Diary of a session nail tech: London Fashion Week SS24
By Marie-Louise Coster | 25 September 2023 | Events, Feature
For her second monthly column for Scratch, session nail stylist, salon owner & educator, Marie-Louise Coster, reveals what happened behind the scenes when she led nail looks for the Edward Crutchley spring/summer 2024 London Fashion Week show…
It never ceases to amaze me that the five-minute show the world sees at Fashion Week has been months in the making – even for me as the lead manicurist.
I have been fortunate enough to work with Edward Crutchley for the last 11 London Fashion Week seasons. It is not a job I take for granted, and I feel very privileged to be asked back season after season.
Usually, Edward and I speak a few months before the show, and he shares the collection and its story, a mood board and how many models there will be. It is quite common for Edward to want a mixture of press-ons and natural nail looks for both the male and female models. This is a detail I need to be aware of prior to the show, as I will generally require wider press-on nails for male models.
For SS24, the collection was monochrome and the brief was ‘medieval people on a fashion photo shoot in the style of Steven Meisel, with a hint of ’90s high school’. It was decided that there would be 26 models and 10 of them (all female) would wear detailed press-ons, while the remaining nails would be natural, fresh and glossy.
I thought up 10 different designs for the press-ons, based on the brief and patterns within the collection. Edward particularly liked four of them, so I suggested that we feature a mixture of all four. At this point, the hard work started, as I needed to secure a nail sponsor and team, plus paint the nails. 10 models need 100 nails, and I always create extra in case any get lost or a model has particularly narrow or wide nail beds.
I made four sets of each design, and the product for these came courtesy of Light Elegance UK. I used the brand’s Gel Paints in Primary Black and Primary White. For the natural nail looks, I had the support of Margaret Dabbs London to prepare the natural nails and skin.
Press-ons vs the natural nail
Press-ons are a blessing and a curse. It would be impossible to paint all of these designs on natural nails backstage before the show. If you are lucky, you have two hours to prepare the models, but this usually includes a rehearsal, so premaking the nails saves stress and time. Also, if any models’ nails aren’t in great condition, press-ons will cover a multitude of sins. The only problem with press-ons is that you must ensure you have painted a selection of sizes, as models have a tendency to lose nails!
Equally, working on the natural nail has its challenges. If you are solely doing natural nail work, you won’t be spending time working in the lead up to the show, but this does leave a lot to do backstage. If you have models with damaged or bitten nails, you have nowhere to hide this, especially if the brief is healthy-looking nails.
On the day
On the day, the call time is usually two to three hours prior to show time. I always brief my team and get started on the job in hand. It isn’t like being in the salon where you have the luxury of time; it is speed that is essential, as well as precision. Plus, you are working in a difficult environment. There isn’t a nail desk or chair, you are working on models that are having hair and make-up done at the same time, models may be taken for fitting mid-manicure, and they may arrive late from another show. Once the models have been prepared and are in the line-up, I carry out final checks, replacing any lost nails, repairing any smudges and applying additional cuticle oil and hand cream.
Communication is essential. I set up a team WhatsApp group and share any information I receive. I list everything that team members need to bring with them, too. Every member of the team is important, and the job would not be done without the hard work of everyone. If you commit to a job, turn up and do that job to the best of your ability.
I always get quite emotional at a show. It comes from everyone pulling together to create and complement the designer’s vision, the trust placed upon me and the pride I feel to be involved. The designer lays all of their ideas and creations bare, to the whole world, in the hope they will be well received. They open themselves up to all sorts of criticism, or praise, and I think that is brave and terrifying.
Nail art step-by-step: Edward Crutchley SS24 London Fashion Week
1A. If working on a natural nail, prep the nail, apply dehydrator and base coat, then cure. Apply two coats of white polish, curing each layer. At this point, if you wish to, you can apply a matte top coat and sketch the design out in full. If your brand of choice doesn’t have a matte top coat, use a glossy top coat and buff to remove the shine.
1B. Alternatively, you can begin by adding two small dots of black polish to the nail.
2. From these dots, paint black diagonal lines to the base of the nail.
3. Paint two straight lines from the base of the nail and through each dot to the tip of the nail.
4. Fill in the triangle shapes created and extend the outer lines of them diagonally, to create diamond shapes working up the nail.
5. Fill in the appropriate diamonds, perfect your lines and cure. With gel paints, I always cure twice as the product has a thicker consistency than gel polish, and I don’t want to smudge the design when applying top coat. Apply top coat, cure and remove the inhibition layer.