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.
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.”
Go to londongrace.co.uk