Brush­ing up on London Grace

As London Grace opens its doors in Canada Place Mall we find out how founder Kirsten Hazell came to start her brand.

The Wharf - - Front Page - By LAURA EN­FIELD

An In­sta­gram-wor­thy ar­ray of nail var­nishes greets cus­tomers at London Grace, Ca­nary Wharf’s new nail bar. But each shade rep­re­sents more than the po­ten­tial of a pret­tily pho­tographed fin­ger­tip.

“Each one is named af­ter some­one who has helped me along the way,” said founder Kirsten Hazell. “My mum Laura is an or­angey shade, my dad Gra­ham is a grey. Even our fit-out guy has one.

“My prop­erty agent is a bright red and ev­ery time we see him he asks how he is sell­ing.”

The 29-year-old, who opened her first London Grace store in Put­ney in Jan­uary 2015, has re­served bub­blegum pink for her­self. But on the open­ing day of her fourth branch in Canada Place last week her nails were bare.

“I have been open­ing boxes and mov­ing things around so my nails are in a ter­ri­ble state,” said Kirsten.

She de­vel­oped the 40 own-brand pol­ishes her­self, en­sur­ing they con­tain no harm­ful chem­i­cals, test­ing them out on friends and fam­ily for weeks be­fore they launched.

She cre­ated the menu of treat­ments to ap­peal to busy women who want a high qual­ity, slick ser­vice on their lunch­break. All the treat­ments are wa­ter­less – mean­ing no time-con­sum­ing soak­ing of nails, which Kirsten said helped pre­vent crack­ing.

Prices start at £9 and the shop of­fers a 15% dis­count dur­ing happy hours ev­ery Mon­day-to-Wed­nes­day from 11am to 3pm.

“Our motto is no-non­sense nails,” said Kirsten who knew at 13 she wanted to run her own busi­ness.

“I re­ally wanted to be af­ford­able and for any­one to walk in and feel like they can treat them­selves with­out break­ing the bank.”

Kirsten is also rid­ing the grow­ing wave of de­mand for so­cial me­dia friendly ex­pe­ri­ences that com­bine mul­ti­ple el­e­ments.

Clients can sip a Cos­mopoli­tan (£9) while their cu­ti­cles are snipped in front of a trendy neon sign. The cock­tail menu boasts in­gre­di­ents such as Sip­smith Gin and of­fers two-for-one daily be­tween 5-6pm.

Vis­i­tors can also or­der pink Pros­ecco (£7) or cof­fee (£2-3 or free be­fore 10am). The shop also of­fers gifts and party pack­ages with ex­tras such as cup­cake dec­o­rat­ing, af­ter­noon tea and piz­zas.

Kirsten, who grew up in Ox­ford­shire and stud­ied eco­nom­ics at Southamp­ton, was in­spired to set up the busi­ness by her time in New York. She lived there for two years study­ing graphic de­sign at Par­sons School Of De­sign and said: “I got my nails done all the time there. It was a very so­cial thing – you would go with friends and have a drink after­wards.”

On returning to the UK she was ac­cepted on the grad­u­ate scheme at Deloitte in the City but af­ter two years found her­self drum­ming her fin­gers as the cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment “wasn’t for her”.

Her epiphany came at a rail­way sta­tion.

“I was stand­ing at Water­loo with my friend af­ter work and we were Googling places to get our nails done and there was nowhere,” she said.

Her start­ing point was an in­ten­sive nail course at the London School Of Beauty. In be­tween free­lanc­ing as a graphic de­signer she re­searched the in­dus­try, care­fully craft­ing her brand us­ing her busi­ness and de­sign back­ground.

“Nail care has been an in­dus­try that has been a bit for­got­ten here,” said Kirsten. “Hair­dressers let you book on­line and build a re­la­tion­ship with them but I felt that was miss­ing with nails. You ei­ther get cheap and cheer­ful places or five-star, very ex­pen­sive places. I felt there was a gap in be­tween.

“My aim with London Grace was to of­fer the best of both worlds. Ca­nary Wharf has been a ma­jor mo­ment. It is our first in-mall branch. We are re­ally a brand now.”

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London Grace

Kirsten Hazell

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