspire and educate girls”.
"With the burgeoning “hip hop meets punk, street meets fashion, uptown and downtown” nail empire WAH Nails she’s emerged as one of the industry’s most exciting entrepreneurs"
WAH Nails grew as a natural extension of the fanzine, when Reid, unable to get a decent manicure, sought to change nail culture by setting up her own nail art boutique in Dalston. “It was very natural and very naïve,” she recalls, “My boyfriend found the space two minutes from the house – it was laughable really.” Today WAH Nails shares the space with the cutting edge hair salon, Bleach London, has outposts in Topshop (recently adding a summer pop-up in Shoreditch’s Box Park) and celebrity clients ranging from Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea and MIA. She credits her team who help her juggle her breath-taking array of responsibilities – “In terms of pressure, I feel like it’s a big monster you’ve got to keep feeding all the time. Right now I don't think I'll be doing it forever – when I’m 30, I’ll be doing something else.” That something else could be the professional nail range she’s cooking up or the club she dreams of opening “with a bit of a hotel vibe where you don’t know who you’re going to meet.” But for the moment, her heart remains with WAH, enlisting friends like Venus X to contribute to her second book, ‘The WAH Nails Book of Downtown Girls’ due out later this year. “I feel like we’ve created the sense of a clubhouse here – this is for girls so that they can feel part of the community.”
The ‘Wah Nails Book of Downtown Girls’ is published later this year.
Text by Kin Woo