We love it when an innovator shakes up the industry and provides a fresh spin on how we view the business of nails. And this is exactly what Sharmadean Reid did with her business, WAH London. 

We caught up with Sharmadean to find out more…

sharmadean reid-body shot

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Tell us how WAH London was born?

WAH began as a fanzine about girls in hip hop that I started in order to practice my skills on InDesign and Photoshop. Echo clothing decided to pay for 10,000 copies to be made and distributed in JD Sports stores. We had a shoot in there where this girl had her nipples out, so at the last minute someone at JD pulled the magazine and said they weren’t having it, so I was left with 10,000 issues in my living room.

I decided to go out raving every day of the week, and if I ever saw a girl who I thought was cool, I would give her a copy of the magazine. I wasn’t trying to get as many fans as possible, I was rather targeting girls that would be into the same things that I was into. Slowly, people started knowing me as the WAHgirl.

The beginning of WAH…

I decided to start a blog in 2006 called WAH happenings. Making a magazine was really hard and I couldn’t produce it every month so I made one fanzine a year and the blog. Every time I would travel to NY or LA or anywhere cool I would recruit more WAH girls. I did 5 issues in 5 years and the blog really took off.

I thought getting my nails done was part of being a downtown girl. I would always get my nails done every Friday and I thought nails were going to be really cool, but no one was doing it as cool as it could be. So, I thought I should do it.

I researched the hell out of the salon business and knew it wouldn’t be scalable, but that it wouldn’t lose money. We found a spot two minutes from my house on Kingsland Road and set up shop. I had no idea what I was doing; I thought I just want to open a nail salon for all the girls I’ve collected. It wasn’t about running a business, it was about having a physical space to connect with my online friends in real life.

WAH London interior

How would you describe the brand? 

WAH provides the sickest nails in the most innovative environment with the best nail techs! We combine beauty, art, tech and girl culture as our main pillars of inspiration.

WAH girls are active not passive, they aren’t waiting for things to happen to them. They make them happen. They are comfortable uptown and downtown. They can hang out with posh people or BME boys, and they can wear street wear or designer. When a girl has that vibe, people want to be around them.

Some girls on the street just turn heads. It’s not necessarily that they’re fit but they have something about them. I’ve never wanted to be ordinary.

wah london interior

What do you think makes WAH London stand out?

WAH is not like any other salon brand. One day we might be doing a celebrity’s nails, the next day hosting a female empowerment event in our space and the next week flying around the world creating a pop up nail bar for a corporate client. Everything is recorded for our social channels. We are a fast-paced company and are constantly striving to be the best. WAH Girls are like Special Forces, not the regular Army!

With our salons, from day one, every element from the interior design to the way we displayed nails was done differently, and for that we received instant recognition, being featured in global magazines and gaining a huge international social following.

What inspired you to decorate your salons in the distinctive way you have?

With WAH SOHO we’ve built a flagship salon that is the truest, purest vision of the brand that is fully interactive and immersive. It’s the mecca for all things WAH. If you don’t live in London it’s your pilgrimage. It’s our signature style of uptown/downtown, beauty, art and tech. The holo wall is so sick, girls come in just to take a selfie in front of it!

 Wah London seating area

Which has been one of your most popular / most asked for designs?

Gel is our most popular appointment at WAH SOHO and holographic chrome and foils have been the most popular designs for the past couple of months! The holographic effect under the lights never gets old!

How do you stay ahead of the latest trends? 

Our nail technicians are always experimenting with new and different products, trying to push the boundaries of what we can do. We’re also constantly online, monitoring micro-trends in fashion, music, art, tech and pop culture. We use Facebook Workplace to share any emerging trends with each other, so we can be as reactive as possible.

Wah London products

How did you make the transition from salon to salon and brand?

The brand came first, I was building my brand before I even started thinking of it as a business. By building my community, handing out my zine, sharing my journey online and hanging around in the circles I was in – people began to know WAH as a brand before I even opened the salon.

Our vision as a brand has always stayed the same; we’re an innovative global business that combines beauty, art, technology and girl culture. The way we execute our vision may change, be it a salon, a product line or something else, but our core vision as a brand will never change.

WAH London nails product

Where do you think the nail industry will go in the future?

Nail trends will come and go. I think holo and chrome will stay around for a while, but we’re starting to see people getting more and more creative with nail art – using wire, playing with gel and encapsulation and pushing product technology.

For us, we’ve always had beauty, art and tech as the three main pillars of WAH. I feel that we have made huge waves in beauty and art so now I am focused on the tech. I experimented with a virtual reality nail design app in partnership with DVTK and now I’m looking at new ways to book beauty online. It’s about creating digital solutions for the beauty industry that don’t already exist.

Related: Reinventing how beauty services are delivered with Blow LTD

WAH London soapsmith

We read you have charging points and other SUPER handy things within the salon such as chairs wide enough to not put your bag on the floor, What was the reason behind this?

We wanted WAH SOHO to be the ultimate nail salon – the salon of dreams! So we included all these details that we wished existed in every salon we’ve ever been to. You can charge your phone, you can sit and have a drink, you can listen to music or if you just want to chill out, you can pop on some wireless headphones and watch Netflix. We wanted it to be a safe space and a hang out spot, so even if you’re just in the area and you want to hang out with some cool girls and charge your phone, you know you can do that with us.

Want nail inspo? Follow WAH London on Insta: @WAHnails

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